The one main thing that old-head trainers have that other trainers don’t usually have is solid intuition. Intuition is something that, over long periods of time, becomes stronger and almost second-nature. I know some intermediate trainers will claim to have it—hell, I did the same thing—but those same trainers will go many more years before realizing they didn’t have what they thought they had.
I have read several thousand of my workouts over the years. With almost forty years of training under my EliteFTS belt, that’s more workouts than most. My read is almost always right, but I admit that it’s not right 100% of the time. My leg day this week was one of those times I was wrong—really wrong.
I have been enjoying leg training for the first time in years. I am now injury-free with a knee that feels great, and I haven’t had lower-back problems in over eight years. My leg sessions have been incredible and the progression has been more than I ever thought possible after being told that I would never train legs again, roughly two years ago.
My training schedule is on a rotation right now. In the past, I would typically train legs on Thursdays and only hit them once per week. Now, I am training on a P/P/L rotation over 4 days per week. This means that whatever I train on a Monday, I train again on Friday. It rotates each week. In the past, I have not done well on a rotation like this because I struggle to keep training volume and intensity low enough to recover optimally. I’m old-school; I like more volume and intensity than I can physically handle. This time, I have kept very strict parameters around these two variables with excellent results.
Last Thursday I destroyed legs. I was scheduled to train them again on the following Tuesday and figured my increased calories from the Skipload on Sunday would help to fuel yet another great leg session. Things didn’t go to plan over the weekend, though.
Friday night I got roughly half of my usual quality sleep, and then I was up for 36 hours having not slept Saturday night. This rarely happens but sometimes life gets in the way. Family was in town for only two days and I wanted to be sure I maximized my time (note: I work all night and sleep until about 2-3pm and have done this for over 20 years). Not only did I not sleep, but I usually get 5 skipload meals on Sundays and was only able to get 3 meals due to going to bed very early Sunday night. Clearly, I was exhausted and chose sleep over food. My experience has shown me that sleep is the better option if given the choice between the two.
My back session was great on Monday but I thought it was a one-off. I was anxious about my leg session on Tuesday because . . . it’s legs, and you would be anxious, too, if you had all of the injuries I’ve had in the last two years.
My gut was telling me to take one more day to rest before hitting legs. Instead, I wanted to stay on my rotation and stay on schedule. Plus, I despise training on the weekends and that’s why my schedule is to train M/W/Th/F. It has been this way for years. I decided to train legs on schedule and kick back a bit to play it safe.
As I was warming up, everything felt good and contractions were strong. Still, I knew that recovery was not optimal over the weekend and neither was my caloric intake. My brain reasoned that taking it easier was the best option but my gut kept telling me the opposite. These days, I don’t let my gut win because my experience tells me that my brain is smarter than my gut. My gut has cost me a few injuries—one that was horrible and the worst injury I have had in almost forty years of training. As I’m warming up, my brain keeps telling my gut to back the F off.
As I’m doing my warm-up sets, my legs are filling with blood, contractions are strong, and everything feels great. The weights are going up with ease. In fact, I finished one set and recounted the plates to be sure I didn’t make a mistake. I decided that my gut was going to win on that day.
Where I normally progress past a PR by doing another 2-3 reps or adding a quarter to each side, I decided to add a plate to each side. My brain was saying, “You’re dumb,” while my gut was saying, “You should blow this weight up with no problem.” I got one more rep than I did last time and thought the set was easy. The next set I added another plate on each side and hit another 15 reps, quite easily. I have now blown by my PR by one plate each side and contemplated putting another plate per side but went with a quarter, instead. I deduced that this was “playing it safe.” I got another 15 reps.
I found myself at my max volume for that exercise and as I stated earlier, I have been rigid with my parameters and haven’t pushed volume higher. I decided that I was going to do one more set and knock off one set from the next exercise. I add another plate on each side and hit 12 reps. This means that I am a full 2 plates per side over what my last numbers were and for me, that is a progression that I just don’t see very often.
Every leg exercise that followed, I destroyed by adding more weight or getting significantly more reps than before. By the time the workout ended, I had blown away my numbers from the last leg session.
My point is this: After reading workouts and my body’s feedback for almost forty years, I was wrong. I was going to hold back because everything said that I should—except for the obvious signs that I couldn’t dismiss when it came time to train. I stated earlier that sometimes wisdom and intuition are wrong, but in the end, I was right. I read the signs correctly at the last minute.
There is no good reason why I progressed as much as I did. Sometimes, as much as we know, as much as we have learned, and as much as we know our body, we are just plain wrong. For once, I was glad I was wrong.
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Most people would identify intuition with the gut, and your gut was correct in this case, no?
My gut told me not to train and to take an extra rest day.
My mental processing told me that, as I warmed up and felt great, training was the right decision.