The Value of Singularity

This was originally published on April 25, 2012. This is an updated version.


MEDVEDYEV_ezg_1This is Alexei Sidorovitch Medveyev.

He’s one of the greatest weightlifting coaches of all time, pioneering huge advances in periodization, biomechanics, and force development. His USSR teams dominated weightlifting from 1970-1974.

A totalitarian approach to managing athletes has its obvious drawbacks. It can also teach us much, even 40 years later. Medveyev could control when his athletes slept, and for how long; when they ate, and what; what they lifted, and when. Under his guidance, the Soviet Weightlifting program experimented with colour; sound; and even smell, marching their athletes through different types of forest after their workouts and measuring relative recovery to the 10th power (spoiler alert: Siberian Fir is best.)

You can read more about these ‘best practices’ in Managing The Training of Weightlifters (bottom right.) Worth the cover price just for the short paragraph on steroid usage recommendations for women.

Medveyev also experimented with coaching methods. Concerned with far more than just load, bar speed, and reps, Medveyev measured the effects of voice quality; instruction quantity; and total practice time. Prilepin’s Table was developed during this period.  Other ideas were tried, measured, and discarded.

One of Medveyev’s guiding principles: never give an athlete more than
one instruction or correction in a training session.  Yes, they may need to raise their chin; they may need to stand taller; they may need to lift their hips more. All of those may be true, but only one may be corrected at a time. One instruction was useful; two instructions handicapped the athlete, splitting their attention.

When a cue was mastered, the next was given. Information would be prioritized based on relevance, or timing. This effects both the athlete and the coach:

The coach has to think, “What is the MOST important thing that this athlete needs to improve right now?”

The athlete has to think only about one thing, instead of splitting their attention (and achieving no improvement.)

As teachers, Coaches, and experts trying to deliver their message, we should remember this: one point at a time.Managingthetrainingofweigthlifters

  • Chin up.
  • Knees out.
  • Sugar causes gut problems.
  • Widen your grip.
  • Novelty helps you stick with it.
  • Hips up a bit.
  • Bring your friends.
  • Babies are great squatters.
  • Poke your chin through.
  • Brace your midline.
  • Pull your shoulders down and back.
  • Protein supplements usually have a lot of sugar.
  • Eat real foods.
  • Meditate.


One cue, one message, per contact. That’s it.

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