Trainability and the 10 Ss

In considering trainability, LTAD looks at 10 Ss of training that describe ten distinct capacities of the athlete. The ten Ss include five physical capacities: stamina (endurance), strength, speed, skill and suppleness (flexibility). Beyond these five physical capacities, there are five general Ss that complete the holistic development of the athlete: (p)sychology, structure/stature, sustenance, schooling and socio-cultural. Each of these capacities is trainable throughout an athlete’s lifetime, but there are clearly sensitive periods when each capacity will undergo optimal development through training.

If Weightlifting athletes are to fulfill their genetic potential, correct training must be provided during the sensitive periods or “windows of optimal trainability” indicated in the diagram above. However, since the sensitive periods can vary between individuals according to their growth, maturation, and genetic predisposition, a long-term approach to athlete development is needed to ensure that individuals who respond slowly or late to training stimuli are not deprived of opportunities. In addition, measurement and monitoring should be used to determine each athlete’s Developmental age in line with the diagram above.

Again, all of the 10 Ss can be developed at any stage or age, but the sensitive periods provide the best opportunities for the greatest gains in the long-term development of the athlete.

1 - Stamina (Endurance)
Olympic Weightlifting requires two specific types of stamina. One type of endurance required is the ability to recover rapidly between sets of exercise. The second type of endurance is the ability to sustain brief high intensity actions over a long duration (i.e. training session or competition). Both types of endurance are optimally developed during puberty as the cardio-respiratory and muscular systems mature. Stamina is then maintained throughout the career of the Olympic Weightlifter.

2 - Strength
In Olympic Weightlifting, two periods are emphasized in the development of strength and power. The first period for increasing strength is during puberty. Strength is proportional to the cross-sectional area of muscle; therefore, increases in muscle mass during puberty are essential for determining the maximum potential strength of the young Olympic Weightlifter.

In addition, Olympic Weightlifting requires greater absolute strength than other sports. Increasing strength post-puberty is therefore required for success in Olympic Weightlifting. Large increases in maximal strength may occur without increases in muscle mass. Olympic Weightlifting also requires explosive strength, which is also developed through neural adaptation. The optimal period for neural development of strength (maximal and explosive) occurs after cessation of growth of the musculoskeletal system (>17 years).

3 - Speed
Olympic Weightlifting requires a specific type of speed during loaded movement. While maximum speed during Olympic Weightlifting is high, it is low compared to other sports involving throwing and kicking motions. Olympic Weightlifting, however, requires high speed while interacting with a loaded object (barbell) that may exceed the body mass of the athlete. Olympic Weightlifting-specific speed is best developed concurrently with the development of Olympic Weightlifting technique. Therefore, the optimal window of trainability for Olympic Weightlifting-specific speed is during the acquisition of Olympic Weightlifting technique (11-14 years) and, like skill, is refined on a continual basis.

4 - Skill
Three periods can be identified for training Olympic Weightlifting skills: acquisition, refinement during growth, and refinement as an adult. Basic Olympic Weightlifting skills are best learned prior to the onset of the growth spurt/PHV. The basic elements of Olympic Weightlifting technique can be acquired within 1-2 years of training. However, refinement of Olympic Weightlifting technique is an ongoing process throughout the athlete’s career. As the Olympic Weightlifter goes through the growth spurt, technique must be refined to match changes in the body’s anthropometric proportions. Finally, as the Olympic Weightlifter reaches elite levels, where the focus shifts to development of strength and power, technique must be refined to match increases in strength and power.

5 - Suppleness (Flexibility)
Development of suppleness prior to the growth spurt is important to allow the athlete to develop proper Olympic Weightlifting technique. During the growth spurt, continued flexibility training is important as increases in height may initially decrease flexibility. Suppleness should then be maintained throughout the Olympic Weightlifter’s career.

6 - (P)Sychology
Sport is a physical and mental challenge; maintaining high levels of concentration while remaining relaxed with the confidence to succeed is a skill essential to long-term performance in any sport. Possessing “mental toughness” while training and competing under extreme pressure and duress is especially important to success at the high performance level.

To develop mental toughness for success at elite levels, training programs must address the specific gender and LTAD stage of athletes. Training programs should include key mental components identified by sport psychologists: concentration, confidence, motivation, and handling pressure. As an athlete progresses through LTAD stages, mental training will evolve from: having fun and respecting opponents; to visualization and self-awareness; to goal setting, relaxation, and positive self-talk. To develop mastery, these basic skills are then tested in increasingly difficult competitive environments.

Ultimately, the planning, implementing, and refining of mental strategies for high-level competition will have a large impact on podium performances. Consequently, mental training is critical at all stages of LTAD as dealing with success and failure will impact athlete decisions to continue participating in the sport and physical activity in general, affecting both their active lifestyle and likelihood of podium performances.

7 - Structure / Stature
This component describes the six phases of growth in the human body and links them to the sensitive periods or “windows” of optimal trainability. Stature (individual height) is measured before, during, and after maturation to track the developmental age of the athlete. By tracking developmental age, coaches can identify the sensitive periods of skill acquisition and physical development (stamina, strength, speed and suppleness) and adjust training programs accordingly.

8 - Sustenance
Sustenance recognizes a broad range of components that serve the central purpose of replenishing the body, thereby preparing the athlete for the volume and intensity required for optimal training. Sustenance addresses several areas: nutrition, hydration, rest, sleep, and regeneration.

Of primary importance in Weightlifting is the need for proper nutrition and the correct timing of meals. The high training volumes and intensities, and the large muscle mass built through training, must be sustained through correct nourishment. Carbohydrates and fats are required to supply energy to working muscles, while protein is needed to build muscle. A proper dietary plan will also build good habits that promote healthy eating beyond the competitive years. The timing of meals is important as these nutrients must be available in the body for training and recovery.

9 - Schooling
Each athlete’s school needs must be considered in the design of training and competition programs. Interference from other school sports should be minimized, and it is essential to have communication and cooperation between the different coaches who deliver training and competition programs.

In addition to school sports and physical education classes, academic loads and timing of exams must be taken into account. When possible, training sessions and competitions should complement, not conflict, with the timing of major academic events at school. Coaches should monitor potential overstress in their athletes resulting from schooling, exams, peer groups, family, and boyfriend or girlfriend relationships, as well as increased training volume and intensities. A good balance needs to be established between all factors, and coaches and parents should work together to maintain the balance.

10 - Socio-Cultural
The socio-cultural aspects of sport are significant and must be managed through proper planning. Athletes are socialized through their sport beginning at the community level, and eventually their participation can lead them to a diverse array of multicultural experiences if they pursue international competition.

As athletes begin travelling larger distances for competition, recovery periods might include education about the competition location, such as history, geography, architecture, cuisine, literature, music, and visual arts. With planning and foresight, Weightlifting can offer much more than a simple commute between hotel room and the competition venue: it can become a powerful means to develop socio-cultural awareness and enrich the lives of our athletes.