Patterning the lifts and practicing the fundamentals is where the magic happens. Mastering your set up, getting tight, and breathing are the best habits to build while starting out. I have had some really strong people show up to Tucson Strength and Tucson Barbell Club that don’t understand the fundamentals. Before we start setting PR’s these skills have to be mastered. It’s not sexy to post a video of an awesome set up with 135lbs on the bar, but the best lifters out there master these details. Each warm-up set isn’t just about warming up your muscles, its about practicing how you are going to lift that big weight. When Things get heavy you revert to your practice.
The Magic Happens at 75%
Most of us are attracted to the barbell sports because we want to lift heavy. The reality is most of the gains are found in lifting with some volume in the 70-80% range. So if you have a 300lb bench most of your lifting will be done between 210lb – 250lbs. Sure you will hit 270+ occasionally, but lose the idea of working to 300 often. The other thing to focus on is working with rep ranges that don’t push fatigue. Here is an example: 75% is your theoretical 10RM. A bulk of your work will be done with sets of 4-6reps with this weight. The mistake many beginners make is they take 75% and try and hit multiple sets of 8-10 until they fail or have the bro at the gym giving them finger spots screaming its all you BRO! This is a sure sign a novice lifter and someone that will be frustrated soon.
When Bar speed slows down, You are probably done
This goes along with the above point. If you want to get stronger you need to keep your nervous system fresh. Strength training and powerlifting isn’t necessarily about building massive muscle, it’s about creating force. Much of that force is created by a powerful nervous system. Your training methods are crucial in developing force. If you are constantly grinding out reps and failing on your big lifts you are setting yourself up for failure and injury. If you train to failure you will get what you train for. Training for strength is very different than training for muscle mass and bodybuilding. A smart lifter knows when the session is over. Your training plan can say 8 x 3, but if set 6 is slowing down and turning into a grinder sometimes the best bet is to call it a day. It’s cool to watching that monster on Instagram grinding out deadlifts with veins popping out of his head, but that monster isn’t you, and just because he is doing it doesn’t mean its right. Many beasts are strong in spite of their training not because of it.
Consistency is King, So is recovery
Most solid powerlifting programs run 4 times per week. If you follow the above principles of keeping the percentages/reps in the optimal range and the reps fast you will be able to train consistently for weeks with minimal need for a de-load. Many times I see lifters grinding out squats and deadlifts week after week and then they seem perplexed why they feel like shit in their training the next week. 40 training sessions with moderate intensity over 10 weeks will trump 20 beast mode session in the same time period. If you are chronically feeling exhausted and fatigued you are setting yourself up to be on injured reserved list or the -used to be a lifter- list. I remember following a lifter on social media a few years ago. For 3 weeks it post after post of a new max PR or a new rep PR. It was impressive weight and intense lifting. A couple weeks later it was a post with picture of torn pec. If you are going hard you need to recover and take more time off. When I’m programming for lifters Im always trying to make training sessions optimal for long term success. Strength is about incremental gains over a long period of time, not trying to create the hardest training sessions.