Ask Greg: Issue 109
Greg Everett

Kumar Asks: Sir I would like to know about weekly, monthly and yearly training programming for Olympic weightlifting and how to distribute their repetition/sets for a particular workout programs. I am from India, please help me sir. I have 5 young weightlifters around 12-16 year old boys and girls and all are beginners.

Greg Says: This is a big question I won’t be able to answer here entirely, so I’ll speak in general terms to try to at least get you started and have some guidelines to work with. First, the amount of work these lifters are doing should be increasing on average over time. This means both the frequency and volume of their training. Eventually, they can be training 5-6 days/week, and depending on the circumstances and their commitment, possibly more than once per day. The number of different exercises they use on a regularly basis should decrease over time. That is, early on, they should be using many different exercises to learn movement patterns and strengthen posture and generally help with motor learning. As they progress, more and more of their training volume will be comprised of the competition lifts. This doesn’t mean they won’t still have variety in training, but that they will spend more time on a given exercise.

As far as sets and repetition distribution at this point, a basic pattern is to alternate higher and lower volume each day; for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be the highest volume days and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday would be lower volume days. This allows the athletes to recover somewhat and continue training hard throughout the week. There also needs to be a modulation of volume from week to week. A basic pattern I find works well is thinking in 4-week blocks. The first 3 weeks is your true work, and the fourth week is a recovery week. You can start with the highest volume on week 1 and reduce weeks 2 and 3, or you can reduce more week 2 and actually increase again week 3, although with less volume than week 1. Both work well.

For young beginners, training cycles can be relatively short, maybe 4-8 weeks. You may think of these in series; maybe 2-3 of these cycles in a row, each with a somewhat different emphasis. The earlier cycle(s) would be more strength-focused, and the later cycle(s) would be more competition-lift-focused. The earlier cycle(s) would also have higher average volume than the later cycles, although not necessarily dramatically.

The actual volume each lifter responds to best will vary. Generally speaking, the smaller the lifter, the more volume they can handle, and females usually can handle more volume than males. I suggest starting fairly conservatively and building up according to how they tolerate the training.

Counting reps only 70% and above, I would suggest a very loose guideline of 250 reps/week as a starting point. If training 4 days/week, that might look something like 75-80 reps on days 1 and 3 and 45-50 reps on days 2 and 4.

Gary Asks: Hello, Merry Xmas and Happy New Year! I am currently a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and have reached a plateau on my Oly lifts. We just simply don't work on them enough for me to gain any more strength. I am wanting to add one of your cycles to my regimen. Can I do this and continue to train XFit? Looking for your advice. Am also interested in becoming a certified Catalyst coach to better help my people at our gym with the oly lifts. Is that a possibility? I look forward to hearing from you!

Greg Says: You can try to combine some CrossFit training with one of my programs, but be forewarned that it will be tough and you won’t get the maximal possible results from the cycle. My suggestion to everyone with this question is to really minimize the CrossFit for the duration of the weightlifting cycle. Start with a relatively short one, like 8 weeks, and see how it goes. After that 8 weeks, return to your normal CrossFit training for a period of time. You can alternate those things long term and get some really good results. You’re never away from the more intense CrossFit-emphasis training for long enough to really suffer, and each time you come back to it, you’ll be bringing more strength and better weightlifting skill.

During the period of time you’re doing the Catalyst cycle, keep your CrossFit workouts brief. This means probably not longer than 5-8 minutes. This will limit how much it holds your weightlifting back, and if you’re doing it right, you won’t feel like doing more than that. Choose exercises and structures that address your weaknesses in CrossFit to maximize the effectiveness of the limited time you’re spending on it. If you’re really good at pull-ups, for example, don’t work on pull-ups all the time—it’s not a good investment of your limited resources. If you’re really good at light, high-rep work, create workouts with heavier, lower-rep work primarily. Make everything count so that by the time you get back to your normal CrossFit training, you’re bringing some better tools to the table.

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