| November 9, 2021

Going Too Heavy or High in Volume When Training

My line is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This can be a hard pill to swallow, but anyone training long enough, can attest they may have put their egos in front of them while training at one point or another.

By Steven Fitzpatrick

Read time: 3 min.

My line is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This can be a hard pill to swallow, but anyone training long enough, can attest they may have put their egos in front of them while training at one point or another. Learning how to be persistent with a plan, or reeling in an urge to lift heavier than you should is humbling, logical, and can take time to master. Here are a few examples of how sticking to a plan actually works and benefits you.

A good example of this is, using to heavy of loads to failure, while mechanical tension at a high degree very close to failure, is truly in my belief, the way to build lean solid muscle tissue, you want to make sure that first you are able to actually move the weight through the range of motion that you have built up to that point, and be able to translate if from the lighter, more voluminous loads, to the heavier loads without having to compensate from other muscles. In the case of isolated hypertrophy, you would no longer actually be isolating that specific muscle, thus defeating its purpose and potentially creating a worse problem. In this case, it would be the best method to increase time under tension of the working set until the isolated muscle is able to handle the load in respect to that set tempo, then when you are able to do it consistently, reduce the amount of reps and the time under tension (tempo slightly) to get the job done. A common error is trying to bite off progression and heavier loads too quick, it can take weeks sometimes if not longer focusing that specific weight, form and tempo until the muscular adaptation happens, patience has and always will be a virtue that must be respected.

On the contrary, volume can also be very quickly exploited and can draw on dire amounts of fatigue as well as VERY quickly raise cortisol if done too consistently, remember cortisol is a hormone for lack of a better way of expressing it, chews apart muscle and breaks it down, it is a hormone that our body releases to combat stress. The goal is to provoke enough stress on the muscle for a muscular adaptation to occur, while doing your best to reduce the amount of overall cortisol released. Train hard always, but if you debilitate yourself too much, you then become inefficient, then you can not return to training the subsequent days in that micro-cycle or for the rest of that week. You must be strategic when you do volume versus heavy load, which ultimately will come down to using a proper programming method that keeps both fatigue and growth on a nice even tangent, however learning and listening to your body is what should always matter at the end of the day, in fact it is an art that takes years and years of training to fully understand.

If an athlete were to approach a deadlift, pull the weight on the bar with relative ease, then say to themselves “well that first set was sure easy, I am going to go ahead and toss on more weight” -- unless this was planned, they should not play it too subjectively, what if the goal that day was to do a 5 by 5 at a planned weight, then by adding more weight, they are unable to complete the set task? This is also being inefficient, that is unless they are properly using an RPE versus Percentage scheme where the RPE remains far below where it should, this takes experience however and should be used lightly. I do use this method when the right moment presents itself HOWEVER I only use it when my athletes velocity is far too high and the perceived exertion is too low. At the end of the day, it is always very important to take notes and again, as mentioned in my other blogs, to RECORD EVERYTHING, how you feel outside of training will be sometimes entirely different than you feel during, this way if you take notes you can cross reference your ideas both inside and outside of training and find an objective to follow, narrowing the gap between this tools is a very effective method for success.

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