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Should You Always Lift Your Heaviest?

Written on February 1, 2008 at 12:51 pm, by Eric Cressey

Q: I have a question for you in regards to your Off-Season Training Manual. In regards to writing programs and actually doing them, how important is lifting the heaviest weight possible always?

I am for the first time getting out of progressive overload style progression and I like the layout of High, Medium, Very High, Deload. I have already started to incorporate this into my training program.

At the same time, I am fuzzy on exactly how to figure out how much weight I should be putting up week-in, week-out. With progressive overload it was pretty easier. If I did the weight one week, I move up the next.

I have read through the entire thread and you’ve only mentioned that you should always be using the heaviest possible weight. Maybe I’m over thinking this, but in my mind adding weight while removing volume is essentially the same amount of work. i.e. If I drop a set when moving from high to medium, but add 10lbs to the working weight, am I really even doing a medium amount of work? Regardless, I guess any general advice on your strategy in regards to actual weight on the bar management would be good.

A: You have to listen to your body. No, you aren’t going to PR every time you walk in the gym, but it is still important to get some work in. I’ve often said that programming is 75% in advance, and 25% on the fly. You need to learn to roll with the punches and listen to your body.

Additionally, it’s important to learn to understand how rotating your heaviest compound exercises plays into this. You’ll see that in the programs in the book, you change every other week. More advanced lifters can change weekly. Novice lifters can go 4-6 weeks without plateauing. Understand where you fall and act accordingly.

Eric Cressey

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