When training in a team environment it is very important to push yourself to lift at your capacity each work out. Too many times I see blokes walk into the gym and just lift whatever is already on the bar. This is a ridiculous way to train and half the time you might as well not bother. All you are doing is accumulating fatigue. For example, let’s say one of the weaker athletes in the team is squatting using 80kg, his max is only 100kg so he is lifting at 80%. A stronger athlete walks in and starts squatting the same weight even though his 1RM is 160kg, he is squatting at 50% of his max.
Now this is not exaggerated, I see this type of thing all the time and it is tiring telling blokes to push themselves in the gym instead of just going through the motions and ticking the box saying “yeah I lifted today”. If you train this way you will see zero benefits and just make yourself tired. They think by dogging it they are saving energy but in reality they are wasting time, getting tired, getting weaker, and increasing their risk of injury.
This is why you find a lot of the weaker guys in the team progress on your programs and the stronger ones don’t. Most of the time you think it is because the weaker guys are beginners and have a greater potential for strength gain but if you analyse who lifts properly and who doesn’t you’ll notice a trend in your test results. Plus strength levels are rarely world class so you aren’t working with athletes that have tapped out their genetic potential, far from it.
As an athlete in a team sport you have to take responsibility for your own progress. This is especially true for part time athletes or athletes in sports where resources are limited. Simple things such as recording your lifts accurately are often overlooked and I believe it is a reason why many athletes fail to progress. “You improve what you measure” is a quote I learnt from Charles Poliquin and I believe it is true. The strength coach often has 30 other players to get around to so he won’t be able to help you out if you don’t have records of your lifts. If you do have records you can sit down with him and work out what needs to be adjusted. It may be the rate of change of exercise, the amount of volume, or the number of sets and reps you are doing, if you have the data you’ll be able to figure out which variables need to be changed a lot easier than if you have nothing.
With supervision slightly limited it is important to push yourself and not hide in the gym. Many athletes will walk into the gym, do one or two sets of an exercise or two, and then you will see them stand around talking, riding a bike, or foam rolling, just wasting time but trying to look busy. It doesn’t fool anyone. If you’re not going to lift properly then don’t distract those that are trying to, and better yet go work on your game or a skill that is required in your sport. At least you may improve in one area this way.
Another common mistake is the changing of weights and bar heights. In a team environment you have different sized players and different strength levels. Let’s use the above example again. The weaker lifter is squatting 80kg and is shorter than the stronger athlete. What you should do is set the pins at the correct height for the weaker athlete and set a base weight of 80kg. The stronger athlete then adds weight on top of this to get to the load he wants to use, say 130kg. If this was the case you would add a 25kg plate to each side, pretty simple really. There is no need to take plates off the bar lower than the base weight, which is the load of the weakest lifter in the group.
It is important to take ownership of your own career. If you have trouble with an exercise, feel like you aren’t recovering from workouts, have an injury, or don’t understand something, it is important to schedule some time with your strength coach and address any issues. This way you can both come up with a plan that is effective and works around any limitations or issues you may have. If you ask for help be prepared to do the work though. There is nothing worse than someone asking for help and then doing nothing with the information given. If you waste your coach’s time it won’t be long before he has had enough of giving. You have to give back at some point, there are 30 other blokes needing the same time and energy put in towards them.