Preparing to Ring the P.R. Bell

Like Pavlov’s dog that learned to salivate in anticipation of food, you can teach your mind and body to prepare for a success when presented with a new challenge.

Training to Failure Vs. Training to Success

Training to Fail:

  • Continually pushing against your limitations and getting schooled by them.
  • Teaching your mind and body that giving 100% will never be good enough.
  • Your mind and body become accustomed to routine failure regardless of the effort.

Training To Succeed:

  • Making excellence, safety and success a regular occurrence.
  • Expanding your limitations by working wisely within them.
  • Teaching your body that is safe to give 100% and no task is too hard so that it will grant you strength when you need it the most.

“Pavlov’s Dog” 

If you’re not familiar with the story of Pavlov’s Dog (not to be confused with Pavel’s dog) and its relevance to conditioning here’s the general idea:

Every time the researcher, Pavlov, rings the bell, a tasty meal immediately was immediately fed to the dog. The dog eventually learned that the sound of the bell means food is about to served. Every time the bell is rung, the dog begins to salivate in anticipation of the food. The researched continues to ring the bell but no longer serves the food. Even though food is no longer served the dog will still begin to salivate upon hearing the bell.

The same method can be used to teach the dog that effort is futile a.k.a. “Learned Helplessness”. Every time a bell is rung an unpleasant stimulus such as pain in the form of electrical shock is delivered through the floor. There is no escape from the shock. Because the dog has learned escape is futile, eventually the dog comes to react with fear and helplessness every time the bell sounds and resigns itself to getting shocked. Later on, even when the researchers introduce a possible escape for the dog by only delivering a shock on one-half of the room, the dog remains in place and gets shocked.

Now imagine for a moment that instead of training to muscular-failure every time you train with heavy weights you do so in such a way that guarantees success. Pretty soon, you will become the equivalent of the salivating dog who anticipates an imminent meal of P.R.s.

Did Somebody Say Heavy Heavy Deadlifts?
In the same regard, when you train to failure your nervous system reacts like the dog who expects to get punished with electricity. Instead of pain you are teaching your nervous system to prepare for and expect failure. If done often enough regardless of the weight put in front of you your body will simply prepare to shut-down and fail… after all…that’s what you’ve trained it to do. Essentially you are inducing depression, teaching your muscles that success is not likely.

Instead of training yourself to fail, we believe in training to succeed by treating your heavy weights as if they are light and treating your light weights as if they are heavy. How? Treating heavy weights as if they were light means typically performing 2/3rds of the reps you could do with a given weight  leaving one or more perfect repetitions “in the bank”.  By doing so, your nervous system will come to expect and prepare for success. Treating your light weights as if they are heavy means to approach them with the same state of mind, internal dialogue, techniques and rituals you would as if setting a new personal best. By doing so you are repeatedly rehearsing ideal habits and visualizing success. You nervous system is essentially learning to become the opposite of depressed and constantly has a can-do attitude. In this manner when you do decide to go all out your nervous system will be trained to expect success and grant you permission to be stronger than others who have train their body’s to expect to fail. If you’ve put in sufficient practice and volume at the correct percentages of your 1 rep max the result will be a new personal best.

Like Pavlov’s dog that learned to salivate in anticipation of food when it heard the dinner bell, you can teach your mind and body to prepare for a personal best when presented with a new challenge.