In strength training we often focus on competitive strength, the "one rep maximum", the most weight we can lift once. Often all our training is focused on that. But there's also everyday strength, which is something up to around 2/3 the maximum. And this is important, too. We can't always get 100%. We can get around 67%, though.
Everyday strength is the weight you can lift without a warmup on a day when you had a bad night’s sleep and missed breakfast and had an argument with your girlfriend or have got your period and are annoyed at your boss, and it’s a weight you could do for a few sets up to a total of 10 reps – and do it every day without any soreness etc. This is around up to 2/3 of your max lift. On a shitty day you don't have competitive strength, but you do have everyday strength.
A few weeks back a bunch of my clients went to a powerlifting competition. James at 78kg had previously squatted 130 for a single in the gym, and was regularly doing 100 for his work sets. His first attempt 100 was no problem, and 120 came up easily. Now he tried 140, I saw him come under the bar a bit loose, step out uncertainly, then look a bit confused first to his left – the bar swung – then his right – the bar swung again, then shake his head, go down – and not come up.
The bar had clanged against a metal part of the straps, and as this was the first day he’d ever used the monolift, he didn’t know what it was, and it distracted him as he wondered. Now, when he tried 100, he could be a bit sloppy and still get the weight up. 120 he had to be tighter getting under the bar and more focused. 140 there was no way he was going to do it unless he was 100%.
A 67% lift requires 67% effort and focus. A 100% lift requires 100%. Sometimes we bash ourselves up for not getting 100%, and we forget just how much better that 67% is than it was before. While focused on competitive strength, we forget about our everyday strength. And the truth is that as we continue training, both are improving. So that our old work weight is now a warmup. My client Rosemary, being a small woman in her 60s with a back injury, took six months to be able to deadlift 60kg just once. Now she has done 80kg, and will try for 85 and 90 at a meet in December. But whether she gets 85 or 90 or not, 60 is now a warmup for her. She can just walk in and pull 60 even on a crappy day, and do it for a stack of reps.
Anourd that's the way it goes in strength training. Your old competitve strength is now your everyday strength. The right mindset in strength training is a balance of ambition and contentment. Too much ambition and you get all depressed when your competitive strength isn't what you hoped. Too much contentment and you never improve either competitive nor everyday strength. You need to appreciate what you've achieved while realising you can achieve more. This is how progress happens.
Of course, you can push your 100% directly, or just push your 67% and watch your 100% come up anyway. This is the premise of Dan John's Easy Strength, and will be the subject of another article.
Kudos to Tara for her article Shut Up, Brain, which inspired this one.