In this article I want to give you a quick training insight. It may be the answer to why you’re stuck with the same weight for weeks on a certain exercise.
How most people get stuck
Most people train with a double progression model where you first increase the number of reps you’re doing and only then you increase the weight. If you’re training with something like 5 x 5 or 4 sets of 4-6 or Reverse Pyramid Training chances are you’re using this type of progression model.
Now, the way most people get stuck is that they can no longer get the required number of reps with a given weight. For example let’s say your program asks for 3 sets of 6 before you can increase the weight, and you consistently fail to get the required reps in your last set. One week you may be able to do 4 reps, then next week you may be able to do 5 reps, and finally when you think you’ll hit 6, you get 3 reps. And you’re like “What the hell is going on?!”
Or if you’re doing reverse pyramid training, maybe in your first set you’re working in the 4-6 rep range and you consistently fail to get more than 5 reps. Your strength seems to fluctuate between being able to get 3 reps and 5 reps, but never 6. This can be incredibly frustrating.
Why does that happen?
I believe it’s because you estimate your current strength level based on a PR that you hit in the past, instead of your average performance.
In other words you’re consistently trying to replicate a workout when you were unusually strong. In still other words, you are now using weights that you can lift properly only on “great workout days”.
What if the last time you hit the top of the rep range, you had an awesome workout day? And you assumed that is now your normal everyday strength level.
You say “Yes!! Oh yeah, I’ve finally broken through that sticking point!!” and what do you do?
You increase the weight next time because you’ve hit the top of the rep range. And next time, you have an average workout day and naturally you are only able to get maybe 2 reps with the new weight.
What happened is not that you were unusually weak on this workout, you were unusually strong on the day you set the PR.
In the book Never Let Go, Dan John talks about a little formula concerning workouts that he calls the Rule of Five. Let me quote him:
In a group of five workouts, I tend to have one great
workout, the kind of workout that makes me think in just a
few weeks I could be an Olympic champion, plus maybe
Then, I have one workout that’s so awful the
mere fact I continue to exist as a somewhat higher form of
life is a miracle.
Finally, the other three workouts are the
punch-the-clock workouts: I go in, work out, and walk out.
So what’s the lesson here?
If you consistently fail to get the required reps, maybe you’re trying to replicate one of those outstanding workouts, in each of your average everyday workouts. You are actually using weights that you can handle properly only on those great days.
So how do you fix that? The 3 steps below is what worked for me:
- If you consistently fail to get the required reps for an exercise, you’re using weights that are too heavy for your average workouts.
Decrease the weight until you can easily get the required reps.
- Stop grinding reps.
By not pushing your sets to absolute failure, you’re always leaving some strength in the tank. This will give you the confidence that you’ll be stronger next time. If you push your sets to the absolute limit this workout, you’ll start to fear that you won’t be able to replicate that on your next workout.
On the other hand, if you always leave some strength in the tank you expect to be stronger next time.
So my advice would be to always stop your set at the required reps or when you are not sure you’ll be able to get the next rep. You’ll find that your strength progression is much more predictable this way.
- Use micro loading when possible.
In my opinion adding reps to an exercise is much harder than adding a little weight. So whenever possible, try to increase the weight while keeping the reps the same. I explain how to do this in this video.
As always if you have questions, leave a comment below! any other form of feedback is also appreciated.
The Program that built my physique
If you’re looking for a muscle building program I recommend you check out The Greek God Program. Greg designed it to help you build proportionate mass and incredible strength while staying lean.
It is the program I used to build my physique and I’m still making gains on it.