• Auto-Regulation for Weightlifters - By Adam Palmer

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      Three-Week-Template.pdf
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      In January 2014, I had the fortunate experience of participating in my first powerlifting meet. I had a great time. I set new PRs and afterward began looking to the next competition. I’d been training under Mike at the time for a few months and he was hesitant at first, but we decided to come up with a plan that included Olympic weightlifting and incorporated his training philosophy in order to tackle a hypothetical, five-lift meet consisting of snatch, clean & jerk, squat, bench, and deadlift.

      To caveat my experience, results from this particular implementation of an RPE based system for weightlifting may end up being largely anecdotal. However, I think it was a promising and fruitful endeavor worthy of future investigation. We know that RTS methods are very effective for powerlifting, but the primary question we wanted an answer to was: Can RTS methods and auto-regulation be effective in the context of Olympic style weightlifting? Some of the foreseeable challenges were obvious and some also made themselves apparent during training execution.

      The intent of this article is to outline my training experience from February to April of this year and then use it as a platform to discuss future programming for weightlifting with the concept of auto-regulating both volume and intensity. Some of what I’d like to cover will include exercise selection, frequency and some of the adjustments we made in the three months prep-time before the contest.

      An RPE Table for Weightlifting
      As we talked about developing the training, we know that RPE is a great gauge for powerlifting. However, one problem we encountered was that the notion of “reps left in the tank” just didn’t seem to be appropriate. In the context of weightlifting we determined that “pounds or kilos left in the tank” might be more reasonable. The process flow is the same as it would be for powerlifting, but rather it is the way a lifter perceives a given effort that differs somewhat. This is simply due to the fact that Olympic style weightlifting is considerably more technical than powerlifting.

      There are a few important things to keep in mind when using this system. First is that the end result of using any auto-regulation system should be the same: auto-regulation should be able to give any athlete a tool that is useful in gauging performance capacity.Whether you are an intermediate lifter or a world class athlete, you should be able to take this system and apply it to your training with the ultimate goal of being able to more accurately predict what your body is going through on a given day.

      Secondly, this tool is only as useful as it is implemented meaningfully and consistently throughout the training process. Like any skill that is developed over time, learning to listen to what your body is saying is something that must be trained on a regular basis. So it doesn’t make sense to use this tool for one or two training sessions and then swap back to a percentage based system. It should be incorporated holistically into the training program.

      Lastly, keep in mind that the whole point of this article is less about the numbers and values on the RPE chart and more about developing a system. Whether that is quantifiable in pounds or kilos or reps, the perception of how you are performing at a given time is what is most important. That’s not to say that metrics aren’t important, but rather my hope is that this becomes a springboard for additional discussion and study. ...more
      Comments 12 Comments
      1. PrimalAeon's Avatar
        PrimalAeon -
        Interesting. Would you use both the reps left and the weight left in your training? Or do you just stick to weight left?
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        I actually ended up using weight left when it applied to weightlifting and reps left when it applied to powerlifting.
      1. PrimalAeon's Avatar
        PrimalAeon -
        I'm thinking maybe weight left is more appropriate when doing singels. I have a hard time gauging reps left when doing singles, but wether or not I could add 5kg or 2.5kg seems more manageable.
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        Quote Originally Posted by PrimalAeon View Post
        I'm thinking maybe weight left is more appropriate when doing singels. I have a hard time gauging reps left when doing singles, but wether or not I could add 5kg or 2.5kg seems more manageable.
        Yeah, I would tend to agree... so I guess I should say that as long as your technique is within tolerable limits (yeah this is undefined) you could use reps-left as a gauge. This might be particularly for partial range of motion exercises.
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        Quote Originally Posted by PrimalAeon View Post
        I'm thinking maybe weight left is more appropriate when doing singels. I have a hard time gauging reps left when doing singles, but wether or not I could add 5kg or 2.5kg seems more manageable.
        I'm starting to think the same thing. But it gets a little fuzzy because you'd need a range and the range would depend on the weight being lifted. +5kg is a small jump for someone lifting 200kg. But it's a big jump for someone lifting 80kg.
      1. PrimalAeon's Avatar
        PrimalAeon -
        Quote Originally Posted by Mike Tuchscherer View Post
        I'm starting to think the same thing. But it gets a little fuzzy because you'd need a range and the range would depend on the weight being lifted. +5kg is a small jump for someone lifting 200kg. But it's a big jump for someone lifting 80kg.
        I agree. So a percentage would be better. Maybe 2.5% increments.
        10: 0%
        9.5: 2.5%
        9: 5%
        8.5: 7.5%
        8: 10%

        But that's just a guesstimate, I'm guessing it would need some extensive evaluation.
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        I like the idea of percentage base RPE schemes. That seems to make more sense than straight weight added to the bar.
      1. Vidura Rajapaksa's Avatar
        Vidura Rajapaksa -
        Taking a look at the template posted, is there a particular reason that fatigue percents were not used?

        Also, I understand the format for the presentation of reps for the complexes, but what exactly is meant when they are placed one after the other for the same complex [i.e : "(RPE 8/1 + 1 + 2), (RPE 8.5/1 + 1 + 1), (RPE 9/1 + 0 + 1)"]?
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        Just saw this comment after going back through this. So when I would perform complexes, I gauged the RPE for the set as a whole, not any particular movement or segment of the complex. So in effect, you would treat a complex and compare it to itself assuming you perform that same complex several times over the course of a training cycle. This would allow you to gauge your progress for that particular set. That's my thoughts. It certainly adds to variety.
      1. Chris Lee's Avatar
        Chris Lee -
        Quote Originally Posted by adam.palmer View Post
        Just saw this comment after going back through this. So when I would perform complexes, I gauged the RPE for the set as a whole, not any particular movement or segment of the complex. So in effect, you would treat a complex and compare it to itself assuming you perform that same complex several times over the course of a training cycle. This would allow you to gauge your progress for that particular set. That's my thoughts. It certainly adds to variety.
        Sorry to be dense here. Just getting into the language of this system and am having a hard time deciphering the template as-written. Notation that is followed elsewhere on the site and in the linked article is fine to me (eg, x5 @9 4-6%...) but I get lost in the complexes and notations like "Squat: (RPE 9/2) x 1-3, (RPE 9/4) x 3-5 (Load Drop 10-12%), (RPE 8/12-16) (Load Drop 20-25%)". Any guidance would be appreciated.
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        Quote Originally Posted by Chris Lee View Post
        Sorry to be dense here. Just getting into the language of this system and am having a hard time deciphering the template as-written. Notation that is followed elsewhere on the site and in the linked article is fine to me (eg, x5 @9 4-6%...) but I get lost in the complexes and notations like "Squat: (RPE 9/2) x 1-3, (RPE 9/4) x 3-5 (Load Drop 10-12%), (RPE 8/12-16) (Load Drop 20-25%)". Any guidance would be appreciated.
        I'll need to confirm with Mike (Hom) for sure, but my understanding is this:

        RPE 9/2 x 1-3 = 1-3 sets of doubles at 9 RPE
        RPE 9/4 x 3-5 = 3-5 sets of 4 at 9 RPE (load drop 10-12% after you hit 9 RPE) etc...

        Let me know if that makes sense.
      1. adam.palmer's Avatar
        adam.palmer -
        Just re-reading, but the more I go back through this, I think a more refined chart would be described in percentages vice, straight weight.