By Andrew Pallett |
There are only a handful of things in the world which feel better than hitting a personal best in the gym. Once you’ve been training for a while they become few and far between, but that’s ok – nothing worth doing is ever easy.
If you’ve hit a plateau or are looking to take your training to the next level, the following 5 steps will get your body and your mind ready to push beyond what you ever thought was possible!
Step #1 – Structure Your Training
When you first start training, you’ll get stronger in both compound and Olympic lifts simply by doing the same exercises over and over again. Eventually, this won’t be enough to continue building strength and you’ll get frustrated when you hit a plateau and can no longer achieve new personal bests.
As you get stronger, you need to find a balance between the target lift and supplemental exercises – also known as assistance exercises – so that you don’t overtrain and develop injuries. When performing compound and Olympic lifts, you’re relying on a group of muscles (the majority of compound and Olympic lifts use the posterior chain) to work together in order to move the weight. If one ‘link’ in this chain isn’t as strong as the others then you won’t be able to progress.
✓ In order to make up the lost ground, you need to structure your training around the lift you’re targeting and work in some supplemental exercises to increase your strength.
✓ Try to lower the weight but increase the rep range – see how long you can last doing 3 reps on the minute at around 75% of your 1-rep max!
Step #2 – Set Progressive Goals
Unless you’ve just eaten an entire tub of pre-workout, you can’t just throw an extra 20KG onto the bar and expect it to fly up. If you’ve been at the same level for a long time, in order to hit a personal best you have to be patient and you have to be persistent.
When you’re starting out, you can hit a new personal best almost every week. For the veterans of the iron paradise, an increase of just 10KG can represent an almost insurmountable challenge.
This is where you have to really dig in. Building muscle is all about progressive overload, so that’s exactly what you’re going to do. What’s the best way to do this, I hear you ask? You start as small as possible and build it up from there.
✓ If you break down your 10KG target into increments of 2KG, suddenly your job becomes a lot easier.
✓ You can take it one step further by using 0.25KG and 0.5KG plates because at the end of the day, the size of your improvement doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re still improving.
Step #3 – Warm Up
We all know about what warm-ups are and why they are important, however when you’re attempting a personal best there are a few things you should remember.
There are three things you need to weightlift effectively – power, control and mobility. If you don’t warm up properly then you risk missing the lift and more importantly potential injury. At the same time, to generate enough power to hit a personal best you need as much energy available as possible, so wasting it unnecessarily with overly complicated and drawn out warm-ups can negatively impact your ability to hit a personal best.
✓ As a general rule, try to keep your warm up to 5 minutes or less. Do a few reps without any weight, going over the form and technique in your mind.
✓ Next, do the same with just the bar before performing another few reps with a light weight. Finally perform a couple of reps at around 50% of your 1-rep max and you’ll be good to go!
Step #4 – Focus On Technique
When you’re working with a lighter weight, you don’t really think about your technique – you just throw the weight around because it’s not really a challenge. Once you start going heavier you’ll find yourself automatically focusing on your form otherwise the weight simply will not budge.
Technique is important because it prevents injury, something we’ve all heard hundreds of times. What a lot of people don’t consider is that technique also facilitates the intended muscle groups to engage so that you can execute a lift properly.
Depending on what you’re doing, technique or form will require you to do different things. Broadly speaking, you’re always looking to perform any given exercise through a full range of motion whilst maintaining constant tension and without ‘cheating’ the movement.
✓ It’s all about understanding how you’re supposed to perform a lift and maintaining a mind-muscle connection so that you can do so with a heavy load.
✓ If you can just listen to your body you’ll be ready to get under the bar and check off your next personal best!
Step #5 – Get Out Of Your Head
This is the big one.
✓ When attempting something you’ve never done before, or even something you’ve tried to do but failed, it’s easy to psych yourself out before you’ve even begun.
There’s not a lot of advice I can give you here because everyone is different, although it can be as simple as walking up to the bar, grabbing it and giving it your best shot!
Take Home Message
If you don’t make it, you don’t make it. The world will keep spinning.
Learn from it, train harder and make sure the next time you’re getting into the zone you’ve done everything you possibly can to be ready.
If you can do that then hitting your next personal best will be the start of something special!