Things that are Stupid: High Volume Training Before Competitions

There are some dumb ideas floating around in competitive fitness. Yes, I know that I’ve written that lots of different ideas can work, but I’ve also written that some ideas are really fricking stupid, and this is one of them.

Around the time of the Open/Regionals/Games, athletes will be interviewed about what their training was like leading up to the competition. And without fail, a couple of these characters will come out with something like, “A LOT of volume. Volume has been crazy the last few weeks! 5 two-hour sessions a day blahblahblah”.

Maybe I’m missing something and they have read or learned something that I have not. I will accept that as a possibility.

But I don’t know of a single sport where it’s suggested to increase training volume close to a season or competition.

Why not? Because as training volume goes up, intensity and specificity go down. In other words, the more work you do, the “less hard” it needs to be in order to recover/survive, and the less applicable to your sport it will be.

As an extreme example, an Olympic level 100m sprinter running a half marathon two weeks before competition.

Dumb. Dumbdumbdumb.

So what’s the big deal? All sports require intensity to win. Lift the most weight, run the fastest time. The goal of both is to produce the greatest intensity in the shortest amount of time. High intensity is specific to the demands of every sport, and increasing volume contradicts that.

Do you think Andrey Malanchiev did 3x10s,  prowler sprints, and some dips and chins the week before he squatted 1036?  Doing crazy volume is the thing to do, mannnnnnnn………

No, because 3x10s and prowler sprints are not his sport. One rep heaviest weight. . He gets one rep. Uno. His training was recreating the competitive demands as closely as possible without burning out, and recovering in order to perform best on the platform.

Two arguments people might have:

“Yeah, but, high rep squatting, prowler sprints, chin-ups and dips IS our sport. And to do those things requires high volume. ”

I don’t disagree. Training for the demands of the sport is priority numero uno. And there’s a lot to train for. What I’m arguing against is increasing training volume close to competition. Do less with more intensity, because less volume with more intensity is the sport.


Example:
12x100m sled push with 3 minutes of rest between each – Great for off-season base building
2x100m with 1 minute rest between – great for competition taper

The Open/Regionals/Games are multiple, high-intensity events, and so training should replicate that experience as closely as possible without burnout.

Argument Two: 

“Yeah, but, but those seven Regional workouts are really hard.” EXACTLY. They were hard. Intense, you might say.

Do you know what multiple two and three hour sessions a day teaches you how to do? How to not be intense. How to save energy. Pace. Coast.

Regionals is not an all-day, pace yourself, conserve energy for as long as possible, pacing based endurance event, so training all day before Regionals is training for the wrong sport. The longest day of the 2015 Regionals had athletes competing at 3 events for a total of 30 minutes of work. .

For example, let’s say your sport is “Fran”. Your goal is to have the best Fran time in the world.

Two weeks before the World Championships of Fran, your coach says, “Ok, now it’s time to have three sessions a day, a morning cardio/gymnastic session, followed by an olympic weightlifting session/sled work at noon and than a Fran-specific workout at night.

Stupid. 

Two weeks out should mean maximizing recovery and sport specific intensity, and the quickest way to kill both of those things is to increase volume.

I can’t imagine a bigger “how to suck at what I want to be awesome at” than slowing down, being constantly tired, and doing things that translate less directly to competition demands.

Where does this crap come from?

I don’t know. Some guesses though:

Crappy Planning
Some coaches think that competitive fitness is being able to do everything well, and so a month before the Open, everyone tries doing everything in order to “be ready”.

NO. DUMB. DUMBDUMBDUMB. The athlete should already be ready.

It’s faulty logic and bad programming to try and guess all the different movement, rep, and duration combinations. There are too many. A better approach to training improve the one constant in the “unknown and unknowable” – the human body and its energy systems. When you combine this perspective with increasing proficiency in common movements BOOM now you have an effective athlete.

Training with this approach prepares an athlete to be ready for whatever happens. It doesn’t matter if there’s a 10k row before a 1RM clean and jerk, because they’ve built your aerobic base to handle the row, and their strength and technique to handle the clean and jerk.

When workouts get announced, there’s always the requisite “HOLLLLLYYYYY SHITTTTTT NO WAYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!”.

i should've rowed more so it's time to start rowing more

i should’ve rowed more so it’s time to start rowing more

But a row is a row and a clean and jerk is a clean jerk. If you are great at rowing and great at the clean jerk because you’ve planned and prepared them  the combination is not a big deal. A month before should be simply sharpening the axe, not trying to forge a new one.

Nerves
Athletes get nervous. When they get nervous, one reaction is to want to feel as prepared as possible and so they end up doing more “just in case”.

My double-unders need work.
Muscle-ups could be more efficient.
I think I can squeak 5 more pounds in the clean and jerk.
What is there’s a 5k?

All these thought combine into panic, and this panic leads to doing too much. Skill session, strength session, cardio session.

Here is the truth of what’s actually happening – they’re trying to cope. Instead of improving mentally and trusting their training, they try to work more to feel better and self-destruct into a fiery death explosion of competitive suckitude in the process.

Summary
Plan your training year well and work hard, so you don’t end up doing dumb things shortly before a competition.

Sidenote:

This is how we organize our training year at Black Anvil. I’ve experimented with different lengths of time, but found the most consistent success over the course of the year with the following.

Months 1-3: Structural balance/Hypertrophy,Technique, General Work Capacity (high volume)
Months 4-6: Strength and Aerobic base (high volume)
Months 7-8: Applied Strength and Aerobic Intensity (medium volume)
Months 9-12: Sport specific, Strength and aerobic maintenance (low volume)

This doesn’t mean that we are ONLY improving the areas listed. But it does mean along with high-intensity, sport-specific work, we will address left to right strength imbalances instead of increasing overhead pressing strength.

Or that we will eliminate a high-intensity day for a higher volume, aerobic base building day (GASP THE GREAT BLASPHEMY).

As the year progress, training becomes more frequently sport specific, until the two month before the Open where strength and aerobic capacity go into maintenance mode (things that can’t be improved to an effectual amount in that time period) and the lactic, nasty stuff goes into high improvement mode (this can be improvement 8 weeks out).

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One thought on “Things that are Stupid: High Volume Training Before Competitions

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