3S System: Are You ready To Take a Plunge?
Let us face it, a first time look at 3S can be pretty intimidating. There are charts, and tables, and graphs and for most coaches… a whole new way of looking at and thinking about the training process. There’s also a new “language” to learn with new words as well as new definitions of old terms coaches commonly use. So reverting to type and using the same tired out approach they’ve used in the past often looks more attractive to a coach than having to learn something new. If nothing else, it’s certainly a whole lot easier staying within your comfort zone.
But there is a problem with that. If you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll keep getting the same old result. To think differently… to think that you can get different results by doing the same thing… is what psychologists define as crazy. And that’s why we thought we needed to take a closer look at what scares coaches away from us. And were we surprised at what we uncovered and discovered about coaches in general!
How do we know what we know …
To begin with, although we were dealing with professional coaches (many even on an elite level), we soon learned that very few coaches had received any kind of structured or disciplined education, which was mirrored in the informal way they trained their athletes. Instead of using a rigorous and scientific methodology, most flew by the seat of their pants, walked in the footsteps of their coaches, or played a hunch. And the few coaches who were trying to apply a more scientific approach to their training regimen were using 30-40 year old strategies that were at best obsolete, disproven, or just plain ineffective. So the whole way 3S approached training (like a tried and proven industrial process) was as foreign to them as Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Generally, though, we found that coaches who were willing to ramp up and take the time they needed to learn the why’s and how’s of our ways did quite well, while coaches looking for a quick fix that would get them to the winner’s circle floundered. In other words 3S requires a bit of an investment, if you want to be successful with it. But if a coach is willing to make that initial investment in himself and apply what he’s learned to daily practice, the return on it can be significant.
What Coaches Need…
Any way you cut it, by the end of the day coaches need to have precise answers, not “guesstimations”, to a whole lot of questions. And if they don’t get them, the quality of their coaching will suffer. Some things coaches need to consider are…
- VOLUME: How do we define season volume? Can one volume work for the whole group, or we need to differentiate it among individual athletes? If “yes”, then “how”?
- INTENSITY: How should you connect intensity levels (read “training sets”) with Energy Zones at an individual level. What are the roles and functions of the different energy producing mechanisms in the body in relation to different events? How can we train them to maximize power, capacity and efficiency? And what are the most effective training sets to achieve these goals?
- STRUCTURE AND STRATEGY: Assuming that we have well-defined, standard methods to “reach” individual energy producing mechanisms, what is the optimum combination of efforts and their amount on a daily and weekly basis? And how do specific training methods interact with each other during different phases of the season?
- SETS: We want our daily workouts to be effective. But choosing just the right training set for every day of a weekly cycle can be tricky. So how do we calculate weekly training density to maximize performance, adaptation, and allow for adequate recovery? While “hot” workouts are a lynchpin of everyday coaching and a common topic in professional discussions, connecting different types of sets and their projected impact on an athlete is something that is rarely discussed or even understood.
Presumably then, if coaches need to have these questions answered, there should be standard and well-researched ways of dealing with these issues. But there aren’t!
SYSTEM OR CHAOS: Sorting things out
It is not uncommon today to hear locker room talk about a new or secret “training system” that is going to be unveiled at a clinic or an annual coaching convention, but are these programs really systematic in their approach to training? That may seem like hair-splitting, but it is vitally important to be able to distinguish commonly held thoughts about what systems are, from the more precise academic or scientific use of the term.
Coaches typically consider a sequence of training sets at some fixed intensity that produces a desired outcome (a “magic combination of efforts”) to be a “system”. But if you ask the “inventor” or user to explain the reasons why the sequence works, or how to quantify the amount of work required to get the results you want for different athletes, the answers you get will make you regret having spent your money coming to the event or starting this discussion in the first place. But without these, there is no system… just a lucky guess that may or may not work for you, or anybody else for that matter.
When we talk about a system at 3S, we understand it to mean “a chain of interconnected training process elements, which when applied, produces predictable and repeatable results with any athlete or group”. To make elements interconnected, they need to share the same system and units of measurement, and must also use the same criteria to explain their behavior. So, if you are using and relying on a favorite “system”, but can’t explain the denomination of its components or why they “work”, then it might be wise to move on and stop fooling yourself.
On the other hand, if you truly understand the value of your training units and can quantify the outcome they produce… you are in the driver’s seat, and with the right methodology should be able to manage specific and well weighted stress factors to achieve the desired effect you want. And that is what 3S is all about… making positive changes happen, every day, the same way regardless of ability, sex, or age and doing that through a powerful suite of tools that lets you design and manage every bit of the training process.
