"Critical Reactions" By Mike Tuchscherer

Create: 05/19/2010 - 05:49
A lot of times we hear people say, “You’ve got to listen to your body.” But what does that mean? No, this is a serious question. Stop reading for a second and ask yourself if you know how to listen to your body. What does your body “sound” like? It’s a difficult thing to define in objective terms. Sure, we all know what it’s like to feel good or feel bad, but any Freshman-level Behavioral Scientist can tell you study after study has shown that subjective perceptions are often skewed from reality – much to the unawareness of the person doing the perceiving. So if we can’t define “listening to our body” in objective terms, we’re left to rely on the subjective. No doubt a person’s skill in this area will vary. And while the experience level of the athlete may improve their subjective ability, my observations are that even experienced athletes get it wrong quite a bit. I know I do. Here’s the thing: Subjective perceptions are important, but they can’t form the entire basis of your training. When I began to transition from Intermediate to Advanced lifter, “listen to your body” was a common phrase given as training advice. And it was well intentioned! When questioned on what this meant exactly, most lifters showed that they rely on subjective perceptions of how they feel to adjust their training. Things like soreness, motivation, and other parameters were most often assessed just by “winging it” instead of by a normal process. And what’s more, nobody could really tell you how to do it. You just had to figure it out. My next question was, “How long does that take?” The reply… 10 years. 10 years! That’s 10 years of training, working hard, and pouring sweat to finally reach a point where you can rely on the sometimes-correct perceptions of how your body is responding. There has to be a faster way, right? I mean, come on! Ten years of training inefficiently just so you can train in a somewhat-more-efficient manner? Was there anything faster? Well, not at that time. The reply given to me was to find an experienced coach and listen to them. The trouble was there wasn’t an experienced coach in my area. So what is left to do? For me, I became a student of the sport. I studied it in every way I could. And as I made my transition from Intermediate to Advanced lifter, I not only was able to “listen to my body” – in effect, I gave it a megaphone so I could hear things clearly. It is with these observations that I laid the groundwork for the Reactive Training System. Since development, it has been tested and honed on literally hundreds of athletes and it has proven to be an exceptionally reliable way to train. As a training system, it walks you through the process of adjusting your training (called autoregulation). The training system literally adjusts in response to your body. Let’s look at a few ways it can do this. First, a cornerstone of the system is the RPE. This stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. It’s basically how hard did a set feel on a scale of 1 to 10. For more on how this piece of the system works, check out the Excerpt from Chapter 2 of my RTS Manual. When used properly, using RPE’s can allow you to adjust your bar weights accurately depending on how you’re feeling each day. This is obviously good for times when you may not be as strong as you normally are, but it is also very beneficial for long term progress. A good training program will make you stronger and thus allow you to use heavier weights. The RPE’s will very clearly indicate to you that it’s time to put more weight on the bar. This will help stimulate further progress because you’re training with the appropriate load for your body’s current strength. RTS also uses several methods of volume management to allow your body to dictate the level of work it requires. Two such methods are Fatigue Stops and Fatigue Percents. Although a full description of each of these methods exceeds the scope of this article, I can tell you that they are simple to use and highly effective for those who use them. When your body is well recovered, the volume automatically goes up. When your body is dealing with stress (be it physical, psychological, etc), the training volume automatically goes down. This is a huge training breakthrough. It helps greatly in avoiding overtraining, but also does not over react and have you undertrain either. You get the right amount of volume every time you train. There are several other tools in the RTS system from Training Stress Management, to Long Term Planning, GPP and more. The beauty of the system is that you can take as much or as little as you want. And you get to keep your base program if you want. Think of it like putting a scope on a rifle. The rifle is your base program. It can be whatever “caliber” you like – Westside, Sheiko, Block style, and so on. RTS is the scope that you put on the rifle. It doesn’t necessarily change the rifle itself, but it allows you to employ it more effectively. This is actually a very accurate analogy. We have had people who get results from one style of training or another and we don’t try to change that. Many times, lifters just start off by adding the RTS modifications and it turns their training into a more effective system for that individual. And why shouldn’t it? It puts on a number of tools designed to help the individual autoregulate his training. According to most of us, this is a necessary thing to reach a high level in Powerlifting. So how do you get “the goods” on how to employ the RTS modifications on your own training system? Signing up for the free RTS newsletter (on the RTS website) is a good start, but eventually you need to get The RTS Manual. This book will walk you through it step-by-step. It’s designed to be built on as you go – meaning you can employ what you learn in Chapter 1 while you are reading Chapter 2. Not only that, this manual is complete with a CD that includes various other documents and spreadsheets designed to help you plan and execute good training. Want something even better? How about 25% off? For this May only, use the code start in the RTS Store and get 25% the RTS Manual or my Seminar DVD. Thanks for reading. Hopefully this article gave you a better understanding on the origins of RTS, what RTS is and isn’t, and maybe even a good deal on improving your own training system! Mike Tuchscherer is the owner of Reactive Training Systems, a company dedicated to individualized physical training. The goal of RTS is to help you become a dominant force in your sport! Learn more by visiting Mike's Reactive Training Systems web site. Mike himself is an accomplished Powerlifter. He has over 12 years of experience training and researching the best training methods in the world. Mike has competed in raw and single ply competitions. He recently won the Gold medal representing the USA at the 2009 World Games; becoming the first American male to ever win this distinction. His best lifts in IPF competition are a 903 squat, a 644 bench press, an 826 deadlift, and a 2342 total in the 275 pound weight class.


