Programming for Humans
To figure out how I should strength train, I turn to social media. It tells me everything I need to know.
Okay, that's not true, but imagine if it was. It would be ludicrous, right? Not least because social media is full of advice that contradicts and conflicts with itself. When it comes to training and being a champion, I'll often see things like "To be a champion, you need to train like one." But then I'll also read advice like "Stop thinking you're elite. Stick to the fundamentals"
Neither of these are wrong. They are, as is standard with internet memes and supposedly-inspirational quotes, a single-sentence oversimplification of the issues. The reality is that both are true and valuable pieces of advice, but perhaps not in the way you'd think.
You Already Have the Tools
Here's the real deal. If you are on a well-considered strength program by a coach who has experience across a range of level of athletes, you already train like a champion. The likelihood is that your plan is very similar to that of someone who is at a much higher level. That's not because your coach is lazy. That's because we are all humans.
Programming that works, across any and every level, is built on solid fundamental, universal principles of how humans move, and how humans learn. So a coach who is worth his or her salt will be programming for all athletes of all abilities based on these same principles, and then based on the coach’s own universal principles and beliefs too. It's only the expressions of these principles that change for each type of athlete.
So, in short, you already have access to the same rep schemes, the same movements, the same principles of progression, and the same planning as those you admire. The programming is there in front of you, and it's not a watered down version either. Your workouts are tapered to a level that is just a step above your own. Because that's how this stuff works. Layer upon layer. You don't build the foundation of a house then move to the blueprint for the roof. You build the house, one layer of bricks at a time.
Or take a car analogy. Accelerating from 0-60 is actually 0, 1, 2, 3, to 58, 59, 60. Your strength training works the same way. You pick up speed, and change up a gear when you need to. But the mechanics of an engine and transmission still stay the same. Some cars will pick up speed quicker because of the way they are built, but all cars can get from 0-60 by constantly adding speed. You are that car, your engine is your body's systems, your genetics is the way the engine is built, your programming is the transmission, your performance is your speed.
Build Your Foundation
What this means for you is that the fact you are not a champion is not because your program is inferior, or even significantly different to the programs the champions are using. It is the same, and what’s more it is at the right level for you to progress to the next layer. Build your strength incrementally, and when the time comes, take it up a gear - but remember, that shift is still just a shift of degree, not an overhaul of the whole transmission. Do what champions do – and do the fundamentals well. Perform the work, and trust in the program.
You don't instantly go from an empty cup of filter coffee to a full cup. Your coffee percolates drip by drip, and that's just how you accumulate strength. And my coffee has been percolating for a while now. Time to sip at it and do some programming for humans.