Tip: You're Still an Ego Lifter

Newbies do it, and it can even sneak into an experienced lifter's workouts. Here's what to watch out for.

When you hear the term "ego lifting" you probably think of one-fourth squats, curls that use everything but biceps, and bench presses that double as the spotter's deadlift workout.

As a T Nation reader, you know better. However, you can easily fall prey to a more subtle version of ego lifting where you train at or too close to your 1RM.

This is especially common with the bench press and deadlift. A lifter trains hard and can eventually hit a plate milestone. It might be a three-plate bench press or a four-plate deadlift with proper form. Now he's hooked.

Each time he trains that lift, he wants that feeling again (and wants everyone in the gym to see him). As a result, his training session consists of working back up to that 1, 2 or 3RM. A typical deadlift workout might look like this:

  • Set 1: 5 x 135
  • Set 2: 3 x 225
  • Set 3: 2 x 315
  • Set 4: 1 x 365
  • Set 5: 1-2 x 405

The problem with subtle ego lifting is that the intensity is too high. This can easily lead to burnout, plateaus, and injury. The other problem? The volume is too low to actually build muscle and achieve long-term strength gains.

If you're serious about results, swap subtle ego training for true strength building. True strength building is when you...

  • Check your ego at the door
  • Come to the gym to build strength, not to demonstrate it
  • Lift heavy, but not maximal, weights
  • Train hard, but leave a rep or two in the tank each set
  • Use a moderate, repeatable amount of volume (3x5, 5x5, 4x6, 3x8, 5-8x3)
  • Work on your weaknesses

A true strength training deadlift workout might look like this:

Warm-up sets

  • Set 1: 5 x 135
  • Set 2: 3 x 225
  • Set 3: 2 x 275
  • Set 4: 1 x 315
  • Set 5: 1 x 345

Work sets

  • 2-3 sets of 5 reps with 365

This may not seem as cool at first, but this is a very easy way to add 5-10 pounds per week for quite a while. Before long you'll be doing a perfect set of 5 with your old 1RM.

Andrew Heming is a strength coach, professor, and former Canadian University U-Sport head strength coach. Andrew helps athletes and skinny hardgainers get bigger, faster, and stronger. Follow Andrew Heming on Facebook