Good ol’ fashioned heavy lifting can feed into one of the key factors of muscle growth and increased strength: mechanical tension. Unfortunately, just lifting increasingly heavy amounts will not always lead to greater mechanical tension, and thus our strength and control will suffer. A few factors play into the loads we are using; training age, general kinaesthetic awareness, and full range control, not to mention ego. The multitude of factors makes it increasingly difficult to find that “sweet spot”. Finding this “sweet spot” requires a little awareness, a shift of mindset, and not always heavy loads.
Sprinkled throughout the years programming are opportunities to test a max in a particular lift. We can even relate many of the maximal efforts in areas other than movements requiring a barbell (ie. gymnastics). I love the support our community practices during these moments. We can feel how much we feed off of one another. Like any excitable moment, we can lose direction and focus. These are opportunities to set a baseline to progressively improve ourselves, not solely to “max out”. Too much excitement can take a supportive community and push some individuals beyond that sweet spot. Why are we doing this in the first place?
Over the weeks, months, and years of training, we can put so much value into our numbers. So much to the point we attach our emotional baggage to it. We can begin to value ourselves based on our performance in these maximal efforts. And when we don’t see that improvement 6 weeks later, we begin to question more than just the programming. There are so many physiological factors that come into play on any given day. Throw some additional lifestyle stress into the mix and we have ourselves a cocktail for duress. The gym doesn’t always have to be glass case of emotions. Why are you doing this?
Maximize your potential to progress year in and year out. Mitigate the degree of injury and fortify your joint resiliency. How should you do this?
Start simple. From test day, through the percentages, and back to test day, keep your form in check. A little deviation from perfect isn’t the end of the world, but a gross contortion of what you started with is just asking for problems. Form is designed to target specific muscle groups and build strength within those ranges of motion; failure to do so will result in poor learning and stress on passive structures (oh no my back!). Control your tempo. A smooth controlled execution at a lower weight just may increase the amount of mechanical tension, you know, that sweet spot for gainz. Pause for a second and feel the contraction. Not only will this provide more room to grow over the years, it will create an environment that is challenging without all the risky chaos. You will provide your body the opportunity to connect with all the moving parts, and not just the one off effort.
Control yourself. Slow down a bit.
Emile Maxwell Connaughton