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How Much Weight Are You Carrying?

No, I’m not talking about your farmer’s carries (which should be at least body weight).

How much weight is in your hands? How much weight are you benching right now? How much weight is on your back? Does that 315 lbs on your back really weigh 315 lbs? Are you really squatting 315 lbs, or is there more to it?

I think one part of recovery that is all too often ignored is outside stress. Most gym-goers who are serious about adding weight to the bar attempt to tiptoe the line between optimal training and overtraining. This doesn’t leave much room for error.

If you actually are straddling the line between overreaching and overtraining, what happens when some stress enters your life? Whether that stress is from family, friends, work, or something else, it’s going to affect your quality of training. More importantly, however, it’s going to affect your quality of recovery.

Maybe it means missing out on sleep because of an increased workload. Or skipping meals due to unforeseen circumstances. Or stress in general and, subsequently, elevated cortisol levels.

This all leads to a little discussion on programming and why one strategy in particular has never seemed to work for me.

Percentage or weight-based training.

I don’t mean weight training in general. I love weight training. I mean training where somebody gives me a certain percentage or certain weight and says, “You must hit this weight this week on this exercise. If you don’t, you’re a giant pussy.”

“If you can’t overcome certain stressors in your life and recover from last weeks training, you’re waste of time and shouldn’t bother lifting anymore.”

For instance, for whatever reason this week I had trouble sleeping on Sunday night. Maybe it was the three naps I took between Friday afternoon and Sunday night. Anyway, I came into the gym on Monday with some 4×4 bench press on the workout docket. I expected to be around one number, and ended up keeping my sets about 20 lbs lower.

My weekend.

Now, you could argue that I wasn’t above the threshold for adaptation and that was a wasted workout! And to that I assert that even ~80% of your 4RM should still be around 70% of your 1RM. And it moved fast!

The point is that I just didn’t have it that day. I was tired. I wasn’t feeling right. I was stressed about work. And that’s okay. But had there been a 4RM that I needed to hit, I may have missed it. And I would have felt discouraged. And it would have thrown my training plans off.

And this gets even worse with grip-heavy work, Olympic style power-training, or lower body training. It all demands more from you than a bench press. If only because the weights are heavier (at least they’d better be). Lifting is literally stressful and compounding that on top of outside stress doesn’t always work for the better because your body doesn’t know how to recognize the source of stress. It just produces cortisol and says “let’s recover!”

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

It’s not your fault. Things come up. Shit happens. You aren’t going to “have it” every single day in the gym. But any workout is better than no workout.

And the same goes for diet. You will mess up. You will fail. Remember, in the real world, not everyone gets a trophy for participation. It’s not just about learning from failure, it’s about accepting the failure as inevitable.

In fact, at MBX we intentionally find things for our athletes to do that we know they can’t. We load the bar with too much weight and ask them to do too many reps. There is no better athlete (or person in general) than one that has failed repeatedly because they know how to shake it off (intentional Taylor Swift reference) and move forward to get better (e.g. Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs).

My best squat? Can I hit it, probably not. I’m like, “Oh my God!” But I’m just gonna shake. And on my last bench press, I was totally too stressed, but I’ll just PR next workout and shake, shake…

Go ahead, turn on the song and sing these lyrics to it. I’m literally dying laughing at myself. I think I should end this post now before I ruin the moment.

Bottom line: don’t stress. After hitting a speed bump (like those annoying speed bumps that don’t cover the width of the road, but that are too wide for your wheel base to miss?) in your car, do you throw your hands up and pull over and concede the journey as too much? Hopefully not. Even if you didn’t see it coming and were going a bit too fast, you’ll just put your foot back on the gas when you get to the other side. As long as you’re constantly trending in the right direction, you will reach your goals.

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