Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Make Every Training Session a Success

I’ve never had a training session where I’ve failed.  Seriously.  And I’m going to demonstrate how you can do the same.  It all starts with a willingness to do some Extra Work (E.W.) to be stronger for your next gym effort.

I know that opening statement sounds a little exaggerated, but it’s true.   Understand I don’t mean to say that I’ve never missed a lift, or that I always hit my numbers.  It simply means that I didn’t leave the gym on those days without doing Extra Work to make sure I wouldn’t miss the next time. 
Smart E.W. Can Be the Difference Between A Made or a Missed Lift the Next Time in the Gym

It is impossible to go your entire lifting career without missing a lift.  The difference between that day being a failure or success all depends on what you do after you’ve missed the lift.  A typical response is to get pissed, try to grind through until the weight finally moves – which may take a few weeks, or worse you get injured in the effort.  This is not the smartest way to attack the problem.

There are many reasons for a missed lift: bad programming, too quick an increase in weight, poor nutrition/recovery, etc., etc.  Assume for the purpose of this discussion that everything is programmed correctly, there was ample nutrition/recovery; basically nothing to keep me from hitting the scheduled numbers for that day – I just missed the lift.

Example #1: on this training day I was supposed to do a final work set of Clean + Jerk’s at 165# for a triple.  I cleaned the weight ok, but ended up missing the Jerk on my 2nd and 3rd attempt.  Give up and move on to the next exercise on the schedule right?  Not so fast.  It’s not good enough to admit defeat and just try harder next time - I need to do some E.W. before continuing. 

I decide on a set of Jerk Balance with a Lunge at 135# for a few reps (see the first video).  The goal here is to quickly and specifically address the missed lift and then move on to the rest of my normally scheduled training for the day.

Example #2:  on the agenda for this day is a final work set of Bench Press with 250# for 6 reps. I hit 4 clean reps and then I failed to stay tight and keep my shoulder blade packed and my left side struggled significantly to move the weight on the 5th and I stopped.  This example is a little different as the weakness was due to a temporary imbalance in strength from left to right due to loss of form, not general overall lift-specific strength, etc..

Next up after the Bench Press is Floor Press, Incline Fly and a few Tricep and Bicep exercises.  Instead of doing a quick E.W. set, I’m going to do the Floor Press and Incline Fly’s first.  After those are complete, I decided to perform a set of One Arm Floor Press and Staggered Push-Ups focusing on the left side form before doing the scheduled arm exercises (see the second video).

Some might suggest that I should do a drop set of Bench Press to deal with the problem.  If I missed the lift equally with both arms, then that might be appropriate, but in this instance there’s more to it than just doing more Bench Press will fix.  I also run the risk of getting burned out and having diminished performance for the rest of the training session if I use a drop set as my E.W. effort.

To be clear, E.W. is doing and extra set or two of a specific exercise that’s not already on the day’s program with the intent of making up for the work missed from not hitting your main lift target reps or weight.  It’s not just a drop set or other ‘finisher’/‘burn-out’ effort.  You want to be able to continue to put in a strong performance in the rest of your training day after the E.W. (there’s more understanding and creativity involved with E.W. work than just doing a run-of-the-mill drop set). 

There are many different ways to apply E.W. in a training session beyond the two examples I’ve given.  It helps to be working with an experienced Coach who can determine what the real causes of your missed lifts are and then recommend appropriate E.W. work. 

Remember the effect you’re going for is to replicate or exceed the work you would have gotten from hitting your missed main lift, but also to be able to finish out the training session strong.  If you’re not working with a Coach, be careful you don’t burn yourself out with wild and crazy schemes used in the name of doing E.W. sets (it’s quality not quantity and simple vs. complex).

E.W. is not a substitute for the work necessary to deal with poor technique or significant body imbalances (think: due to surgery or injuries).  This is another reason why a Coach is so important.  They can easily see the difference and recommend E.W. or recognize when Addressing Weakness (A. W.) is needed.  A.W. would require a programming adjustment and/or a series of sessions focused solely on technique-based work.

Hopefully you get an idea of how E.W. can make each training day successful for you.  Do know that I still get frustrated and angry when I miss a lift, but I don’t let it affect the rest of the training session (or week for that matter).  I know that by doing appropriate and specific E.W. that I will come back stronger and more prepared for the next round which means not just hitting my target numbers but from time to time exceeding those daily goals.

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