Is Programming More Important Than Technique?

TAGS: programming, chad aichs, technique, powerlifting


While watching and judging a powerlifting competition a few weeks ago, I developed the idea of polling each lifter there. I thought, what if I ask them if they think that technique or programming is more important? What if I ask them how much they know about technique and programming? From what I saw and heard lifters talk about, my guess would be that most lifters feel that programming is way more important, and they know way more about programming. I believe it should be the other way around.

I love the gym, and I love competitions, but sometimes they frustrate the hell out of me. I see lifters working so hard but not getting the returns they should be getting. I go to competitions and see lifters lifting less weight than they have the strength to lift. Another horrible technique has kept many lifters from lifting to their potential. Other lifters had bad programming into the meet and came in overtrained, so they did not meet their potential. It takes a lot of work, dedication, time, and effort to become a great strength athlete. I know tons of dedicated hard working lifters who never become great even though they may be working just as hard as a world-class lifter. Too many lifters put too much focus and emphasis in the wrong areas. Then, many do not truly understand as much as they think they do in the areas in which they do put most of their time and focus.

american iron gym

In all honesty, technique and programming should not go against each other, and it is not one or the other. They are both very important factors in gaining strength. They both deserve time to be studied, learned, executed, and mastered. A building is constructed brick by brick, and the roof is not built before the walls. In fact, there should be specific plans that have been very clearly thought out. First and foremost, for the building to be strong and sturdy, it must have a quality foundation. Technique is a major portion of that strong sturdy foundation.

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It is probably obvious that I rate technique as more important than programming. I say this for one main reason. Programming will not affect technique, but technique can definitely affect programming. The best program in the world will be limited by your technique. On the other hand great technique can make a so-so program look amazing. This is because with a solid technique and a solid understanding of it, you are using the muscles with the strongest potential to perform the lifts in the most efficient manner possible. I see lots of programs designed to work the muscles with the strongest potential, but because of a poor technique, these muscles do not get used during the lifts. A poor technique also leads to a much greater chance of injury, which will derail even the greatest of programs. I have seen very old school and simple programs work amazing for lifters with great technique. I have seen lifters try every elaborate complex program that did very little because their technique was just bad. A lifter would be much better off spending time first on understanding and performing solid technique then spending so much time trying to find the perfect program.

I am not saying that you have to master technique before searching for the best program for yourself. The mastery of your technique is a lifelong pursuit because we are always chasing weak links. A perfect technique is complex, and as humans, we are far from perfect. Throughout my career and even to this day, I have to stay on guard with my technique because it is easy to let little things slip here and there. Let one thing slip, then it is another, and then another until everything looks like shit. Now, the understanding of how the body moves and a solid technique is a bit easier to master, but it still takes time. Although we are learning these things and working to master them, we still have to train. We have to train to master them while getting stronger, and part of mastering them is doing it with maximal weights. So, my point here is to start with basic programs that have stood the test of time. Work on your technique and your knowledge of it. As these grow, then spend more time learning about programming and the best way in which to tweak it. These two things go hand and hand; you cannot work on one without working on the other. The thing is to remember the plans and what parts have to be built first. While you are forming up the foundation, you still need to be working on planning and ordering the materials for the sub floor.

There are some things to consider when you are learning technique or even trying to fix the technique you already have. First, there are thousands of coaches and social media lifters who claim to know technique but do not know shit. You need to have some common sense when it comes to whom you want to learn from. I have competed with the best in the world, and I can say that when I am at a top-level meet, there is a lot of consistency in technique. Yes, there are some variances in good technique, but overall, the main parts are consistent. When I am at local or smaller meets, it is like watching a train wreck. You don’t want to watch, but you can’t look away. Listen to the lifters and coaches who actually know what they are talking about because they are top-level lifters or coach top-level lifters. Spend the damn money to go to seminars and get hands-on training if you do not have someone qualified who is local.

diablo barbell

Technique is like strength, and no matter how bad you want it to come quickly, it takes time. Don’t go in thinking you’re going to master it in a couple sessions. It is gonna take hundreds or thousands of sessions. When we are born and first start moving, we develop amazing movement patterns. This is the basis of correct technique, but unfortunately, as we grow, we screw everything up. So, what we are essentially doing is retraining ourselves to move correctly in the lifts. We all can do it because we already did it at one time. Now, we just have to break bad movement patterns and reset the correct ones. This is gonna take some dedication, hard work, and time, but trust me, it will pay huge dividends if you stick with it.

The correct technique and movement patterns are not just for the three main lifts. In fact, they are for all day, every day in regular life, too. Once you learn and understand the correct technique, it applies to every exercise you do in the gym. The technique of the three main lifts carries over to every exercise. It then carries over into regular life. Why do old men get flat asses? They get them because they are lazy and stop moving correctly, along with just sitting on them way too much. Most injuries happen in warm-ups and during regular life stuff. This is due to not paying attention, as well as horrible movement patterns. Remember what I wrote about it taking a long time to develop a good technique? Well, the more you do it, the faster you learn and master it. Do it all day, every day, and you will make it a habit much faster. You don’t always need to be under a bar to work on your technique.

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There are a few things about programming that I think many people miss, too. First off, stop looking for complicated and complex. This does not make a program good. Start with simple, and learn to understand it. Then, you can even begin to modify it. Every top lifter I know started with simple programs. Next, lifters need to wake up and understand that a program is only as good as your recovery is. Recovery is a whole process on its own. It is the yin, and the program is the yang. Recovery is not just something that happens; it is something you program just as much as your program training. As with technique, use some common sense, and stop following every damn social media trainer. Stop doing every gimmick you see on the interweb. Get a plan, and stick to it. If you see something good and worth trying, then find a way to add it in an intelligent way. Strength does not happen quickly, so take the steady course, and don’t try to rush it because it will come back to bite you.

There are many levels and facets to increasing strength, all of which are important. The key is knowing which order and with how much intensity to pursue them. Be patient, for this journey is going to be a grind, but by going about it intelligently, you will reach your goal in the fastest manner possible. In the case of technique versus programming, I say that technique is the best bang for your time and effort. Start with a solid basic program, and focus on your technique. As your understanding and execution improve, then begin to change your major focus. This does not mean forget about your technique, as you should always be focusing on it. Once you are proficient, it will not take as much time or effort to keep it solid. Thus, you can put more focus on the next phase of the plan.

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