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Strength Training Rules For Everyone: The Happiness Rule

The happiness rule: If a set/rep is highly emotional and makes you incredibly happy you should immediately reduce the weight during any subsequent sets or move on to the next exercise.

The happiness effect: strength performance is substantially reduced after hitting a lift that relaxes you/elates/sparks joy.

Many people have felt the crushing heaviness of the rep after a personal best/important/scary lift made you happy/joyous/incredibly relieved.

If you haven't, the aim of this article is here to help you avoid it! We want the happiness without the rep afterwards.

When a set feels much heavier after a PB, many people feel deflated and think they achieved the PB by accident.

The Happiness Effect

I'm not sure on the exact physiological goings-on causing the relaxation but if you perform a highly emotional set, it's very hard to create that same drive again within the same session.

Performance drops.

In training, if a client cracks a psychologically big number or PB I will either substantially reduce the weight of any back-off sets or more commonly, I'll move on to the next programmed exercise. Even if they have more in the tank. This is in accordance with my happiness rule.

When lifting PB weights, the body is subjected to more stress than ever, so moving on reduces the risk of picking up an injury in the subsequent sets.

If it's a very emotional PB and the lifter is over 30, I may give them 1-4 easier sessions as the happiness rule tends to ripple into subsequent sessions in the form of fatigue which has to be accounted for.

The deload is usually 3-4 sessions if the PB is a grinder, or 1-2 session if the lift moves smoothly.

If it isn't accounted for, further PBs will take longer to appear due to the cumulative fatigue from all the physical AND emotional stress of each session.

Systems need stress to adapt and become stronger, but not allowing for an emotional deload, especially for high-hype lifters often result in a prolonged dampening of performance.

Every session will reduce performance in the short-term, the problem with the happiness effect is it can hit someone's mental game hard long after performance has theoretically returned to full as they can go from smashing a PB to being buried by a lighter weight in a matter of minutes.

This can be avoided.

To stop the happiness effect from dampening performance too much, plan ahead and learn to adapt your programming when you need to.

Keep the happiness rule in mind.

This is one of the main reasons it is good for powerlifters to have fun in the gym for a week or two after a competition.

They are emotionally spent and need some low-hype days to recharge the batteries before being able to dominate the barbell again.

A successful navigation of the happiness rule would be moving straight on to another exercise after a PB or reducing the weight substantially more than planned in order to keep the bar in this instance moving well.

Another successful navigation would be planning light back-off sets after a set you know will be highly emotional/emotionally very demanding.

This prevents thoughts about a PB being an accident or any other destructive thoughts about a lift you hit.

By factoring in the happiness effect, a person never/rarely experiences the sudden unexpected heaviness of rep at a similar or lower weight and training flows better.

Individual Response

The majority of people I train have a large happiness effect/performance drop, but I've seen lifters be able to bring the intensity back and lift heavier very soon after an emotional rep meaning the magnitude of the happiness effect is individual.

It's a rare talent if you can psyche yourself up repeatedly and not lose a ton if performance as soon as you're pleased about something.

The higher the stress/psyche up/motivation/fear before a set the larger the happiness effect on performance.

In general, the stronger the individual the bigger the happiness effect.

The bigger the hype, the bigger the fall in performance.

This means working around this phenomenon is paramount in strength training.

Many people learn to master their happiness effect over time or learn being angry before every set is taxing as hell and ultimately learn to pick their battles.

Relaxed, low-hype lifters still get a happiness effect, but it's greatly reduced.

These people can often tolerate more sets and reps close to 1 rep max weights.

Super high-psyche people tend to burn out emotionally which in turn reduces their performance and reduces their volume tolerance. This is at least until they learn when to bring the fire and when to he more relaxed.

These concepts aren't gender specific. They are hype specific.

Learning to diminish or regulate your stress/psyche up/motivation/fear is a great way to reduce your happiness affect.

You can learn to be more mellow lifter by practicing lifting in a calm way. You might save your psyche up for the last set or stick to a calmer approach.

A hype lifter may need to practice relaxation techniques before lifting or practice not get fired up before lifting for a while until it's not the go-to response every set of every workout.

Once someone has practiced both hyped and unhyped lifts, the person can begin to pick their battles and decide when to go for something big, and adjust for the happiness effect.

The happiness effect is seen less in beginners who don't have the same emotional attachment to particular weights.

When your deadlift has been increasing 10kg a week for the first 6 weeks of training, your relationship to that PB is far different to the person who finally gets a lift at a weight they have been stuck on for 2 years.

The beginner probably wouldn't need to change their training beyond moving on after the personal best while the latter person would probably need a decent deload in sub due to the emotional toll such a PB can take.

Does the happiness effect apply to all lifts?

It can.

It depends on your emotional attachment to whatever is being lifted.

If you find that you see a big drop in performance after PB'ing certain lifts that is the happiness effect in action.

Concluding Thoughts

The happiness effect is a wonderful thing as it shows certain lifts make you feel elated.

Something that can spoil the elation is trying to lift more/the same/slightly less afterwards and it suddenly becomes an impossible task.

We can avoid this by moving on after highly emotional sets or at least going MUCH lighter during subsequent sets.

If you are a high-hype or very strong lifter or both your happiness effect will be larger.

The stronger and/or older you are, the more likely it will be that you'll need to do somewhat of a deload after big, emotional pbs.

Be adaptable. Be smart. Be stronger.

By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength

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