Posted On January 4, 2023

What can weightlifters learn from Moneyball?

In the past few weeks I have been reading books written by Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball the classic study of how the Oakland As were able to use statistical data to gain a competitive edge in searching for baseball talent.

Once the cat was out of the bag and the rich teams got to use statistical analysis in the same manner as the As, the advantage swung toward the rich teams (aka. Cubs, and Astros).

Lewis had a bigger interest than just baseball. He was intrigued by the systematic biases we have that lead us to make judgements that are carefully reasoned but produce lousy outcomes.

The quote that was the inspiration for this article is:

I think the first takeaway in a very general way fromMoneyballfor your life is to ask why youre doing things the way youre doing things. Once you start asking these questions, you start to get answers that might surprise you. And then after that, its sort of like how do you start to evaluate the things you need to evaluate? And if there are ways to try to put numbers on things, to try to make probability judgments about things that youve just been not thinking about, you might get to a different answer. – Interview with Steve Dubner on Freakonomics podcast 11/25/2022


Each of us make assumptions about how to build our training cycles, specific routines and how to do a regular gym workout. We have developed these over years of training. We also track various numerical measures since weightlifting is basically a quantitative sport.

Serious lifters maintain good records of their training. I have journals dating back many years.

My reason for keeping these logs is to learn what works and what does not.

I give the same advice to everyone I coach.

That is a nice justification for keeping records. The trouble is that it has been years since I actually looked at any of my workout training cycles and evaluated what works for me and what does not.

Oh Sh*t!

I always look at training logs to see what I have done in the previous few weeks.but have not done a detailed evaluation of a full training cycle for many years.

I suspect that doing what I intended to do with my training records might provide me with some useful insights.

Stay tuned.

Doing a systematic assessment of our own training cycles would seem to be something we all do. Perhaps some buried insights lie in our own training logs.

Another thing that is suggested by Moneyball and the more recent book The Undoing Project is that our own unrecognized biases creep in when we evaluate the data we collect.

As most readers of this report are experienced athletes, we have probably all developed our own rules of thumb for how we structure our workouts and training cycles.

Perhaps it is time for a critical look at how we do things.

For example, we all have learned about estimating our workout weights based on a percentage of 1 rep maximum. Buteach of us may respond differently in the squat than we do in the bench press. Our bodies may have unique rules about how to train the deadlift.

Looking at these is one place where our own personal training logs can potentially give us some good insights.

Other areas where each of us may respond differently than the standard formula:

  • Use of low rep sets (ex. 10 sets of 2 reps vs 2 sets of 5 reps, etc.)
  • Workout volume (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Density training (total reps in a specific time frame)
  • Integration of isometric training into training sessions
  • Cross training (aerobic training for power athletes)
  • Alternating body building cycles with power training
  • Integration of Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Impact of gaining or losing weight on strength performance

The bottom line is that many of us can learn a lot from the data on our training that we have carefully collected but not examined from different angles.

Lift Big!


Written by Richard

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