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What's missing from your training?

I'm a firm believer that something is better than nothing when it comes to exercise, that not everything needs to be strictly planned, and that you should favour the sport, training or exercise that you enjoy to promote adherence. With that said, many people avoid certain styles of training not because they don't enjoy it, or don't want to do it, but because they either don't understand the potential benefits of certain types of training, or fear the risks, often due to poor information.

So just what are you. missing out on? In my experience, the following aspects of training are most commonly neglected:

Speed work

This is not only neglected, but when it is included, it's often done poorly. Speed work can be hugely beneficial, increase maximum speed, and also contribute to physique and athleticism goals. So how should you do it? The first thing to understand is that this needs to be maximal. Sprinting further than you can maintain top speed for is not useful. You need to select a distance over which you can accelerate up to, and then maintain, your top speed. For the majority, 100m is too far! Secondly, you need to appreciate recovery times. In order to maintain speed through repeated sets, adequate rest is required. This is NOT about getting out of breath and increasing aerobic fitness, this is about hitting top speed every set. This will require 2-3 minutes of recovery between efforts for most people, and the awareness to call it a day if your speed begins to decline, even with enough rest. Finally, it's important to understand the goal; this is not a sweaty, out of breath style workout. Furthermore, you don't need another workout after sprint work. That is your effort for the day! It's worth noting that you can apply this to other forms of speed work, such as cycling and swimming too.

Maximal strength work

Aside from the endorphin boost from hitting a new record, or the increased accuracy of future percentage work, it's important to lift to, or very near to, maximum when you train. There are prerequisites, and this wouldn't apply to new lifters, but for those who have built a broad enough base, it's a must have in any programme. A lot of people confuse the fact that they're not targeting big lifts with their inclusion in a programme. Put simply, there are only two ways to maximally recruit muscle fibres; lift a set weight a maximum number of times, or lift a maximal weight. The former is actually a higher risk option and should be used by more advanced athletes. The physiological response gained by lifting at 95%+ is unmatched, and can't be replicated by lifting lighter weights. Even if you have no aspirations to be particularly strong, you should be lifting maximally once or twice weekly in an ideal scenario.

Skill work

Most people only ever perform movements in their training that they can already do, progressing by increasing weight, number of reps, or by reducing time, or increasing distance, for example. Most never try to learn a new movement, or refine one they can do to some degree. By neglecting skill work, you neglect balance, coordination and agility training, but also miss out on the neurological benefits of learning something new. Another great way to frame this, is the more movements you can safely perform, the more varied and exciting your training can be. You can start by modifying a movement you can already do to add challenge, and progress to trying new movements and positions. As with speed work, this shouldn't have additional intensity added to it, you don't need to be sweaty and breathless to have benefitted from this work. That said, this can be an ideal warm-up for a conditioning piece, and is best done fresh rather than fatigued.

Unconventional lifts

We tend to become far too comfortable with equipment that has been ergonomically engineered to be lifted. Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and the like have all been subjected to this design process. They're great tools for building strength, but picking up objects such as logs, sandbags, rocks and tyres have added benefits. Not only are they more reflective of real world tasks, but there's an increased demand to stabilise yourself, and often the load is imbalanced, meaning the activation of the midline will be much higher. This novel stimulus is great for shaking up training.

What do you neglect the most? Which of the above has made you think you need to include it more? Let me know below, or let me know something else you think is missed.

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