Submitted by April Mathis on
I think this is an interesting theory, and Mike is obviously a very good lifter that has figured out what works for him. I would like to know what Mike's response would be to this type of training situation in regards to the RPE idea. I've had a lot of days where a 80-85% will feel the same or even occasionally harder than a 90%+ lift on the same day. I realize sometimes it can be due to technique being off a bit, but a lot of times I think it is moreso just being more focused and an increased intensity under the heavier weight, or sometimes just being more warmed up after working up for several sets. Based on your idea, it almost sounds like a lifter may stop at a lower weight when it is perceived to be relatively hard rather than put the extra weight on the bar, even though it may be reasonably something they can handle that day. I realize that you may not want to give an in-depth response since you're trying to sell your service/products, and there might be more to it than that, but I would like to know just a general answer to that.

Submitted by Mike Tuchscherer on
Hi April! I know exactly what you're saying and I suppose that could happen. However, in my experience, that will likely work itself out, though it may be in a roundabout way sometimes. Allow me to give an example... Say we have a lifter squatting. Their goal is to work up to x2 @9 (two reps at a 9 RPE). Let's also say this lifter's PR is 405x2 @9. Their work up might look something like this: 135x5 225x3 315x1-2 (last "warmup") 365x2 @8 (a little heavier than expected) 385x2 @9 Now at this point, the lifter has reached the heaviest point that they wanted out of today's workout (x2 @9), but they are well short of their PR. So they ask themselves how it went. Were they focused? Did they make a technical error? If so, maybe they repeat the weight. If they honestly just feel like they don't have it on this day, then they should just bag it and live to fight another day. This time, let's say they repeat the weight and do 385x2 @8.5. Now they are good to go up again, perhaps to 405. But if the repeat set was 385x2 @9 again, then that shows that they probably don't have it today -- which happens from time to time. The important thing is that they trained to their capacity for that day; not more, not less. Another possibility... say this happens to you all the time. The work ups consistently feel heavier than the top set. Once you recognize this, you can account for it. If your work sets traditionally go something like... 365x2 @8 385x2 @9 405x2 @9 Then you can expect that -- this becomes normal. For this person, you would only downregulate the bar weight if 385 was heavier than normal. Hope that helps! Very good question! Mike Tuchscherer Reactive Training Systems

Submitted by Andrey Grebenetsky on
I just wanted to say that as a broke college student who just reduced his spending to buying gas to get to the gym and Chipotle, I wanted to get the RTS Manual for a while and the 25% off convinced me to do it! I've heard great things about it and look forward to implementing it in my programming. Andrey

Submitted by Mike Tuchscherer on
Thanks for the support, Andrey! There are a number of tools on the website that you can begin using immediately. There is a Training Log program that helps you compile and analyze your training data as well as a a growing Training bLog section where you can post your sessions to receive feedback, etc. We've got a pretty good community of folks over there that all help each other out. And don't forget to ask any questions you've got! I got a lot of help coming up in powerlifting and I really want to pay it forward to others. Mike Tuchscherer Reactive Training Systems

Submitted by April Mathis on
Thanks for taking the time to answer Mike. I have read through your training log a few times in the recent past and I do have to say it is one of the most detailed I've seen. I also think it's interesting since you train alone (as I do a great majority of the time) and have a rather unique way of training from a lot of other good lifters.

Submitted by Stephen on
I've never talked to Mike personally, so I say this because I mean it - the RTS manual is worth every penny. I finally feel like I have found the right volume and my lifts have responded accordingly. Glad to see we're getting some write-ups from Mike, excellent stuff!

Submitted by duceirae on
wow This type of system I have been using more or less for myself and my training partners. I just never gave it a name or anything or over analzied it so to speak. But we have put on hundreds of lbs to each of our lifts over the last 18 months. These Ideas mike is talking about seem to work great, im glad someone has put some direction behind these ideas. Great job Mike..

Submitted by Matt B on
I started working with Mike several weeks ago and I've got nothing but good things to say about it. I hope to keep it that way for a long time.