Professionals lifters know that if they want to get stronger, they need to lift heavy.
They don't worry about dropping the weight, not being able to make it through the workout, in fact they want to fail. It's called "training to failure" and it's what the big dogs do. Why? Because "...struggling at your limits is a critical part of muscle growth. "-Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS
The mechanical failure experienced when trying to lift a heavy weight is what makes your body stronger for next time.
Human growth hormone, testosterone, cortisol...these hormones take that failure experience and use them to build muscle and increase your fitness.
But to most people failure sounds bad.
If I'm supposed to do 4 rounds of 8 repetitions of an exercise, then I'm going to pick a weight that allows me to do so, right?
If I start too heavy, then I won't be able to finish. I'll have to quit. I'll fail.
First of all, that's not necessarily true. Often times we can actually comfortably lift heavier weights than we think, and secondly, how will we every get stronger if we aren't ok with taking a risk and trying something heavier, something a little more difficult?
So what if at first we can only muddle through it??!!
If we go slow, maintain good form and keep working, we will get stronger.
The fail of failure and the tendency to pace ourselves is ingrained in us all. It's survival strategy, but one that can hold us back. I used to attend an awesome barbell fitness class at my gym off and on for 2 years. I primarily like to workout at home, so I was an infrequent participant, but many of the people in class were there two days a week, every week, for years.
Every time I came back after a brief hiatus, I noticed that for the most part, most of the regulars were still lifting the same amount of weight as they were last time I was there.
The class instructor time and time again would tell the class participants to challenge themselves, "try and add more weight today, " she would tell them, but the class was an hour long and few people wanted to peter out halfway through which made them reluctant to try heavier weight.
Consequently, month after month they were maintaining their strength, but rarely adding to it.
Back to failure...
Metabolic Effect took this common practice in the world of muscle-building and made it accessible to all of us when they created Rest-based training( RBT). RBT is an approach to exercise that encourages the exerciser to push themselves to their limit and to rest within the workout. RBT workouts rarely contain a designated rest period, in fact the workouts are short and intense, " balls to the wall" style madness.
The creators of RBT, the Metabolic Effect have a phrase that says, "Push until you can't, rest until you can," because they want you to work as hard as you can during the workout without pacing yourself.
If you know that at any time you can take rest, then you don't have to be afraid to push yourself to the limit.
If you know that rest is part of workout design, then on a day when you are ready to go up in weight (increase your dumbbell weight) you don't have fear not being able to complete the workout because that's the design.
I employ RBT in my own workouts and the workouts that I design for clients. I find that it helps people to move beyond their tendency to pace themselves, it helps them to take ownership over their workouts, it empowers them to take mental risks in exercise, and it helps them to gain strength faster.
So here's a video of me, lifting two 26lb kettlebells during bent over rows.
Don't mind my lifting face.
I did four rounds of 10 reps. I'm not going to lie, the combined 52lb weight is a little heavy for me, but I was ready for it. By round 2 of the workout, I couldn't make it past rep 8 without resting, so I dropped those bells, rested 30 seconds and finished the set.
I just wanted you to know that I'm not just telling you to rest, I do it too and it helps me to work harder during my workouts than I would otherwise.
For more information on RBT click here.