Lifting heavy weight is hard!!! Its REALLY hard! But lifting weights that were a physical impossibility a short time ago is one of the most profound, self-affirming, righteous achievements any human can experience. Think about it. Is there any greater existential metaphor than lifting an object that you absolutely could not budge a few short weeks ago? It really is an astounding achievement; biologically, psychologically, spiritually and physically. I have seen it reduce people to tears. Not tears of pain but tears of joy; tears built up from decades of deep-rooted self-doubt, obliterated in a second by an irrefutable, physical manifestation of the power of their own will. It is a deeply, uniquely wonderful achievement.
It takes an extraordinary coach to structure training regimes and develop exercise techniques that enable clients to reliably lift ever more weight, to the limits of human potential. It is an extreme, rare talent that most certainly does not come from textbooks. Nor does it come automatically with time. It requires years of personal dedication to the craft; the ability to mix art and intuition with a lot of science; volumes of trial and error case studies; obsessive focus; and constant, restless dissatisfaction with results.
Becoming an exceptional strength coach takes that same rare kind of passion and nous as found in the people who lead industries or create disruptive technologies; though usually without the same financial return. And, like with the invention of any truly disruptive technology, the essence of a strength coach’s success is that exceedingly rare ability to simplify. All exceptional teachers are exceptional for their ability to make things that are intrinsically hard, easier. It is the same goal as virtually everything in nature: make easier that which is currently hard, so as to make possible that which is currently impossible.
Like in other industries, compared with the best, most professional coaches are not particularly good. Most will actually fail to achieve much beyond mediocre strength performances for themselves or their clients. Like in other industries, most coaches will simply copy what others before them have said, adding nothing but diluting a lot. Most will focus so hard on the difficulty and complexity of lifting heavy weights that they will forget that their job is actually to make it easier.
Is there any greater existential metaphor than lifting an object that you absolutely could not budge a few short weeks ago? It really is an astounding achievement; biologically, psychologically, spiritually and physically.
Faced with a lack of talent to overcome the difficulty and complexity of lifting heavy weights, some coaches have turned to teaching people how to struggle to lift light weights. In other words, they coach people on how to be weak. Instead of making something hard into something easier, they make something easy into something hard and try to sell the transformation as being equivalent. It is not. It is the opposite. It not only lacks similar virtue; it is evil and deceitful.
In case it needs to be stated, lifting light weight is not hard. You do not need to learn how to lift less or lift slowly; you can already lift as little as you like, as slowly as you like. Artificially making light weights seem hard is not a positive achievement. It is akin to learning how to make mathematical equations more complex in order to get the wrong answer. Developing the ability to disingenuously make something more difficult than it needs to be – thereby making the possible, impossible – is anathema to the objective of virtually every natural law of the universe. It is not righteous or virtuous to struggle to lift less than you can lift. It is either dishonest, dumb or both.
Justifications for Weak Coaching
Any justifications for training to be weak are either wrong or proof of a coach’s incompetence. For example, I have already written about the factually incorrect usage of the ‘time-under-tension’ term. Another popular excuse is the claim that heavy weights cause injury. Such a claim by a Coach is nothing more than an admission that they are incompetent when it comes to lifting heavy weights safely. Thousands of people safely lift huge weights every minute, of every day, all over the world. The rate of injury is insignificant compared to any other speed or contact sport. If a coach cannot teach how it is done, it is not because it cannot be done. It is because they are not competent.
Instead of making [heavy weights] easier, they make [light weights] hard and try to sell the transformation as being equivalent. It not only lacks similar virtue; it is evil and deceitful.
Justifications for Strength
If you are training with weights it is probably because you have some intrinsic recognition that your dream body can lift more than you currently can? Your dream body can probably lift much, much more. When you think about it, you can probably already do every single thing with weights that your dream body might be capable of except lift the same weights. You can already move slowly, go to the gym every day, do every exercise, do high reps, do multiple sets, do long or short rests, and do multiple exercises per muscle; if the weights are light enough. You can do everything your dream body can do except do those things with heavy weight. So really, the only performance attribute that you lack, compared to your dream body, is the ability to lift heavier weight.
At some stage, somehow, in the process of creating your dream body you will need to become capable of lifting the maximum weights your dream body is capable of lifting. I would have thought it would be logical to train to lift the heavier weights you want to be capable of lifting? It is not logical to train to be incapable of lifting those weights, and hope that your body decides to gift you with the ability you trained not to attain. That would be like lobotomising yourself in the hope of becoming a grand chess champion. Or severing your spine in the hope of becoming a world champion sprinter. It just doesn’t make sense.
Making light weights feel heavy does not make you able to lift heavy weights safely. It makes you incapable of lifting heavy weights at all. That is not a solution to anything. That is not “functional”. That is not “smarter”. Thats training to suck. And if you want to suck at lifting weight, just don’t train! There’s some coaching you can have for free!
As discussed above, lifting heavier weights than you were previously capable of lifting is an exceedingly profound and righteous achievement. It is also the very purpose of weight training! It follows, therefore, that being coached to be incapable of lifting what you can already lift is an horrendous misdirection. Whether disingenuous, malicious or just plain stupid, any coach who teaches how to make light weights harder is providing a shocking disservice to their clients! Please do not fall for this con! Find a coach who is competent instead!