Posted on October 03 2017
Of course, we're not talking about academia here and those midterms or end of year exams. Nope. We're referring to the athletic variety of retesting. Most of us are working out with goals that are focused on more than just aesthetics or health maintenance. We usually have training programs that include testing movements or workouts and then retesting them at the completion of a training cycle. Of course, the retesting holds some rather monumental weight for many of us and if the retest results aren't what we hoped it's usually quite disappointing. If you come to the end of a training cycle and the retesting isn't going quite as well as you'd like, here are some considerations to keep in mind. Remember, one of the most important pieces of intelligent training is collecting and analyzing data. (Part of the reason we have so many items tracked in the Gym Gypsy Journal!)
*Also, not all will apply for all individuals and situations. To some degree, we’re all unique little snowflakes.
1) Make sure you actually did not make progress before you get upset about “not making progress.”
Consider if there have been changes in bodyweight, especially significant ones! Don't just look at a PR to retest as always 1:1. If bodyweight drops, a lower one rep max could potentially be a better or more competitive lift. Relative strength is the bee’s knees.
As starting points:
For the powerlifting lifts (squat, bench, deadlift), evaluate original test lift relative to original bodyweight with the retest lifts relative to retest bodyweight via Wilks formula:
For the weightlifting lifts (snatch, clean & jerk), evaluate original test lift relative to original bodyweight with the retest lifts relative to retest bodyweight for Sinclair total:
2) Even a poor score can yield highly valuable information.
Based on knowing the test and the "study material" (programming cycle), we know how well an athlete did or didn't "learn" (adapt). Now we have some insight into if they need more study material (more volume), if they need to study more often (more frequency), or if they need harder study material (higher intensity).
3) Changing technique and position doesn't always fix everything immediately.
Sometime a change in either or both of those can make a tremendous difference in performance immediately. However, many times it amounts to relearning a very established movement pattern. You can get really strong at being in bad positions. You can get really “good” at bad technique. Quite often we have to break something down in order to build it back up. If you're doing something in a different manner than you've done it literally hundreds or thousands of times before, wouldn't it stand to reason that it might not be as strong while still making the changes? When we're changing positions to better quality and more technically correct positions, if you haven't really been there much at all before, why would it immediately work exceptionally well? Range of motion and position is a bigger priority than load until there are no mechanical issues.
*Mechanics first, then Consistency, then Intensity.
4) Was the program as big of a priority as the test?
This encompasses physically, mentally, and emotionally. Referencing back to the comparison from Consideration 2, if you didn't study (train) to the best of your abilities, can you be that upset when the test doesn't go well. We see this constantly during the CrossFit Games Open. If you're bummed out during the Open that you have issues with your weightlifting, aerobic work, and gymnastics, what's the difference in your level of care for the test (5 weeks of the Open) compared to the study period (47 other training weeks in the year)?
5) Have there been changes in food, sleep, medication, supplementation, or stress between initial benchmarking and testing (or through the training cycle)?If you don’t know or don’t track any of these things and you’re highly emotionally invested in your athletic performance, prepare to hit some pockets of frustration on a regular basis through your athletic career. Any of those variables individually can have significant impact on training and performance, but several of those areas in concert can absolutely make or break you physiologically. Looks for correlations in the above relative to your good and bad days performance wise. This is part of a long-term strategy to identify the way that you as a unique individual can find your best blend of lifestyle factors to support your training and recovery.
**Use all the areas of your Gym Gypsy Journal!**
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but five areas that I’ve found to be helpful in the last almost decade of coaching. Hopefully it helps someone out there find better performance in the future or maybe it helps to talk you off the ledge if the leaderboard has you down.