Performance is one of the most important aspects when it comes to making progress.
If your training performance is routinely subpar, then the progress you want to make with your physique or in your sport will be stagnated.
Going nowhere fast is never acceptable.
Serious athletes and lifters are not in the iron game to spin our wheels like the uninitiated.
We chase improvement every time we train.
Majority Doesn’t Rule
Performance is not dictated purely by muscle size.
Remember that guy way back when on the high school football team? Remember how he looked like Tarzan but played like Mr. Burns? He was a perfect example of all show and no go!
The main component when it comes to having a great training session is the activation of your central nervous system better known as your CNS. If your CNS is not ignited before you train, you will feel sluggish when you lift. Your lifts will also feel much heavier.
When you are trying to improve your performance in the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift, the worst thing that you can do is mimic Larry Lifter.
Larry Lifter walks into the gym and ventures over to the soul-draining “cardio” section. After 5 minutes of slogging on a random machine, Larry goes over to the bench press to begin his workout. He throws 225lbs on the bar. Because his CNS in not activated from his uninspiring warm-up, Larry finds out quickly that 225lbs feels super heavy.
Deflated and desperate for a pump, Larry spends the rest of his 2-hour workout mindlessly pumping on assorted chest machines. The training session demanded no accountability but Larry got an Instagram post-workout selfie out of it.
Galvanize Your CNS
Would you show up to the track to sprint without performing a dynamic warm-up?
For the big 3, there are explosive warm-up drills that you can use to ensure that you are primed to train when it is time to begin your first working set.
You will perform 3-5 sets and 1-3 total reps per set of each drill. If you choose to perform more warm-up sets (4-5) then you need to use fewer reps per set. Power movements drain the gas tank. 1-2 reps per set will suffice.
High repetitions that create a conditioning effect are never the goal when it comes to activating your CNS. For simplicities sake, choose 1 drill per movement. If you want to use 1 set for each drill you can but do not overcomplicate this process.
There is no need to perform 3-5 sets of each drill. That is too much work before you have actually lifted anything. The drills that you can use to activate your CNS for the big 3 are:
Fire Up Your Squat
The three warm ups listed below are just what you need to wake up your CNS and get prepared to perform squats.
You'll want to do each of these as explosively as possible.
1. The Vertical Jump
For the vertical jump you will raise both arms up in the air. When you drive them back towards your hips with intent, you will simultaneously bend your knees while keeping them from caving in.
At this point you will forcefully drive your arms up and jump up with power.
2. The Vertical Jump to a Fixed Object (Chinning Bar)
Jumping up and having to grab something unconsciously makes you want to jump higher. The set up is the same as the vertical jump except that you must grab the bar in order to complete the rep.
You will want to find a bar at the gym that is not too high or low. A bar that is too high will force you to expend too much energy to reach it. A bar that is too low will not force you to use any effort that will ignite your CNS. Choose a bar based on your current level of hops.
3. The Box Jump
We are not trying to win the box jump world championships so you do not need a 50-inch box. A 20-30 inch box should suffice for most lifters.
You will load the arms the same way that you did for the vertical jump. When you drive your arms up, you will jump up onto the box. Step down in control and repeat.
For all the explosive warm-up drills for the squat, rest 5-10 seconds between each rep to gather yourself.
Boost your Bench Press
The next three explosive warm ups are just what you need to prepared for those heavy bench presses.
Wake up your CNS by doing each of these movements as explosively as possible.
1. The Bench Push-Up
Find a bench and get into the bottom of the push-up position with your chest in contact with the bench. At this point you will push hard into the bench and explode up to the top.
Based on your upper body power you will either be standing straight up or taking a step forward at the completion of the rep to gather yourself. If you do not have a bench, a box works just the same.
2. The Superman Bench Push-Up
This push-up requires much more power than the basic bench push-up. You start in the same position as the bench push-up. When you explode up you will attempt to shoot both arms forward and up as if you were flying.
If you lack power, you will not be able to perform the full-range rep. You can work on getting your arms higher each time you train until you can fly like the Man of Steel.
3. The Clapping Push-Up
On the floor, you will start in the bottom of the push-up position with your chin and chest contacting the floor. Your hips will be ever so slightly above the floor.
At this point you will drive up with power and release your hands from the ground. Clap both hands while your hands are in the air and then return to the starting position.
For all the explosive warm-up drills for the bench press, rest 5-10 seconds between each rep to gather yourself.
Energize Your Deadlift
Finally, everyone's favorite move the deadlift. This exercise taxes the CNS the most, so it is important to include the following 3 warm ups into your routine.
Again, do each of these as explosively as possible and watch your deadlift numbers skyrocket.
1. The Broad Jump
For the broad jump, you will be jumping horizontally. This will get the posterior chain more involved than it would be during a vertical jump.
The set-up for the broad jump is very similar to the vertical jump. You will load the arms back, but for the broad jump you will also push your hips back a little more.
At this point you will powerfully drive the arms forward and jump explosively. Do not let your knees cave in during the jump or the landing. This could lead to a knee injury that you do not need or want right now.
For the broad jump, rest 5-10 seconds between reps.
2. The Kettlebell Swing
Swings are a violent movement. After performing them, your CNS will be humming when you begin the actual training session.
Grab a kettlebell and begin to rock back and forth with a tight, flat back. The emphasis during the rocking will be on pushing your hips back. Imagine putting your butt on the wall behind you.
After a few rocks back and forth, you will explode forward to initiate the movement.
For the kettlebell swing perform the reps continuously until the set is complete.
3. 5-yard sprint
The 5-yard sprint gets your nervous system excited like a kid at Christmas. You do not have to get down like Usain Bolt in the blocks to perform this. A standing start works fine.
Place one foot forward and then step back one foot length with the other leg. This is where you will start. Adjust your feet if needed.
The opposite leg and arm will both be back so that when you sprint, you are in a proper rhythm. Accelerate for 5 yards and then slow down in control.
For the sprint rest, 10-20 seconds between reps.
How To Perform Explosive-Warm Ups
The best way to perform these drills is in between sets of your movement.
Let's say your squat session for the day is 225lbs for 5x10. After some mobility work, you would start with 135x3 followed by 3 vertical jumps. The next warm-up set would be 165lbsx3 followed by 3 more vertical jumps. The final warm-up set would be 195lbsx3 followed by 3 more vertical jumps.
At this point your CNS will be activated like Optimus Prime. You are now ready to dance in the rack for real.