You look at your program, Squats 3×5 at 97.5kg, you contemplate for a mere moment before you decide that it’s time to go off program, we are doing 100 today, its two 20 plates, I would be a psychopath to not take the easy loading option……..1 hour later……
That session was a lot harder than expected, but it was only 2.5 kgs difference.
I think the idea of adding “just” 2.5kg is the issue. The usual thought process is comparing the 2.5kg to the overall weight lifted (if 100kgs it is 2.5 %). If you change your thought process from thinking of the percentage based on the overall weight and instead thought about the total range in which you gain stimulus (the optimal training band) it is a far more significant percentage.
The following percentages are not exact but close enough to make the point.
If you are doing sets of 5 you should be working with between 70-80% of your 1 rep max. working off the previous example of 100kg (the easiest number to work with in these hypotheticals) you have a 10kg range of stimulus, therefore an increase of 2.5kg is a 25% increase within this range.
This is all about controlling expectations and understanding that perceived small weight changes may not be that small after all.
For the life of you, you cannot hit a 100kg clean and jerk, you feel great leading up to the lift, crush all the subsequent numbers. But when you get to this number, you get nervous, “that’s 2 plates each side and that’s going over my head”, you are no longer lifting like you usually do and you miss it… again.
You have hit a mental barrier and its pretty common in strength training. There are multiple ways of breaking through this, but I will give you two that may be effective. The first is taking small jumps leading up to the lift. If you are going for a max and you are nervous about that number, hit a tight cluster of numbers leading into it for example 100kg goal weight, jumps 90, 95,97.5, or if you have micro plates 90,94,96,98,100. This can build confidence leading into the lift and you can gain a firm understanding of how that size jump feels whilst working with maximal loads.
Another use is getting as close as you are comfortable to that number and doing volume. For example, the barrier is 100 kg, you start feeling it at 97.5kg. Do five singles at 95kg, increase this volume over time then increase load to 97.5. increase volume again until you are the master of these weights. Now go forth and crush it.
The kilogram is made up. There is no such thing as a kilogram in nature, it’s an invention of humanity. So, next time you think about how you haven’t hit that 4-plate deadlift yet and you beat yourself up about it. You are assigning value to a made-up concept. Have patience and do not compare yourself to others.
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Strength and Conditioning Coach
CrossFit Arete and Next Step Strength