Training age: Why it matters - the Revolution

While it is important to give someone the right information to improve their movement patterns, It is crucial you have the ability to assess ones training age to ensure you are giving the right information at the right time.

Too often we see trainers or coaches give the right information to the right person at the wrong time.

Training age is something that has to be relevant to what you are actually training the person to do. Therefore a gymnasts physical training age for a marathon is next to that of a beginner. Sure they may have some areas of their physical fitness and body awareness that is better than a complete novice yet their overall body conditioning for distance running is extremely young.


When looking at training age we are also taking into account their joints, tendons and muscles to deal with progressive overload and pulling. Their specificity to running in general. Not just the old “I am pretty fit” banter.


For this example it may be safe to assume that if the gymnast worked up to a high level then their mental training age is potentially much higher to match their previous gymnastic training age. Naturally, they will want to push and train at an elite level and will no doubt respond well physically to training as well. The issue lies in their specific training age for running, not in their actual ability.


The best real life example I can give you is weightlifting for endurance cyclists.


Case Study 101:


An ex professional cyclist who previously was contracted through Europe began training with us in order to build strength and continue their fitness training post cycling career. This individual has an amazing athletic psyche or as I refer to it the athlete brain. To previously put themselves through some serious adversity to get to such a high level is amazing. It takes a massive mental edge to do so. This is usually something that the individual cannot switch off. Once they get back into the same pattern no matter what the type of athletic endeavour they bring that mental edge.


This can be dangerous for them as if the stimulus is greatly different they may not consider their beginner level of specific fitness for that type of training. In this circumstance she started lifting and learning dynamic body weight movements. Powerfliting, Olympic lifting and basic gymnastics to be exact. Even though her technique looked “fine”, things started to shift and not in a good way.


One she started and realised how much she enjoyed it, she began to start seeing “results”. She gained both lean mass and muscular strength quite quickly which was not a surprise due to her background in elite level training. With a strong psyche came a strong will to not listen as well. Due to this she didn’t take into account that as a cyclist you are a concentric athlete. There is absolutely zero loading of the spine or eccentric loading of the glutes and quads.


Due to this, she started to get issues with her lower back and hips. She also begun to build tendonitis in her knees and elbows from overuse and under-conditioning. Something that may have been there previously yet something that was exacerbated with too much load with little effort put into building submaximal strength. Just because you lifted a heavier weight doesn’t mean you got stronger.


We often see that majority of injuries come from progressive overload or creep loading of tendons and ligaments. Slapping a stronger or faster engine to dysfunction will never work.


Think of it like a car; if you take a stock standard car and ask it to do tasks outside of its means then it may last for a little while but quickly the wear and tear will take its toll. If you take the time and money to upgrade it by putting in better suspension, getting more suitable tyres and completing necessary engine mods then you will be able to yield a fair better result with a far better output, for far longer.




So back to our case study, after many frustrating sessions and painful physio visits she had to pull right back and develop a good grounding of overall strength and has built a strong base over the last 2 years with a big credit to her ability to learn from her mistakes.


We learn from mistakes one of two ways;


  1. Awareness
  2. Experience


If we learn from someone else’s mistake then this is an awareness and saves you time, money and a lot of pain. If you don’t listen and wish to learn by your own mistakes then this comes at the expense of all three.


The choice is up to you.


Stand on the shoulders of giants and you will become one.


Now it is difficult to detect an actual training age but there are ways to crack the code. Give the individual a way to look at their training age and for you to work with them on building smart training principles that yield long term success in the gym.


Overall you have to look at strength training, building gymnastic movements and endurance sports as a Uni degree. If you do it full time then you are studying every single day straight for four years. The stuff you do at the end, you wouldn’t do at the start because it wouldn’t make sense. The same goes for lifting and gymnastics. You must build over the years. If you decide to do it part time then it will take twice as long.


Once you completed your Uni/College degree you now have the opportunity to go out into the real world and use it, apply it and learn with it.


If the person decides to change degree there may be some things that they can get as RPL (recognised prior learning) but for the majority of it, they have to start from scratch again.


Simple and makes sense.


Thinking you can fast track this is not only ignorant its actually offensive to those that have done years and years of training, failing and learning while you were watching bugs bunny and chowing down on some cheerios.


Be patient with your training age and as a coach it is one of the easiest ways to explain to an individual why they need to continue submaximal lifting or to be patient to yield long term results.


Always remember to start basic and build.


And lastly, there are many, many more factors that go into training age such as occupation, body intelligence, personal confidence and their biological age. These are for you to interrupt and to assess for each individual.

Dave Nixon