One of the biggest mistakes I see in the gym is confusing the two concepts of testing and training. I see it when lifters come into the gym, pile heavy ass weight on the bar and go all-out week after week. The worst offenders are the gym bro’s on Monday. They follow one of the tenth commandments that states “Thou shalt train chest on Monday.” Where do they start? Ahhh, the bench press. While this is a great lift and a ton of fun to train, most lifters spend too much time maxing-out. We refer to this as testing strength.
The main problem with this training methodology is that the results are short-lived. Most people can only utilize this “go hard or go home” approach for 2-3 weeks tops. This is when the law of accommodation kicks-in and they hit a plateau and then eventually start going backwards. This is because maxing-out is very neurologically taxing. While I love participating in lifting competitions, I’m completely smoked after. The difference for me is that I max-out for a competition 1-2 times a year, not every week.
The better approach is to train the movement with light enough loads to work towards mastering technique and building strength. There are plenty of programs out there (I suggest Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, Bret Contreras’ 2×4: Maximum Strength and StrongFirst: Reload) that will help you accomplish just that.
Here’s my challenge to you. Stop maxing-out every single week. Get clear on what the goal is and start a program to achieve it. Whether it’s to build a bigger bench, pass a snatch test, do your first pull-up, the same principle applies. My strongest client Marisa went from 0-25 pushups, 0-7 pull-ups and 225-275 Deadlift over the course of a year. Want to guess how many times we trained to failure? Not once. We did, however TEST her strength a couple times a year. Don’t trust my ramblings, trust her results along with plenty others.
Train your body. Feed your mind.