The 1 Kilo Rule: Set Yourself up for Weightlifting Success
Weightlifting is a sport in which the rate of progress declines pretty reliably over time. That is, the longer you train, the more slowly you make progress. As you reach the time past the beginning and intermediate stages in which progress is measured in small numbers over large spans of time, having sound programming and strategy is even more important. Part of that is doing everything you can to provide opportunities to measure that progress.
There’s an almost irresistible compulsion to always try to make big PRs—I’ll be the first to admit, a 5 kg PR is a lot more exciting than a 1 kg PR. But I see over and over lifters attempting these big PRs because they get greedy, or because they only like weights that end in 0 or 5, and missing. Over and over. For months and months. A 5 kg PR is a lot more exciting than a 1 kg PR, but a 1 kg PR is a lot more exciting than continually failing to exceed your best lift. Even worse, often to set up these big PR attempts, these lifters will actually lift their current PR… We already know you can lift that weight! If you’re physically capable of lifting your current PR on a given day, chances are you can lift 1 kg more—why repeat a weight we already know you can lift when you can add 1 kg to it?
The point is, why not make smaller, more frequent improvements rather than hoping you make big ones infrequently (and rarely doing so)? The former is more constant, measurable progress that not only demonstrates the effectiveness of your training, but keeps you motivated to continue.
On testing day, always aim for that 1 kg PR first—if you can do more that day, you’ll more than likely be able to follow that PR with another one a few kg higher. In some cases, you can aim for more if you know with near certainty you’re good for it. This is more common with strength lifts like squats. Often in your training cycle leading into a testing day, your numbers will be such that it’s nearly guaranteed you’ll hit a big PR. In these cases, feel free to go for it. Just don’t get too greedy. If you can’t honestly tell yourself you have 99% or more confidence in making a certain weight, be more conservative. If you don’t have that confidence, you won’t make it even if you’re ready physically.
When it comes to actually making your 1 kg PRs, you need a sound strategy to set it up. We all have habitual weight jumps in the snatch and clean & jerk. I take the exact same warm-up weights nearly every time I train these lifts, and this is a good thing when it comes to competition, as you know exactly what to expect. However, this can also get you in trouble if you don’t have a plan going into a PR attempt. For example, let’s say in the snatch, your best is 125 kg, and you always take 5 kg jumps past 100 kg: 100-105-110-115-120. But now you want to shoot for that 126 kg PR. If you take your normal jumps, you get to 120 and suddenly your normal 5 kg jump matches your PR, and to make that PR, you either have to take an odd, and large, 6 kg jump, or figure out a better way.
I prefer decreasing increments as a lifter approaches a maximal weight, especially a PR attempt. In this example, I would probably suggest a sequence like: 100-105-110-114-118-122-126 or 100-105-110-115-119-123-126, depending on the lifter’s historical consistency and confidence. In the first, we keep the final jumps all to 4 kg (3%), and in the second, we start with 4 kg jumps and then take only a 3 kg jump to the PR attempt. With smaller maximal weights, I would aim to get this down to 2 kg—a weight 1 kg under the current PR and then a weight 1 kg over the current PR.
Have this plan in place before you even begin the lift. Knowing from the beginning improves your confidence and keeps you on pace lift to lift rather than leaving you scratching your head and over-thinking the process between each set as you near your PR attempt.