I feel like there comes a time in everyone’s life where they stop feeling the need to get everything done in such a rush. Some call it wisdom, some call it experience and others just call it just plain old common sense. I agree with all of these.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (next week is my birthday, pahty ova here!) or quite possibly because I have a little overuse injury going on in my knee right now. It could also have something to do with all the research, eggs, beast flesh and books I consume each day. After all, you are what you eat.
Here is one of my favorite movie quotes to explain it a little better:
The takeaway: Slow down and enjoy your training every once in a while but still work hard. Learning new lifts, hitting personal bests, challenging yourself, and having fun with your inner trainer (as well as your real trainer) is what it’s all about.
If going to the gym becomes just another part of your day that you “have” to do then it will just be like going to work. From my experience most people do not enjoy work. I am one of the rare people that look forward to Mondays since I have one of the most awesome jobs on the planet. Well, besides the guy who gets to taste beer for a living.
Another concept that I have adopted is having “light” days or “recovery” weeks. I used quotations because I use those terms loosely since they will mean different things for each person. For example a light day for me might include deadifting 225 for 3 sets of 3, doing a few sets of 1-leg deadlifts with 40lbs to work on form and doing 150 kettlebell swings. For others, this would equal pain when sitting on the toilet.
Reasons to have a light day:
- You are super stressed out (don’t risk injury)
- You haven’t slept well for one or more days
- You are feeling rundown either from sickness or overtraining
- You are still extremely sore from yesterday’s squat workout
- You have an upcoming event (also known as tapering)
- You train the same lift 2x/week. Have one heavy day and one light day.
Going along with taking light days, it is also smart to plan recovery weeks into your program to let your body recover from training. You can and should only train hard for so long before your body will start to break down. This means easing up on the bench press sometimes bro.
Now, I am not talking about those of you who take the lackadaisical approach and randomly train when you are feeling out of shape. I am talking about those who train 4-5x/week and do not skip programmed sessions unless zombies were trying to consume their flesh. For some this would just mean a longer commute to the gym.
Personally, I haven’t missed a planned training session in years. Not just because I work in a gym, but because it is something that is important to me. Keep in mind I only train 3-4x/week and never for more than an hour. This includes some serious soft tissue work with a foam roller and ball as well as a solid warm-up. Remember: “If it’s important, do it every day“.
My own recovery weeks aren’t much different than the rest of my training weeks. Sometimes it just involves going lighter on my main lifts (deadlfit, bench or squat) or their variations and sometimes it just means doing fewer sets. For example a typical squat day may include 6 sets of 3 front squats and during the deloading week I may only do 2 or 3 sets.
Then, depending on the program I am following I may take a full week off of lifting all together to fully recover every 12-16 weeks. This week will include getting extra soft tissue work done, taking a yoga class or two, or just doing nothing.
One of my favorite ways to spend a light or recovery day is to work on technique and/or do some speed work. This allows your body to handle a lighter load and “grease the groove” as they say to help your body become more efficient. In my opinion, this may be the best way to improve your form before going to tackle the big boy/girl weights.
Whats cooler than working on your deadlift pattern? NOTHING!
A great way to do this is to do speed deadlifts. Since most people need a stronger and more efficient posterior chain, this is an excellent exercise. To perform, you would set up like a normal deadlift but with only 40-60% of your 1RM. If you are unaware of this number it might be a good idea to test it or estimate (be conservative here).
I have seen and read about lifters using between 1 and 4 reps and doing between 6 and 10 sets. Personally, I prefer doing sets of 2 or 3 with myself and my clients with each rep being performed individually (no bouncing off the floor).
The best way to accelerate the weight is to get into a good starting position. Ass back, chin tucked, lats tight, shoulders packed, big breath, good grip and your ready for takeoff. If you are getting into proper position, the actual lift should be a downhill walk.
Some of the benefits of speed deadlifts include:
- Increased speed off the floor
- Practice getting into the start position
- Increased neuromuscular efficiency
- It allows you to work on form
- It makes you look cool
- Allows you to pull more frequently
- Safe and effective
- Everyone is doing them
In short, doing speed work and other light work will allow you to improve your lifts and lift more often without injury. This is a win/win situation.
Go light, go home.