We’ve all been there—it’s the beginning of a training session, the first lift commences, and something is off. If you’re a coach, you’ve noticed it with your clients. If you’re a lifter, you’ve felt, or seen, it in yourself. You can’t find the correct lift positions.
I don’t know if you have a calendar, but it’s 2015. We have thirty baker’s dozens of tools for measuring nervous system, cardiovascular and any other type of readiness your synapses can manifest. Call me old fashioned, but I think; if we’re observant, it’s simpler than that.
Once upon a time an online client sent me a video of his trap bar deadlift. He loaded it with a not-too-challenging weight, something he’d owned in recent weeks. But he looked like ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five-pound bag. I say that in a very positive, life-affirming way.
He couldn’t achieve his normal neutral spine, high-tension set-up. As he started to lift, his tension receded even more and his position devolved like whoa.
I texted back, “Dude, you’re exhausted, aren’t you?”
He said, “Yes, good sir, I am.”
This seems obvious, but we ignore this type of palpable, concrete, right up in ya’ grill type of info all the time. We do it to ourselves. We do it to our clients.
Poor positioning is often attributed to dips in skill development. He or she isn’t that good yet, so, of course, not every set will look perfect. This is true. But that dip in performance should bounce a few questions around in those old skulls of ours.
Is his/her/my nervous system in the trash today?
Did they do what they needed to do to prepare for this session? Nutrition, etc.
Are my underwear on backwards? (Personally, this is a legitimate daily concern.)
Bottom line—we should at least start asking questions instead of immediately jumping in with coaching. Hopefully, you asked some baseline questions when you first saw the client, or, if you train yourself, were aware of your current fatigue, mental and emotional states.
But let’s say you just happened upon a hypothetical client and you notice this poor positioning conundrum. Start with something like, “Hey, how are you feeling today?” They’ll often say that they’re fine. Don’t be satisfied. Delve deeper and find out if they’re dealing with accumulated fatigue. It may take some prying, by asking questions about the rest of their life or paying attention to their current mood, but the information is in there and you can get it out.
When you do, change the plan.
If they were supposed to lift, or condition, like a maniac, put the kibosh on that. Position problems tell us that the nervous system is dealing with a hurricane shit storm of fatigue. Alter the program to accommodate it. Have them repeat the mobility portion of their warm-up a few times or put them into some kind of cardiac output training. Both are great restorative means that help bring the nervous system back up to baseline.
Let’s illustrate using the client I mentioned above. Let’s also say his name is Jehosofat Pumpernickle. It isn’t. And if that’s your real name…holy shit.
We immediately went into a deload phase, cutting training intensity, and volume, by about thirty percent each for a week. The fatigue lifted, his fitness was revealed. Every woman that passed within three blocks of him got pregnant.
Everything is an assessment of training status. Pay attention to position, it says a lot about nervous system readiness.