The Biggest Training Mistake Every Lifter Makes

Recently on Twitter the President threw a temper tantrum my good friend Tony Gentilcore commented that “easy lifting” is oftentimes the best kind of lifting there is for creating change.

Clients that have a relative background in strength training, particularly anyone with experience in the CrossFit or bootcamp-style exercise realms, tend to scoff at anything “easy”. Why do a bodyweight squat when you can do box jumps? Why do a push-up when you can do handstand push-ups? Why leave a workout with enough energy to get on with your day when you can instead, workout so hard you either puke or crawl back to your car?

I wish I was exaggerating here but this mindset does exist. However, a good coach or trainer’s goal isn’t to break you. It’s to educate and help change you.

That means a couple of things:

1.) Every workout should have a clear focus and tie back to the larger goal (your goal).

2.) Training should enhance your health, vitality and lifestyle, not pound you to the ground.

3.) Some days the training will feel difficult depending on a variety of factors like your energy, sleep, nutrition, time of month, volume, or whether or not you had a crappy day. Other days, it’ll feel like you can crush it and then some.

4.) Training should teach you something…..about your body, science, or a new movement.

If you walk away from every training session with all these crossed off, you’re ahead of everyone else who are facedown in a pool of their own sweat after a single workout.

A trainer’s goal isn’t to break you. It’s to educate and change you.

The biggest training mistake you’re probably making

Thinking that every single workout has to crush the life out of you to be effective will hurt you more than help you. I can assure you that “hard” isn’t always the best way to make progress. Then again, not every workout will tickle either. However, to assume that every training day should feel difficult is to train with your ego leading the way. Exercise is hard enough without our lame egos telling us we need to suffer through it to get results.

Reps matter.

Good form matters.

Showing up matters.

Consistency matters.

Effort matters.

These are the training essentials necessary to get from Point A to Point B.

Look at another way. In college we know that it takes a certain number of years, credits and prerequisites to graduate. Some classes might be too boring to attend regularly, others fairly easy to pass, and others might be enjoyable yet difficult to pass. We’ve all had that one professor that really makes us earn a passing grade. In those classes, the material might be easy to grasp but in order to pass you can’t miss a single class or else you’ll miss important notes; you have to think critically about the concepts, and you know you can’t cram for the exam or leave the homework to the last minute because it will hurt you more than help you.

In this instance, the class (i.e. your workout) isn’t necessarily difficult, but the process (i.e. training consistently and following the program) to achieve a passing grade (i.e. the goal) is necessary. The process matters. Likewise in training, you must simply

  1. Follow the plan
  2. Practice consistently
  3. Put in the effort

While mistaking “easy effort” for “ineffective” is common among beginners, I see it among experienced lifters too. This group (myself included) enjoys the rush of a new PR, surpassing our limits and moving heavy weight around. Heck, we look forward to it! However, doing so in every session isn’t helping us in the long-run. We want to stay in the game for as long as possible, and doing “easy effort” work with great form helps us do so. We don’t need to use the heaviest weight or go to failure every set, and we certainly don’t need to PR every week.

To train and perform at your best, set your ego aside and trust the plan and process.



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