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Choosing Growth Again and Again in Strength Training

By Gus

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.

Abraham Maslow

The Event

Strength Training begins with creating stress. You create a stress event for your body to endure, eliciting an adaptation as you recover from that stress. Any event acceptable for this process will be difficult. You must return to the difficult task over and over again.

No moment brings this to the fore more than standing with a bar on your back between the fourth and fifth rep of your new personal record squat. The position you’ve put yourself in is a recipe for fear. You are tired. You’ve never done this before. The last time you tried something close it was difficult enough you weren’t sure you could do it. Strength training is overcoming that moment.

The Program

Once you perform the rep, there is new evidence of your growth in strength training. A novice athlete has the benefit of working through this moment every session. After creating the stress, she can recover and adapt quickly. She will be ready to add more weight to the bar to take on a more difficult task next time. If she keeps coming back for one more session, she will continue to grow.

As the athlete advances, more complicated programming is necessary. She cannot recover so quickly as to take on more stress in the next session. But you should not be in a rush to reach this point. The simpler the program that works, enjoy the efficacy it offers. As new personal records come less often, new mental struggles come to reach that moment of growth. A more complicated program is not a better program until it is necessary.

Read more about Training in the Blue Book

Read from Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition pp. 291 – 295, the introduction to the Programming. The basics of this stress-recovery-adaptation model are summarized, offering the rationale for why this stressful moment of change is essential to strength training.

A foggy gym.