Saturday, August 30, 2014


The reset is the aspirin of the lifting world, by which I mean it is the quickest “go to” solution for all problems, and as such it is constantly misused and abused by people who lack real understanding.   Not progressing in your lifts?  Reset the weight and work back up.  Form getting bad?  Reset the weight and focus on STRICT form.  Got injured?  Definitely time to reset.

Progressing too fast and making the internet jealous?  You better believe it's time to reset

Folks, doing the exact same thing and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.  If the method we were previously employing led us astray, why do we think that doing this exact same method again is the solution?  This is the same thought process employed by addicts and perpetual losers, always thinking that it’s going to just take one more score to get everything right.  We need to instead break the cycle and start working toward success.

In order to make a reset worthwhile, we must first understand how most people reset, and in turn why it fails so often.  The most standard approach to resetting is to remove 10% off of one’s current training weight while keeping everything else the same.  This is operating off of the premise that one builds momentum while lifting, and that by starting the process over, we can essentially “sneak up” past a previous sticking point, move through it, and progress towards our next sticking point before starting the process over again.  In essence, it’s an attempt to recreate “beginner gains” by intentionally creating a detrained athlete.

I ask you, dear reader, how it is that we are to get stronger by using less weight and keeping all other variables the same?  We are doing absolutely nothing to force our bodies to grow and adapt, but instead we are REWARDING it for failure.  We have trained our body to understand that, if it fails to grow stronger, we will give it a break and a chance to relax.  What incentive does this give our body to perform, knowing that failure will be met with a vacation?  We must instead train our bodies to understand that failure will only result in punishment, and in turn inspire it to constantly strive for progress for fear of the repercussions.

The Soviets charged into battle against impossible odds because it was still a better fate than what waited for them back home if they didn't

Clearly, the previous approach we were using was not a successful approach, or we would not be in a situation wherein we need to come up with a solution.  As such, I propose that, when one resets the weight, they must change the other variables as well to elicit a positive training effect and inspire progress.  Lower weights CAN make one stronger, but not when employing the exact same approach which originally led one to stall.

There are a few go to approaches that I have utilized whenever employing this strategy.  For those with limited equipment, one of the easiest ways is to increase the reps or sets you were utilizing.  Even a minor change, like one more rep per set, at least creates a different training effect than was originally being generated before, and means that, when one reaches their previously stalled weight, they will be stronger at it, for they can lift it for more reps.  One can also employ the “+” method witnessed with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and the Greyskull LP program, wherein one hits as many reps as possible on the last set of their chosen exercise, meaning that they are still growing on strength with lower weights by hitting more reps than were accomplished in previous sessions.  Rest times are another variable that can be manipulated, training the body to be stronger in a more fatigued state than before.  In all of these cases, one can leave everything else the same while still managing to elicit a new training effect.

Other more drastic changes can be employed to ensure that one gets the most from their reset while keeping things generally the same.  The movement can be the same, but set-up can be executed differently.  Bringing the grip in or out on bench or press, playing with foot placement or bar placement on squats, adding chains or bands, or other such minor tweaks can still be different enough such that you will be building strength at different angles than you previously were, which will mean that you can build up weak points you did not even know existed (referring to my previously mentioned “Accidental Strength” principle) and blow past old plateaus with new strength.

In 3 seconds, you have a totally new movement

By far though, my favored method of resetting is to employ drastic changes that in turn refresh both the mind and the body.  Change the implement that you were lifting, going from a barbell to a safety squat bar on squats, or a log on press, or a swiss bar on bench.  Switch from squats to front squats.  Swap out flat bench with inclines.  Keep the basics of the movement the same (a squat for a squat, a horizontal press for a horizontal press), but otherwise forsake your previous efforts for something completely different.  This will revitalize the previously defeated lifter, for you will have no previous PRs to compare against, which in turn means that the “reduced weight” will not cause you emotional distress, but instead simply be a new baseline.  You will once again experience the joy of setting new PRs constantly in the weight room, instead of the potential dread of hitting your previous weight and arriving at a plateau yet again.  Much like the above instance, you will be developing strength in new angles, which will mean that, should you transition back to your original method, you will have greater overall strength to play with.

The big takeaway here is obvious: you do not get different results from doing the same thing.  The only way to achieve something different is to do something different.  One of the greatest freedoms when it comes to lifting is when you aren’t progressing, because at that point you are free to do anything, since what you are presently doing is not working.  Don’t squander this opportunity by following the same obviously flawed plan, do something new, learn, and grow.

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