| Itís relatively common knowledge that resistance (weight) training is a valuable tool to increase athletic performance. Increased muscle size and strength is one of two ways athletes can improve force production and expression. (The other is related to the central nervous systemís ability to tell muscles how and when to contract.) Having said that, itís very important to consider how those muscular adaptations occur. It goes something like this: you do the workout, the workout is hard, and the brain says, ď Gee that really sucked and seemed a little dangerous, I should probably lay down some extra tissue so that next time that happens it isnít as taxing.Ē
The brain creates adaptations in the muscles to deal with the demands of weight training. This new tissue size would be referred to as a structural adaptation. Whereas improving the deadlift by 15 pounds would be a functional adaptation. Both of these terms are extremely important but also must be differentiated. We must chase structural adaptions so that functional adaptations occur naturally and fluidly. This is where QUALITY over QUANTITY must be considered.
Muscle tissue canít tell how much weight is on the bar; all it can really sense is work to be done. Consider this: I can do a quality set of 3 reps with ďxĒ weight. It looks good, it feels good (hard), the training effect is there, and my coaches are happy. Yay for everyone.
Hereís where good coaching matters: 8th grader Timmy wants to lift weight ďyĒ because itís a landmark and some of his friends have done it. I know heís probably physically strong enough to do it, but the technique is sure to break down. What matters? Ego or physiology?
Please donít misunderstand me, heavy strength training matters. And testing that strength has its place. I can get someone to feel good about the training by adding 15 pounds for an extra set of 6. That is progress just as much as a one rep max. Iím going to tell Timmy that our training approach is going to prepare him to lift that landmark weight in a month or two with ease, maybe even for multiple reps. Having feel for the athlete, his or her training age, and his or her NEEDS should drive decision making. Not some awful looking ego lift for Instagram that makes everyoneís eyes bleed.
Chase quality. Know what matters. Performance training is about using physiology to prepare the body for the demands of sport and to express athleticism. 10,000 pounds on the deadlift doesnít make you hit homeruns. The tissue adaptations from performing challenging, yet high quality deadlifts make the difference.
We hope this is helpful! Have a great week, and as always feel free to comment with questions or topic requests!
All the best,
The Rapid Team
Andrew Gordon, MS, CSCS