“Make it look pretty” or, “Make it look easy” are phrases that you’ll hear our coaches say often. Generally there are two reasons for that: 1. It encourages good form and 2. it’s part of maintaining an 80% effort range. A couple of months ago we started a monthly PR (personal record) board at Ambition. I for one am proud to display our members accomplishments each month on the board. It not only gives these members recognition for their hard work and improvement but also shows others what is possible.
By nature, setting a personal record is likely going to require 100% effort. This tends to run counter to the idea of training in the 80% zone, obviously. And let’s be honest, if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in a weight room, you know that PRs are rarely pretty. Think about the last time you did absolutely as many pull ups or push ups as you could. Did the last one look like the first? Was it pretty? Not likely. I remember once setting a clean and jerk PR and upon receiving a congrats I commented on how it wasn’t pretty. Coach Greg Everett who was helping me at the time then said something along the lines of, “Hey, a PR is a PR. When I set a PR it usually looks like I’ve never lifted before.” I found this to be both amusing and true. If your sole goal is to lift the most weight possible then that’s your life. It won’t always be pretty but you have a specific goal. However, if as a trainee your goals are less performance based and more so to feel good and look better naked, the long term benefits of training at about 80% effort are superior. A full explanation of that is for another time.
Fear not though. If PRs were pointless I would have never started the monthly board in the first place. You should still in fact be getting stronger, or “better” on the regular. Sure your pants might be fitting differently but how else are we going to gauge progress? There are a couple of ways to look at this. First off, in my opinion, the essence of 80% is that some days, what used to be 80% will become easier and it’s time to step it up with another rep or another set. A PR does not have to equate to only 1 rep. It could be 3 or 5, whatever. Not only that, but consider that 80% leaves you with roughly 20% of the time to possibly step out of that zone and reach a new limit or set a PR. If you’re smart, I believe that 20% or less of the time you can be attempting or simply realizing a new PR often at random. The key is to not be expecting that you can do it every day or that you will improve linearly, like forever. Let your self regulated 80% guide you on a daily basis. Aside from a maximum weight lifted one time or maximum reps in something like the push up or pull up there are also a few other ways to calculate improvement (See Here). Thanks Dave.
Train smart, be consistent and set some PRs.
– Mike Baltren