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Training Days vs. Testing Days

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In the weight room it is hard to feel like you are improving if you are not hitting PR’s all the time, or lifting weights you never have before.  It is so exciting to PR a lift, because it is clear evidence that you have improved and that is what we are all about.  As exciting as it is to lift a weight you have never lifted before, it can be just as crushing if you fail on a PR attempt.

You may have had all the confidence in the world leading up to the lift, but when it came time to perform, it just didn’t quite happen.  Not every day is going to be a great day lifting, that’s just the sad truth of it.  There are a lot of factors that play into this.  Having a bad day in the gym can be frustrating, especially if you have been steadily adding weight to the bar each week.  This can also result in the urge to just try to max out again the next time you lift in order to redeem yourself.  While this tactic may seem like a good idea, it is not always the best thing you can do for your long term progress.

To make things simple we will categorize our lifting days in two ways:  training days and test days.  Let’s talk about training days.  These are the days when we are lifting submaximal loads for multiple reps (5×5, 3×5, 3×3 etc.).  While these days aren’t always as fun as going for a 1 RM, they are very important in our quest for strength.  Not only do these days allow us to accumulate the appropriate volume that leads to strength increases, but they also provide a lot of practice at performing the movement.  Due to the submaximal load being lifted, you should always be focusing on using the best technique possible in order to improve movement quality.  You should also try to progress each week.  This can be accomplished by adding a little bit of weight to the bar each week, having better movement quality, or increasing the speed of the lift.  You can think of these days as putting money in the bank in order to cash out on a testing day.

Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of training days, let’s talk about testing days.  These are the days that we will go for a PR on a lift or hit a near maximal set.  PR’s should be thought of something that you have to earn through accumulating good training days.  Like I said before, you’re putting money in the bank on training days in order to cash out big on testing days.  If you have been taking your training days seriously by putting in the work and focusing on your movement quality, it might be your time to hit a big PR.  Do what you need to do to prepare yourself mentally and physically.  Whether it’s drinking a cup of coffee, watching the movie, Gladiator, or cranking up that song that gets you pumped.  This is the time to push the envelope a bit and see what you’re capable of while maintaining good technique.

The last thing I want to talk about is what to do on those testing days that don’t go the way you want them to.  While it would be easy to just get down on yourself and think that you’re getting weaker, I would encourage you switch gears and make that day a training day.  Don’t waste a day pouting that could be used for getting better.  So, if you know that you just don’t have it today and you’re not going to hit that big weight, salvage the day by doing the best you can do for that day.  Work on having perfect movement, smashing submaximal weights and speed of movement, because the work you put in that day is going to pay off later.

Now, I want you guys to enter each day in the gym with intent, knowing what you need to focus on for the day, when to make adjustments and when to go for that big weight!


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