Today, I want to discuss a common mistake I often see with people who are new to working in lower rep ranges to improve their strength. I have recently had multiple clients begin working on increasing their strength levels by dipping into lower rep ranges. A lot of these clients think their workout is going to be much easier when they see they are only doing a few reps. Because of this, these people often do not take the time necessary to get their mind and body fully prepared for the set. Therefore, they lack the neural drive and stimulation to lift the maximal load that they are capable of.
For example, I have a client who has been trying to improve her deadlift strength. This client is very social and is always smiling. The first couple of weeks she would always walk up to the bar with a smile on her face and then set-up at the bar for what seemed like a really long time. All of these things were hurting her deadlift strength because of what I discussed above.
To illustrate my point a little better, I will share with you an experiment Stuart McGill had me, along with other participants, try at his seminar. At the seminar, he had all of the participants grab a partner. Then, he had us take turns trying to squeeze the other person’s hand as hard as we could. Next, he had us try it again, but this time he told us to get serious. McGill told us to grip the floor with our feet, squeeze our butts, wipe any smile we had off of our face, tense everything in our body, and then squeeze the person’s hand. Immediately, the grip was much harder than before.
This is the same way to think about a max effort lift. You want all of your concentration on your body and the movement to enhance neural drive and stimulation. Essentially, you want to tell your muscles that you are getting ready to lift some heavy sh@# and you need all of them on board!
Immediately after the McGill seminar, I took this lesson home to that specific client I talked about above and her deadlift strength went up significantly. I have recently used this with other clients as well and it has also proven successful with them.
Give this little tip a try with yourself and/or your clients and watch the weights go up!