LOADING INCREMENTS: Why don’t you like fixed loading plans?

I’m not a fan of set and fixed incremental loading plans.

As a coach I know very well why they are recommended though (the Stronglifts program is an example) – because if you don’t tell people to go up in slow and steady increments, they get overexcited, make big jumps in the weight they put on the bar, form considerations often go out of the window, connective tissues aren’t given the time they need to grow, and they screw themselves up.

The flip side of this is as follows: When you give people set and fixed increments it’s very arbitrary, and people spend most of their time under-lifting or over-lifting.

By starting very light, there is a long period where people are under-reaching and just kind of wasting time unnecessarily, and a period where people inevitably tend to overreach – they keep wanting to put weight on the bar, “because the program says to put weight on the bar each session” even though they can’t actually lift it with good form.

To be successful in the long term you’re going to have to learn to listen to your body, feel it out, and to be real about what you can and can’t do. That means being flexible with how much you put on the bar. That might be 10lbs, it might be 2.5lbs.

Some days you will feel stronger or weaker than others. When you feel stronger you can take advantage of that and increase the weight on the bar, or do a couple more sets. That’s not really something I recommend for the beginner, cause they just end up hammering themselves, but it’s something to bear in mind for the converse – when you feel weaker some days. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost muscle – it just probably means you have some cumulative fatigue, your sleep was shit cause your stressed about a project at work, and your ability to perform well is hampered on this day. Decreasing the weight or the number or sets performed (instead of 250lbs x 5 x 5, you might do 225lbs x 5 x 5, or 250 x 5 x 3) is necessary in order to keep your form good and stay safe.

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