Programming Training Intensity for Weightlifters

for link to full article  Programming Training Intensity for Weightlifters

Here is a guest post from Jean-Patrick Millette, who runs FirstPull.net (like it on Facebook).

He takes a look at 3 different studies about training intensity for weightlifters shows how this information can be useful for your training. Hope you enjoy it.

Since it is a longer read I made it available for your ereader of choice.

Download: mobi (for kindle), epub


The training of weightlifters has evolved through the years. Factors that have influenced the way weightlifters train are diverse: competition rules change (i.e. allowance of thigh contact with the bar), the removal of a competition lift (clean and press), exercise science advancement as well as geographical location of the athletes (Cultural aspect). This gave birth to a large number of training systems and methodologies.

The variables included in these training systems – such as movements used, order of movements in a given training plan, frequency of training, volume and intensity of training, length of training, pre or post competition training – tend to vary greatly amongst the approach. There have been very simple systems (i.e: Bulgarian’s system) and there have been very well planned systems (ie: Soviet’s system).

Interestingly enough, both of these systems have produced a large number of champions even though the approach is very different.

However, I think it is important to investigate how training intensity can be manipulated to generate the most gain on the competitive lifts. This investigation is important because high training intensity, by nature, is fatiguing (neural and muscular fatigue) and ups the risk of training injuries. It is important that a coach doses training intensity perfectly so that it creates consistency in the lifts,to avoid overtraining (not recuperating enough) as the gains are made over time.

Because of this, I would argue that the dosage of high intensity training sessions is one the most –if not the most- important criteria when creating a training plan for weightlifters.

This goal of this article is not to provide a recipe for creating a training plan but to provide thought-provoking information that can help you create your own.

Training Intensities of Different Systems

Let’s review some of the known system’s average intensity of training.

Zatsiorsky (1992) investigated this matter [Link to the paper].

Zatsiorsky, in his review, states that the average training intensity for elite Russian athletes was 75 +/- 2% of their competition max.

Of interest to the weightlifter: “the main portion of weight lifted (25%) is 70 to 80% of competition max” and only 7% of all lifts were done above 90%”.

This is particularly low in comparison to other countries. Zatsiorsky states that Finnish weightlifting champions, in 1987, was at an average intensity of 80 +/- 2.5%.

Allow me to quote him again: “The numbers of repetitions with maximal resistance are relatively low. During the 1984-1988 Olympic Training Cycle, elite Russian athletes lifted a barbell of maximal weight in main exercises (Snatch and Clean & Jerk) 300 to 600 times a year. This amount comprised 1.5 – 3.0% of all their lifts”.

Most of those lifts (65%) were done between 90 and 92.5%.

I would like to point out that Russia might have changed the way they train their athletes as they have been changing their coaches often. The data is still relevant, though.

On the other hand, some systems, such as the Bulgarian system, advocate frequent max out training sessions (working out to a daily max every session).

Zastiorsky states that Bulgarians lifted up to 4000 times a year their daily training (Not competition max) max. This is the equivalent of 10 max training lifts, everyday for a whole year.

Both systems, the soviet and Bulgarian system, allowed these nations to dominate the sport during the 1980′s. However, the Bulgarian system has been critiqued as “more” dangerous (up the risk on injuries). I do not have data on the difference of injuries rate, so I will not comment on this. Consequently, I will look at what the scientific literature has to say about optimal training intensity.

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