I have been lifting weights religiously since I was 16 years old. This means I’ve been weight training for over half my life since I’m now 33. Each year I get a little bit stronger, but for the past year I’ve been pretty stagnant. Around two months ago, I was sick and tired of my strength levels and I decided to do something about it. In particular, I was disappointed in my bench press strength. Two months ago I maxed out at 280 lbs. This is pathetic for a guy who’s been lifting for 17 years, especially considering the fact that I do some form of horizontal pressing two times per week.
I decided that I was going to remedy this situation. I decided to get what I call, “Dialed In.”
Getting dialed in involves creating a goal and then doing everything in your power to reach that goal. Sometimes we lift weights and simply go through the motions. We are just coasting. Other times we fire up the engines and go full blast. I made a goal to hit 315 on the bench (3 plates per side) within three months. In order for this to happen, I knew that I had to create a great plan.
1) Benching twice per week and following bench up with floor presses (which give me a good transfer)
2) Focusing on my form and having each rep look the same
3) Sleeping around 7 hours each night (which is tough for me) and taking a brief nap before each workout
4) Envisioning setting PR’s throughout the week
5) Making sure I don’t train too hard on lower body days so I have energy for my upper body days
6) Eating a well-balanced meal around ninety minutes before my workout
7) Slamming an energy drink right before my workout and making sure I’m psyched up to lift hard
Since implementing this plan, my max bench has gone up 5 lbs each week for five straight weeks. I’ve gone from 280 to 305 in six weeks and I plan on hitting 310 tomorrow. Hopefully the following week I hit 315.
I realize that these strength gains can’t continue for too long (going up 5 lbs per week would amount to 260 lbs per year…it just ain’t happening). But one can certainly focus on gaining strength like this on one particular lift for a couple of months, then picking a new lift on which to focus. Building strength is tough, but maintaining strength is easy. Bring one lift up, then put it on the back burner in maintenance mode while you bring another lift up, etc.
Next, I’m going to try to build up my max chin up to 135 lbs (currently I can do 115 lbs). I’d also like to bring my squat and deadlift up too.
In summary, if you are not happy with your strength on a particular lift, here is what I recommend for a quick fix:
1) Do that lift twice per week
2) Pick a lift that you know transfers over really well to that lift and do that twice a week as well
3) Make sure that when the time comes to train that lift, you are full of energy and ready to set a PR
4) In order for this to happen, you need to be well rested, well fed, psyched up, and “dialed in”