[WORKING WITH A WORLD RECORD HOLDER HAS UNCOVERED SOMETHING SPECIAL]
Weaknesses are YOUR unlocked Potential!
Its no secret I’m a big fan of seeking out the worlds best and trying to learn from them. I’ve done it ever since I left school. The worlds best is, of course subjective and of personal opinion, but I am a massive ‘both sides of the argument’ kind of guy. I’m impartial, even if I’m in an argument myself, I will always see the other point of view as well as my own. However there is one thing you cannot argue against… and that is that no matter what your strengths are, your weaknesses are in fact the thing that you need to work on the most… Sound obvious right? However we see it in the weight-loss and strength world all the time. People program for people things that they like, for example, find a great squatting PT and I bet you they like to program squats into their program for you where possible.
It is also the reason I do not program for myself any more. It’s too easy to program in lifts that I like, things that I enjoy doing and sessions/ programs that continuously make me feel good about myself. However; there comes a time whereby that no longer works anymore. You see the phrase ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link’ holding very true when it comes to both fat loss and strength. This article/ blog is going to focus more on ‘strength’ but also what that can do for fat loss and how we can apply it to our training.
The first instance in which I really started to pay attention to weaknesses in training was on the Poliquin PICP Level 1 and 2 out in Copenhagen. A course where I really took a step forward as a Personal Trainer. I was surrounded by people who were like minded, driven, knowledgeable, engaging, and inspirational. To this day I’m in touch with a lot of the members of that course. Some have opened up facilities, others have just continued to make waves in the industry in other ways. The coaches and lecturers were passionate and delivered content that was immediately applicable. One of the theories was that of ‘Structural Balance’ which is taking one major compound lift, in our case the squat and bench press, and then applying statistical data to them. This data came up with a % of which other lifts should be in order to create the best platform from which to increase all lifts.
Essentially from these figures if your back squat was 100kgs but your front squat was only 40kgs it would show a ‘weakness’ in your front squat that would also be holding back your back squat. If you were to bring your front squat up to the required %, we would expect to see an increase in your back squat as well. This is all due to an increase in the strength in the muscles that were weak but also have a carry-over from the front squat to the back squat.
More recently I have sought out the expertise of AJ Roberts. A world record breaking Powerlifter who trained for most of his career at the infamous Westside Barbell. From what I have learnt from AJ and also listening to several days’ worth of Louie on his podcast (which I highly recommend) the same theory comes up again… Find what you are weak at… strengthen it up so that it surpasses your strength and then identify another weakness and do the same!
They tend to do the same but on a lift by lift basis.
Take the bench press; if you are weak ‘off the chest’, this means you hit the chest and then cannot move the bar or get it to the transition point whereby the triceps help the bar up and lockout:
You would then look to exercises that would help improve this particular area of the lift, here are some examples and videos associated with them:
- Incline Bench Press Variations
- Concentric Only Bench Press (from chest)
- Dumbbell Bench Press Variations
- Feet Elevated Pushup Variations
- 3” Cambered Bar Bench Press or the Body Development Bar Press from Watson Gym
Similarly, if we do a bench press and are weak at the lockout, or when the triceps take over the movement there are various lifts that can help us develop that top end strength and therefore blast through a sticking point.
- Floor Press Variations- narrow, medium, wide grip. With chains or bands.
- Rack Press Variations- this set up can potentially be safer whilst lifting alone and allows you to lift without fear!
- Board Press Variations- for this i love this new bit of kit we have just invested in. The BenchBlokz. Essentially its a a 2-6 board but in one easy to attach hard foam block, simple be devastatingly effective.
- Close Grip Bench Press Variations
If you watch this series of videos of my bench press (link here), I get stuck at the point from which my triceps are attempting to lockout. But if I increase the strength in my triceps – my lifts can increase too.
So what does this mean for fat loss as well? Essentially, for fat loss we are looking to continuously overload our body, always progressing with either more reps, sets, weight lifted, or time under tension. However, if we don’t increase our strength, the numbers / weight that we can lift at will not increase. If they don’t increase then how can we create a new stimulus from which then the body has to adapt from, increasing our metabolically active tissue and therefore increase our calorie expenditure.
Weaknesses in the deadlift are common in different areas, we have all been there. You can just seem to get stuck in a particular area of the lift. Again there are certain exercises you can concentrate on that will help you through that particular sticking point, its all about knowing your lifts and knowing the area of weakness.
