This year I will have been coaching for 8 years. In that time, I've butted heads with many clients, some more than once, about how they do not need to always be lifting at their heaviest or at their hardest. You will continue to grow with sub-maximal work, you'll continue to grow with rest and recovery and you will definitely continue to grow by changing things up a little bit.
I find that right now, May 2021, people are falling into two camps when it comes to their training.
They are either -
- Really surprised by how well their strength has maintained on their return to lockdown, or
- Trying really hard to make up for lost time with the gym.
The majority of people are experiencing the first one. Their body has thanked them for the forced rest and it has held on to the majority of their strength and muscle mass. If anything, they might feel a little fatigued when doing higher rep sets, but their strength is still comparable to when they left.
It's hard to gain strength, but luckily, it is also hard to lose it.
For me, I was competing quite actively between the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2016. In March of 2016, I got a pretty annoying injury, I kept trying to throw myself straight back into powerlifting but it never really worked again. I competed again in June and got somewhat close to my best, but not quite. I then got injured again, recovered, tried to come back, got injured again.
This cycle continued for a bit.
In 2018, I decided to take a step back and do more bodybuilding style of work. After a year, and a 22kg drop in weight, I then decided to pursue powerlifting again.
Between August of 2019 and January of 2020 I shifted my focus back towards powerlifting, but with a lot of bodybuilding elements. In this time my strength returned far quicker than I could have hoped for.
Despite competing 7kg lighter than my previous competition weight, I came very close to matching my old strength. A lot closer than when I focused purely on powerlifting with intense workouts and very little time to recover.
In no way am I saying that powerlifting = bad. What I am saying is that sometimes banging your head against a wall to eke out small improvements only leads to frustrations, sometimes it can be good to step back to rest, or step back to focus on the foundations.
What You Can Take From This.
If you're at a point where you're constantly trying to go a bit heavier or a bit harder with training but feel like you're not quite getting anywhere, maybe you need to step back and try something different for a bit.
You only have to look on social media to see a number of top powerlifters who step away from powerlifting to go into things like bodybuilding, or simply just don't compete for a while. This removal of physical and mental pressure can be crucial to bring you back to a sport you love, refreshed.