T Nation

Does Grinding Kills Progression?


#1

Hey Paul,

I never fully understood the concept of no grinding in strength training. I’ve been recently reading your and Coach Thib’s articles on how too much grinding can cause CNS fatigue that is hard to recover on a weekly basis and eventually halt progression.

After the first 3-4 weeks of whichever program, I start grinding due to progressing to heavier weights. To prevent grinding, I need to lift the same weight without an increase. However if I progress and increase the weight, I grind and then stop progressing after 6-7 weeks overall. How would you solve this dilemma? How does one lifts explosively and reps cleanly while progressing to heavier weights?

Thanks a lot!


#2

Great question! I found this out first hand when I was powerlifting.

What we know is that moving sub maximal weights with great velocity activates the high threshold motor units. So it’s important to use enough weight so that there’s carry over to the bigger weights later, but not so heavy that it taxes the sympathetic nervous system so that systemic recovery takes a big dive.

When that happens, there’s a depression in neural output so your ability to move big weights is diminished. Getting out of this kind of recovery debt can take a couple of weeks. This is why you will often hit a big PR, then see a dive in your ability to lift big weights, even feeling weaker, then it leveling back out to your normal range a few weeks after that. That’s homeostasis finding equilibrium again and going back to your strength “set point”.

You can get as strong as you’ll ever get using low reps in the sub 90% range, without ever having this setback happen. So use your volume work in the 65-85% range but move those weights as explosively as possible.


#3

Yes exactly, it’s very frustrating to hit a big PR and seeing that strength decrease right after.

I see, but how do you increase that “set point”? Through minimal increments? Because on linearly progressing programs (say Texas Method for ex), it’s impossible to not max out eventually after some time. Or Westside, where you try to improve week by week ,whether by increasing weight, adding more numbers, or PR’ing on a different exercise?


#4

That just comes from consistency and over a period of time. There’s no magic way other than the work that has to be done. When I finally figured all of this out (more or less, or at least to some degree) I quit grinding, and focused on using sub max weights and trying to be as explosive as possible with a fair amount of volume on the competitive lifts. I would only work into the heavy intensities for a couple of weeks max before a meet. Outside of that, I rarely trained heavy. It was about being explosive. And when I could do say, 5 sets of 5 at a particular weight, where all 5 sets were super fast, then I’d up it a little after that. I didn’t rush it. Most guys are in a hurry to get weight on the bar, and they don’t realize there’s no real short cut. And when you try to find short cuts you usually end up with setbacks. Like injuries, or downturns in strength. There’s no way to “weighthack” this process.


#5

Gotcha, I used to be one of those rushers but waking up to this now after years :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot again!