“Training” or “fitness” encompasses such a wide variety of genres spinning, Barry's Bootcamp, Yoga, Pilates and HIIT training all sit under the umbrella of fitness or training. For the purpose of the article, I refer to training as a formally structured training program such as the one below.
How long have you been training?
Training age is something coaches consider when writing training programs. Simply speaking, your training age is the amount of time you’ve been working out over the course of your life. So for some, it might be 4 months, others it could be 4 years. Your actual age doesn’t determine the training program; a 28-year-old athlete could be on a beginner program while a 15-year-old on an advanced training program. The program they follow will be vastly different.
Training age doesn’t refer to how long you’ve been playing sport either. In sport, you can get away with poor movement and still be successful (not at the elite level). But in resistance training, if your movement or strength is progressed randomly, then plateaus happen and possibly injuries as well. It's like when you try to lift a heavy object (at random) without adequate strength or technique and you throw your back out.
How well do you move?
Training age is also determined by the quality of how well you move in a variety of strength exercises. People with poor technical movement should not be enrolled in a HIIT or advanced training programs involving complex movements. Even if you’ve been training for some time, if your movement sucks and you then move at high intensity with a variety of movements, you may be exposing yourself to an injury. Time spent training isn’t enough, your form and technique are essential indicators of training age. Compare how you move the the following video.
How much strength training have you done?
Another way to look at training age is how long it takes for you to increase strength. Eric Helms has suggested that “... the length of time it takes to improve our lifting stats (strength) rather than the length of time, we have been lifting” is how to define training age.”
For example, an Olympic weightlifter has a very long training age, they’ve been involved with a structured training program for years. In an Olympic cycle, they might only increase their strength by 8-12kg’s. That's around a 5% increase after 4 years. Beginners tend to increase strength workout to workout, intermediates on a week to week and advanced lifters month to month/year to year. Those that take longer to increase strength have a greater training age.
What is my training age?
The hardest part of all of this is determining your training age. I believe it’s a combination of both your quality of movement and how long you’ve been following a structured training programme.
To determine how long you’ve been following a structured training program, just count up the number of sessions completed. To determine your movement quality, film and compare yourself on the above video and send the videos to me for review here.
How should a program differ with training age?
Generally speaking, at younger training ages the complexity of the exercises and loading patterns should be kept considerably simpler. As athletes progress, complexity can increase, as can the volume of weight.
If interested in reading more on how to progress in training, this hefty resource would be worth reading. Periodization written by Bompa and Buzzichelli.