Updated: Jun 23, 2019
A question that keeps popping up on multiple platforms is, “how many times should I let an athlete (or myself) miss a lift before moving on?’
Most people are looking for a simple answer like 3, or 15, or 9.
But like most things in the sport performance arena the answer is “it just depends.”
Here is why. You miss lifts for one of three reasons? Can you guess?
In no particular order you miss lifts due to technical issues, mental issues, or physiological issues. In other words, you miss because you have bad technique, a bad mental game, or you are just too weak to complete the lift.
Each one of those reasons for missing lifts has a different set of solutions. For example, if you miss because strength is the problem, then the solution is pretty simple.
However, if you miss a weight because you mentally can’t commit the solution is much more complicated.
So let’s go through these one by one and see if we can’t figure out when you should cut someone off from a miss or change the approach.
If you are missing because you have a technical error, I would let you try around three times maybe even only two times before changing gears. In general, if someone is working up I will always chalk one miss up to bad lighting, a mental fart, a slight misalignment of the cosmos. If the second attempt it is worse, you are done. If you were close, I may let you have another attempt.
In general, the game plan with our athletes is something like this.
For technical issues we want to drop the weight down in the 70-75% range. The reason being is this is where optimal learning occurs. Most technical changes occur is this percentage range.
The weight is not so heavy you loose position and not so light you can manipulate the bar easily with your upper body and pull it into a balanced catch position.
If you are really far out from a meet, we probably will have our athletes work primarily in the 70 to 80% range anyway so we can drill good technique.
Heavy attempts do not influence technique. Heavy attempts are just a way for you to see if your technique has stuck.
Mental misses are my favorite to coach. I believe I can fix people because I am overly confident in my ability and I believe that if you train with me; you will get better TODAY!
Identifying mental misses comes really easily the more time you spend coaching. I would put my total number of lifts witnessed somewhere around a trabillion. Yes, I know that is not a real number but I imagine it is HUGE!
That volume of viewing is invaluable. As you train your eye you will see when people get a glassy look in their's at a certain weights. You will see lack commitment under the bar when they transition. The more you coach the more you will see.
Fixing mental miss issues is complex. You can easily just tell the athlete “you should make that lift”, but this is like telling a crazy person to not be crazy. It just doesn’t work.
For mental misses the best thing you can do for an athlete is put them in a position to be successful and acknowledge that you can see them having trouble. Burying your head in the sand is good for no one.
Give the athlete tools (drills) that address the issue and bolster the confidence of the athlete.
Sometimes this is just as simple as telling an athlete that you believe in them and that you know they can do it! As simple and easy as that sounds, it is extremely effective.
In addition to drills and techniques, you should have your athletes keep a journal. I talked about this at length in another full article linked here, which I suggest you read! But the main take away from a journal is that you start to see patterns in behavior, which will help you identify what is triggering your issues.
There are really two physiological issues we are talking about. The first fault and the easiest fix is when someone is to weak and the weight is just to heavy.
Fix it by getting stronger. Done.
OK, maybe I should issue one word of caution. The weight being heavy can show you technical breakdowns. You have to decide if the athlete is missing a position because they can not physically hold that position or because they do not know they should be in said position.
One easy way to fix this and diagnose this for that matter is to put them in that position. If they can do it successfully then you just strengthen them in that position.
Let us say for example someone loses position at the knee. And you determine they are too weak.
Again the solution is simple you just have to discern the cause.
Lastly, believe it or not athletes can miss lifts if they are out of shape. Typically, we see this if athletes mess up in the warm up room and have to warm up fast, or if they miss and they have to follow themselves with a 2-minute clock.
If your athlete is not well conditioned they will not replenish their fuel sources quick enough in between lifts and this can cause them all kinds of problems.
Although we don’t prescribe a huge volume of conditioning work for our athletes we do include some circuit work at the end of training. In addition to this, you can get your athletes into weightlifting shape by programming doubles and triples on the minute.
As simple as it sounds this may be just the thing your athlete needs!
At the end of the day identifying the causes and fix for each miss comes down to one thing; experience. The more experienced you become as a coach or athletes the better off you will be. I cherish my time at a division one weight room primarily because it gave me an extremely dense amount of time working with athletes and seeing lifts made and missed. Time in the gym in invaluable. The more the better!
As always if you have any questions or want to be a part of our team please email me firstname.lastname@example.org