18 Nov My Hopefully Non-Cliche, Top 4 Reason Why You’re Not as Strong as You Want
When I first started blogging and writing articles, I’d wonder everyone else seemed to write bulleted list articles. Seemed overdone. But after reading some books on effective copy writing, I realized it’s because readers love them. They’re easy to process. Being honest, I love them too.
Despite my initial ignorance, some of these list articles are becoming pointless because writers reuse the same banal shit over and over.
There’s a problem if the best point on your “10 Reasons You’re Not Jacked and Strong” article is “You’re not listening to the right music.”
Oh, thanks Doctor! You’ve identified the one mental trigger I need to put one hundred pounds onto my squat max. You along with the last thirty fitness writers who wrote it.
Believe me when I say I don’t have many original thoughts. No one really does. I, along with everyone else in this profession, take ideas from other great coaches, researchers, books, and make them their own, trying to improve on them. Then we pass the information along to everyone else who may not have heard it from the source we did. There’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, I think it’s great and it’s the only way to keep the conversation moving forward.
But we should be adding value, not just words.
So here’s my conversational list, hopefully not too cliché, of 4 reasons why you’re not getting as strong as you want. I say conversational because these are the same points I would bring up if someone genuinely asked my advice in person while we were sitting down having a cup of coffee. They may be broad, but there’s a definite practical takeaway.
- You don’t have enough novelty of movement in your training. Don’t be taken by cult beliefs. To improve the squat, you have to squat, and you have to squat often. Under heavy as well as lighter loads. There’s more to building a world-class squat than just having generally strong legs. Pushing 1,000 pounds on the leg press won’t necessarily help you squat even 400 pounds. The squat is too technical for that. And the longer and harder you’ve been training, the more specific you have to be to the lift to push the limits of it.
But for middle of the road intermediate lifters who’ve been training hard for a good chunk of time, there’s benefits in using different movements to challenge you in different ways. A great example would be doing handstand holds/shrugs/push-ups against a wall to improve your overhead press or jerk.
Going overhead frequently in your training can beat the hell out of your shoulders if you’re not careful, especially if the first number in your age isn’t a two anymore. Many times adding volume or load in overhead lifts can backfire causing you to stagnate or regress.
Handstands challenge body control, trunk stability, and shoulder stability in an entirely different way. The novelty of the movement may be just the thing your body needs to start making adjustments and adaptation. The challenge of something new is both physiologically and psychologically refreshing.
But variety doesn’t need to get out of control. Just because something is new and unique doesn’t mean it’s needed. Stick with what works and make little tweaks. Sometimes widening your feet a little in your squat or doing high bar if you normally do low bar is all you need to provide that novelty.
- You vary your training too much. This is both a piggyback and a contradiction to the last point. The body adapts to whatever stimulus it’s repeatedly presented with. To improve, training of the stimulus needs to be specific and arranged. This is not a real point of debate as pseudoscience protestors would have you believe, this is fact. This is human physiology.
Squatting heavy once every six weeks and then doing every other physical challenge man has devised under the sun between squat workouts, will not increase your squat max unless you’re brand new to training.
If you’ve been training less than a year, everything you do makes you stronger, but if you’ve been training for longer but with no specific strategy, your problem is glaring you right in the face.
Stop doing every banded, boxed, reverse whatever variation and just stick to the core lift for a while. Vary the intensity and volume not the lift.This goes the same for program hoppers. Believe me I get the urge, but combining this program with that one for one month and then switching to something else the next month because you feel like something is lacking or another program is better, is not the right idea. Sometimes even four weeks isn’t long enough to see results. Be consistent, be specific, follow a program or a coach for twelve weeks for once and then after that re-evaluate.
- You don’t understand the idea behind percentages. For most, percentages are just numbers that are supposed to be followed in a program without thought. People look at programs with percents and think that they’re following blueprints or something. But you need to understand what percentages of rep maxes actually represent. They’re measurements of accumulative stress on the body.
I’ve written and spoken about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Remember if your percents are based off of a 1RM, doing five reps at 80% is a lot harder, more stress on your body, than just 80% of 1RM because you’re doing more than 1 rep.
Understand this idea. Respect this idea. When you plan training consider having target percentage ranges (such as 80-84% of 1RM) during more stressful times in your life so that you can intuitively drop or raise intensity so you recover, adapt, and keep progressing.
- Your Work Is Masturbatory. Every exercise has a hypothetical 1-rep max. Even in a lunge or biceps curl, there is a max load that you can move one time. Most people don’t consider this for exercises other than the squat.
Work for work’s sake is great in improving general endurance but if strength is a goal, you need to be concerned with your work capacity for strength or specifically your strength endurance.
Time for an analogy… If we tell two athletes of almost equal weight and height to do as many bodyweight squats in ten minutes but one athlete can squat 600 pounds and the other only 400 pounds, what athlete will squat more reps? Shit if I know. Absolute strength (which is what the 1RM represents) doesn’t help performance in exercises and movements that use less than 25% of 1RM.
Whichever athlete has more general endurance will do more reps. Absolute strength doesn’t matter in this case.
But, if both athletes squat 200 pounds as many times as possible, it’s a different story. Look at the numbers, 200 pounds is 50% of the 400 pound squatter’s max but it’s less than 40% of the 600 pound squatter’s max. It should be obvious whose going to squat more weight given both athletes have a base of conditioning.
Some will disagree with me and say that the 600 pound squatter is probably just a one and done type guy with such a heavy 1RM. But anyone arguing this point is showcasing their ignorance by even contending that.
If an athlete can squat that kind of weight raw to an acceptable depth, his work capacity is huge. Specifically his work capacity to repeat heavy bouts of work is huge, which is what we’re talking about here. The stronger you get, the more volume you need with heavy weights to keep progressing.
The volume the 600 pound squatter can handle, and the amount of volume he needs to handle to get stronger, is most likely far greater than the 400 pound squatter.
Too many super hip workouts are written to tire you out and make you sweat without creating enough stress to actually disturb your body from homeostasis in such a way where it’s forced to adapt, overcome, and grow stronger and more resilient.
Who cares if you can do two hundred reps with a forty-five pound bar? You’re metaphorically masturbating. You’re not building the work capacity specific to repeating bouts of high force and power output again and again. So, you’re not really getting stronger.
Your turn. This is a short list but is there anything you’d like to add to it to help someone else? Let us all know in the comments.
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