Powerlifters and bodybuilders alike use the bench press, deadlift, and squat to add muscle mass to their frame, and gain overall strength. For many lifters, there is a point along the arc of each repetition that is the weakest. As with any chain, it only takes one weak link along the way to prevent the completion of the repetition. Let’s check out a few techniques for isolating and correcting these weaker failure points in our major lifts.
Many bodybuilders agree that the bench press isn’t a measure of how strong you are. Rather, it is a measure of how weak you are. Natural bodybuilders very rarely have impressive bench press numbers, and a decent chunk of chemically assisted athletes still don’t gain entrance into the 300-club. This is because many of them have weak points on the bench press that prevent the lift from completing. You need to work to find out your weaker failure points are along the arc of the lift, and focus upon improving them. For most bodybuilders, this is either the initial “push” as the weight leaves the chest (when the lift is most dependent upon the pectoral muscles) or the lockout point, when the triceps are most brought into play. Find out where you fail, and work to specifically target those muscle groups with isolation movements. Gaining a bit of weight will help things as well.
Many bodybuilders and powerlifters use rack deadlifts as a crutch to help them improve their deadlifting performance. If it is the lockout portion of the lift, at the top, they find rack deadlifts help to improve the lower and middle back strength. If you find picking up the weight and moving it through the initial 30% of the lift to be the failure point, then you will need to work on low back and grip strength. You can improve your lower back lifting ability with the use of hyperextensions with weight. Grip can grow stronger with the use of targeted heavy forearm training twice per week.
Squatting depth often make all the difference when it comes to developing strength, avoiding injuries, and lifting as much as possible. If you would like to develop complete squatting power, use box squats and experiment with various depths. If you fail at the bottom, go lower. If getting over the ‘hump’ in the middle of the movement, use partial squats with more weight. The use of knee wraps is another issue which squatters often face. They do protect the knees from injury, and provide an extra layer of protection that your tendons certainly do appreciate.
Some advice is applicable to all of the lifts. Always warm up. This will bring more blood into the muscle groups, which will allow for greater amino acid uptake to the muscle cells, and will help to prevent injury. Never exceed your lifting capability. Use a spotter. Stop when something hurts. Be patient and with time, you will eliminate the impact of these weak points and improve your “Big Three” lifts.
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