Training Plateau

I have only been weightlifting for a little over a year and I have already plateaued.

Am I doing something wrong? Am I training to much? Too little? Not hard enough?

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In October I felt on top of the world. I smashed a new snatch and clean and jerk PR, but I haven’t been able to improve those numbers since then.

To put a little more background to this post, in weightlifting we train in cycles. Each cycle is roughly twelve weeks (composed of three four-week micro cycles). Every third week of a micro cycle is typically a de load week – or a week of training that is a bit easier in load/volume to help the body recover.

At the beginning of a training cycle the volume is high and the weight is low. As the cycle goes on, however, the sets of twelves and tens gradually become heavy singles and doubles, leading up to the final day (typically a competition) where we attempt PRs. Sometimes towards the end of a training cycle, we go a little heavier than the programming to attempt a PR, but it all depends on how our body is feeling and whether or not we are cycling for a serious competition.

Typically by the end of a cycle you are stronger and increase your training numbers on meet day, but I have gone through five training cycles and my numbers haven’t budge a bit.

It’s frustrating.

Not all of these training cycles have led to a competition which does play a role in making lifts because having the adrenaline of a competition can give you the extra push you need to successfully complete a personal record but that is no excuse.

My coach and I have played around with my feet and hand placements, done lots of work from the hang and block starting positions and even played around with changing my training frequency in hopes of rebooting my body but nothing seemed to work.

For the last training cycle before I leave for Nashville, we took an unconventional approach.

The first four weeks we planned to say goodbye to all Olympic lifting. In reality, that didn’t quite last the entire four weeks. I didn’t do anything even remotely similar to a clean, jerk or snatch during the first week of the program. However, during the second week we did a few no-jump, power snatches/cleans and by week three we were back to the full movement but in a low weight/high rep form.

The main focus of this cycle was to build strength and endurance. Honestly, I was a bit nervous about it at first but I ended up LOVING it. It was the kind of conditioning I needed mentally and physical. The first micro cycle left me crawling out of practice and barely able to walk the next day but boy did I NEED it. I missed feeling that soreness. I missed the aches and pains of feeling myself get stronger.

Week one left me sore in the predictable places (quads, quads and more quads). Day one of high repetition squats felt good. Although we worked at 65-70% of our maxes, my legs felt like jello and I could barely make it back to the bench to rest between sets.

Week two was a little more exotic and left my back and triceps calling for a good bio freeze massage. My coach threw in a few stadium sprints at the end of a workout and I am surprised I could move my legs that fast after high volume squats. The aftermath – a scary car ride home with unsteady legs.

Week three had its own set of obstacles. From traveling to Chicago to support the introduction of high school weightlifting, to celebrating the Fourth of July and sporadically deciding to “run” a 5k, training and nutrition weren’t optimal. I made it to the gym when I could and tried to make the most of it.

Week four was a deload week, but we also maxed some of the non main movements. I attempted a bench PR on Tuesday but only made it to 45kg (my previous max). I tried again on Thursday and made it to 47kg. I deadlift maxed on Wednesday and made 90kg without my belt/straps. I also managed to pull 93kg to my shins but didn’t make it to a locked out position. Then, on Saturday I attempted to improve my back squat max of 90kg and only ended up frustrated. As I progressed through my warm up sets, I hit 65kg and then 75kg belt-less. Then, I put on my belt and went for 83kg and missed. So long story short, a back squat max did not happen.

Week five – my main coach left for a two-week, off-the-grid, camping trip so two other coaches took turns running practices. The two weeks turned out better than I expected. We front squat maxed on Monday. I made 70kg look easy (with my previous max being 73kg) so I went for 75kg. I missed it, but I tried again and ended up with a new PR of 78kg.

Week six and I am feeling stronger but only in certain aspects. My snatches and cleans are a struggle because I tend to let the bar crash on me instead of meeting the bar high and riding the weight down, but I am feeling A LOT stronger in my squats and pull ups (oddly enough).

Week seven and my main coach is back from his camping trip! I have been powering (meeting the bar at/above horizontal and not squatting all the way down) my snatches and cleans when I can to improve my speed under the bar and I think it is helping. Repetition wise, the working sets of the main lifts are roughly 2-3 reps at around 80%. I am able to power most sets – meaning nothing feels too heavy – but I still have my days when 55kg feels like 80kg and double bounces are quite necessary.

Week eight was my final week of training – and potentially my last time olympic weightlifting. I went in with the mindset of enjoying it rather than putting pressure on myself to make every lift perfect. My teammate, who is also leaving for college this fall, and I put together a memory video and poster for our coach that we gave to him on our last day of training together.

As I head off to college, I have no idea what my exercise regime is going to look like. I still have access to my coaches programming but I do not know if I will have the time, let alone the equipment to weight lift. As I get settled into my college life, I will be sure to blog another training update; but until then, wish me the best of luck on this next phase of life!

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