If you scroll through a social media feed filled with Powerlifters, you've likely seen plenty of posts like these:
"Training didn't go great today, everything felt heavy.."
"Weights moved slow today, getting frustrated with training."
"My meet today didn't go as planned. Didn't get what I wanted, but did hit a 10 lb squat PR and 5 lb total PR."
....Statements like these beg the question:
What Constitutes a "Good" Training Session or Competition?
..When people think about their Goal in training/competition, they usually think of one very big or very general goal, like "get stronger" or "set a World Record" - But not having more specific, smaller goals that break down even to the individual training session or week, can lead you to get frustrated, because you subconsciously start to set unrealistic expectations that you get frustrated when you inevitably can't hit them. Some examples of unrealistic expectations for training sessions would be:
- Hitting Movement PRs every Week
- Hitting Rep PRs every Week
- Weights always moving at a high speed
- Weights always "feeling" good/light
Some examples of unrealistic expectations for competitions would be:
- Hitting 25+ lb PRs on all your lifts, every meet.
- ^pretty much that one. Many- Beginning lifters tend to think this will continue into eternity. It happens in the beginning of your powerlifting career, but it sure doesn't continue.
..While those may seem ridiculous, how often do we get disappointed when those things don't happen?
..So on the flipside, how do we determine what is realistic? I think the key is looking at your goals at every level, and comparing those against your training program, lifestyle, and recovery ability.
Ask yourself, what is the minimum I need to accomplish on a Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily (training day) basis in order to know I'm making progress?
A few small examples could be:
Yearly: Put at least 20 lbs on my Total & Qualify for _____ Competition
Monthly: Hit 1-2 Rep PRs between Squat, Bench, Deadlift.
Weekly: Increase overall workload from previous week
Daily: Complete all required work, including assistance work.
..You can see how those all are in different contexts, but give you your "minimums" that you're committing to yourself as a barometer for progress. The key is to write those down, and make them your "Personal Rules" - Whenever you get frustrated about training, you go to the rules. Whenever you have a bad meet? You go to the rules. If you're achieving what you set in the rules, then take a deep breath and don't waste time or energy being frustrated about your training. These types of things can keep you focused on the right things and keep you from getting frustrated about unrealistic expectations.
This is something I'm starting to do with all of my clients, and for myself as well. The value of putting pen to paper on these things and giving yourself a "code" or "rules" to reference will make all the difference, especially as you progress as a lifter.