It’s That Day Of The Week Again
After a double line of pre-workout in the locker room, you’re feeling the blood starting to rush up to the eardrums. You’re nearly ready for that squat session you’ve been putting off for a week. It better be worth the wait.
So do you stack up the plates until your knees refuse to bend, or do you talk yourself down and settle for some actual reps?
In the never-ending journey to get swole enough, it pays to have your priorities stacked up right. Most of us want to get to the destination in half the time, and that’s created a booming market for shortcuts. Supplements that activate hidden anabolic pathways that override the body’s defences against gaining too much mass. Training programmes that hand you the precise combination of exercise to unlock your full potential over 30 days. Diets that hack your metabolism to hand you the might of your distant food-chain ruling ancestors.
The sell doesn’t even need to be that complicated or profound. It just has to suggest that your current programme is crippling progress, and there happens to be a much better way of going about it. The intensity lever is getting cranked up. Add so many stimulants till you’ve got coked-out eyeballs. Keep banging out reps till you lose sense of your limbs. Throw out all your favourite foods till your calorie total gets cut in half.
It’s the hard choice for your fitness transformation, but it’s also the easy option. That’s why they’re called shortcuts. Pulling on the intensity lever leads you down a slippery slope, where you skip any concept of skill acquisition and rely on sheer willpower to get across the line.
This short-cut epidemic has leaked into the weight training game. Adding more weight, more reps, more sets, that’s the easy bit. It doesn’t matter if you’re close to throwing up by the session’s end. Leveraging intensity is mind-numbingly simple, everyone can do it regardless of how long they’ve been in the lifting game. They just need to have a big enough reason, or the right amount of stimulants and repressed office stress to start throwing weights around.
Time For Technique
Now for an alternative that’s just not as flashy. Instead of simply opting to put more force on the bar, you’re looking to do it with control. This is very much a mode of skill acquisition, and everyone starts at the bottom of the ladder. The more time you put in, the better you get, and the results follow. It just so happens to be the fastest way to bump up strength and shape. But this route requires some sacrifice.
Here are the three pitfalls of deciding that it’s time to knuckle down and hone in technique.
- You can only lift as much as weight as perfect form will allow.
Sometimes you have to drop weight in order to get those reps under control. Adding another plate to the bar can give you a dose of euphoria, but if you proceed to half-rep the squat, it’s only the knees that are getting a workout. The heaviest sets should still resemble the form of your warmups.
- You will need to slow those reps down
High rep squat sets aren’t pleasant, and it’s going to be tempting to smash them out before the pain gets the better of you. This usually means you’ll be completely neglecting the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement, where the bulk of the growth takes place. A good rule of thumb is to take at least two seconds for each eccentric portion, while keeping the concentric (lifting) relatively fast and explosive.
It’s going to hurt, and it’ll be worth it.
- You’ll need to focus
Charged up workouts come with a cost, it’ll be easy to get distracted. Lifting weights is simple enough, it doesn’t need to be complicated, but optimal results require your undivided attention. Each lift is split into a concentric and an eccentric, the squeeze followed by the stretch. Unfortunately the muscle doesn’t always click so easily during a movement. Focus on working through both, and you’re practically doubling up on the tension.
So do you go about enhancing your powers of focus during a session? Stay off snapchat, stop hyperventilating, and you’ll suddenly find yourself stumble on a whole new level of training.
This Is About Being Optimal
If you’re happy enough to ditch the comforts of intensity training, you’ll be entering a game of low risk, high rewards. Your quads don’t care about how much weight is on the bar, or how many reps you’re about to churn out. The only metric that matters is tension, and that’s where technique comes to the forefront.
None of this is to say that hard training is for beta lifters who just want to build up an ego. Intensity plays a part, but it should be the step taken after your technique game is airtight. Don’t bother adding more plates till the bar stops wobbling and the quads start burning.
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