Training Intensity & Arousal Part 1 - We are all bitches.

Preface: At Strength Culture, we understand that kilograms on the bar week after week result in adaptation. We also understand that maximal strength is maximal strength. If you’re a 140kg squatter, your mind is not going to allow you to squat 220kg the week after. There is a stark difference between self-belief and delusion. When you train, when you compete, there needs to be an accompanying level of intensity and arousal. This intensity will allow you to move the heaviest weights you can at that point in time. 

Something that we have been talking about recently in the gym, and something that a lot of us feel we have started to rectify, is the lack of intensity in our sessions. A tendency to live in the pocket, almost as if you’re so far in the pocket you’re in the sock. Programming via relative intensity means, i.e. RPE-based training and RIR, has been great in progressing the big 3 lifts, but for accessories, we are not driving ourselves close to the point that we need to in order to progress, for strength and hypertrophy.

 We feel there has been a series of events that drove us to realise, that we’ve been bitching it. Here’s the timeline:

  • The 40% Rule. The exposure to David Goggins’ and his story through Joe Rogan’s podcast and his book, ‘Can’t Hurt Me’, made us consider human potential, and the degree in which we can push ourselves. Goggins talks about the 40% rule, and that when you begin telling yourself that you’re at you limit, you’re only about 40% done. For endurance performance, this is definitely more applicable. For strength, ehh maybe not as much. But there is definitely carryover. If you’ve ever approached an exercise and your mind hasn’t been in it, it’s subjective difficulty will have definitely increased. Possibly even been the difference between a made lift, or a fail.

David Goggins

David Goggins

  • An intoxicated conversation between a few of the boys at the Espy. ‘Science and submaximal training has made us soft’. The pendulum swinging too far the other way. After reminiscing about our 16 year old selves and our uninformed ‘bro’ training methods, there was something that we all realised. Although our training methods, programs (use the word ‘program’ loosely in this case) and technical execution of lifts were definitely subpar, our attitude towards training and willingness to push our physical limits was definitely present. From this, the adage, ‘submaximal training, maximal mindset’ was born. For those that are aware, it’s all in the ticker.

  • Jackson Myles becoming a member of Strength Culture, taking the spot of ‘King of the Jungle’. Many of our members are now seeing the attitude that is required to progress in a sport as unforgiving as powerlifting. The inclusion of someone that is far stronger than many of us in the gym has driven a lot of our lifters to push harder. Charlie especially, after being dethroned by Jackson.

  • ‘I realised I always felt like I’ve never needed a deload, because I’ve been sitting in the pocket for my entire training career’. - Didier Vassou. Earn your deload. The role of a deload in a training program, is so that fatigue can dissipate. Hopefully the athlete recovers from the stimulus that were the workouts preceding the deload, they adapt and are stronger than they were before.If you are not training hard enough, you will not feel you need to deload. Simple. If you are training hard enough, exposing yourself to physical stress (training), disrupting your body’s resting state (homeostasis), consistently, there will come a point where you will need a deload. In order to get to this point, you actually need to push yourself. Didier, myself, and many other lifters’ in our gym previously haven’t felt the need to deload because the training stimulus hasn’t been great enough to justify it. I’ll say it again, earn your deload.

Taken from the Juggernaught Training Systems E-Book - Scientific Principles of Strength Training.

Taken from the Juggernaught Training Systems E-Book - Scientific Principles of Strength Training.

All of these events and conversations have driven us to work harder. Push a little more than before, not just ourselves but our athletes and clients, too.

Ensure that when we are gauging our RPE’s, they were as if a gun has been put to our head. Literally how many more repetitions could you complete in a life or death situation. This sometimes means getting a little more ‘up’ before our lifts. It’s ok to bring out a little mongrel before an effort that is calling for higher RPE’s, especially when your technical execution of the lifts is up to standard. At the end of the day, we’re lifting weights, attempting to force our bodies to adapt when it doesn’t want to.

Didier Vassou “how many more reps left?”

Didier Vassou “how many more reps left?”

In next month’s blog, we’ll go deeper into the physiology of training intensity and arousal. Until then, try to approach each rep and set of your training sessions with a little more intent. Who knows, you may even need a deload at the end of your next training block.

 About the Author - Jamie Bouziotis
Head of Strength and Conditioning at Melbourne Strength Culture
IG:instagram.com/jamiebouziotis
YouTube: Melbourne Strength Culture

Email: jbouziotis@melbournestrengthculture.com