Science Trumps Ego, is this why so many more women lift?
By Neil Perkins
We launched our Barbell Club in 2016, eight months before we opened Henrietta Street Gym. The concept of training a squad of lifters is great, from a social aspect, group motivation and reducing costs for the members. Our vision was that we’d use our Barbell Club to engage our white collar boxers so that we could upsell them the benefits of Strength & Conditioning and after they’d boxed and recycle them for more shows – this didn’t happen.
What did happen is we created a new wave of lifters and early on as we were finding our feet the uptake wasn’t from our male boxers who were sparring and competing but more of our class users looking for fat loss. This unlike our boxing which was 80% male (it’s now nearer 65%) was nearer a 50/50 mix and as Barbell Club bedded in we found that it almost exclusively became an all-girls club of lifters.
Barbell Club has evolved considerably, but early on we ran it very similar protocol to the Strong Lifts 5×5 programme with some adaptation. We’d use the starting point of the programme based at lifters starting at 75% of their one rep max and then working on the principal of progressive overload (add more weight each week). Here is how the programming would work
- The lifter would come as a newcomer and complete the fundamental lifting programme. In this we’d teach them the lift and assess their one rep max in each lift example they’d one rep max 100kg on a deadlift.
- We’d programme the lifter to start lifting at 5×5 reps based on 75% of their one rep max example the lifter would lift 75Kg (75% of their one rep max for 5×5’s)
- The next week providing the lifter had completed all set the previous week they’d add 2.5kg on the lift (they’d complete 5×5’s at 77.5kg)
With the input of some talented S&C coaches we’ve evolved Barbell Club considerably. We saw something very early on that prevented our lifters progressing and this applied to the males more that the females – EGO!
If we had a male lifter (lifter A) at Barbell Club one rep max 100kg on a deadlift his starting weight would be 75kg, if lifter B one rep maxed 110kg, his starting weight would be 82.5kg. Now this is where the problem came in – EGO. Lifter A would move into the Barbell Club programming he’d be programmed to lift 75kg, yet when lifter B stepped away from his 82.5kg bar, lifter A rather than reduce the weight would try and match Lifter B’s weight. He might perform the first set at very ugly 5 reps, set two would be equally ugly and by set three he’s struggling to hit four reps. Dejected and over trained, he might have a week off…or we might never see him lift again.
Out poster girl for Barbell Club is Aimee Smith, with her been home grown to winning a bronze at the world powerlifting championships she has evolved through our process. We were lucky with Aimee and if the truth be told she would have progressed at any lifting gym – she is that naturally strong. A more reluctant poster girl is Charlotte Bradford, she has been consistent from day 1 and we still have her one rep max from her first deadlift at 72.5kg, recently she pulled over 120kg off the floor! By been consistent, following the programme and not letting her ego get the better of he she has consistently gotten stronger and leaner over her time with us.
Barbell Club now operates on a 12-week cycle with variations in speed, volume, reps and phases of lift. The principal of working from one rep max percentages remains, but percentages vary from 70% to 90% depending on the sets, volume and reps. We still occasionally get a male lifter trying to match other lifters rather than stick to their own programme, this we nip in the bud. By letting science rather than ego lift weights, we are finding that on the first 12-week lifting cycle lifters are typically finding a 40 to 50% increase in one rep max testing and usually 15-25% of the second cycle.
Science does trump ego when it comes to lifting.