Quality Before Intensity

Weight training sessions are far more than than merely pumping iron. They’re an opportunity to learn and practice movement patterns that when performed correctly will transform your athletic ability and protect against injury. Sadly, without a coach overseeing the training session, all too often ego takes hold and too much load is manhandled with poor form.

A periodised training programme cycles from lower to higher intensity (load lifted) to ensure progression, but this also provides an important opportunity to rehearse the quality of your movement patterns and correct any mistakes.

Higher loads not only force your body to adapt by exceeding your habitual level (progressive overload principle – see Training Dose blogpost), but will reveal errors in your form. Lower load periods of training not only give your body a chance to adapt to the stress of the higher load, improving performance, but also allow you to correct any motor pattern mistakes exposed at higher loads.Don’t waste these lower load phases of your training, craft your movement skill. A new or altered skill demands a high level of cognitive processing from the brain, and distractions like too much load will mess up your form. Constant repetition will eventually turn this skilled sequence of muscle contractions and joint movements into an automated process that the brain executes without thinking, leaving you able to focus on shifting more weight.

Developing quality automated motor patterns is the objective. But, a word of warning; repeating bad movements will make those automated processes too – bad habits. It’s much easy to start from scratch with a clean slate and repeat good movements, committing them to automated processes, than it is to correct bad habits. In fact, as an infant you already had perfect deadlifting technique, you simply lost it through subsequent practice of bad technique.So have the attitude of the eternal novice, never stop looking to learn and improve. Leave your ego behind and work on quality movement before adding intensity – be that from adding load, or speed and power. You must be capable of controlling your movement, don’t repeat bad form. Work to “technical failure”, stop repping if your form has gone – they don’t count! Mistakes are a part of the learning process, but don’t continue repeating them or you’ll create a bad habit – which will be difficult to alter.Patience. Do it right, and do it right a lot! Then forget about it and let it happen automatically.


  1. […] it will mess up your technique. Check you ego at the door and focus on quality first. In a previous post I talked about periodised training and using lower intensity sessions to craft technique. As Thai […]

  2. […] Don’t squander your effort or precious training time. Apply enough load to create an adaptation (an improvement) and then either rest or move onto something else that will positively impact your performance. Pick something that will give a good return on your invested time. It’s hard enough score the 10,000 hours of purposeful practice required to obtain mastery, without wasting hours on unproductive ‘filler’ training. As always, strive for quality over quantity. […]

  3. […] make you better in some way, not merely burning calories and wasting recovery. More is not better, better is better! Here’s my […]

  4. […] coach Dan John says, “If it’s important do it every day.” This advice speaks of quality movement patterns, intensity and volume not withstanding. Unloaded technical movements can be practised during warm […]

  5. […] structure a warm-up to not only achieve all these things and more, but also incorporate essential skill rehearsal and progress seamlessly into full-bore practice or […]

  6. […] process of attaining the goal is the real benefit. If you haven’t read it, check out my post “Quality Before Intensity”. Don’t miss the opportunities along the way and enjoy every success at each stage of your […]

  7. […] Movement quality and mechanical efficiency are a primary focus, ensuring a fighter has adequate mobility and stability to control sound movement patterns over a wide range of joint angles. Once this foundation has been established, individualised, periodised programmes are designed to develop the fighter's strength and power qualities along with appropriate energy systems to maintain sufficient intensity for the duration of the intermittent rounds of Muay Thai. […]

  8. […] little soreness following training is ok, as long as it doesn’t affect skilled movement patterns. Crippling soreness and stiffness is not good (despite being a badge of honour for the […]

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