Get Lit: 3 Ways to Light a Fire Under Your Training (May Roundup)

Last month I set out my goals for this offseason: to practice more with knee wraps, to strengthen my shoulders and incorporate more dynamic work into my bench, and to work back into sumo deadlifting.  Those goals were intended to address my weak points, and -- as I mentioned last month -- that’s the key to successful training: recognizing your weaknesses and learning how to correct them.

To make a long story short, this past month has been fire -- easily the best single month of my training career.  It was simple, too: I followed my 3-day Think Strong program exactly as written, with some very minor variations used on my light training day.  And it worked.

My bench hasn’t come up quite as quickly -- bench is always slow to improve, for most lifters.  Still, I’ve rehabbed my injured pec and I’m confident I can put up numbers close to my all-time bests in that lift, too.

Light a Fire Under Your Own Training

So if you’re struggling with your own training, how do you identify and address your weaknesses?  Obviously, it’s not easy.  Learning to train involves a great deal of trial and error, and that can be a tedious, frustrating process.  Fortunately, there are some ways to ease it along.

One Thing at a Time.

I don’t know a single powerlifter who’s world class in all three lifts.  If you have great leverages for the squat or bench, you’ll usually struggle with the deadlift, and vice versa.  But it seems like most guys (and girls) try to bring up all three of their lifts at the same time, not accounting for the facts that they’re better suited for some lifts than others -- and therefore some lifts require more recovery than others.

Instead, pick one weak point to improve, and focus on that until it’s no longer a weak point.  This past month, I focused exclusively on the sumo deadlift.  I didn’t take a single rep on squat or bench press (or any of their variations) at or over 90%, and those lifts didn’t suffer for it.  But the energy I saved on those two lifts I directed at the pull, and that skyrocketed.

Think About Balance.

If you’re struggling to decide what to focus on, take a look in the mirror.  If you’ve got some muscle groups that are underdeveloped, there’s a good chance that those groups are weak and contributing to an imbalance in your physique and in your lifts.  That doesn’t mean you need to incorporate a huge amount of hypertrophy work into your training!  I’ve benefitted very little from isolation work, and I’ve found very little carryover from it.

Instead, pick close variations to the competition lifts that will address your imbalances. If your triceps are lagging, then smash some close-grip bench pressing.  If it’s your quads, think about safety bar or front squats.  Isolation work has its place, but don’t rely on it.

Have Fun.

You’re not going to stick with a program that isn’t fun.  Maybe you know that stiff-legged deadlifts help your pull, but you absolutely hate doing them, and you find that whenever you push them, you tweak your back or hamstring.  Don’t keep banging your head against the wall: no single lift will make or break your training.

That said, don’t only do the lifts you enjoy.  Those lifts will typically be your strongest, and to continue to pound away at them will only exacerbate your imbalances (see above).

What’s Next?

Great training cycles don’t come around all that often, and when they do, you gotta take advantage of them.  It’s one thing to pick out a huge meet, like the US Open, and dedicate eight or 12 or 16 weeks of training to coming in perfect on that one day.  Chances are, it won’t be perfect -- it’s too hard to predict that far out; too much variance in the art of training to plan that specifically.  If you have a specific meet in mind, there’s nothing you can do about that.

But I don’t have any big meets on the horizon, and so I have a little flexibility, and I’m gonna take advantage of that.  I know I’m capable of putting up some big numbers at 181, and I’ll be aiming to do exactly that at the USPA Naturally Fit meet on June 3.  My training is the best it’s ever been, I feel great, and the cards seem to be falling my way, so we’ll see what happens!

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