by Jake Sterny
I’m laughing really hard right now because the title applied to this piece is really a farce. No one person tends to feel the same as another when prepping for a competition especially if they are peaking. However, there are some similarities that I’ve picked up on during my time as an athlete and coach.
What is peaking? Peaking in a traditional sense simply means that we are attempting to prepare the body to exceed its base level of performance at the time of competition by programming weeks consisting of lower volume(lower rep ranges) and higher intensity(higher weights). In other words if you’ve been performing complex work(snatch+hang snatch+overhead squat) you will start to see more single repetition movements of the classic lifts(such as heavy snatch or clean and jerk singles) at heavier percentages.
This coupled with a traditional deload or peak week, if all other constants of recovery are held the same, should allow your body to super compensate (the training and programming principle where we attempt to achieve a higher than base level of performance from the body) and exceed your base level of lifting performance(i.e. You will hopefully lift more weight or lift the weights you struggle with more efficiently). So, with this in mind it is totally normal to feel like a hammered bag of dog turds two weeks prior to a meet.
Two Weeks Out
Believe it or not you actually should not feel like a million bucks during this week.”But it’s the week before the week of the meet! I can’t lift, my shoes hurt and everything is going to shit”, me at one point or another. In fact just this past week I have managed to have one good training session, one better and one that lasted 15 minutes and consisted of me throwing my shoes in the trash. The truth is if you’ve managed to complete all workouts as written(and the intensity laden workload that they come with) you should be pretty beat up. Your pull might feel like trash and your squats feel like 110% but it’s all a part of the process. Just hold on a little bit longer and before you quit weightlifting altogether, realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
One Week Out
If you’re peaking for a competition(i.e. Not a train through meet) and your coach is worth a damn, this week shouldn’t be more than a handful of singles for each lift starting with higher percentages and those percentages decreasing as the week moves along. Some squatting and and pulling is left in to maintain speed and stimulate strength and most accessory work is very minimal (most likely core related during this time). At some point during this week, most likely midweek, the rain should stop, the clouds should part and you should be able to see the light that I mentioned earlier. All you need to do is simply make it to this point.
The perfect scenario for an athlete would consist of a situation in the weeks leading up to a meet where the athlete doesn’t need to worry about outside stress and can simply train and rest to recover,but, we are not all National or International level lifters. We have jobs outside of the sport, bills, food costs, kids. We have outside responsibilities that can result in stress, lack of sleep,etc. Simply the best thing I can tell you(this goes for overall performance in training as well) is to separate emotion from logic. Focusing too much on how you feel emotionally is not a good way to make it through your peak. Negative thinking can throw one into a spiral real quick and actually makes the weeks leading up to the meet worse than they need to be. Accept the fact that not everything will feel perfect, you won’t feel your best and that this is okay. All you need to do is simply whether to storm and you’ll come out smelling like roses on the other side.
Long story short every lift will not feel perfect during the last few weeks leading up to a competition and this is usually due to the peak(if you are peaking) your coach gives you. You shouldn’t expect it to be perfect and doing so can lead you down a path of negativity and the urge to want to dispose of your shoes in the nearest dumpster. Simply keep a level head, you will be fine. Focus on long term goals. It’s impossible to see the forest for the trees, simply look at your competition journey as a whole instead of each individual peak.