Training vs. Preparing for a Competition

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Nowadays, it seems like every weekend there’s a fitness competition. These take place online, at local gyms, and some at larger venues. We see people of all levels participate. Regardless of the division in which they compete, all of these athletes will say that they’ve been training for that particular event for a while. But what exactly does that mean? How did training for that particular event differ from “regular” training?

Unfortunately, for most, there’s practically no difference at all in what they did to prepare and leading up to the event. I say “unfortunately” because these athletes are really missing out on the full experience of competing. I realize that not everybody who participates expect to win. I know that for many, this is just a fun way to stay engaged in training, and have something to look forward to. But regardless of whether you’re there to stand on the podium, or just to “throw down” amongst other members of your fitness community, the truth is that we all put some extra weight on how we perform in those workouts. After all, it IS a competition, a test of our fitness. And if we were actually training for it, then there should be a particular order in which training should be layed out to ensure that the athlete is set up to perform to the best of his or her capabilities. I’m not talking about winning, or even beating anyone, for that matter. I’m talking about going in there prepared for the task and leaving satisfied with one’s individual performance. The worst thing that can come out of it, is going home knowing that you could’ve done so much better, but not understanding what happened. In other words, we want to make sure that we enter this event at a PEAK.

A peak can look very differently for every single athlete, depending on capabilities, overall level, strengths, and weaknesses. It also greatly depends on the event, and what will be required. But in general, it means that that the proper intensity and volume has been accumulated in training, in a timeframe that allows the athlete to be in top shape, feeling fresh enough to give his best effort.

It all starts with a building phase, followed by an implementation phase, and later applied to competition like settings. Again, this can look very different depending on the athlete. However, for EVERY athlete, there’s one constant characteristic: these phases DO NOT LOOK THE SAME. If the structure of your training sessions are very similar in nature, volume, and intensities (normally at high effort), then I hate to say it, but you’re not training, you’re just exercising.

If you are, indeed, training for that event, it all starts with understanding the event itself. This is very important to consider, because competitions can be very different: days of competition, number of events per day, avg rest time between events, movement standards, etc. It is also important that a coach understands where the athlete’s at as the event approaches. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? Is he coming off a phase of high volume training? Is he healthy or nursing any injuries? These are just some of the things that factor into the design of that program leading into the event.

Last weekend was the first edition of the Heart Attack Fest. Alexis Oliveras stood at the top podium spot as the champion in the Male Rx division. As his coach, I made sure that training leading up to the event saw him getting touches on the type of movements, weights, time domains, and intensities that are normally seen in this type of event. We’ve been working together for two years now, and have built a solid base from which to build on where all energy systems are well balanced. In his case, it was more about decreasing volume to make sure he came in rested but increasing intensity to provide the necessary stimulus to the nervous system so that he would be all jazzed up on game day. It obviously worked out well, as he was solid through all four of the day’s events, securing his first place finish.

This is what his program looked like for the 30 days pre comp:

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Notice how during that 4 ½ week period, there were no max lifts or PR attempts. He didn’t go all out every day or in consecutive days. Intensities and duration of those intensities were implemented strategically and progressively.

The most important thing to take from this is that regardless what your fitness goals are, we are all best served by training with a purpose. Every single thing on that program needs to have a specific reason for being there. Training in the off-season is different from training early in the season, and different around (pre and post) competitions. Take the time to step back for a minute and look at what you’ve been doing in your program. Ask yourself, is it really a program or just a bunch of workouts thrown together?

If you feel like you need direction as to how to approach your training, seek out guidance from a WELL PREPARED coach. At Aggressive, we have a solid team of fitness professionals equipped with the preparation and experience to guide you in your fitness journey.

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