SPORTS SCIENCE: Are we on the same page?
Now we come to the real crux of the matter. As coaches we all use common terms, and assume that everybody in the profession attaches the same value and meaning to them. But that isn’t necessarily the case. There are several concepts built in 3S that are not commonly known outside of a very tight circle of specialists in high performance field. And while on the surface the terms we are using sounds awfully familiar, the true meanings of them are attached to these new concepts and knowledge. The truth is that many of the principles we employ are way above and beyond the “standard” information divulged even in formal programs or textbooks. That’s why despite our efforts to make our system look “simple”, you may still need to update your knowledge in several areas of performance science.
Over the years we’ve found that coaches are struggling most with the following critical concepts.
- Exercise Physiology and Energy Zones Definitions: specifically concerning Energy Zones, their boundaries, and connection with daily training sets. There is a lot of confusion here, both in language and in definitions (please read about 3S’s approach to Energy Zones definition)
- Training Strategies: When should training be for distance or speed? It’s crucial to apply the best composition between training volume and intensity, and to know when the natural progression of training loads supporting desired adaptation need to occur. This has a lot to do with the findings of Parametric Training studies. If you are not aware of these strategies, you will surely stumble in the dark.
- “Dynamic Season Planning”: letting go of conventional periodization and season planning concepts. “Classic” Periodization principles and terms used with it are not able to define and quantify optimum or desired progression rates (by speed on distance or Zone). New periodization concepts are more precise and effective, but require a more quantitative approach to managing the training process. We commonly hear questions like “What is more important: keeping target pace on intervals, or target Heart Rate?” The answers are obvious once you start connecting the dots and understand short and long-term adaptation reactions to specific exercises.
- Progression Rules and Effective Training Paces: Do you have specific benchmarks to monitor your athletes’ progression throughout the season? How do you define critical speed on distances or paces for any set on a weekly basis? Once again, the concept of “predicted” and measured progression is not something that is common knowledge today. But if you think about it, managing adaptation and the ability to maintain specific pace for a desired distance is the essence of the coaching process and something you definitely want and need to master.
The Bottom Line:
The point we are trying to make is simple: the 3S system is built on advanced training principles and methods that are not commonly understood. The reason for this goes back to the “cold war” when winning major sports events (like the Olympics) was a way of showing superiority in the ideological struggle between the Soviet block and the West. In light of that, many sports science findings and research in human physiology became classified, or even a national secret, so they were never published or made public.
Even today most federations keep data about their national team’s training and performance to themselves, and rarely share any information related to high performance with other members of the international sports community.
In this situation every successful coach is treated as a guru with unique and invaluable training information. That’s why certain big name coaches are so popular on the clinic and convention circuit, but not one of them, no matter how engaging his stories are, has been able to convert his knowledge into a comprehensive system that can be used and followed by other coaches to get the same results.
On the other hand, a truly systematic approach to coaching and training methods allows us to put values on every component of the training process, be able to explain them, and use them to get consistent and repeatable results with athletes of varying abilities. Putting knowledge on a common platform allows coaches to communicate freely with each other and gives them unlimited creativity to manage the preparation of their athletes with a high degree of confidence.
So if you’ve been following me up to this point, we hope you realize that the issues we’ve been facing really don’t lie in the mechanics of the 3S system or the training methods we use. It’s the simple fact that we’re different, and maybe even a little “foreign”.
But if you’ve been looking for a better, more efficient way to train… the only way to understand how we can help is to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and take a good hard look at us.
Just think about it: out of all the coaches who have tested and used 3S for more than two concurrent seasons, hardly anyone has reverted to old habits. So what’s our secret? Why do coaches stay with us after they’ve been hooked? The truth of the matter is really quite simple. They can get results with 3S that they can’t duplicate with conventional periodization and commonly used planning systems. So if that’s what you’re looking for, you owe it to yourself to give us at least a once over.
Of course if you really want an in depth understanding of the foundational principles of our system, we suggest taking 3S or ISCA’s Certification Course. You can also attend upcoming 3S webinars and clinics.
But if you’re not willing to make that kind of commitment or investment right now, you can just start using our program for free, and we’ll give you all the support you’ll need to explain it to you and make it work in your particular training situation.
One thing for certain though, it’s really not very smart to dismiss new theories or training methods out of hand just because you don’t understand them.
And that’s why we’re here… to help you to become a better coach. So grab your phone and give us a call. That’s the very first step you need to make to get your mind in gear and be the best coach you can be.