Just recently, once again, I had the honor to work with Boris Sheiko, one of the most successful powerlifting coaches in the world, and support him as his interpreter during his seminar. This time, there were two particular features about his seminar. First, it was his first seminar in Germany (finally, I can connect the dots and it makes sense why I grew up in a bilingual German-Russian environment :) ). Secondly, it wasn't the typical powerlifting seminar. The seminar was carried out in a crossfit gym and athletes with different backgrounds were present: powerlifting, weightlifting, strongmen, crossfit and even karate.After the theoretical part of the seminar (see my previous blog posts - #1, #2, #3 - for the content), all athletes showed their lifts and Boris Sheiko made technique corrections and suggestions on how to improve.
The first question, Boris asked each athlete was: "What is your sports background?" and only then he made suggestions. You might be a bit surprised why sports background matters. If the squat technique is correct, it shouldn't matter if one is powerlifter or weightlifter or crossfitter after all. Right?
However, it does matter a lot. These are the small technical refinements that matter, such as the bar position, stance width, range of motion, etc. that determine the squat efficiency for the individual sport or the individual goal.
To give an example, let's take a powerlifter, a weightlifter and a bodybuilder and the way everyone needs to squat.
The goal of a powerlifter is to push as much weight as possible. This means that a shorter range of motion (not a full squat, but just below parallel or to parallels, depending on the federation rules this lifter competes in) and a low bar position are most beneficial.
A weightlifter doesn't really care about squat because his competition disciplines are snatch and clean & jerk. However, squat develops leg strength and is a good assistance exercise for his competition lifts. For this reason, weightlifters squat with a full range of motion and high bar position, in which the lifter's position is more similar to the one in his competition lifts.
A bodybuilder has muscle growth as his main goal. How much weight he can or want to push, is a secondary issue, that is mostly determined by the size of his ego. Thus, a full range of motion, automatically implying a high bar squat position (the one you can push less weight with), make more sense for a bodybuilder.
What do we learn from this? Sports background determines what exercise form to use. The lifting technique should be adjusted to individual goals, which Boris Sheiko does for all of his students.
However, it doesn't end here. What exercise form to use is pretty easy to determine, but what about program planning? If we just look at strength building programs for powerlifters, there are so many different options. Which one is the best?
Here it is totally dependent on you as an individual. As long as you aren't a complete newb (everything works for a newbie), a good program is the one, that works on your limiting factors and eliminates them, no matter if these are weaknesses in your technique, muscle groups that are lacking behind or even psychological issues, such as little confidence to lift heavy. To cut a long story short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is no program that works for everyone, as everyone has a different limiting factor....but...
...but, if all programs need to be individualized, and there are no programs that work for everyone, how can it be that Boris Sheiko's programs you can download from his page led to such drastic strength improvements for so many lifters even without individualization? (Just as a side note: Also Boris Sheiko says that all programs need to be individualized)
In my opinion, there are three reasons for it:
1. Boris Sheiko analyzed dozens or even hundreds of training log books from his athletes. Looking at the data he found correlations for training intensity and progress and he implements these findings into his programs.
2. Based on his longstanding experience he knows what are the most common mistakes and weaknesses lifters have. For this reason, Boris Sheiko uses variations of competition lifts in his programs that improve these weaknesses. No matter what your limiting factor is, the chance is pretty high that some part of Boris Sheiko's program will address it. 3. His programs are designed for the right genotype.
Designed for the right WHAT?
As I described in my previous blog post, there are genetic differences between people. These differences may play a crucial role for program design. Some people, whose genetic trait is classified as the endurance trait, respond better to low intensity high rep programs, even if building power and not endurance is the goal. Others, however, carrying the power trait respond better to high intensity low rep programs. The probability that the majority of powerlifters carry the power trait is very high. People like to do things they are naturally good in, like in the case of powerlifters lifting heavy stuff for one rep or just a few reps. Thus, it is reasonable that a successful powerlifting program targets exactly this group. If we have a look at Boris Sheiko's programs, we see that *surprise, surprise* the majority of competition lifts or variations of competition lifts are trained with low rep numbers. This is what I meant by saying that the programs are designed for the right genotype. They are designed for a powerlifter.
Take-home message: In my opinion, Boris Sheiko's programs are so successful, because they
- are designed for true powerlifters (...the guys who like to lift really heavy stuff, because they're naturally good at it),
- fix most common mistakes powerlifters do and
- use optimal average training intensity for powerlifters.
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