High Value Performance Indicators: The Critical Element for Improvement
In business there is a saying that that which is measured is the thing that gets attention. In weightlifting the same rule applies. Lifters (or other athletes) who want to improve their performance need a clear set of valid performance measures to assess how well their training is progressing.
In this article Ill cover what I believe to be some extremely important performance measures. Some will be familiar, but others may be new to you. In any event, you can use them to help you make improvements in both weight lifting and in other sports.
Many lifters seem fixated on a few numbers such as their 1 rep max. Other metrics are ignored or rarely considered. This is not a practice that leads to regular improvement.
In the 65+ years I have been going to gyms, I have noticed that most people dont pay any attention to tracking (or planning) their workouts. As a result few of them make any serious progress after the first six months of lifting. They stay the same year in and year out. This is OK if that works for them.
For lifters who want to keep progressing, a more sophisticated approach to designing and tracking workouts is mandatory.
Note: In this article Ill not discuss nutrition, but only measures that pertain to exercises.
Most lifters are familiar with some of these measures. They track what was done during workouts.
- Workout plan: almost everyone does this. Exercise, sets, reps and weights. What may be new to some is the idea of identifying quality These are reps done with perfect technique at a high level of intensity.
- Workload per week in each exercise: How many reps done in each of the important Important lifts are the three powerlifts plus front squat, power cleans, Olympic lifts, Incline bench press, standing press, rowing, pullups (or pull downs), parallel bar dips, kettlebell swings or snatches, or intense isometric poses.
- Recovery: This includes hours of sleep each night, active recovery such as yoga, and physical therapy.
Most serious lifters track the first category of workload. IMHO an added category of quality reps is important to measure as these are the part of the workout where the greatest benefit accrues. Most mortal human lifters can only count on performing 12-18 of these quality reps in any given workout. Knowing how well these reps were performed is critical to making any needed changes to your workout.
Tracking the volume of work in important lifts is another measure that can be very useful for evaluating what helps progress and what is a waste of time. Casual lifters tend to do a lot of reps in junk exercises. These burn energy and can take away from putting best effort into the most important movements.
Recovery is almost an afterthought with many lifters. The assumption seems to be that not working out between training sessions will be sufficient for complete recovery. It may be the case that added recovery can have a major impact on your performance. Pavel noted that the greatest single thing that one could do to improve strength was to get an extra hour of sleep.
Other recovery activities may also be very important over the long term include active recovery such as yoga and physical therapy if muscles or joints are not 100%. It is important for serious lifters to have a means of understanding when they are over training and need to back off. Conscientious record keeping on when the workload leads to physical therapy can help prevent injuries or excessive fatigue.
Realizing our full potential as lifters requires having excellent lifting technique. If our technique is poor, we lift far less than we could with good form. Here is a suggestion on how we can devote enough practice time to work on correcting flaws in our form.
The metrics we use for technique practice are not as obvious as the ones we use in the other parts of our training. Recall that we pay attention to the things that get counted. In short, there is a good chance that technique practice will be ignored or not given the attention it deserves unless you have a measure for tracking what you intend to do, and what you did.
Here are some useful metrics for working on our form.
- Establish a target for reps per workout and reps per week where the only objective is improving technique. These can include:
- Reps with an empty bar.
- Special exercise to improve our form (eg. Wall squat facing the wall)
- Partial movements
- Reps done with a broomstick or wooden dowel
- Establish target reps per workout and reps per week for learning a new lift such as an Olympic lift or kettlebell movement.
- Reps on a part of the movement
- Reps done without weight
- Specialized exercise to train part of a movement.
Having specific performance targets and metrics that show practice volume will go a long way to consistently focusing attention on technique practice.
Remember the two rules of keeping data on your workouts:
- Attention goes to what is measured
- Out of sight, out of mind!