If you are like most gym rats, you probably push yourself hard.
You take satisfaction in the knowledge that you have achieved your hard earned gains in chalk, sweat and tears. Limits have been smashed, iron like muscle has been forged, mental boundaries have been broken.
But the chances are, at some point so too have you.
If not completely, then broken enough that you've had to take considerable time out from your training. You've watched as your strength evaporated from you like steam off hot water. What was once hard, rugged athletic muscle suddenly became soft and squidgy.
It was hard for you to even recognise your own body, as your herculean efforts to get back on track, were thwarted with set back after set back.
But was it a needless mistake? Could all of this been avoided if you had just stopped one rep early? In my experience, I think so in a lot of cases. Here's 3 reasons why.
1) Chronic Sleep Deprivation Leads To 32% Decrease In Mental Alertness
Michael Bonnet and Donna L. Erand who reviewed extensive literature on sleep deprivation and the impact of mental alertness, found that mental alertness was reduced by as much as 32% when sleep was reduced by as little as 1.3 - 1.5 hours a night over the course of a week. In one study on factory workers, they where more likely to experience injury or even death (let that sink in).
So let me ask you, the last time you were badly injured, how was your mental focus? Where you a bit distracted? Where you a little sleep deprived?
If you are sleep deprived and planning on going hard at the gym, before you slap that extra weight on the bar and crank out that extra rep you may want to reconsider before you regret it. Save yourself for another day.
2) As you Mature, Submaximal Training Is a Great Option
This one is for you if you are reading this, and in your thirties, forties and beyond. I'm sure you've noticed that while you can train with a similar intensity as you once could, it's taking you longer to recover.
Maybe you can't handle as much volume? The odd niggle here and there settles in, where before you would just shrug it off, and "go hard or go home."
This was a reality that crept up on me. Now don't get me wrong, my body can still do some amazing things and I can still put up some pretty good numbers by my standards. But here is what I have noticed.
Submaximal training allows me to train hard while making gains all year round, without needless injury or a regression in performance. It's not all about the 1RM or trying to achieve a personal best every session. Stimulate don't annihilate.
So even on a good day, I'll stop one rep early. Leave the gym feeling like a beast and psyched for your next session, knowing you've got plenty left in the tank (rather than broken and deflated).
3) You Are In The Red
No I don't mean financially (that's none of my business) I'm talking about your HRV score. If you have been following my weekly blog posts on Heart Rate Variability you will know that being in the red means that your body is in freak out mode and is in the process of deep healing.
It doesn't matter if you are red sympathetic or red parasympathetic (the two branches of your automatic nervous system), if you train in this state you are setting yourself up for a host of health problems when you continue to do so. My advice would be simply don't do it.
As a mature trainee, by stopping one rep early and taking care of your health, not only will you be able to stay physically active and do the things you love for longer, but you are setting yourself up for sustainable performance in your sport or hobby into your silver years and beyond.
Don't underestimate it. The difference between you happily lifting iron, and you having a major crash or burn out, is often just one rep.