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So, I keep finding myself in this situation all the time. I am adding 5 to 10 pounds to some of my lifts every week or so. Every time I am lifting the new weight (old weight + 5 lbs), I see my form/technique deteriorate.

I asked a form-check question here for my Deadlift not too long ago. I was at 255 pounds (1s x 5r). My main problem was a little bit of lower back rounding due to not being tight enough. After getting the feedback there, and working on the same weight - 255 lbs - for two more workout sessions, I was finally able to perform my best looking set at that weight. I did not need to do two more sessions with the same weight; I just wanted to get my technique right.

Yesterday, I added 10 lbs. And hell at 265 lbs my technique again had the same problem. And a few other problems too (like rocking back a little and dropping my hips a bit, but I guess that is because I was a bit worried about my lower back with the new heavier weight). I am sure that now that I have done a set of 5 at 265 lbs, I can do it a few more times and my technique will improve or go back to where it was when I was doing 255 lbs.

But this is still annoying. This means I have to keep lifting the same weight a few times every time I add 5 to 10 lbs.

This happens for Squats too. The first day I lift the new weight (old weight + 5 lbs), I am anxious, calling on God every damn second, thinking how embarrassing it would be if I can't come out of the hole, etc. My legs are shaking a bit and I am doubting my strength - even though my lift is only 5 lbs heavier.

So I guess my question is, is this a common thing? Does it happen to other beginners? Does lifting form/technique always break down when performing the heaviest work-set for the first time? Or does this stop when you get to the 400 lbs level? Does a person, who can Squat 400 lbs, experience a minor breakdown of their technique when they squat 405 lbs for the first time?

If this is something that doesn't happen to others, then what can I do to fix the problem? How can I make sure that my form/technique doesn't break down when I am lifting my heaviest weight for the first time? What can I do to not feel anxious while lifting the new weight?

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Does [form breakdown at a new working weight] happen to other beginners?

Yes, absolutely. The degree changes, and it doesn't happen to everyone every time they add weight, but it's common.

Does lifting form/technique always break down when performing the heaviest work-set for the first time?

No, not every time. The goal is to dial in technique so that bar speed changes but a new weight is basically the same form as the old weight. A little difference is normal but it should be within the bounds of correct.

But this is still annoying. This means I have to keep lifting the same weight a few times every time I add 5 to 10 lbs.

That is 100% normal and okay! A lot of lifters do this as a matter of course.

One method of minimizing the problem is to add reps at a given weight before adding weight. E.g. 220lbs for 4 reps, then next workout 5 reps, then next workout 6 reps, then the next workout 225lbs for 4 reps. The idea with approaches like this is to develop mastery of a particular weight before adding more, rather than adding more as soon as you're merely being able to lift it.

Another part of this is just the technique being new. This phenomenon never stops, at 400 pounds or anything else, but eventually your self-awareness during the lift is good enough so that the change in form from a lighter weight is small enough to not be concerning.

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  • Thanks for the answer, Dave. Is being anxious and fretting over lifting new weights (only by 5 to 10 lbs) something that goes away eventually? This is a weird feeling. In MA, I have gotten my ass kicked plenty of times in sparring with advanced amateur fighters, but I don't remember fretting over getting hurt ever. The pain was rather fulfilling. And I knew I can take a beating and that my body can handle that abuse. Lifting seems different. At what level does one truly become confident that their body won't fall apart after adding 5lbs to the bar? – RoundHouse Jan 11 at 16:12
  • That increasing rep idea is great. Will incorporate that from now on! – RoundHouse Jan 11 at 16:15
  • One of the most impactful things anyone ever told me about lifting was that the weight never feels lighter. 300 pounds is always 300 pounds, it always feels like 300 pounds. Even training right, it'll never feel light – it's just that you can lift it. Is a new weight always anxiety inducing? It can be. It's the reason why people train heavy singles (one technique I don't yet recommend for you is called "overwarm singles") and super-heavy walk-outs, to get used to the feeling of heavy weight. Fear of the bar is a very real thing, but it can be managed. – Dave Liepmann Jan 11 at 17:10

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