Information on how to run faster, lift stronger and think deeper

How to decide on your loading for lifting

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jun 11, 2015 2:07:00 PM


How to decide on your loading for lifting

Your loading will be highly depending on your goals. If you are going for the pumped up bodybuilder look you will usually go for higher repetition and higher amount of sets with 40% - 60% of your one rep maximum. If you go for strength gains without too much weight gain you will most likely opt for lower rep and set count with higher amount of weight. Generally I think keep challenging yourself, know your goals & limits for deciding on how much you actually want to put on the bar on a given day.

New Call-to-action

Know your goals

Without any goals you can not decide which action to take to achieve this goal. "I want to get strong" or "I want to get bigger" are good starting points, but these goals are not specific. If you really want to make it work and get the most out of your gym time the more specific and timely your desired gains are described the better for you. 

"I want to add two inches to my biceps by end of this year"
"I want to get 2cm deeper on my squat by end of month"

Are better goals than these general goals I have just described as you can plan specific actions like biceps curls until end of year, Wendler 5/3/1 or Ankle flexibility training for obtaining these goals. Once you have defined the goal and the actions, make a timetable and plan and break it down so that you know which action has to be taken by when to achieve what you want to do. This will also help with visualisation which I strongly believe in. Arnold Schwarzenegger also had to work on his body and imagined exactly how it would like before he started away to form the muscle with his training. Learn from the best.

Push yourself

If you are not sweating in the gym, even If you are doing low repetition work with high load, I personally think you are not getting the most out of your time when you are not sweating. My 10x3 program and stronglifts 5x5 had me out of breath every single time. I completely went for it and so do I on the current German volume training cycle. 

Choose to put more weight on the barbell than last time or try one more rep. Do not try both at the same time. Push either through a loading or repetition plateau. Both at the same time will usually be too much. Also remember that the closer you come to your limits the less the incremental increase of load should be. Do not put 15kg on top of your Squat one rep max out of the blue just to tryit out. This can lead to injury.

Stick with your program

As long as you are making gains and you are having fun with it stick with the program you are doing. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when you are getting stronger. Also skipping repetitions, sets or increasing the load quicker than demanded did never pan out well for me. 

If you want to make your program more or less challenging depending on how strong you feel on a particular day stick with prescribed load of your program but cut the rest times in between sets. Another way of making the workout more challenging is doing the movement slower to increase time under tension or go down slow and up as quickly as you can on the squat to see how explosive you can get.

Louie Simmons makes a profound distinction between training optimal and training to failure. If you hit a personal record in the gym for your 3x3, 5x5, 10x3, whatever it may be, do not push further even if you feel pumped. Go home, enjoy the record and live to lift another day, rather than doing something stupid (and high adrenaline paired with major ego has been the culprit many times in human history).

Do not let your ego take over 

Form comes before how many plates are on the bar. If you are training to become stronger proper form and range of motion will give you more strength gains in less amount of time. If you are training to get bigger muscles full range of motion and controlled handling of the weight will give you more and evenly spread pump than you get out of bad execution.

There is a time and place to go all out and that is competition day. Keep the madness for when it is needed and do not waste it on a mere gym set.

Listen to your body on the day

Some days in the gym just simply stink! There is no if and but about it. It might be the burger you ate that makes you feel bloated, the wife at home giving you grief about the dishwasher or the teenagers asking you for your last dime. Do not go home, push through and do your sets, you will feel better afterwards, but also listen to your body. It is ok to fail, but make sure that you are still capable to stay in control of the weight at all times. If you do not know the difference between a fail and a controlled fail, I would recommend to not go under high load on days where you feel not up to scratch. 

An example of a controlled squat fail here


 Further reading