How to Trick Your Brain into Lifting Heavier Weights
Master your nervous system with wave loading — and make those gains feel easier.
It’s been said that being successful at anything is more mental than physical.
The same is true with lifting, although we’ll be more specific: It’s neural. Your nervous system controls your muscles, but you control your nervous system. And, if you can trick it into lifting heavier weights for more sets and reps, you’ll get bigger and stronger.
Wave loading, as popularized by Australian strength coach Ian King, has you change the load you use for each set of an exercise, in an effort to excite the nervous system. Said more simply, it will make weights that normally feel heavy suddenly feel lighter, allowing you to do more work with them, and that, in turn, delivers a greater stimulus for muscle and strength gains.
How to Use Wave Loading
Confused about how this might work? Here’s a real-world example.
You’re squatting, and you work up to a heavy set of five reps with 275 pounds. You feel good, so you decide to up the load to 300 and go for three reps. That felt heavy, so you back off to a lighter weight for five reps again, but this time you know you can go heavier than before.
The 300-pound set “woke up” all your muscle fibers — you can just feel it — and you know you’re good for 280 to 285 pounds for five squats again. You do the set, and, sure enough, you were right. Picture a graph with your sets on the x axis, and the load you use on the y axis. If you connected the points that mark each load with a line, they would look like a wave.
Mixing up the weight and reps you do each set is a shrewd way of getting your muscles to lift more weight than they otherwise could, and it makes training heavy feel easier and less intimidating.
Written by: Sean Hyson
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