If you are weak of the floor, you see it so many times. 100 flies up and then 105 feels glued to the ground! Here is what you can do to achieve more strength from the floor:
Deficit deadlifts emphasis leg drive, this in turn increases strength from the floor in the standard deadlift.
- All Box Squat Variations- depending on the height of the box these force overcoming a static force much like the deadlift.
- Box Jumping Variations- as they teach drive into the floor and acceleration.
Weak at Lockout:
- Band-Resisted Deadlifts– as the band tension increases the load increases. By having a lower weight at the bottom the trainee is taught to accelerate through the sticking point. These are probably my favourite tool for increasing a persons’ deadlift in general. I had a physics teacher once increase their deadlift by 20kgs in 15 minutes by using a band. As a physician he could understand the theory but was amazed at the INSTANT results.
- Hip-Thrust Variations- these teach a forceful contraction of the gluteals which essentially fire in the lockout position of the deadlift.
- Rack Pulls- these are taught to overcome the weak point of the lift, simply set them up at your weakest point, and build them up. I have listened to a fair amount of podcasts from Louie Simmons and he always mentions this one lifter who had a tremendous deadlift but as soon as the leg drive was taken away (i.e. from the ground) he could pull around 200lbs less! Guess what he had to work on… rack pulls, a lot of them.
- Reverse Hyperextensions– the number 1 posterior chain developer you are not using or never have seen! Volume is key here.
- Glute-Ham Raise– the hamstrings and glutes do a lot of the work of the deadlift lockout, if you cannot perform a glute-ham raise then you have unfulfilled potential in the deadlift.
Want to see the most impressive feat of strength probably ever? Eddie Hall recently performed a 500KG deadlift, it is the first time it has ever happened and it was scary to see… But even he has weakness’s, I don’t know where they are (haha) but they are there!
Lastly the squat
Again there are certain phases of the lift in which you can be weak, programming in exercises that work on that weakness will drive your numbers up!
Weak Out of “The Hole”:
- All Box Squat Variations (especially below parallel)
- Concentric-only Good Morning Variations
- Sumo Deadlift Variations
- Box Jumping Variations
Weak Near Lockout:
- All Box Squat Variations (*slightly* above parallel)
- Good Morning Variations (especially with Safety Squat Bar)
- Concentric-only Squat Variations
- Hip-Thrust Variations
As well as this there is the general conditioning side of things, this is where the sled comes in and finding interesting new ways to target weaknesses. Here are some examples of what we have been playing around with based on our weaknesses.
Other non-traditional methods of strengthening weaknesses
Med-Ball carries- I LOVE these, I first did them a few weeks ago and it lit up my lower back like nothing else! Simply grab a medicine ball, slam ball, sandbag, wall ball or D-ball and go for a walk. 400m seems to be about right for a 6-12kg wall ball. Repeat that 3 times and you have a great cool down or warm up for a workout that really targets the muscles of the back to keep you from falling forward. This postural stress is much like the stress of a squat but in a really controlled manner, great for beginners too.
Now variations of this:
Low ball into the stomach- no interlocking hands/ interlocking fingers/ hand locked on wrist.
Mid into the bottom of the ribcage- no interlocking hands/ interlocking fingers/ hand locked on wrist.
High on the top of the chest- no interlocking hands/ interlocking fingers/ hand locked on wrist.
Side on the hip single arm over ball- really taxes the QL ( muscle in the back) and the core to stabilise and stay straight.
Safety Bar Walking or a Yolk Walk- literally get a safety bar or Yolk (I find the Barbell too tough on the elbows and shoulders carrying for distances) and go for that max distance without setting the bar down. Or a timed set of 5 mins, basically get used to having a weight on your back and the breathlessness causes by it. It provides great conditioning but also works single leg stability under a heavy load. The exercise will tell you where you are weak!
Sled work- virtually any movement you can do with a sled. (You’re welcome!)
Lower body focused
– With a harness around the shoulders– Forwards/ forward bent over to target hamstrings dragging through the heel/ bent over crawling.
– With belt round middle- forwards/ forward bent over to target hamstrings dragging through the heel/ bent over crawling.
– With straps around the feet to target hip flexors- forward standing/ forward crawling.
Sideways dragging- holding straps in hands/ belt around midsection/ around feet.
