As powerlifting becomes more competitive, every variable that can be manipulated in an athlete’s training program is important. These are the variables that are used to create a new stimulus, and therefore, new adaptation that leads to increases in strength. A deep understanding of your own training and the numbers that underlie what you do in the gym are paramount in designing the best program. The numbers that comprise your training are referred to as ‘metrics’ – objective values that can be tracked and analyzed to better performance.
What is “metrics-based training”?
A metric is any number that can be measured and used as a form of analysis. The sport of powerlifting is driven by numbers, everything from the number of sets and reps performed to the load lifted and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). From these numbers, we’re able to track and analyze trends and make conclusions about a training program’s effectiveness and an individual’s response to it. Metrics-based training utilizes important data that can be tracked and analyzed, then used to make informative decisions about how to best structure an athlete’s training program for optimal success. Rather than relying on intuition, metrics are filtered through a form of scientific analysis to understand what is optimal training for an individual athlete – recognizing that ‘optimal’ will result in different styles of training for different athletes. Therefore, metrics-based training is a method that combines scientific practice and an individual’s response to training stimuli.
How Does Using Metrics-Based Training Benefit Us?
The study and practice of metric-based training and its impact on planning and programming is a relatively new practice among powerlifters. At the elite level, athletes and coaches use methods of data analysis to guide their training – they track and analyze what matters, make necessary changes, and then execute the program knowing that their decisions have some foundation in scientific principles. While lifters might put more emphasis on certain measurements than others, most agree that there is a host of benefits that come from tracking and analyzing one’s training.
• Knowing the kind of training that leads to progress and regress: having the ability to accurately determine the training protocols that lead to successful or, conversely, unsuccessful outcomes.
• Understanding the rate of which an athlete adapts to certain training stimuli: How quickly (or slowly) progress is happening on one or all three lifts, and understanding the most optimal rate of progression that continues to lead to pain-free, injury-free training. Sometimes achieving quick gains might not be sustainable in the long run, but a lack of gains suggests that the training stimulus needs to change.
• Identifying steps that can be implemented to break through plateaus in strength: Knowing where to direct your programming efforts, and the types of variables that need to be manipulated in order to continue seeing adaptations in strength, especially as an athlete gets closer to his or her potential.
• Knowing how to align training with established best practices: As current research in strength and conditioning suggests what athletes should do in the gym and the types of variables that lead to increased performance, tracking and analyzing metrics allows us to conform our workouts and training cycles to what is considered scientifically valid and reliable.
• Knowing how training should manage fatigue, recovery, and adaptation: Once large amounts of data are collected on a particular athlete, especially over multiple training cycles and peaking periods, tracking and analyzing metrics allow us to know how hard to push our bodies, for how long, and in what ways, in order to still recover from the training stress and continue seeing positive adaptation.
• Realizing the types of programming methodologies that yield greater results: An athlete can accurately program his or her training metrics in order to align with certain periodization models, such as linear, block, and undulating, and visually see a representation of those models.
• Having awareness of past, present, and future training: Athletes should have a detailed idea of the type of training that was completed historically leading up to periods of high and low outcomes, and use that information to understand current training, as well as make projections about future targets and goals.
• Receiving feedback from coaches and peers: Through sharing metrics with coaches and professionals in the industry, peers, and social media, athletes can seek guidance and feedback to know whether their training is optimal or how to properly progress their training in order to achieve more successful training outcomes.
(photo credit: Penny Lane Photographer)
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