All sports include an important neurological component, and strength sports are no different. A massive element to lifting maximum poundage is the ability to activate as many muscle fibers into a lift as possible; this, along with the technique, is how you can gain muscle. This is true for increasing actual strength or muscle mass because increased poundage will increase muscle mass and strength. So, how do we develop neurological ability? I’ll tell you how I do it!
- Max-Out Day: For this example, I will use a common exercise, the bench press. My maximum bench press was 315 lbs. for one repetition, I would warm up with sets of one repeatedly using 50% – 95% of my maximum. Once I achieved 95% of my maximum, I would do one rep for as many sets as possible. You might ask why? If I had lifted my max, I went up to 315 lbs./100% of my one-rep max; I’d be smoked and only able to get 1 set of 1 with the weight. So instead, what I’d do is stick with 95% of my one rep max and do as many sets of 1 as I possibly could and own that weight. To finish the workout, I’d do one last set of as many reps as possible with a weight that was 75% of my max. Finally, I’d do accessory work (dips, fly, etc.) to finish the workout. As you progress, you will find that your max-out weight will increase, and you will be able to do more sets of one repetition. This style of training is excellent for competition! On max-out days, you build confidence handling very heavyweights. In addition, the low reps mean that your heavy sets won’t tear down your muscles too much or require a lengthy recovery period.
- Speedwork Day: On speedwork day, you will use 50% of your one-rep max weight. The idea is you want to move the weight as quickly and explosively as possible so you can do anywhere between one to three reps per set. The primary goal here is speed, and you need to drop the weight down and explode it up as fast as possible. If you start to slow down on any of your sets of reps, you want to end the speed work. Think of a sprinter running the 100-meter sprint in 10 seconds and practicing repeatedly. If you start to come in at 11 or 12 seconds, it’s time to stop. Perform as many sets as possible if you are still exploding on every set. After your speed work, do your normal accessory work. It’s nice because you will still be fresh for your accessory work these days and won’t require much recovery from these workouts. The speedwork day is all about training your central nervous system and firing up all the muscle fibers in the movement.
Tip: You can add bands or chains to the weight as well on speed rep days but might want to decrease the weight on the bar if you do.
Max Out & Speed Days are meant to be cycled into your regular workouts at any time. For example:
- Week 1 – Regular Workout Routine
- Week 2 – Max-Out Day & Regular Workout Routine
- Week 3 – Regular Workout Routine
- Week 4 – Speedwork Day & Regular Workout Routine
I made some of the most significant strength gains of my life training like this, and I know you can too!