Picture this: You walk into the gym primed to set a personal record (PR), but then you get distracted: You start looking for the perfect song, you set up your phone to capture a video, you get caught up in how many reps you’re going to get, etc. As a result, you botch the lift. 

Assuming you’ve been lifting with proper form and making smart weight progressions week to week (i.e., not 25-pound jumps), then a missed PR is usually a performance issue, not strength.

To help my athletes focus on the task at hand, I’ve created this time-based lifting protocol. The idea behind it is simple: Instead of worrying about reps, you’ll simply lift for an amount of time. The weight will be light enough that you won’t get psyched out but heavy enough to challenge you. After your set, you’ll have a short amount of time to rest, so scrolling through Instagram or swiping through Tinder isn’t an option. 

Skeptical it’ll work? One of my clients, Nick Hadge, winner of the 2016 Ultimate Strongman Junior World Championships, added 25 pounds onto his three-rep max for the deadlift, going from 800 pounds to 825 in just four weeks.

Try it out for yourself by following the guidelines at right.

Timed-set tips

Below, Triana lays out a few rules to abide by while following this program.

  • Use this protocol for compound movements: Deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and strict presses are all excellent options.
  • If you’re an experienced lifter (more than two years of training), you can use this protocol twice a week with two different moves (one upper-body and one lower-body exercise). If you’re less experienced or train fewer than four times a week, stick with one move and one session.
  • Start out with 70% of your one-rep max on the bar.
  • Each week, you’ll add either 5% or 10 pounds to the exercise.
  • Focus the hell upDon’t touch your phone. Don’t talk to your gym friends. And don’t worry about videos. You’re training down to the second, and in order for this to work you need to give every ounce of effort you have for every set.
1 3 20/40
2 4 20/60
3 5 15/60
4 6 12/75
* Take 4-7 days off before testing your new 1RM, 2RM, or 3RM
Man preparing to lift a heavy barbell using chalk for a high-level athletic workout program

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