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Get the Best out of your Heavy Sessions
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GubernatrixHeavy sessions: for many, the highlight of the training week. A session to be approached with both excitement and trepidation. However, it is easy to fall into a routine with heavy sessions, get a bit slap-dash and thereby start to lose some of the benefits. So if your progress has slowed of late, run through this checklist to kickstart your progress once more.

  • Get plenty of good quality rest before and after a heavy day and stay hydrated. If you don’t sleep well the night before, you might not be lifting at your best.
  • Be afraid! You ought to be a little bit scared about your heavy day. If you’re not, perhaps you are not pushing yourself hard enough. A max effort day is always a step into the unknown. Also, being nervous serves another useful purpose: it stops you doing anything stupid. If you are nervous, you’ll take more care.
  • Warm up properly. Use exercises similar to those in your session, or do a full body exercise such as dumbbell snatch. Not only is it good to warm up your muscles and bring your heartrate up, but you’ll also get the chance to mentally prepare and get your body in the lifting groove.
  • Use a spotter, or at least a power rack. The safer you feel, the more confident you will be in going heavy. Without a spotter you will always stop before you reach your true maximum – unless you are an absolute nutcase. It’s not only safety, a good spotter will shout out encouragement at just the right moment, which can be the difference between making it and not making it. If you don’t have a training partner, grab one of the gym instructors (what else are they doing, after all?)
  • Minimise accessories such as straps, belts, gloves. If you start using a lifting aid to cover a weakness, then that weakness will stay with you. If grip is a limiting factor, for example, don’t go straight for the straps but try lifting lighter for a few weeks and allow your grip to catch up. Otherwise, it never will.
  • Video your lifts or get someone knowledgeable to check your form. Even if you think your form is perfect, you will be surprised at how certain aspects can deteriorate if you are not keeping an eye on them. Heavy day is not the day to get lazy about form.
  • Keep a record of your lifts and add notes on how you performed. Each session, look back on the notes from last session and try to improve on them. Note when, for instance, you didn’t achieve sufficient range of motion or something felt awry, so that you can correct it next time.
  • Know when to call it a day. If you destroy yourself now, you won’t be able to lift well next time.
  • Add more volume to your session by performing a lighter back-off set after your last heavy set, particularly if using very low rep ranges, such as 1-3 reps. Use, say, two-thirds of the weight and complete either 10 reps or as many as you can. Having done heavy sets with low reps, your body will be primed to lift more than if you worked up to this weight from scratch or used higher reps.
  • Have a good balanced meal and get an early night!

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



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