on my programming

Wednesday AM I did an OPT assessment session with coach Corey. It was interesting, and I learned a few things about myself. Although the training stimulus was real enough (involving deadlifts, back squats, and bench presses, plus a number of auxiliary lifts) I won’t record all my numbers here (I have them in a Google doc from Corey). Call it a strength day and call it a minor stimulus.

The OPT assessment looks at your capacity in the basic lifts and movements given very strict limitations regarding correct form and tempo. The result of these strictures is that most of your numbers are much lower than they are in practice in the gym; one is tempted to say they aren’t relevant from the perspective of someone who tracks work based on raw strength numbers (as I generally do). Corey did not put me through EVERY phase of the assessment; some of my lifting numbers weren’t even big enough justify trying certain body weight movements.

My upper body pulling and pushing strength is weaker than it should be, no doubt about it. A lot of this has to do with problems I’ve been having with shoulders and arm pain. Corey says this has a lot to do with problems in my posture and neck position during the lifts, and I know he’s probably right about that. He gave me some movement prescriptions that might help me rehab the ugly left shoulder and that might, over time, correct next problems and address general issues with forearms, etc. It’s all about head position, shoulder position, head position, shoulder position! This is the most important form issue I have to work on.

Corey recommends I do some shoulder work consistently as a part of my warm-ups and says that, in weightlifting, I should prioritize deadlift (with a better form, especially, regarding my head position) more than I recently have. I should do deadlift in preference to or before squats, until the numbers I can put up in both lifts, with best possible form, are closer to squat 100%, deadlift 125%.

Anyway, I’ve taken the results of the assessment under advisement and am moving on and I will be taking them into account. Yes, I have relative weaknesses, and yes I know more about them today than before, and yes, I believe I should work on them! Working on known weaknesses is a no-brainer.

In terms of following up on an OPT assessment, it seems like the prescribed course, that coach Corey might prefer, for example, would be for me to go to private coaching with Corey, while I work on deficiencies. I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t like the idea. (a) I can’t afford it. (b) For some reason, although I do want my own, individual training plan — and haven’t been satisfied with programming that is targeted at “all the members” of CFA — I don’t particularly want an individualized programming approach that focuses primarily on addressing my weaknesses as OPT defines them. I don’t want to have to stick to a training plan that is more concerned with tempo and form than with raw numbers. I have seen too much progress from trying to follow various linear progressions to give up on them because my form isn’t 100% solid 100% of the time. I don’t think that can be the goal.

So I guess I prefer to continue feeling my own way.

I think it comes down to being a question of what’s fun for me. I need more open gym time, and I need opportunity to enjoy the parts of weightlifting that I find to be fun. And what I find especially enjoyable about it is the pursuit of bigger numbers. Opportunities for training, in terms of available hours per week — those are a limited resource.

I like slower, low volume sessions that emphasize maximal or just under maximal efforts in selected lifts (i.e. Bulgarian method weightlifting). I like working linear progressions in the basic lifts, across a variety of schemes of reps and sets, at defined percentages of your known maximal efforts; I love this form of applied mathematics. I like how it works.

I also love or love/hate the classic CrossFit style workout: short, basic, brutal sessions, combining 2-4 movements, that challenge you to do as much or go as fast as possible.

For me, the ideal programming situation would be: 2x a week of open gym (linear progression in basic lifts and training the olympic lifts), plus 1-2x a week of 30 minutes of strength work (biased towards strengthening weaknesses, perhaps) paired with a 5-25 minute “met-con”. Plus surfing, or skating, or running, or biking, or swimming or something active like that. That sounds like fun.

I’m not at my ideal right now and don’t see quite how to achieve it but I’m thinking about it a lot.


  1. We should talk on the phone some time about this.

  2. Mostly because I’m interested in hearing some advice after a fair amount of exposition on my part, but also because I might have a suggestion that you could implement/consider.

Let me know what you think...