Huge Training Mistake (programming)

Huge Training Mistake

Huge training mistake: What could this be? One can make a lot when building a training cycle, but one comes to mind. More than any other factor, the most common reason I see lifters with a back injury is their programming. Too much work, not enough rest, to put it simply. In this article, I”m going to highlight what I see with lifters setting themselves up for failure. I call it the weight-lifting program adopted for powerlifting.

Training too much: Not enough time to heal

This is pretty simple. Training too often and not allowing enough time for recovery. But, I am still shocked that more people attempt this type of program for the long haul. There is no doubt that a program like this can be a launching pad for strength gains for a short time. But, when combined with high volume and hard intensity (heavy), it’s a recipe for back pain and injury. But, how long can you do this program before you start to unravel? Why do it at all if it’s such a risk? I don’t know why, and I’m genuinely curious! I have my thoughts, which have to do with the internet and a lack of patience. We want everything right now and can’t stand to wait.

Training program mistake example:

These training programs sometimes call for benching, squatting, and deadlifting daily. At the same time, others settle in with attacking each of the three main lifts 3x per week. An approach like this demands high volume (amount of work), high frequency (how often you lift), and high intensity (how heavy). All this work becomes cumulative over time and can start to unravel even a seasoned lifter.

Common Injury

A typical back injury I see from lifters who follow these types of programs is not limited to endplate fractures and disc bulges, which are the most common. Instead, these athletes are instructed to push through the ‘adjustment period’ until they are overwhelmed with back pain and get help. Some can do very well with this approach, while others fall apart quickly. Other athletes are fortunate enough to avoid back injury but run into other overuse issues with the knees, hips, shoulders, and arms.

Where did this approach come from?

In my opinion, the issue with this approach is the adoption of weight-lifting principles to fit a powerlifting type of split. The problem is weight lifting, and powerlifting is very different sports with differing and unique demands. Also, I don’t see this approach from veteran powerlifting coaches or lifters – with ten years or more in the sport. Mainly newer, younger generation lifters.

The solution

Now that I’ve pointed out the pros and cons of this approach, I will give you a solution. Only apply the least effective dose. If you need more volume, add it, but that doesn’t mean you must add an entire workout. Want to lift a little heavier? Sure, but I would put a holding pattern on the frequency and volume. Control your variables, and only add what is necessary, one thing at a time. The high-volume, frequency, and high-intensity program for powerlifting is not your best choice for long-term success. Read 10/20/Life, where I give you multiple options for building your program, and take the guesswork out of your programming. Start with one day per main lift, slowly add as necessary, and only train as hard and as often as necessary to keep progressing.

It’s about the next ten years, not the next ten months. Stay in the game! I made many of these mistakes, as documented in Gift of Injury, so you don’t have to.

For those of you who have followed a program like this and are looking for a better way, or if you have fallen on hard times yourself with back pain, reach out for a Virtual Consult, and I’ll do my best to help.


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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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