We need to have a talk. This is a topic we both have been putting off for a while now but the time has finally come to face some tough facts.
You’re dedicated and pushing yourself to achieve those goals of getting bigger and stronger. You want it and no one is questioning that.
The thing is we all know there is a reason you’re working on rack pulls. It’s not that you’re focusing on isolating your lower back. It’s because you can pile the plates on the bar and it’s easier than full deadlifts.
You’re not over at the leg press knocking out sets of 20 with a bunch of plates because you find it’s better to target the quads. You’re doing it because you can’t squat a lot and you’re afraid of embarrassing yourself at the squat rack.
Finally those straps you’re wearing on your wrists aren’t because you have sweaty palms. You have those because you would rather pull 100 pound dumbbells on shrugs than struggle to hold on to the 60’s.
In short, you’re taking these shortcuts because you’re actually weaker than you want to be and are having trouble coming to terms with it.
You're Not Alone
The first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. Many people have been in this position before you and you’re not the only one reading this that is having to face the truth. What you also need to understand is that the longer you go without confronting these obvious flaws, the longer you will go without seeing that success you desire.
You see the photos on social media of these jacked dudes lifting crazy weights or athletic ladies performing incredible feats of fitness and imagine yourself as one of them. Here's a little secret. At one time or another, all of those people were just like you.
Related: Am I Strong? Lee Boyce's Real World Strength Standards
They started, worked hard, and had weaknesses that became obvious along the way. Do you think they got where they are because they ignored them and satisfied their egos by finding alternatives? No.
They saw that they were weak in areas and worked their butts off to improve. Once they improved on those weak areas, they eventually saw positive results in all areas of their fitness. This is what you have to do. You’re going to have to face these weaknesses and start putting in the work to get better so you can get stronger.
I know this might be a blow to the ego for a while, but once you get past that mental barrier and dedicate yourself to doing what you have to do, you will be better for it. Let’s do this.
Are You Sure That You’re Weak?
I just had that whole heart to heart conversation about weakness and I am asking you if you’re sure you’re weak. Weird, right? What I mean is that it might not be that you can’t lift the weight. It might be that you’re not doing everything you’re supposed to do in order to complete the lift to the best of your ability.
I will use the deadlift as an example. We have 225 pounds on the bar. You walk up to it, bend your knees, lower yourself down until you can grab the bar, and yank on it until it leaves the floor a couple of inches. Then, you drop it before you throw your back out. You can’t even pull two plates! So, you opt for the rack pulls.
You might have grabbed the bar and tried, but you didn’t plant your feet solid in the floor with a shoulder width stance (or sumo stance if you prefer). Were you even fully warmed up before you tried to lift? You might not have tightened your core, grabbed on to that bar with a white knuckle grip, or gave that initial pull of the bar to engage your lats.
Related: Deadlift Domination: 5 Tips for 5 Plates
This should all have been done before pushing your feet into the floor, activating your legs, and bringing the bar close to your legs. Finally, now you should’ve attempted to pick the bar up.
You Might Be Weak in Another Area
For this example, I will use the standing barbell military press. A classic move that you don’t see much nowadays. You have 185 on the bar which is sitting in the rack. You unrack the weight and stand with it. You attempt to push it overhead and as it passes the top of your forehead, you feel like you’re about to drop it on your head. So, you lower it back down.
You try again, but the same thing happens so you re-rack the weight. No, you didn’t do two partials. There could be two issues here. One is you don’t have the necessary strength in your triceps to assist the shoulders in locking out the weight. Another is you might not have the core strength to keep your body stable in order to complete the lift.
If your foundation isn’t solid, the lift just won’t happen. Take some time to practice these lifts you’ve been avoiding and analyze each rep. Then you can accurately figure out where you are strongest and where you are weakest. Once you reach those conclusions, you can start creating your plan to turn them into strengths.
How Are You Going to Get Stronger?
So you have faced the facts that you are weak in some important areas. Finally, you know why you are weak and what you have to improve in order to turn these weaknesses into strengths. How do you do it? How are you going to go from scared to lift to a superhero of iron? Here are a few strategies that will help you do that.
1. Find a plan that will help you improve: If you want to improve on the squat, you shouldn’t be looking to a traditional bodybuilding program to help you do that. If you want to add 30 pounds to your bench, I don’t suggest a CrossFit program. (No I am not anti-CrossFit. It was just an example.)
Whether you look around here on Muscle & Strength or find a plan from someone who has done what you want to do, make sure your training is based on improving those weaknesses as the priority. If you want to get stronger, you have to work on that specific weakness to make it happen.
2. Take that weakness head on first: It should make sense that you want to work on your weakness when you are fresh and at your strongest. So if bench press is what you are weak on and want to improve, warm up and head right to the bench.
Related: Build A Bigger Bench Press - 20 Tips To Improve Your Bench Press
This gives you the best chance to improve on that weak point, instead of doing everything else first and taking on the weak point last when you’re tired and ready to leave. Also, schedule your training split so you have to face your weaknesses first in your week. You will have recovered from the rest of your training thanks to rest days and will be as fresh as possible both physically and mentally.
3. Go for the big “O”: In this case, the “O” is for obsession. To quote CT Fletcher, you must be obsessed! If you’re going to give a half-hearted effort and aren’t mentally ready to commit, then you’re going to stay weak. It’s that simple.
4. Give the weakness extra attention: For this tip I will use grip as an example. Let’s say you struggle with the deadlift because you have trouble maintaining a solid grip. After you do your work sets on the deadlift, place the bar on the rack where you have to lift it a few inches to stand with the weight in your hands.
Once you stand with the bar, hold it as long as you can until your grip gives out. Time yourself while you do this. Once you know your time, make it a goal of beating that time. This will help your grip strength which might improve your deadlift strength. Find other tips like this to help you improve on whatever your weak areas are and add a couple of work sets in your plan.
5. Be patient: This is the last one but might be the most important as well. Just like you can’t add 30 pounds of muscle in a week, you won’t be able to turn your weaknesses into strengths in a couple of training sessions. You have to be in this for the long haul and that means being both focused and patient.
Make sure you appreciate and celebrate the small improvements. The larger improvements will come over time. This will also prevent you from getting frustrated and quitting . Making a strong commitment is vital to no longer being weak.