Anthony Donskov

Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.

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Progressive Overload: Five Pounds at a Time

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Get a large group of athletes’ ages 15-18 in a strength and conditioning facility and you’ll have a testosterone level higher than the sales of Jillian Michael’s new Kettlebell training DVD (hopefully not).   Through my experience-training athletes, this can lead to the “one up” mentality where form and execution are compromised in favor of heavy weights.  The “next biggest plate” philosophy where the athlete thinks, “hey I’ll just add another 25lbs to each side” is a humble lesson that no well-instructed athlete should learn in the presence of an educated coach.  As a coach, I have personally learned this lesson and now consistently remind my athletes of “progressive overload”, five pounds at a time. 

 

I still remember the reaction from my athletes when I outfitted my facility with four sets of 2 ½ pound plates (a set for each power rack), sarcasm, maybe even internal laughter.  The truth is, no matter which phase the lifter is in: beginner (linear loading schemes), novice (undulating loading schemes), advanced (undulating loading schemes) these plates get the most use of any other plates in my facility.  In fact, I need to go out and invest in several more sets.

 

Beginners: This is the most important period in an athlete’s career, a molding phase of neural efficiency, motor programming and skilled execution of the fundamental lifting patterns.  As the athlete advances bad habits are much harder to break.  Movement precedes loading and psychology of the young lifter trumps physiology.  Once basic motor programming is accomplished linear loading can begin.  Psychology is a delicate state!  Building the confidence of a young lifter with small 5lb increases (2 ½ each side) is much wiser than throwing “the next biggest plate” on, destroying both confidence and technique.  I would much rather err on the side of being conservative than maximally overloading a young lifter destroying confidence, technique and increasing the chance of injury.

 

Novice/Advanced: Do the math coaches, five-pound increments can be huge when training advanced lifters.  Consider a 175-pound athlete with a 260lb front squat.  The “next biggest plate” philosophy would render impossible. 

 

2 ½ lb (5 lbs total)

25lb (50lbs total)

35lb (70 lbs total)

45lb (90 lbs total

265

310

330

350

2% load increase

20% load increase

27% load increase

35% load increase

 

By throwing on “the next biggest plate” we are essentially increasing the percentage of load 20%, 27% and 35% respectfully making it impossible to progressively load the athlete.  Even using the 2-½ pound plates with an advanced lifter can become extremely difficult, as mature athletes are closer to reaching their genetic potentials than younger, less advanced athletes.  This is where variety and undulating periodization need to be utilized and different loading schemes experimented with.

 

The power of progressive resistance lies in the word “progressive”.  As coaches, we need to focus on safety, proficient execution and appropriate variety for our athletes.  Regardless of the athletes’ experience, being to aggressive overloading can destroy confidence, form and increase the potential for injury.  We are all in the strength game, but it takes time to accomplish great things, five pounds at a time.

 

Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com).  He can be reached at info@donskovsc.com.

 

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