I have some thoughts and things I'd like to say about Eric's most recent Newsletter. For those of you who haven't read it: please do. It's a gem.
I'll get to it.
All these may be excellent reasons to do strength training but the problem is that what was once a personal and cultural pursuit has started to become regulated and prescribed rather than pursued as a goal.
I couldn't agree more. You have guys at either extreme: some who just want to "lift some heavy shit" and others who have every little detail of their workout jotted down backed by theories or methodologies, etc. The best of both worlds is very hard to find.
This strength training myth really needs to be stamped out. It is based mostly on the perception that unsupervised trainees cannot do max attempts safely. This is hogwash. Trainees simply need to have the proper amount of exposure to the lift and a good period of time at weights that are close to their (supposed ) maximum ability. Meaning low reps with longer rest periods.
Damn right. The closer and more often you train (in a controlled fashion) towards your "max" the more buffering is happening for you to break the boundary and move onto the next weight range. People's just don't get this. That is why you have guys training with submaximal lifts all the time and then worrying about "maxing out". It shouldn't be such a huge deal to max out if you've been training close to your max all the time.
The prevailing problem is the strength training authorities primarily see strength training as one part of an athlete's training or basically another word for bodybuilding. That is, they would like to abolish the body part mentality of modern bodybuilding and replace it with their interpretation of strength training.
Train like a Powerlifter and Eat like a Bodybuilder. The solution to ALL problems.
The first is that the majority of strength training writers don't know jack squat about strength training per se and do not actually pursue maximum strength in their own training, let alone for their trainees.
This is something which I think is very true. Most coaches really have no clue about this yet they just parrot what the other said and next thing you know..walla: vicious circle!
Even if you do not do strength training for the sake of maximal strength it is still very useful to test your maximum now and again in order to plan and coordinate your training.
Definitely. At the end of the day you do need to know if you're getting stronger and just because your 8-rep sets (hypothetically) are getting stronger that doesn't necessarily mean you've added some poundage to your 1RM. You do need to know roughly where you are from time to time.
This whole thing has led to a generation of gym rats asking each other "what's your max" and getting responses like, "I think I could probably do 400". Probably doesn't count. Almost doesn't count. You cannot lift 400 unless you lift it.
Hahaha I love this!
"I think my max is somewhere around 500-550."
The first thing we have to get out of the way is this notion of the "true one rep" maximum that Mark Rippetoe seems to have been able to shove down so many trainee's throats. There is no such thing as an "untrue" maximum! What an absurd notion.
Damn straight. What you do is what you do. How can it be untrue if you just did it?
The belief seems to be that since a novice is neurally immature they cannot lift to their "true ability". Probably based on the oft repeated claim that "they can't use their muscles yet."
It doesn't matter. If a complete and utter newcomer (I hate to use the word "noob" because it's kinda derogatory) just deadlifts 300 then that IS his max. Period. He just did it! It doesn't matter if his coordination was akin to a baby elephant learning to walk for the first time - he just DID IT!!!
I like your swimmer analogy, Eric.
I also like how you addressed the "Benchmark" issue. Just because you hit a new PR that doesn't mean it's your new benchmark/1RM. The issue about benchmarks (and we've spoken about this just recently) is that benchmark = less fluctuation in performance at that stage. For example, my benchmark for Deadlifts is 500. That means that regardless of which day of the week or how miserably my training session is going I WILL pull that 500.
This is also why I think the 5x5 programs are particularly lagging in terms of ACTUALLY getting stronger: you keep plugging in your "supposed" max and then you never come around to actually outlifting that. Thats also why if you visit most journals on bb.com you will see guys doing extraordinary things like Deadlifting 600 out of nowhere and then they disappear into the woodwork because they never manage to reach that 600 again. There is no consistency because the fluctuations in their training are FAR too much.
I am always asking trainees why they want to strength train or lift weights. I get all sorts of answers but rarely the one I want to hear. If you were to ask me why I want to lift a weight I'd probably reply, "because it's there". There is nothing wrong with pursuing an activity because you think it is fun, satisfying, challenging, etc. Finding intrinsic value in the thing you do is one of the keys to being successful at it. You can have fun, satisfy your need to grow mentally and physically while still enjoying all the fringe benefits. I talk so much about science and critical thinking and yet I am growing increasingly wary of the 'scientizing' of culture. So, I say let us not let this trend bleed the satisfaction out of our training. Yes, you can lift heavy weights! Of course there is always a risk. That risk can be managed. But, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I think most people try to analyse the "why we do what we do?" question because it's a judgmental thing. If you tell someone who is not aware of this little (and it is important to note that the strength training world really IS little) bubble we live in that you like lifting heavy weights the immediate assumption is that you're not someone very intelligent, you are brutish and it is impossible for you to pursue a career which is "intellectual". Therefore for all purposes of any discussion: you are the neanderthal who resisted evolution and sophistication.
I face this issue ALL the time. And it has taken me the longest time EVER to enunciate WHY I do what I do.
I've accepted that I love Strength Training simply because it makes me happy. Simple. I love Deadlifting. I love Pressing. I love Strength Training. It's fun. Fun.
Awesome newsletter, Eric. I loved it!
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."