It’s been often said that our real strength lies not in our physical capabilities but in our mental strength. This is more or less true, irrespective of what your goal is. For example, when it comes to fitness, it’s that mental drive and determination that pushes you to pull off that extra rep even when your body gives up. Lifting is more about mental strength than you think, it’s all in your head.
Your body’s nervous system is responsible for controlling everything. This includes your muscles. However, you control your nervous system. Therefore, you have a lot of control and power over your body than you think you do. Our brains are very complex. Sometimes, it’s possible to trick the brain into doing something else. In this case, we’ll be using a technique that alternates between different loads that’s able to trick the brain into lifting heavier weights.
The technique is known as Wave Loading. It was popularized by an Australian strength coach Ian King. The whole idea of the training is, as mentioned above to trick or excite your nervous system by varying the load in each exercise. You don’t vary the load in just each exercise either, you switch between different weights after each set.
The result? Heavier weights don’t feel as heavy anymore, in fact, they start feeling lighter. When heavier weights start feeling lighter, you can do more work with them or go for even heavier weights which may not have been possible before. The overall benefit from all of this is better muscle stimulus and growth.
Simple Wave Loading Example
The concept is simple, but sometimes even the simplest concepts can be confusing. Therefore, here’s a little example of how Wave Loading works. Suppose you could bench press a certain amount, let’s stick to a simple 100-150 lb lift. Of course, you may be able to lift a lot more than this but this is a simple example. Let’s say you can perform 5-6 reps with 100 lbs and the max weight you can handle is 150 lbs with which you can do perhaps two or three reps.
Now, what you do is you first perform the regular set with the 100 lb weights for 5-6 reps. Then you perform a set with your maximum weight. Of course, for this bit, the 150 lb lift will feel much heavier. However, it required all your strength i.e. all your muscle fibers’ participation. Therefore, when you go to a lower lift than 150, but a higher lift than 100, you’ll be surprised to see that you can easily perform 5 reps on that weight too.
Initially, it may not have been possible to perform 5 reps at a weight above 100 lbs for you. If you stuck to the original routine, then the number of reps would decrease as the weight increased. However, here, since you alternated the weights in each set, you tricked your brain into thinking you can lift more. Now, if you even go back to the 150 lb lift, you may not be able to perform more reps but it’ll definitely feel lighter.
Some tips for Wave Loading
- Stick to two or three waves which i.e. 4 to 6 sets.
- Try to keep the reps below 6.
- Don’t go too heavy otherwise, you won’t have the strength to go heavy for the rest of the waves.
- Never repeat the same number of reps with the same load, don’t go back to 100 from 150 and vice versa.
- Take an adequate amount of rest. Try to get 2 minutes or more rest between each set.
- Limit Wave Loading to a maximum of two exercises per workout.
- Don’t do Wave Load workouts more than 4 times a week.
- Towards the end of your Wave Load exercise, try to do a “burnout” set with low weights and do as many reps as you can.
Try Wave Loading for a few weeks, follow these tips and you’ll likely see some impressive results. Let the gains begin!