All it Takes is Hard Work

  I am 5'10" at 175 pounds. I've been going to the gym steady 4-5 days a week, but I never really pushed myself until this year. My numbers suck, but I'm taking all effort required to increase them. My bench is 275, deadlift 365 and squat 350 – all 1-rep max.

Question 1: When should I start incorporating wrist straps for bench pressing and when should I start using a belt when deadlifting and squatting?

Question 2: I don't have access to ropes or chains, and the bench press has been the hardest for me to improve and get a stronger 1RM. My form is fairly good and tight.

Also, while I can 1RM 275 pounds, I can't rep out 225, as I have a hard time doing 2 reps of 225.


First off, don't get caught up in numbers and thinking that yours suck. You can't compare your numbers to anyone when you first start. No one starts out squatting 700 pounds. We all started somewhere. So don't worry, where you start has absolutely no bearing on where you end.

For assistance gear like wrist wraps and belts, these should all just be that, assistance. If you can bench just fine without them, don't use them immediately from the bar on. I don't put wrist wraps on until I'm to about 75 percent of my max numbers. And, as far as a belt goes, I use the same formula. It's very important when you're beginning to build up your back and core strength – without the aid of a belt. Save your belt and wraps for your heavier sets. Try to be as strong as possible with as little help as possible.

For bench, I don't really know how you train, so I'm just going to give you a general answer. Don't get wrapped up in your 1RM. Spend some time doing five reps, four reps, and so on. Spend a few weeks trying to build your heaviest set of five, then a few weeks building up your heaviest set of three and so on.

There are all sorts of ways to get through sticking points without the aid of chains or bands. You can try floor presses and pin presses where the lift starts 3/4 of the way up. Don't forget your dumbbell presses. Another thing people tend to neglect is that a very strong back and a very strong set of triceps gives you a bigger bench. Really focus on those as well.

Take like a month or so break from your 1RM, don't even attempt a 1RM. Put some quality time in with reps and getting strong(er).

Hopefully this all helps you out man.