Just you and the barbell. Focused, you step up while your friends and gym members watch. Deep breath and BOOM, new PR! If only it were that easy all the time, right?
There is a lot of work that goes in before those personal records are broken. It’s not just about always trying to go heavy every time you step into the gym. Here are 5 steps you can take to work smarter while you work harder.
Flexibility/Mobility: This is one that a lot of people neglect, but is one of the most important. As a society we spend so much time seated which causes a number of things to be tight or locked up. Tight hips and upper back can cause a lot of lower back pain as well as shut off muscles we need to work for us in the weight room. Check out the Quick Fix for Lower Back pain series on our Instagram and Facebook pages for exercises you can do during the day or before your workout to loosen up your hips, ankles and back. Your body will thank you and your weights will go up.
Weighted Core Work: It doesn’t matter whether you are going for a new Back Squat, Snatch, handstand pushup or pullup max; your ability to stabilize and transfer power is essential. There are 3 main categories to focus on; static, linear and rotational.
Static: Weighted planks – Place a plate on your back for 3 to 5 sets of 30 to 60 seconds
Linear: DB Situps – Hold a DB behind your head with your feet anchored and complete 3 to 5 sets of 6-12 reps
Rotational: Russian Twists – Start in a seated position with ankles crossed, holding a plate, medicine ball or DB rotate side to side touching the implement to the ground, complete 3 to 5 sets of 20 to 50 reps
Auxiliary Work: There are a couple different ways you could go about utilizing these to get the most bang for your buck. You can choose exercises that have carry over to multiple exercises or you can choose exercises that target specific weak areas of a lift or movement.
Carry Over: weighted core work would be an example of this. Another one would be a dumbbell or barbell strict press. Completing 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 reps weekly can improve your handstand pushups, push press, push jerk, split jerk, handstand walks and even your ability to stabilize the weight in overhead weighted movements such as lunges and overhead squats.
Targeting Weak Areas: do you know why you fail in certain lifts or movements? Let’s look at a few examples. 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps weekly
Hips rising when pulling the clean or snatch off the ground – maintaining strong position off the floor is essential in hitting big weights. Adding exercises like clean or snatch deadlift to your strength training can make a big difference.
Trouble getting the bar off the ground in a deadlift – add in some deficit deadlifts, standing on plates to work the bottom half of this lift
Trouble locking out the deadlift – add rack/block pulls, set the height at your sticking point
Technical and % work: Once again, if you always just go as heavy as possible every time you come to the gym your overall progress will slow. This is amplified in the Olympic lifts because of the level of technical difficulty.
Technique work: adding in barbell complexes with an extremely light weight as a warm up will allow you to get a lot of repetitions in while your body gets loose.
Example: Clean/Snatch Deadlift, Hang Power Clean/Snatch, Front Squat/Overhead Squat. 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps
% Work: 1-5 reps in the 70-80% range for 10-20 sets. The best way to complete this is in an EMOM (lower reps) or every 90s or 2min (higher reps). This will allow you to lock in your technique on moderate to heavy weights instead of always trying to max out.
GET YOUR MIND RIGHT: Don’t think you are, know you are. If you don’t think you can lift the weight, you won’t. Your mind is like a video recorder. If you say to yourself, “Don’t miss this lift.” or “Don’t let your elbows drop.” That is exactly what your mind just pictured, therefore that is probably what you will do. Replace those statements with, “Rip this bar off the ground.” and “Keep your elbows up.” This accomplishes what you wanted because your mind pictured success instead of failure. Consistently hitting big weights and personal records is just as challenging mentally as it is physically. Practice positive self-talk and positive feedback every day in your workouts. Frustration comes along with training, but don’t get mad…get better.
If you have no plan, you plan to fail. Find what works for you and take action. Hard work breeds confidence. The more consistent work you put in the more confident you will be to crush those PR’s.
-Written by Kiel Holman, CrossFit Coach