Waverly dance
Thursday, June 14, 2007
How I Lifted 50 Pounds With My Mind

One cold, winter day, about two years ago, I was preparing for my workout as usual. I had been keeping a workout log and recording my weights, sets, reps, etc., so I could track my progress and improvements. I've been working out, playing sports, and training in some way my entire life, but this was around the time that I really started to take training and nutrition seriously. Before each workout, I would look at last week's log to make sure that I pushed myself to do just one more rep and/or five more pounds than I did last time. For example, on squats, if I had done 3 sets of 10 with 200 pounds last week, then I wanted to do 3 sets of 12 with 205 pounds this week, and so on. This way, I was constantly pushing myself to improve and increasing the intensity of each workout.

OK, so back to that magical winter day. I'm looking at last week's log, and writing down all the weights and set/rep schemes for each exercise on this week's page, so I will have them to refer to and hopefully surpass for today's workout.

Workout Log for December 16, 2005

  • Dips: 5 Sets of 5

  • Deadlifts: 4 Sets of 5 and 1 Set of 4 with 135 Lbs. (couldn't quite get the last rep up on the fifth set)

  • Lunges: 2 Sets of 8 with 120 Lbs.

  • Barbell Rows: 2 Sets of 8 with 50 Lbs.

So, now it's December 23, and my goal is to increase the weight on all of last week's exercises above. Specifically, I'm determined to finish all five sets of the deadlift this week. Here's where it gets interesting. When I'm loading up the bar for deadlifts, I mistake the 3 for an 8 from last week's 135 Lbs., and without realizing it at the time, I load the bar up with 185 pounds.

Keep in mind, last week I tried as hard as I could to push through 5 sets of 135 Lbs., but just couldn't muster up enough strength to finish the last rep on the fifth set. This week I was determined to finish all 5 sets with 5 reps each, not knowing that I've mistakenly loaded the bar with 50 more pounds than last week!

I start the first set...1...2...3...4...5. "Wow, that was hard, but I'm going to finish all 5 sets this week, because I was so close last week!", I thought to myself. Second set...1...2...3...4...5. Same for the third and fourth sets at 185 pounds (even though I thought I was doing this with 135 pounds!). Now, the fifth set...1...2...3...4..."AHHHHH! (grunt, yell, scream)"...FIVE!. "Yes! Finished all five sets of five!"

I still think everything is normal, and that I had simply done what I set out to do -- one more rep at 135 Lbs. than I did last week. I continue on and finish the rest of my workout. Then, when I'm comparing this week to last week again to see where I had improved, I finally realize that I had accidentally lifted 50 more pounds on deadlifts than last week! That's 50 pounds times 5 sets of 5, for a total increase of 1,250 pounds in one week! -- all because my brain thought that everything was normal and that I had already lifted 185 pounds last week.

I had always heard the phrase, "mind over matter", but this is when I fully realized the power and truth behind those words. I had experienced "mind over matter" first hand -- and by accident. This wasn't just some small 5 pound discrepancy. We're talking about a 50 pound increase on 135 Lbs. -- that's nearly a 40% increase in 7 days! Try taking any exercise you do, whether it's squats, bench press, deadlifts, or anything else, and try to increase the weight you use by 40%, then not only do as many sets and reps as last week, but do even more! You'll quickly realize that this isn't something that just happens because you want to get strong really fast.

What's even more interesting, though not as inspiring, is that the next week (already having realized the "mistake" I made last time) I figured since I had done it once, I could load it up and do 185 Lbs. again. Unfortunately, just the simple fact of my mind knowing that last week had been a "fluke", I was barely able to get the 185 pounds up even two times on the first set. It's almost as if my body was mad at my mind for playing a trick on it.

So, even though it didn't stick (although I did gradually, over the coming months, work back up to that level), it was amazing to see what our minds are capable of achieving. For no other reason than the simple fact that I thought I had lifted 185 pounds before, I automatically assumed that I could do it again. I wish I could replicate this situation again, but, obviously, it's a little difficult to "remember to forget to remember".

I know this story sounds somewhat trivial on the surface, "Ohhhh, big deal, some guy lifted 50 pounds more than he was supposed to", but this experience has made me push harder and farther at everything I do ever since, because I now know that our bodies and minds are capable of doing much more than we expect them to or give them credit for -- now, get out there and push your mind and body to the limit (and beyond)!

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