QUALITY OVER QUANTITY: OPTIMAL TRAINING FREQUENCY

When it comes to Olympic lifting, the idea that “more is better” can often lead athletes down the garden path of overtraining and diminished returns. In this blog, I will be exploring the benefits of training less frequently and the potential downsides of training every day. I’ll also back up my opinions with research to show you exactly why you don’t need to train every day to see significant improvements in your Olympic lifts.

THE CASE FOR TRAINING LESS FREQUENTLY

Training less frequently, typically 3 to 5 times per week can be highly effective for Olympic lifters. Here’s a few of my reasons why:

Enhanced Recovery and Muscle Growth

  • Muscle Repair: Training every day doesn’t allow sufficient time for muscle fibres to repair and grow. Recovery is crucial for strength gains.
  • Central Nervous System (CNS) Recovery: Olympic lifting is demanding on the CNS. Frequent rest days help prevent CNS fatigue, ensuring you’re fresh for each training session.

Improved Performance and Technique

  • Quality Over Quantity: Fewer sessions mean you can focus more on the quality of each lift, improving your technique and reducing the risk of injury.
  • Mental Freshness: Training less frequently helps maintain mental sharpness and motivation, preventing burnout.

Reduced Risk of Overtraining and Injury

  • Injury Prevention: Overtraining increases the risk of injuries such as tendinitis, muscle strains, and joint issues. Rest days are essential for long-term joint and tendon health.
  • Sustainable Training: A more sustainable training schedule helps maintain long-term progress without the setbacks caused by overtraining injuries.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY

Study 1: The Effects of Training Frequency on Strength Gains

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that participants who trained 3 times per week experienced similar strength gains compared to those who trained 6 times per week, provided the total weekly volume was the same. This indicates that higher frequency doesn’t necessarily translate to greater strength gains when volume is controlled .

Study 2: Overtraining and Performance Decline

Research has shown that excessive training without adequate rest can lead to overtraining syndrome, characterized by decreased performance, increased injury risk, and psychological burnout. A study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance emphasised the importance of rest and recovery for optimal performance in high-intensity sports like Olympic lifting .

THE DOWNSIDES OF TRAINING EVERY DAY

Physical and Mental Fatigue

  • Chronic Fatigue: Training every day can lead to chronic fatigue, affecting both physical and mental performance.
  • Decreased Motivation: Constant training without breaks can lead to a decrease in motivation and enthusiasm for training.

Increased Risk of Overtraining Syndrome

  • Symptoms: Symptoms include persistent fatigue, decreased performance, mood disturbances, and increased injury rates.
  • Recovery Time: Recovering from overtraining syndrome can take weeks or even months, significantly hindering progress.

Inefficient Training Adaptations

  • Diminished Returns: Without adequate recovery, the body cannot properly adapt to the training stimulus, leading to diminished strength and power gains.
  • Stagnation: Over time, excessive training can cause progress to stagnate or even regress.

OPTIMAL TRAINING FREQUNCY: FINDING THE BALANCE

Recommended Frequency

For most Olympic lifters, training 3 to 5 times per week strikes the right balance between adequate stimulus and sufficient recovery. This schedule allows lifters to train hard while giving their bodies the necessary time to repair and grow.

Whilst training every day has been shown not to be ideal, it is also very important to make you’re your training schedule fits around life in general. There is no point battling each week to fit everything in, as this leads to a lack of motivation, and most importantly a reduced mount of energy and willingness to give each part of you routine the work that is needed.

Sample Training Splits

3 Days Per Week Split

  • Session 1 – Snatch Focus
  • Session 2 – Clean & Jerk Focus
  • Session 3 – Strength Focus

4 Days Per Week Split

  • Session 1 – Snatch and Accessory
  • Session 2 – Clean & Jerk and Accessory
  • Session 3 – Speed/ Power and Technique
  • Session 4 – Strength and Accessory

5 Days Per Week Split

  • Session 1 – Snatch Focus
  • Session 2 – Clean & Jerk Focus
  • Session 3 – Speed & Power
  • Session 4 – Light Technical Focus
  • Session 5 – Strength Focus

INCORPORATE REST AND RECOVERY

  • Rest Days: Ensure complete rest or light activities such as stretching, yoga, or walking.
  • Sleep and Nutrition: Prioritize quality sleep and proper nutrition to support recovery and performance.

CONCLUSION

Training frequency is a crucial factor in Olympic lifting success. While it might be tempting to train every day, research and practical experience show that less can often be more. Training 3 to 5 times per week allows for better recovery, improved performance, and reduced risk of injury. By focusing on quality over quantity, you can make significant progress in your Olympic lifts without the drawbacks of overtraining.

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