Powerlifting is a sport of physical limitations there are few sports that rub someone against their own physical and mental limitations on a daily basis. If you ever meet a good powerlifter, weightlifter or strongman you will probably come away thinking one a of a few things – They where arrogant beyond belief, they where a tad mental or they weren’t in tune with reality. You can probably say the same about any sport where you have to push your psychology and physiological limits to be successful I doubt there have been many Olympic sprint champions who didn’t think they were hot shit (outwardly or inwardly).
Psychology and momentum are of paramount importance in all sport but none as much as in sport where your ultimate limitation is your weakness be it physical or mental. Here are 5 arguments for never missing a lift as a power lifter.
1 – If you never know your limits lie you’ll never set a “realistic goal”
If you never miss a lift you’ve always got that inward voice thinking yeah I can make that weight if I wanted to. You might be able to infer from your rep maxes or personal bests where your maximum strength might lie but you never truly know where that max lies and that’s a hugely positive thing. Someone who knows with ironclad confidence where their personal best or maximum in a lift lies is very likely to run into a plateau. You start to put the weight on a pedastel. All I need to do to make this load in the bench/squat/deadlift are fulfill the following criteria and allow the sun and moon to align in the following fashion… etc.
The weight become a mental block I’ve seen lifters hit 3RM loads that should put their max 10 kg above their bogey weight only to go ahead and miss it anyway. Psychology at maximum load is just as important if not more important than your physical prep. Someone who never misses a weight goes up to a new personal best with supreme confidence this isn’t my real max sure It is the most I have ever lifted but I could probably do this for 2 if I really wanted to.
When your own mental dialog is constantly underestimating the loads you are missing then the mental preparation for personal bests becomes no issue. If you want to be a good lifter realistic isn’t what you should be looking to be because people with realistic goals in lifting end up with “realistic” totals.
2 – Someone who know’s what it feels like to fail probably trains too hard.
Regular missed lifts are a tell tail sign of a programme or person who trains to hard. The phrase go hard or go home was not designed with maximum strength sports in mind fatigue is a necessary evil an evil that should be managed and where possible avoided in your training. You can split your volume into easily manageable sets that you can make with great technique and bar speed or you can do it all in one set, get a rep PB and be stiff and sore for the next 5 days.
Volume load at appropriate intensities is the best way to build strength. You don’t have to achieve that volume load in one or two sets getting close to concentric failure or achieving it in those sets. 30 Reps at 75% of maximum can be done with 3 sets of 10 which is an ordeal of a workout and will leave you with DOMS and tired for 4-5 days or you can split 36 reps into 3 sessions done as 3 sets of 4 not be sore after your workout, have more opportunities to practice the lift and complete every rep with good technique and bar speed and have a greater training volume from the week the choice is yours.
3 – Building momentum really is underrated.
Ed Coan knew it, Bill Kazmier knew it, Jim Wendler got internet famous stating it starting light and building momentum into a programme is extremely important and an underrated facet of training. In the above video you can hear Bill talking about starting with 15 reps sets which would necessitate that the percentages being used are very sub maximal and saying if he went to a 6 day training week he would be able to fit another workout in meaning he was able to start lower and finish higher.
This is a thought process I believe that is even more important when a lifter is just doing a regular training routine with no meet in sight. If you don’t have a competition coming up you should have absoloutley no idea of where your max strength is. All you should be aware of is that the loads you are handling from training cycle to training cycle are getting heavier each time but still feel easy. Outside of a peaking cycle lifters should live in a sub-maximal volume accumulation zone where they may be get challenged once or twice in a 4-5 week training phase. 70-85% RM (arguably 70-80% RM) is where you should do the vast majority of your training.
One big set of 6 is nice and makes a good post on Facebook or your favorite internet forum but it’s not doing much for your training. 4 sets of 6 done three times a week with what previously was a challenging single set of 6 maybe will do a lot for your maximum strength (but probably won’t get a lot of attention on facebook). There are few confidence builders quite like doing multiple sets and reps a few times in a week with what is a new 6 rep best. Training with a sub maximal volume cycles is not a quick or glamorous process but it is definitely effective.
4 – You don’t have to train hard everyday to get strong.
Some of the strongest athletes to every step foot on the planet spend the majority of their training time doing boring volume with submaxial loads. Some people like to show the gym how strong they are every time they set foot in the weights room these people spend a lot of their time injured or dissapointed with their competition results. Parking your ego is probably the single greatest thing you will ever do for your strength training results I have had quite a few people decide they didn’t want to work with me because the first programme I gave them was too easy or didn’t result in insta gains. I’ve also had quite a few people decide after one coaching session after being told that they weren’t god’s gift to lifting things that they weren’t interested in continuing even after offering to train them free of charge.
You see most people have an ego not an ego in the sense of they are confident in their ability on the platform like we discussed in point one it’s a big insecure wreck that needs constant affirmation about just how awesome they are. It’s the same ego that makes people with borderline eating disorders post almost endless amounts of selfies of themselves with their shirt off to get likes and comments about how awesome they are. Or the same ego that encourages people to jump on anabolics so they can post up videos of them stroking their ego with personal bests in the gym achieved every week whilst never entering a competition.
Strength training is an extremely basic and systematic process deviating from that process to look sexy or different at best achieves the same results with more difficult training or it ends up with much less success with more difficult training. Strength is
1 – Technical proficiency
2 – Accumulated Volume Load
3 – Appropriate Peaking/Realisation of volume loads
Everything else that isn’t steroids is blowing smoke up your arse.
5 – Setting world records that look like speed weight is cool as fuck.
The epitome of this philosophy in my mind is Carl Yngvar Christensen every time Carl goes to an IPF world championship he sets all time and new world records and looks like he is warming up each time he does it. His coach Dietmar Wolf the national powerlifting coach of Norway uses a training system that mimics the training of weightlifters they train with a great frequency this frequency necessitates the use of sub maximal loads and exercise variation.
What you don’t see from this training routine and something that I infer from Dietmar’s attempt selection is that Carl is deliberately under cooked in every meet he enters sure he can maybe do 500 kg if he was to push the boat out but I know he can absolutely smoke 485 kg, win the meet and set a world record. So what is the purpose in setting meet selection targets for him that run the risk of him failing the lift or getting injured in the attempt. This in my mind is world class powerlifting coaching, your lifters shouldn’t fail lifts in competition they should set personal best performances every time they step on the platform and not struggle.
It’s not a short term eye catching, go get em strategy but it
- Builds huge self confidence
- Reduces the chance of injury in training massively
- Gives the athlete nothing but positive associations with competition.
- Means there is always a reserve of strength needed in the case of competition for a medal or win in an important championship.
It means that both the athlete and the coach need to remain objective and park their own egos two things that are a lot easier to write about than they are to accomplish.