Know When To Hit The Brakes On Volume

April 28, 2017

Know When To Hit The Brakes On Volume

It’s safe to say powerlifting has grown tremendously in the past few years - with that, we’ve seen a lot freaks come out of nowhere, and it seems like world records are falling practically weekly. While exhilarating and exciting for the sport, just as many freaks who have come have gotten seriously injured, and disappear, or just can’t get healthy and get back to max strength/make progress.

With the sport getting so competitive, and more analysis/research being done on training modalities, increasing volume (weight x sets x reps) seems to be the key to everything. Volume has been proven to be a key driver in progress when it comes to muscular hypertrophy and neuromuscular efficiency; if you do more volume, you WILL get stronger, and you WILL grow (as long as your nervous system/muscles can recover). This seemingly basic principle has been a huge driver in progression for so many athletes; so many people getting SO strong SO quickly.

So, what’s the issue?

With an emphasis being on an increase of volume in powerlifting, hyper-specific programming is extremely common, with people back squatting, barbell bench pressing, and deadlifting 3-5x/week. Again, this will get you strong, assuming technique is sound. But here’s where the issue comes in: While your musculature and nervous system get insanely strong, your joints and tendons take a lot of heat. Maybe you can handle squatting 4x/week for 2 years, and your tendinitis is bearable, but what happens when your patellar tendons diminish, weaken, and then tear? Maybe you’re out for a year, doing rehab, spending your money on surgery, PT’s, etc. Now progress has stalled, you’ve regressed, and chances are, your knee(s) will probably never be the same again. 

I’m by no means saying to never push volume and frequency of your lifts hard - it’s great for skill acquisition of the lifts, strength, hypertrophy, etc. The only issues occur when you push too hard, too often. If you’re someone competing more than twice a year, it’s probably a good idea to take some meets easier, and push the more important ones harder. 

Some of the most common injuries in the drug free lifting world we see nowadays are Sacroiliac Joint (SI Joint) dysfunction, as well as hip, knee, and shoulder issues. Usually starting as nagging issues, and develop into more serious overuse injuries the more you push through them. This is a big reason why so many guys come out of nowhere, killing it, and then disappear into nowhere, in a constant state of recovery and reoccurring injury. 

It’s crucial to have extended time periods of decreased volume and frequency on the Big 3, finding other ways to stimulate your musculature/nervous system is important. Things like:

  • Eccentric (downward/lowering portion of movement) based movements, like tempos. Slowing down the tempo of your lift helps increase time under tension, creating more muscular damage without as much weight on the bar. Eccentric based movements can also help build up connective tissues and tendon strength, which can obviously be extremely useful. 
  • Unilateral movements. Things like Single Leg RDL’s, Split Squats + variations, 1 arm presses, etc. These movements challenge your musculature without damaging your nervous system or connective tissues as much, due to the substantially decreased load.
  • Concentric (upward/lifting portion of movement) only movements. The most stress on our body is occurred through the eccentric portion of a lift, so doing things like sled drags/pushes, sled chest presses/row, or resistance bikes can also help grab some extra workload and volume without as much stress as a traditional movement.

It’s so tempting to only look at short term, and think about pushing your workload up to hit that total, or break that record. So much of our lives are based around instant gratification, and it’s hard to look at the long term and decide it’s not a good idea to run yourself in the ground. You can climb the mountain fast, and risk falling off and starting from the bottom, or you can take a more practical pace, going fast for a bit, resting, slowing down, and repeating until you reach the top. 

At the end of the day, I think we all want to lift as long as we can - or at least most of us. The most important things we can do is listen to our bodies when they’re beat up and in pain, and pull back accordingly. If you’re lifting with discomfort more often than not, something needs to change and be addressed. Get yo’ self right fam. 

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