Max Effort, A Pathway to the Unconscious

Written by: Kevin Cann

Sports is a way that man can look into his own soul.  Unfortunately, competitive athletics is typically reserved for those that display skills at a high level.  This is more and more true the older we get.  Powerlifting on the other hand is a sport where we are in constant competition with ourselves to better ourselves.  This sport is available to almost everyone.

The information available on the internet tends to lean towards the nuances of training that might be applicable to a fraction of a percentage of the lifters that participate in the sport.  The majority of the people will last less than 5 years and will not be consistent enough, or work hard enough, to concern themselves with too many of the nuances of training.  World level lifters and lifters that have a long training history of well over 5 years might need to pay attention to the nuances.

This actually creates more problems than it is helpful.  The internet is flooded with inexperienced and uneducated coaches that coach inexperienced and uneducated lifters.  This leads to a false sense of knowledge when their ideas work.  Everything works in beginners.  Training should give every participant something that they can take into their lives because most will not break records or win world titles.

The conjugate program, with its weekly max effort work, is a way that we can explore the unconscious parts of our mind.  Taking lifts to a maximum every week is sure to bring about some emotions.  This gives us the ability to explore those emotions.

There is information that suggests that certain programs are better for certain personality types.  The problem with this is that the idea is too simple.  Not one individual within the same personality type is exactly the same and no one is that personality type in every single situation.  Think of introverts and extroverts.  No one is 100% one or the other.

When we approach a max lift, people will put weight on the bar, or won’t, for different reasons.  Let us say we are in a situation where we just hit a single where we have one attempt left that will give us a PR.  This last attempt was difficult and we are unsure what to do next.

One person might not even think twice and just put that PR weight on the bar.  Another might think about it and watch the video a few times before deciding to put the weight on the bar.  Another might logically explain why they are choosing not to put the weight on the bar.  All of these situations are an opportunity to look more closely at ourselves.

Our consciousness exists for us to filter out the unconscious that would isolate us from society.  We are not in as much control as we think we are.  Research has looked at this extensively.  In one study, the researchers flashed a message on a screen that was there too quickly to be picked up by conscious awareness.  The message said to “walk” and when it appeared the participants would get up and walk.  When they exited the trailer on their walk they were asked where they were going.  All of them made up a story such as “Going to get a Coke.”  They were all unaware that their subconscious brain was making them act.

We can even look more closely at the examples above and break them down even more.  Maybe someone shows no hesitation to put the PR on the bar because they have confidence, maybe someone else that shows no hesitation is clinging to hope that things have not slid backwards due to a loss of control in their lives.

Powerlifting is an objective sport that gives us objective information about whether we are improving or not and we all participate in this sport because we want to improve.  We can use these opportunities to reflect upon our emotions and decision making.  Did we logically explain why we didn’t put the PR weight on the bar because we are scared that we are not getting better?  Perhaps we know that we have not been as focused or as dedicated as we would like and we do not want to face the outcomes for that?  This can be the same as someone putting the weight on the bar hoping that the outcomes are positive when perhaps they have not been doing what is necessary to get better.

Our consciousness can use us the same way as in the study mentioned above and tell us that our RPEs are lower than what they really are and that everything is just fine.  A conjugate program is much more objective and will tell you.  Ultimately you either hit a PR or you didn’t.

You must self-reflect in order to grow from these experiences.  It is not enough to just run though the program.  Most will not want to look internally because it is difficult and very uncomfortable.  We even will protect our vulnerabilities from ourselves, but true strength lies in our ability to be vulnerable.  First with ourselves and then with others.

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