We were competing to get to 100 lb. weighted-pullups.
My buddy was in his early 20's. I was in my late 20's.
He was stronger than me in every exercise except squats. Pullups were no different.
When he was at about 85lbs. weighted pullups, I was at 70.
That's when I felt elbow pain for the first time..
He had it too.
Neither of us made it to 100 but we learned an important lesson:
How to Walk the Line between Pushing for MORE and
Pulling back to allow the body to adapt.
Over the years I've walked that line many times.
What you can learn from this is that you NEED to push yourself.
That's the first step.
From what I see, too many guys don't push themselves hard at all.
SO get after it.
The other side is knowing WHEN to pull back.
If you train alone with no help from a coach or a knowledgeable trainer partner, this takes experience.
You need to know HOW MUCH you are lifting each session, week, month..
How is your recovery? Do you sleep enough, eat enough of the RIGHT foods to fuel your body properly?
There are many ways to structure a program and it would take an entire book (which I AM going to do soon) but for our purposes in this article, let's keep it simple.
Regardless of how many days you train and how many reps/sets etc.. you need to cycle your training volume and intensity.
Like I said, there are a ton of different ways to put together a program but what's important to know is you need to alter your program here and there to keep making progress and avoid the dreaded
You squat once a week for 3 sets of 8 reps. The next week you squat 4 sets for 8 reps. The third week you squat 5 sets for 8 reps.
Eventually you will not be able to add sets to your squats in one session. You can add another session and split the work between the two workouts; or you can reduce the volume in week 4 to 3 sets of 6 reps, the fifth week 4 sets of 6, etc..
3 week waves are an effective way to change the stimulus just enough so you aren't burning yourself out trying to do MORE every single week.
Yes, you NEED to PUSH hard and force the issue. Strength doesn't come from being easy and soft.
As you know, it takes a lot of effort and persistence to grow in mind and body. If you are lazy and/or weak-minded it will test you and you will either GROW and ADAPT or you will quit and remain where you are...
Having a smart program that allows you to PUSH ahead and also PULL back is key to long-term strength development and avoiding plateaus and injuries.