This past year I have really enjoyed using the maximal, sub-maximal method of training for the main compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift). Combining both maximal and sub maximal training essentially means that you go heavy one day of the week on the squat, bench and deadlift and then a few days later you have a lighter day. The focus on the heavy day is to set some kind of personal best and typically reps are kept in the 1-5 rep range. How I am feeling on the day will typically dictate the number of sets that I use. If I am feeling energized and motivated then I will shoot for more sets. If I am not feeling so great for whatever reason: poor sleep, nutrition etc...then i will back down the number of sets and intensity of the workout. Auto-regulating my training in such a way will prevent my nervous system from becoming overly taxed and will allow me to train within my body’s capabilities on any given day.
So let’s say Monday is my heavy deadlift day where I perform 3 sets of 3 reps and manage to hit a new personal best. What I will do later on in the week (let’s say on Friday) is come back and have a lighter day where I am only using sub-maximal weight. But I will use such good form on each rep that the weight feels relatively heavy therefore I am still getting a decent training effect. Lifting weights is a skill and the main compound lifts are quite complex skills to master. There are world class power lifters out there today who are still tinkering with their form and trying to further perfect it. Having a lighter day in your training can be extremely beneficial in terms of ingraining good technique and getting your body used to the correct movement pattern. It will also allow you to train the lift more frequently without compromising recovery and the more you can train a lift without digging yourself into a recovery hole, the better your gains in strength and size will be. A very large part of getting stronger on any movement is simply getting better at performing that movement. Therefore it can be useful to have a day where you come in and just practice that lift with lighter loads. Usually these loads are kept between 50-70% of your 1 rep max.
If anyone would like more information about this type of training or any forms of training don’t hesitate to ask!