(MOD: please don't post if this is a duplicate post. Thanks!)
I found an interesting study on the NSCA website:
Glass SC, Stanton DR. (2004). Self-selected resistance training intensity in novice weightlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(2): 324 ? 327.
Glass, S.C., and D.R. Stanton. Self-selected resistance training intensity in novice weightlifters. J. Strength Cond. Res. 18(2):324?327. 2004.?The purpose of this study was to determine the intensity of self-selected weightlifting exercise in untrained men and women.
Thirteen men (age = 19.5 ? 1.9, height = 70.0 ? 2.4 in., weight = 174 ? 20.1 lb, % fat = 14.3 ? 6.7) and 17 women (age =18.7 ? 1.0, height = 64.9 ? 2.3 in., weight = 135.4 ? 22.8 lb, % fat= 23.4 ? 4.7) who were novice lifters completed seated bench press, leg extension, seated back row, military press, and biceps curl. Following self-selection trials, subjects' 1 repetition maximum (1RM) was assessed for each lift. Results showed that for both genders, self-selected loads were all below 60% 1RM. All lift intensities were similar for men and women (range = 42?57% 1RM).
Repetitions completed and rating of perceived exertion responses were not different between gender. Results show that subjects do not select a lifting intensity sufficient to induce hypertrophic responses and subsequent strength increases.
Now, I realize this isn't the most technical study in the world, and the authors aren't likely going to win any Nobel prizes for it, but it reinforces something I've observed and generally believe to be true: most people aren't putting out any effort in the gym.
Nobody is trying to get stronger in the movements that they do and nobody takes their sets seriously. They pussy foot around and do busy work for an hour or so and then log on here and bitch about how they can't make any progress.
NEWSFLASH: If you can sing along to the Nickelback song on the radio while you do your reps, you're not putting out enough effort.
You should have to keep your mind focused on the work at hand for every set. I'm not saying you have to snort ammonia salts and slap yourself in the face to do crunches, but maybe try to put your game face on and pretend like you care about what you're doing.
To quote Arnold from the classic "Pumping Iron"
C'MON! GET SERIOUS!