GABRIEL JONES PERFORMANCE
1 DEC 2023
What if I told you there was a way you could remove all doubts about when and when not to increase load?
I marvelled at the genius of this simple strength gaining rule from Dr. Andy Galpin during his guest appearance on the Huberman Lab podcast.
See the thing is, most people simply don’t know how to accurately judge their current strength/fitness state, and the people who do, often don’t know how to accurately increase difficulty by just the right amount to continue steady progress and remain injury free.
I know so many people who just aren’t sure how strong they actually are. They need to always be under the guidance of a professional and be told when to increase the weight, and are relying on the trainer to have the correct understanding - and as much as having a PT can be an incredible advantage, they can get it wrong, because they are not you and have no idea what you are actually feeling.
But there is a way that both trainer and client can ‘know’ within a pretty high degree of accuracy, exactly when it is time to up the ante. And this my friends, is where the ‘two-for-two’ rule comes in.
You see, when your physical ‘limit’ remains an area largely unexplored, it can be not only daunting when you finally enter that space, but also wildly inaccurate when it comes to judging your proximity to your true ceiling during the experience. Our brain is a security-seeking machine which clings to ‘the known’ and attempts to steer away from alarm - so if it is able to bring you comfort by saying ‘that was the limit’, when in fact it was nowhere near, it will do that. Our brains have no qualms whatsoever about lying to us to maintain the status quo.
So what is the result of this? We spend the majority of time working at the same training load, rarely ever increasing, varying or progressing the constraints, or conversely, we make a rash decision to increase training load when it isn’t warranted, which leads to injury, setback and an ultimate return to square one.
What am I gonna do about that? Implement a hard, fast rule, that’s what.
STEP 1: Work to an initial rep goal
The typical rep-ranges for the desired adaptation have been discussed on this newsletter many-a-time, have a browse and see for yourself, but generally I’m referring to these kind of rep-ranges:
Hypertrophy: 8-15 (but can technically be a lot higher, up to 30)
So let’s say the objective is to bench press 5 reps at 50kg, I will try to achieve that rep goal for that training load for at least a couple of consecutive sessions. Get to 5, and stop. That way, I’ve proven to myself that I can hit the rep goal, and then I’ve consolidated that the following week and given my body and brain the confidence that I’m capable with this load.
STEP 2: Subscribe to my premium newsletter, there’s a new one out next week 👀
What I meant to say was…
STEP 2: Perform 2 reps beyond the rep goal
Now comes the first ‘2’. In this 3rd session, my question now is can I perform 2 reps beyond the goal? This is for the final set only. So if I get to 7 reps on the final set I can tick off that first 2.
STEP 3: Do the same again next week
Here comes the second ‘2’ - ‘can he do it on a wet Tuesday night in Stoke?’ - can I match that same quality and complete 7 reps on the final set for a 2nd week in a row. If I can do that convincingly (no obviously poor form, no pain/discomfort), then I can tick off that second ‘2’, and this is my signal to progress.
STEP 4: Increase the load the following week
‘Increase by how much?’ I hear you cry. Well, I’m going to leave you with a little gem from Dr. Dan Cleather, who suggested to me and my masters colleagues something along the lines of - ‘let’s say I tasked you with increasing your training load by 2.5-5kg, every 3 months, reckon you could do it? (Pretty easy, we all say) Okay, and reckon you could do it consistently? Right, now just imagine how f**king strong you would be if you did that for 10 years’.
I’ll let you do the maths. But to answer your question, I think increasing by a couple of kg’s each time is plenty.
Deload - Plan deload weeks into your training schedule where you cut the volume of your training down by about half. This doesn’t mean you need to reduce intensity (eg. Don’t lift lighter if you don’t want to) - but a training session which includes 15 sets of pushing exercises should only include 7 or 8, for example. Or if you train your pushing muscles (chest, triceps, shoulders) twice per week on a normal week, you would just carry out 1 session instead.
Acclimatise before attacking the +2 - I really mean this one, hence the extra emphasis here. There will be some eager beaver out there who reads this and thinks they are going to literally spend 2 weeks on each training load, squeezing out +2 every time and increase the training load twice per month. Nah mate, I’ve got my best physio on speed dial for you. Spend a couple of sessions getting used to hitting the rep goal for that exercise. Then when you feel good and almost ‘too’ confident, hit your first +2, then again the week after, so your phase at a given workload lasts around a month.