In my time training, I’ve observed statements from people that always tend to fascinate me. In this instance, I’m speaking primarily of those statements relating to being pushed to the limit. People will talk about how, during their training, they felt like they were going to puke, or that their limbs were going to break, or their ACL was going to snap, etc etc. Invariably, whenever I ask these people when the last time they’ve vomited during training, or broke a limb, or ruptured a ligament, the answer is always the same; they’ve never done it. So how the hell do they know that’s what they were feeling? How the hell do they KNOW that they were at their limit? What if they had more, MUCH more, to give? The only way to know for sure is to push it until it breaks.
Well this won't take long
“It sounds like you WANT people to get injured!” People say that to me in such an accusatory tone. Yes; I DO want people to get injured, mainly because I want people to get enlightened, and there is no better teacher. You simply cannot grasp this sensation through word of mouth or books and articles; this is experience, and it’s PERSONAL experience for how your body operates. You simply can’t know your limits without having reached them, and without knowing them you’ll never know when you’re actually approaching them in your training. You’ll never know your true tolerance for punishment or true potential until you’ve overreached, surpassed it and suffered the consequences.
“But my progress?!” you cry. Surely an uninjured athlete will make more progress overtime compared to an athlete who receives an injury, no? What silly logic! If I take my formula 1 racer and crash it into the wall at 160 mph after a year of driving, I’ll still have it rebuilt and back on the road before you reach where I was in your little red wagon. Bizarre metaphors? But of course, but surely you follow. The person constantly pushing to the limit is going to make more progress than the trainee who does not know where that limit is and plays so far on the safe side that they spin their wheels. Because guess what; you can actually GO to 90% of your max when you know what your max is, but when you don’t, your “90%” may actually be 80, or 70, or 40. While progressing at the rate that you think is “optimal”, you may in fact be barely treading water.
Pictured: Most people performing "HIIT"
And UNTIL you actually break, you’ll be progressing as fast and as hard as you possibly can be. AND you’ll find that it’s really hard to actually reach your limit. Sure, it’s there, but it’s buried DEEP. Your body doesn’t like going there, and your brain has a bunch of halting mechanisms in place to prevent you from reaching it, which means you’ll have AMPLE time to keep training and chugging along before you really truly find your breaking point. And all the way through you’ll be making better and better progress, further and further separating yourself from the pack. And when you get hurt? You’ll now be so familiar with your limits that recovery will be a breeze. You’ll know exactly what you are capable of and for how long, and you’ll know how to push yourself back to where you need to be, and you’ll bounce back so much faster that you’ll STILL be lapping those folks taking it safe and playing the long game.
And knowing your limits is just one of the many benefits you’ll derive from this practice; think too of how many useful training tools you will be exposed to in your quest to find out where your breaking point is. You’ll get to know how to effectively employ intensity modifiers ala the HIT Jedis, how to run 2 a days to maximal benefit, how to effectively train everyday, how to tack conditioning onto lifting, etc etc. All those taboo ideas that are “best left to people who know what they are doing” are suddenly open to YOU, because you KNOW what you are doing. You have been there and you have done that! Why do you need someone’s permission when you can just be an experienced traveler on the path who, en route to their own self-destruction, personally observed and experienced concepts that others only whispered about?
"That can't POSSIBLY work", yeah, until it does
"That can't POSSIBLY work", yeah, until it does
And in all this we’ve not even begun to address the benefit of knowing your limits regarding lifting technique. There is an epidemic of young lifters believing that the slightest rounding of the back in any lift is to guarantee a lifetime of paralysis, and in turn these trainees only perform lifts with the strictest of form…and a total lack of effort. Form deviates under extreme circumstances, and the trainee that has reached his limits will KNOW the sensation of doing so such that, when they are actually approaching said limits, they know when to shut it down. I am known for my awful form on most lifts, but even I have my limits. In my 4th strongman competition, while performing a last man standing tire deadlift, I had successfully performed a clean rep with 680lbs, but upon my attempt at 720lbs I felt the distinct sensation of my vertebrae separating and knew at that moment to shut it down. I have felt pain during deadlifts, I have felt pressure, I have felt things pop and snap and click and grind, but this very sensation was something so completely alien and distinct that I could recognize it right away for the legitimate warning that it was and live to fight another day. How many others have been doing the same for far less significant concerns?
You have limits: now go find them.