Tracking Tonnage: Waste of My Time

Something I went back and forth with over the early years in my career was the concept of tracking how much in the weight room. As a younger strength coach with more time I use to create multi-week cycles for compound lifts that tracked everything from average intensity to tonnage and every other useless metric in between. Each week would be a certain percentage of the total months load, the total reps for the day, week, month, and year were tracked. In short I wanted to organize and classify everything including total load and tonnage for my athletes. 

If you’ve read the book THE SYSTEM you know about tracking total loads. The Soviets talk about total loads and tracking tonnage frequently in their weightlifting training manuals. What I came to realize is it wasn’t making my programs any better. It took a lot of time away from other things that I found much more important and necessary for the program. Most of our team sport athletes need to focus on actual lift execution a hell of a lot more than worrying about cycle tonnage. That alone would improve development in many cases. 

Readiness for their sport should be one of… if not the biggest factor in an athletes training. This means that autoregulating the training is probably pretty important. If you’re purposely trying hit predetermined tonnage numbers readiness is most likely out the window.  Beat up and stressed athletes needed to do less…often times much less. There goes your cycle guidelines. I ran into many issues over the years when it came to answering this question of if I should be tracking total loads and tonnage. 

Due to space, equipment, and the number of athletes we have, we often have to use band tension. This may not be ideal but it still creates tension and tension creates adaptations. The issue becomes how do you track band tension.  Many of the movements that I’ve come to use with baseball obviously revolve around the scapular and glenohumeral stabilizers. How do you track these smaller movements that make up a large portion of your program yet don’t focus on absolute load? 

Comparing a reverse pull-up / lateral lunge / or step back medball throw to a push jerk, full squat snatch, or front squat is comparing apples to oranges. Tonnage is stolen from Eastern Bloc theories on weightlifting specifically. The Soviet’s were training professional weightlifters. Their sport was also their training. This is completely different than team/field sport athletes. I’m not chasing specific tonnage. I’m chasing adaptations for athletes on a field. That means the sport is their most specific means. Tracking on field metrics to me are way more important than what happens in the weight room.  

Lifting is nothing more than an accessory to what happens on the field and something that I must adjust for each individual accordingly.  Most coaches go down this rabbit hole thinking tonnage is a magic bullet of development. Let me tell that’s it’s definitely not. This often over complicates and clouds up common sense thinking.  The reality is our athlete aren’t professional lifters. The majority of our athletes are novice or intermediate lifters at best and just emphasizing consistency and technique will serve them far greater in the long run.  

Make sure you can coach, teach, implement, progress an efficient program first before worrying about creating systems of tracking tonnage and cycle breakdowns. In the end most coaches will discover less is more when it comes to simplifying the process.  

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