Cognitive Bias in Strength Training

We think that since we put in a certain amount of work, time, and effort, we should be at a certain level.

We struggle between the reality of our current capability and the biased expectation of where we should be.

We forego the warmup, delay the deloads, and fail to consider other adjustments in favor of linear, uninterrupted progression.

We don’t want to be less strong or less capable than we find ourselves to be. So we continue to lift weight even though it hurts or doesn’t feel right. We try even harder when it’s not as easy as we thought it would be. Because we believe we should be able to do it that day.

We force reps to make the goal, to fulfill the set, to make the numbers line up on paper. Even though we are not performing with the best form, technique, or capacity.

We fail to stop mid-set, when we are at the appropriate limit of performance. We go too far, push too hard, because we think we have to do a specific amount of reps per set. Like 5×5. Not 5, 4, 2, 3, 2.

We decide beforehand the outcome of our training session. This causes a skewed perspective of our performance through the session. If we figure, today I feel good, and I’m going to be able to do x, y, and z, then during the session, if we are actually more tired than we thought, we are in a dilemma.

Rather than slow down, or do less than was prescribed for the day, we push to do too much. We forget the long game. That we will be back the next time, and that that time we may be stronger and more capable.

We forget that tomorrow we will still be the same person, with all the experience, benefits, and outcomes of our cumulative training, as we are today. Tomorrow we’ll be able to train again.

Human strength progression is not linear. It is up and down. It is backward. It is rocky, and jagged, like an outline of the Himalayas. It is not the graph of a power curve or a 45 degree line.

We’ve got to tune in to ourselves. We’ve got to see training as work on our lives as a whole, not just the one day. It is a mode of being, rather than a set of achievements.

To do three reps, instead of five, is not a failure. It is part of the accomplishment of a lifetime. It is the current regimen that we are putting ourselves through, appropriate for that day, that moment, and it too will add up to the summation of our wellness.

When you look back, stronger, more mobile, more fit than you were yesterday, a month or a year or a decade ago, you don’t have to say that you did all the reps of all the sets every session. Who cares. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you paid attention. You kept going. You were true to yourself each day. You learned and enjoyed the benefits of that. You got better and you’re proud of it.

Live powerfully,


The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Feel free to share your experiences, questions, and inspirations here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: