Lifting for the Long Term at Bootcamp

I don’t know about you, but I love lifting heavy weights at bootcamp! It’s empowering. It’s challenging. It’s a great barometer of your progress.

Yes, we all want to look better, feel better, lose a few lbs of fat, and certainly if you have some fat to lose you should definitely be tracking your progress on the scale!

But for me personally, I’m always looking at my performance indicators. I’m always trying to eek those numbers higher. I’m always trying to be faster on the finishers, lift heavier week to week…

I try not to bring myself into the equation with my bootcamp effect posts (no one wants to listen to someone talking about themselves after all), but I feel it would be beneficial in this circumstance to hear this!

To begin…

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, being that kid in the weight room, doing 90lb increases from set to set on the bench press because 135lbs felt easy to lifting for ego, and not for form. Take it from me, this type of mentality, missing lifts and not gradually working up to weights will stop progress in it’s tracks!

Yes, this is another instance of taking short term (instant) gratification over long term satisfaction.

Cue inspiring fitness meme.

langley bootcamp, bootcamp effect

It’s exactly this way with food.

For example, you are out with friends and you choose to have cake when you know you shouldn’t be having cake because it’s not conducive to your goals….. But you just wanted it right now because it looked good and dammit your not thinking long term!!!!

That’s taking short term gratification over long term satisfaction.

And all these little choices where you take short term satisfaction on food are f%&@ing you over with your long term fat loss goals. All these choices are compounding over time!

Yes, that’s my analogy and tangent when it pertain to your food and your goals, so now let’s get back to how this pertains to your weights and your training at bootcamp.

First and foremost…

#1. KNOW WHAT YOU LIFT. You are spending time in the gym. SO WHY NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THIS!? You should know or have a general idea of what you are lifting in each exercise and for different rep schemes… (And if you are unsure or can’t remember, start writing it down!)

For example, Your squat for 10 reps and 5 reps should be different. Straight up. If it’s not, you are not pushing yourself enough on your 5 rep squat. When you lift for 5 reps, it should be the heaviest weight you can complete with perfect form for 5 reps.

#2. So how do you know if you can go heavier? (And really the most important point of this post.)

You gradually increase the weight by assessing after each lift how hard it was for you on a scale of 1-10.

For example, on Thursday’s workout where we have 5 deadlifts, this is how I set up last week…

I felt good in the warmup, didn’t feel stiff, my hamstrings felt flexible, and felt no restrictions in my lower back.

Warmup set: I set up 225lbs for 5 as a warmup set, which is less than what I was doing for 10 deadlifts on Monday (265lbs). I completed this set and it felt easy (4 out of 10 for effort). Note: I always like to do a lighter warmup set on squats/deadlifts/bench press instead of jumping into the heavy and challenging weights to assess if my body is ready to go for today…

Set 1: Added 2 10lb plates per side (40lbs) to make it 265lbs (which I know I could do since I did that on Monday for 10 reps). Lifted and assessed the difficulty of the weight (6 out of 10).

Set 2: Yes, I can go heavier since it was (6 out of 10 on my rate of perceived exertion/difficulty), so I added a 10lb plate/side to make it 285lbs. (7 out of 10)

Set 3: Added another 10lbs per side to make it 305lbs. Now I start to feel like I am hitting the ceiling… But I was confident I could do more, so I added the 2.5lb plates to each side. (8 out of 10)

Set 4: Lifted 310lbs for 5 reps. Felt challenging. Grip strength needs improvement. Still feel like I can go heavier. (9 out of 10)

Set 5: Added 2.5lbs/side to make it 315lbs and lifted for 5 reps. Did not feel like I should go heavier today. (10 out of 10)

deadlift, bootcamp langley

Looking to next week – Next Thursday, I will assess how I am feeling and try to increase my maximum weight to 320lbs or 325lbs in the 4th or 5th set. (Depending on how each lift is going).

Small increases over time/week to week will increase your strength. If I do this continually for the next 8 weeks, I would expect to increase the weight on average by 5lbs/week (2.5lbs per side).

5lbs x 8 weeks = 40lbs added to the lift in 8 weeks!

If you do that every week and on every lift that’s some progress!

The increase in strength won’t be linear week to week, but if you rate each lift on a scale of 1-10, 1 being effortless and 10 being maximum effort, then you have a good scale of perceived exertion and can proceed from there.

8’s out of 10 are great way to progress long term, with the odd 10 in there. If you are constantly putting 10 out of 10 efforts on every lift, you will burn yourself out. When I go back to this workout next week, if I am not feeling it, I will not try to increase the weight. Listen to your body and work within those moments where you feel great!

#3. You should never really attempt another rep if you are not confident that you can complete it. Even if the workout calls for 5 reps. If you are on rep 4 and know that’s all you can do with the weight you are using then that’s ok! Don’t attempt a sloppy/dangerous 5th rep. It’s ok to do 3 reps or 4 reps on a 5 rep set. You just chose a weight that was a little too heavy, adjust the weight slightly lighter for the next set and move on. Don’t go for short term gratification. Stay injury free and seek long term satisfaction!

You don’t want to choose weights and then miss the lifts. Missing lifts on a regular basis frys your CNS (central nervous system), which affects how efficiently messages are being sent from your brain to your body and requires a few days to recover from. You’ll know you are frying your CNS, if you are chronically tired and constantly going for lifts at 9 and 10 out of 10. If you find you are not progressing week to week this is also a sign. Get more sleep, tone it down a notch, steer clear of failure, and do less work at 9 out of 10 and higher. Missing lifts/lifting too heavy is seeking short term satisfaction and won’t get you as far in the long term. Gradually increasing the weight by 5lbs/side or 2.5 lbs per side is seeking long term gratification and will make you a fitter stronger human being. Your body will not sense the difference week to week with 5lbs increases (2.5lbs per side), and you will get stronger over time. I have seen this work in almost every exercise.

To summarize how to lift for the long term at bootcamp:

  • Be a technician with your training, a lot of thought process is put into your bootcamp workouts, so maximize this!
  • Keep trying to increase the weight you are lifting with gradual increments of 2.5lbs/5lbs/10lbs. using the 1 out of 10 scale to assess the difficulty of each set.
  • Never miss a lift. If you hit a personal best on an exercise in your 3rd set, and know you cannot duplicate it, then the smart thing would be to decrease the weight in your 4th set.
  • Lift for the long term, stop frying yourself out by going for max efforts in every workout, and gradually increase your weights. In 1 year, you could add 100lbs to a lift if you do it with long term satisfaction in mind.
  • And as always, lift for strength eat for fat loss.

Committed to your long term results,
Josh Saunders, BS, CSCS
The Bootcamp Effect