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Gaining Traction On The Bench Press

Gaining Traction on the Bench Press This is, despite what you might think from the title, not an article about breaking plateaus.   Instead I am speaking literally and want to discuss in this article the matter of maintaining shoulder positioning on the bench without sliding or slipping. Maintaining ‘grip’ on the bench pad seems to be an issue that lots of people struggle with but very few seem to address.  Firstly let’s talk about correct use of leg drive on the bench press.  A lifter should generate force with their lower body driving themselves back up onto their upper traps. This drive should not stop and start sporadically throughout the lift but rather should remain constant.  Despite the fact that the glutes must remain in contact with the bench pad, there should be virtually no weight through them, so all the weight should be bridging from the feet to

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deadlift plus chains

Selecting Deadlift Movements

Deadlift overload movements My deadlift has made significant progress since I stopped relying on heavy overload movements to massage my ego. I am a big fan of using a variety of exercises to build the deadlift, but for a long time when my deadlift was not going as well, it was all too tempting to regularly default to movements which allowed me to use the most weight. Reverse band deadlifts, higher block / rack pulls and things like the trap bar are all useful tools when used sparingly. It is less likely though that these exercises are the missing link to what’s stopping your deadlift from improving. Occasionally it’s good to overload the movement, break in the feel of a new weight on the bar you haven’t handled before and I’m all for this being done sometimes but the numbers you can hit on these movements will not always be

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ego lifting

Working on your Weaknesses, Asking for Help and Avoiding Unnecessary Training Mistakes

“Working on your weaknesses” needs to be more than just a catch phrase. It holds no worth if you can’t identify what they are! Here’s a hint. If you are disproportionately good at a variation, and can heavily overload the exercise beyond your competition max…… perhaps, just perhaps, it isn’t training a weakness. Nothing wrong with high box squats, high block pulls or reverse band lifts when used sparingly, however very often they aren’t the missing link and what’s stopping you from lifting those weights in competition. To be able to train and programme yourself you need to have the wide base of knowledge to evaluate your movements, muscle imbalances and strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge and skill can obviously be developed but I believe that it takes at least a decade before you really can properly ‘go it alone’. Until that point, even if you programme for yourself you

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squat fail image

Failing Reps and Self-Confidence

Failing Reps and Self-Confidence are intrinsically linked   “[We] are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit” – Will Durant, on Aristotle Someone who fails regularly is not practicing success, but is instead practicing failure.  Failure is a harsh reminder of your limitations and leaves lasting damage to a lifters confidence.  Failing a few reps here and there may seem insignificant but a lifter’s self-confidence is linked with a sense of optimism as to what they are capable of and if they fail too often, then this optimism very often gets a harsh hit of reality and eventually becomes pessimism.  Regularly failed weight haunts will haunt you and become harder and harder to overcome. Iron plates are heavy enough without adding the weight of past failures. Failing reps catalyzes further training failures Missing a rep purely due to a technical error might constitute a reason to retake a

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bench spotting

Spotting : The ‘It’s all you Bro’ Conundrum

Spotting in powerlifting is not easy. Each lifter likes the bar lifted out on the bench a different way and you always want to give the person the best chance of making the lift. A good training partner will be as happy to see you succeed as they are to succeed themselves. Whilst competition can and often does exist to some degree, if you are worth anything as a training partner then you want your training partner(s) to hit their attempts in training and on the platform. The same applies for coaches not wanting to see their lifters fail lifts. A problem can arise, however, from a lifter’s coach or training partners not wanting to see them fail so much they protect them from this by some rather over-generous spotting. Obviously on the deadlift a person is pretty much on their own, but on the squat and bench a tactical

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bench spotting

Tips for what to do if you miss reps in training or don’t hit your targets for a session?

Don’t panic. Remember it’s just a training session and not every session will turn out the way you want it. Don’t begin to doubt your own strength and start running a dialogue in your head which goes along the lines of “My strength has dropped. My lifts aren’t where they should be. I’ve got weaker” etc. This is harder for some people than others. A few bad reps/sets or even full sessions will not destroy your progress by themselves, but developing a negative mindset and writing yourself off will. Some people will let a negative mindset creep in and it can stay there for weeks or even months if not addressed and rationalised. If you have a coach, then speak to them and discuss your doubts, work out what went wrong in the session, and formulate a plan to get yourself back on track. If you don’t have a coach,

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Max Effort Method Vs various Submaximal Volume Based Programmes

It’s clear from the multitude of success stories on both sides of this debate, that BOTH more traditional submaximal linear styles of training as well as max Effort training can be very effective.  However here’s just one justification for personally preferring a conjugate system where max Effort work is incorporated, rather than programmes dominated by submaximal work on the competition lifts alone.  I could write probably dozens of reasons why I feel it works better for me and my athletes but this is just part of the argument which sometimes gets missed.  I’d hope that everyone would agree that technique is NOT something you simply learn with light weights and it just remains the same as the weights get heavier and heavier. It’s not that all the same principles don’t apply but the cues and importance of muscular tension becomes the difference between either lifting a weight or not lifting

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10 Hypertrophy Methods

There’s a method in the muscle….. How many of these hypertrophy methods have you tried? and with how much success? Pick one and try it out to accelerate your gains, or if you’ve already tried all of them, why not revisit one method. Nothing revolutionary here, just tried and tested methods for improving muscle gain. 20 rep Set Method Following your working sets on your main lift of the workout (eg. Squat) you take   50% of your unequipped 1RM, and perform a 20 rep set of the same exercise. Next workout, if you got all 20 reps, you increase the load by 5% and attempt to hit 20 reps again. If you do not hit all 20 reps, you stay on this weight each time you do this workout until you can.  Once you hit the 20reps then you make the 5% increase. The ‘Boring But Big’ Method This

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Goal vs Enjoyment

Which are you putting first? The way you would like to train or the training goal?  Most people if asked, would answer the latter. However, it seems very frequent in gym goers and lifters that often they pick first, the way they would like to train.  One problem with writing your own programmes, is that it is very difficult to make objective decisions. There can also be damaged egos, if the programme is shown to not be working. How do you deal with this? Stick your head in the sand and keep going regardless because to ‘programme hop’ is considered a terrible thing? Or learn, adapt and find new ways of moving forward? Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you need to live with it until the planned 8, 12 or 16 or however many weeks is completed.  If you’ve been hitting the basic competition lifts week-in week-out

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Advantages of training in a team, over training solo.

Advantages of training in a team, over training solo. Spotters always on hand You will always have someone to spot you / give you lift outs. Not a stranger either, someone who learns how to spot you in the way which you require. Added Motivation You will always have people to keep you motivated.  If you ever feel like skipping a session, you have an obligation to show up. Not only this , but nobody wants to be the guy dragging their heels and not showing enthusiasm.  In a group, you are accountable for putting effort in, unlike when training solo people can get away with half arsing their session because it makes no difference to anyone else if they do. When one person gets fired up for a lift it raises everyone else’s effort as well.  Whilst the opposite is true if your training partners are not motivated, as

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