Posted On March 15, 2021

Your Personal Data Driven Training Management System: Part 1

None of the regular readers of this newsletter suffer from a lack of energy or enthusiasm for working out.  It is almost impossible to keep us out of the gym.  Even during Covid restrictions all of us have figured out a way to keep working out.

IMHO one of the things that can help us all progress is to focus our energy and attention on the activities that will give us the biggest return on our effort.

In this newsletter I will introduce some ideas adapted from business management. I believe lifters can benefit from developing a data driven system based on their own training objectives.

Our personal training sessions are much like business in that we invest time, money and effort in getting a good return.  In our case the return is achieving our physical training goals.

IMHO I believe that as strength athletes we can make better progress in our training if we use a system that integrates planning, data collection and analysis.

I call this a Training Management System (TMS).

There are four main sections of a TMS:

  1. Workout plans
  2. Skill practice
  3. Nutrition
  4. Recovery

Many of you may have heard that what gets measured is what gets attention. For your own TMS you are going to measure several things that are uniquely important to your progress. You will be creating your own personal database that you use to analyze the effectiveness of your training and focus attention on what you need to do to improve.

Getting maximum benefit from your work begins with careful planning. It is possible to reach a certain level of mediocre performance by just showing up. However, if you want to realize your full potential, you must develop a solid plan to achieve what you want, then execute the plan.

You have all heard the maxim if you have no plan, your plan is to fail.   Take that to the bank!

Building a program

Successful lifters build workout programs based on a big picture or strategic vision of what they want to achieve. Step one in building your own TMS is to think about where you want to be a year from now and then organize your training plans by working backward to the present.

When thinking out into the future, it is important to remember that we all tend to overestimate how much we can accomplish in one day and underestimate how much we can accomplish in a month.  Develop your strategic plan with the idea that the goal of each 4-8 week training cycle is to make gradual but steady progress.

Powerlifters and most other athletes create individual training programs based on the calendar for competition.  During Covid competition has been disrupted, but it appears we are emerging from that uncertainty.

But, begin your own TMS planning with a written statement of where you want to be in a year.  Then you will define a series of 4-12 week training cycles to reach your goal.  

You can revise this plan as the year progresses to account for changing situations.  You can also extend it to account for competitions scheduled further out than a year. However, this master plan will give you a clear structure for what you intend to accomplish during the year.

For example, here is a sample arrangement of cycles aimed at competing in a championship meet in March 2022:

  • April 2021 and June 2021: Conditioning for heavy power training
  • July 2021 and Aug 2021: Power building cycle
  • Sept 2021: Bodybuilding and skill training
  • October 2020 thru December 2021: Strength building
  • January 2022 and Feb 2022: Contest peaking cycle

Each of the 4-12 week training cycles must be done with a great deal of precision. Do this planning 1-2 weeks before the start of the cycle.

The format for a detailed cycle plan is a complete listing of the exercises you will perform, the sets and reps and the weights you will use in each set. 

Once you make the plan, it defines what you will do in every workout for the next few months.  Take your plan to the gym with you each time you train. 

As you do your workout, write down each exercise, sets, reps, the weights you used and any problems that emerged when you were lifting.  Even include detailed information on your warmups.

IMHO it is best to record what you lift during the workout.  It will be infinitely more accurate than trying to remember what you did.  There is also a good chance that you may omit writing down some workouts. 

You can keep track of your lifting using a notebook or a digital device.  Whatever is easiest for you.  Just be certain to write down every exercise, set, rep and weight.  My personal preference is to use a simple composition notebook and write in pencil.  Easy to do when you are training and does not put your expensive cell phone at risk.

All the information that you recorded becomes part of your personal TMS database. This is the complete record of the exercises you did and the weights you used in each workout. 

Now you have a data base you can use to assess what worked well for you and what did not.

Using your data for feedback and learning

Every two weeks you should review your workout data to see if you are progressing as you planned.  If the plan is working well you should see little deviation from the workouts you planned to do and the workouts you are doing.

If your workouts are not the same as the plan, it is important for you to quickly assess why this is the case and take corrective action.

Here are some reasons why a hypothetical lifter may not be able to do what was planned:

  • The weights in the plan were too close to the maximum and need to be reduced.
  • Too many exercises scheduled in one session.
  • Did exercises not in the plan.
  • Planned work is too demanding for one training session.
  • Workout takes too long to complete.
  • Have a problem with lifting technique that limits performance.

The fundamental idea is that you analyze the data on your performance to track your progress and modify what you are doing as needed.

Every month you should examine your data to see if your performance is on track to reach the targets you set when you made the cycle plan.  If you are on course, great.  If not, adjust.

At the completion of the cycle, you should examine your data to see if you reached your milestones or had to modify them along the way.  Use this information to build future training plans.

Over time you will develop more skill in devising plans that work for you.  Real numbers on your workouts can give you insight on where you can make progress and identify those areas that are a problem for you.  You can do this using real numbers not just blind guesses. 

In the next installment I’ll discuss the issue of including skill training into your personal TMS.

Lift Big!


Written by Richard

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