Why You Should Feel Like A Wimp When You Lift (At Least Sometimes)

Swagga: I feel it when I lift. I’m not sure what it looks like on the outside, but when I’m in the zone, I’m Sarah Connor, battling the Terminator and looking cool doing it. Coiled tight with exquisite tension, I’m just one breath away from unleashing devastation all around me.

Pure, intoxicating nirvana. You know what I mean, right?

Why You Should Feel Like A Wimp When You LiftMy swagga used to be so dominant that I couldn’t stand to decrease the weight for any reason – back-off weeks, higher reps, or even injuries. I didn’t have very impressive gains back then, either.

Swagga fuels me to push harder, and pushing harder fuels my swagga. But along with weight room badassery, I’ve learned that feeling humble has to happen in the gym, too.

You’ve got to feel weaker to get stronger. Feeling uncomfortable, even awkward, means you’re doing it right. If you’re always rocking the lifts with ease, you aren’t growing.

What It Means To Feel Weaker For Gains

We tend to get caught up in reps, sets, and how much weight we lift. We rely on these variables as the end-all be-all to stimulating new muscle growth and getting stronger.

But what really stimulates growth is setting yourself up to feel weaker in the weight room.

To see what I mean, do your workout a little differently next time:

  • Giant sets instead of supersets
  • Body weight speed squats at the end of your workout
  • Push presses instead of regular overhead presses
  • Neutral-grip pull-ups instead of chin-ups
  • Reverse pyramids instead of ascending pyramids
  • High reps (15-20) and low weight instead of moderate reps/weight
  • Pause reps, drop sets, and eccentrics

These techniques are just a few examples of how you can feel weaker instantly, yet stronger in the long term. They aren’t new or revolutionary, but if you’re like most lifters, you forget to add them on a regular basis.

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Another method I use to connect with my humble side is to do isolation exercises before big, compound movements:

  • Lateral shoulder raises before shoulder presses
  • Calf raises or leg extensions before squats
  • Lying leg curls before deadlifts
  • Straight-arm pull-downs before pull-ups

These are called pre-exhaustion sets, and experienced lifters use them on occasion to break through plateaus.

I see your eyes bulging… “What?! That would compromise my performance on my big lifts! I would never partake in such a thing – ludicrous.”

I get it, because that’s how I usually view my own workouts. My singular focus is performing well on my first big lift – bench, pull-ups, squats, or deadlifts. I warm up enough to get the blood flowing and let loose on those heavy sets.

The thing is, if you always train that way, you’re bound to hit a plateau. That’s not to say you did anything wrong; plateaus are rather common. But if you get outside your comfort zone, your plateaus will be fewer and farther between. (For the record, it’s much more fun preventing plateaus than trying to break out of them.)

With pre-exhaustion sets, you will feel weaker during your main lift. Your primary movers have to work harder. That’s a good thing.

Your body’s ability to adapt to a particular mode of training is a wonder to behold. Just witness how fast you can adapt to any new routine, like daily walking or taking the stairs. When you do something consistently, it can take mere days to master a new level of physical ability.

That’s why, although being a mofo badass is great fun, you’ve got to feel humble in the gym once in awhile to experience gainz.

This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.

9 thoughts on “Why You Should Feel Like A Wimp When You Lift (At Least Sometimes)

  1. This is an awesome post. I always felt like I should be doing less weight and more reps because people would judge me if I could barely lift a heavier weight. Thanks for giving me the great confidence to lift how I want to.


  2. I’d imagine this is a lot easier to do when you’re really strong already – I mean, if you can only squat 225 then you’re going to feel like a noodle dropping it down to 135 for higher reps. But if you can squat 405 and you’re dropping it to 275 or something for higher reps, that’s still really impressive and I wouldn’t feel weak at all squatting that even if it’s technically “weak for me”

    Just another reason to get even stronger I suppose 🙂


    • Haha, so true. The more I learned about programming, the less I noticed others or cared what they thought of me. Nowadays, I can pick up 5-lb dumbbells for a burnout set and feel pretty darn good about it!


  3. “We tend to get caught up in reps, sets, and how much weight we lift.”
    I totally agree, it was only when I venture out of this repetition sometimes and train to exhaustion that I get that increment in fitness that you are always holding out for.


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