With a harness around the shoulders- backwards/ backwards bent over.
– With belt round middle- backwards/ backwards bent over
– With straps around the feet to target hip flexors- forward standing/ forward crawling.
– You can also vary the foot position from narrow, medium, wide, feet turned out, feet straight
Push with strapped facing away from sled
Pull to hips
Pull to shoulders
Straight arm, bent arm
As you can see from the videos the opportunities to strengthen various parts of the body with NO eccentric load and therefore no DOMS, is endless. Thats why this can be thrown in on the end of workouts, or on rest days if you don’t like not to move and train on rest days.
My personal favourite way is to vary the weight each session and not really track it, I also just make up the movement as I go along. Play around with angles, just get on with it, whack on some music or a podcast and start walking! By the way the best training headphones I have found so far are these PowerBeats Wireless (I’ve tried just a few!!!)
Here’s a workout you could try:
400m Ball Carry- ball in stomach
200m Sled Drag Backwards Belt around Hips @ BW
400m Ball Carry 200m on one hip/ 200m on the other hip
400m Sled Drag Sideways holding handles @ 3/4 BW
400m Ball carry on chest no interlocking fingers
Not done for time, done for quality.
Then on Wednesday I might decrease all the weights and just move quicker.
Then on Friday or Saturday
Here is a workout you could try:
400m Safety Bar Carry @ 40kgs
200m Sled Pulls Backwards Pull to Hip @ 1/3rd BW
400m Safety Bar Carry @ 40kgs
400m Sled Drag Forwards Push ( like a double fisted punch) holding handles @ 1/3rd BW
400m Safety Bar Carry @ 40kgs
200m Sled Drag Backwards Pull to Shoulder @ 1/3rd BW
One extra addition I’m trying out and loving at the moment is one Westside use for their fighters, you add a band into the mix around the head to work the neck. Most people get knocked out due to a lack of neck strength, this translates hugely over to any contact sport as well. Rugby for example.
As well as strength, these conditioning exercises can be used for fat loss purposes. By varying the speed and loads we can get a great workout in. Perhaps something along the lines of:
A1 Squat 3 x 8 (4/0/X/0) Rest 15 secs
A2 DB OH Press 3 x 15 (3/1/1/0) Rest 15 secs
A3 Set 1- 200m Sled Drag at 1/2 BW/ Set 2 200m Sled Pulls to Waist/ Set 3 200m Sled Push ( as there are no squats after to rest up for. (Rest 60 secs)
B1 RDL 3 x 8 (4/0/X/0) Rest 15 secs
B2 V-Bar Pulldown 3 x 15 (3/1/1/0) Rest 15 secs
B3 Set 1- 100m Sled Drag at BW/ Set 2 100m Sled Pulls to Shoulder/ Set 3 100m Sled Push @ BW ( as there are no squats after to rest up for. (Rest 60 secs)
As you can see worked into a program it can give you variety, a different challenge and also reduce the rest periods and avoid stagnation. This might be great to throw in 3 weeks before a holiday to the beach instead of adding traditional cardio!
[ TRUE STORY ALERT]
A lot of people are training for what has been coined ‘functional fitness’ well I realised recently whilst out on a walk what that meant. Anyone who is a parent will understand this one. Your out on a long walk, suddenly your son or daughter turns and says ‘I’m tired’, this only means one thing…. Carry me! J Now before I used to dread this moment, you’re 2 miles from home and you know perfectly well that once they are up there they are not coming down… Hello shoulder and neck pain for the next 2 days. So one day in the gym I realised that I had a device that perfectly replicated the loading pattern of a child sitting on my shoulders… The safety bar! So I loaded up the bar with 30kgs ( around double the weight of my son) and started walking, first time for two mins, second time for 3 mins, then up to 5 minutes. I then used to tag it on the end of workouts or on my ‘rest days’. Soon I was up to 60kg carries for 3 sets of 5 mins… Now when out on a Sunday walk with the family when the little man asks for that carry, I don’t dread it, I LOVE IT. He loves being up on the shoulders, I don’t get neck pain because I trained for it, and it means we enjoy every bit of the walk all the way back to the car or house. Boom functional fitness, problem solved, real life weakness training being applied!
Hope you have enjoyed the read, if you would like any additional information on weakness training then feel free to get in touch via the website or emailing me direct on Ollie@priority6.co.uk