Planning, Seatbelts, and Iron

I would submit to you that many of us who enjoy strength training have an aggressive nature.  It takes some level of aggression to voluntarily take time out of your schedule to pick heavy things up and put then down.  Aggression is a double-edged sword.  While an aggressive nature can get you places, if not sufficiently restrained it can occasionally get us into trouble.


My shoulder injury caused me to take stock of my mindset and planing.  Based upon an assessment of my own aggression and how I have applied it in a strength training context I have incorporated two overlapping concepts that will help me keep my aggressive nature in check.  These concepts serve as a seat belt so to speak to make sure that while I am driving fast towards my goal I don’t accidentally launch myself through the windshield.


The first concept is the use of fractional plates.  A fractional plate is a plate that weighs a fraction of the plates that you normally find in your gym.  I purchased two sets of the “Olympic 2 Inch Fractional Plates (Seconds)” from Iron Woody Fitness CLICK and they are outstanding.  I can now add as little as a half pound to the bar if I need to.  As someone who is still experiencing neophyte gains this slow progression during my volume phases ensures that my nervous system (nearly instantaneous adaptation), muscular (3-4 day adaptation), and connective tissue (30-40 day adaptation) all occur as close to each other as possible.  When one adaptation gets ahead of another that is when the risk of injury increases.  For now I am adding 1.5 pounds to upper body exercises and 2.5 pounds to lower body exercises each week during volume phases.  Slow and steady wins the race.  (Thanks to MeatPlow at IrongarmX for educating me on these CLICK.)


The second concept is the use of Rates of Perceived Exertion or RPEs as authored by Mike Tuchscherer and Reactive Training Systems (RTS) CLICK.


10- Maximal. No reps left in the tank.

9- Last rep is tough, but still 1 rep left in the tank.

8- Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed, but is not a struggle. 2-4 reps left.

7- Weight moves quickly when maximal force is applied to the weight. “Speed weight”

6- Light speed work. Moves quickly with moderate force.

5- Most warm-up weights

4- Recovery. Usually 20+ rep sets. Not hard, but intended to flush the muscle.

RPEs below 4 are not important.

In reviewing previous volume phases I determined I was at an RPE of 9 or higher when I should have been at an 8.  The range of eight is quite large so I asked Mike Tuchscherer for more guidance and he provided the below chart which refines things a bit.


The RPE system is excellent because I can utilize it during both volume and intensity phases to ensure I am working hard enough, while not working too hard and thus possibly risking injury.

A one-liner that I feel is applicable to my line of thinking is when the actor John C. McGinley, who, while playing Con McCarty in the film “Get Carter” advised Sylvester Stallone’s character of Carter that “If you don’t take care of business, the business will take care of you.”  So true — especially in strength training.  Fractional plates and RPEs are how I take care of business.

"If you don't take care of business, the business will take care of you."

“If you don’t take care of business, the business will take care of you.”

The fun / interesting part of strength training is figuring out, based upon your body’s capabilities and limitations and time available, how to work hard enough to gain but not injure yourself and at the same time rest enough to ensure recovery but not rest too much and get rusty skill-wise or lose strength.  At the end of the day balance is the key.