Training for Mediocrity: The habits of lousy powerlifters

Posted On June 25, 2017

Who trains hard to get lousy results?

Unfortunately….a lot of lifters. They bust their butts and get worse…or at least they don’t improve.

Why would anyone do this?

No one that I know would ever consciously say that they train diligently with the intentionof getting worse…things just seem to happen that way.


When it comes to training for any sport, there are LOT’s of reasons why hard work will often lead nowhere. In this article, and some to follow, I’ll discuss how a hard working lifter can get dismal results…and the harder they work…the worse they get.

In powerlifting or any other sport, there are a huge number of ways to degrade performance, and a few ways that will help you to do yourbest. I’ll begin by discussing some of the most general reasons lifters can train hard and get zilch for results.

My general observation (borrowed from the great golf coach Fred Shoemaker) that lots of athletes are “lost” and “blind”. This means that they while they have a general idea of what to do to succeed, they lack the detailed knowledge they need to make progress. Without this, they tend to perfect their mistakes rather than correct them.

Here are some of the common practicespoor lifters use to achieve sub-optimal results.

Let’s start with being “lost”. It is my observation based on 60+ years of training in gyms all over the US and in some other countries, that poor lifters work out without any sort of detailed plan. They come to the gym with some vague notion that “today I’ll do back and biceps training” or it is “leg day”.

With this approach, the “workout”is usually a haphazard collection of leg lifts that may or may not be the same ones they did in their previous workout, and the weights will be whatever the lifter mayfeel like doingthat day.

Training without a plandoes almost nothing to increase body strength.

In the words of the great Bull Stewart, “If you have no plan, your plan is to fail…”

A plan for powerliftersshould cover all the workouts in a four toeight-week cycle of training. That means that a lifter has planned in advance what lifts they will do in each workout, the weights they will use, and the number of sets and reps.

The length of a training cycle will vary from four to eight weeks depending on what skill is being trained (eg. speed, peaking, etc.). Some very advanced lifters may even use a “mini-cycle” that can be as short as two or three weeks.

However, the main point is that to progress, it is essential to have a fully worked out plan, and then execute the plan.

You will immediately note that a four to eight-week plan has a huge amount of data. It is impossible to keep all of this information in your head, so a written plan ismandatory!!

Mediocre lifers will not bother to write down anything. They will try (unsuccessfully) to “remember” everything.

For a laugh, try remembering the sets and reps you did of a specific exercise three weeks ago. This is the type of information that is easy to recall if you record it, but becomes progressively more inaccurate over time if you dont write it down.

What type of written plan (or workout log) is most useful?

In my opinion, the old-style hand-written workout plan and training log areinfinitely superior to the “apps” that marketed aggressively, and at considerable cost. I say this having been a scientist in my working career and having used computers and data analysis systems extensively.

The biggest reasons forthe superiority of hand-written log is the flexibility you have in recording and retrieving information. You can review your workout history, or do evaluations of what areas you need to stress at a glance. You can also write in notes about technique, things you want to remember, etc.

Whatever technology they use, good lifters write down theirtraining plan, and write down detailed records of theirworkouts.

Anotherkey value of a training plan….routinely ignored by mediocre lifters….is that the plan also defines what the lifterwill NOT do in a given training session.

Let’s say they plan to do 4 sets of 2 reps in the bench press…. That means theywill NOT do 5 or 6 sets of 2 (or 3 reps) just because they feel good that day. They also wont go off and do exercises not planned for that day. “More” is rarely “better”.

Poor lifters will usually find a reason to “tough out” a “little”…or a lot extra. This depletes their limited reserve of energy and makes recovery for the next workout more problematic.

Over the years I have seenseveral lifters successfullydestroyany chance they might have for success by doing a lot of extra work ondays when they feel “good”. They will often compound this error by pushing extra hard the following workout….and further depleting their body.

Pushing yourself all the time will guarantee that any progress will cease.

Progress comes when you conserve some of your energy and don’t kill yourself every workout. Progress comes when youplanwhat you are going to do…and stick to it.

Sometimes the plan can be too ambitious or too demanding…in that case...revise the plan so that you can spend your energy in an efficient way, and give yourself the best chance to make progress.

Where can you find some good plans? I have several plans for increasing each of the power lifts in my book Powerlifting Over 50 Using these plans you will discover training plans that will help you make progress year after year.

Good plans are the foundation of making progress. Developing your full body power potential is deceptively difficult, and success comes through mastering a wide range of details and techniques for training, execution,nutrition and recovery.

In the coming weeks I’ll cover more tips on how to improve your lifting.

Have a great day,

Richard Schuller – Mid Life Hard Body


Written by Richard

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