Let’s Talk About Lifting Too Heavy

(I hate it when people do this but) right from the outset, this is from a natural perspective – because it has always been my understanding that for the natural lifter, if you want to get big and strong, you gotta get strong. And if you want to get strong, you gotta lift heavy. (right? Or not?)

I spend a lot of time in the 85-90% range.

I usually do every other day, full body. So I’ll do

Monday : squat (some variant) 3x3 @ 85% | horizontal push 3x3 @ 85-90% | horizontal pull 3x8 @ 80%

Tue off

Wed : hinge 3x5 @ 80% | vertical push 5x3 @ 90% | vertical pull 3x5 @ 85%

Thur off

Then on and on and off, you probably get the idea, also obviously percentages are give or take.

Then when I plateau on a lift I swap it out for another lift of the same movement pattern. So say trap bar DL’s plateau, I throw ‘em out and bring in RDL’s or whatever.

It’s a good system for an intermediate (I think) but it takes a heavy toll on my CNS. Also I do a lot of risky stuff like trap bar power shrugs for sets of 5 and the occasion 100% full zercher off the floor.

Am I lifting too heavy? My real question is this : how close to the bone does one have to lift to get bigger and stronger as a natural? If you look at Christian Thib’s best damn programme, he has people going absolutely all out on one set per movement. But I guess he uses techniques rather than pure weight?

Like if I am doing 3 x 3 bench and the last 2 reps on each set are grinders, with the 9th rep being an utter complete grinder, how much is too much?

In my heart I feel like I need to go ultra heavy to progress – I am 38, and an ectomorph so I feel like I need to do this to make gains. Although I am not particularly strong, 225 max bench, 315 max squat etc.

Before someone says linear progression, I honestly think I’ve milked it a long time ago. Or maybe I have not, and because my heart is not in linear progression then I won’t progress in it.


Not. At least, not all the time. Accumulation is pretty important, and this is time spent away from maximal poundages and more oriented toward building volume.

Based on what you’ve described, I think time away from maximal poundages would be good for you.


Someone once described BBing as the process of getting stronger in the 8-12 rep range. I tend to agree.


hmm ok thanks for your feed back guys. i will force myself to work in the higher rep ranges lol.

i think a lot of this stems from laziness. it’s actually easier to knock out a 1RM zercher bulgarian lite style and go home than it is to sit through 60-70 minutes of excruciating lactic acid build up.

i think anyone can do 12 reps if the first ten are easy. different story if it gets hard at about rep 5, and i think i have built up an aversion to that ha.

Christian’s program is for gaining muscle, not building strength. Also, frequently trying to get stronger by lifting in the +85% is very fucking hard and will take a toll on you if you don’t back off. It’s a whole lot easier getting stronger in the 6-10 RM range than the 1-5 RM. In addition, it gives you a mental break plus a change which’s needed in training. I actually did something similiar to what you’re doing ( the big 4 twice a week with +85% of my max),got good gains at first, but hit a plateau and lost my pleasure and motivation for training. After that, I lightened the weight, got more volume in , and boom… gains. Just my 2 cents man

To get stronger, you lift submaximally. To test your strength, you lift at or near your 1 RM, as you are doing. Luckily, others have figured this out for you and there or many templates that will have you do a prescribed number of reps and sets at a % of your maximum capibility. I would say the most common is in the 4-6 rep range for gaining strength for the big lifts.

I always heard that BBing was about “looking like you could lift a house” (meaning: aesthetics is the primary driver of your training approach), which is a different approach to training than getting bigger and stronger to actually lift a house (where performance is the primary driver of your training approach).

I personally feel that one should lift as heavy as possible, as frequently as possible, within your ability to recover. This obviously doesn’t work for everyone. It helps knowing what type of lifter you are. If you are naturally explosive, you are likely to see more progress with lower to moderate rep ranges and relatively heavy weight. 2-6 reps and loads at 85% and under. I rarely go over 85% of my 1rm. Maybe once or twice a year. Even if my focus is hypertrophy, I usually look to moderately heavy to heavy clusters and manipulate density. I use lighter sessions twice a week as well, generally in the 65-75% range. If I could recover from three or four heavy sessions a week, I definitely would be, instead of the lighter sessions, but then again, it’s a good opportunity to work on building a base and aids in recovering from the heavier sessions. If living in the higher intensity zones are taking a toll, I would suggest reducing the frequency, that you lift in those zones, rather than scrapping your heavy sessions all together, while replacing them with moderate to light intensity sessions. I would stay under 90% of 1rm as well.

That sounds a good concept.

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I usually hit a 6 week block of accumulation and then 6 week block of the heavier stuff and rotate it around, you’ll spin your wheels if your just hammering intensity all the time

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Personally, I tend to go lighter on the big, compound lifts most of the time (70-80% range), but on things like isolation lifts done for purely hypertrophy I tend to push harder to near failure. Always pushing the big lifts to failure will only lead to burn-out and injury over time, and really does not help much with strength.

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