We all remember that time in our lifting career when we were adding kilos to all of our lifts nearly every week if not every week. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last forever and slowly those gains become less and less substantial. The more “trained” we become the harder it is to see progress. It can get frustrating as we continue to put in massive amounts of efforts for minimal return. That frustration often leads to poor adherence and ill-discipline when it comes to programming, by that I mean, we don’t see progress in things so we make wholesale changes, forgetting about what we were focusing on in the first place, most often we revert back to the exercises or style of training that we prefer. In the long run, that doesn’t help us get closer to our original goal. Here are a few subtle changes to common exercises that you can incorporate in your next training block that might help move keep you motivated, bring up weaknesses or just simply change things up, without throwing your whole plan out the window.
Paused Back Squat – Pausing our back squats at the bottom of the lift is a great way to improve not only our overall positioning but our speed out of “the hole”, which in turn helps us throughout the entire concentric portion of the lift. You don’t need to sit down there forever a simple 1-3 second count will limit the stretch shortening (elastic) effect we commonly use, forcing you to concentrate and quickly develop force when driving out of the bottom position. These are also my go to for those that struggle to (or decide they don’t want to) hit good depth.
Deficit Deadlift – Increasing the range of motion of any lift is a sure fire way to increase hypertrophy and strength. We can easily do this for the deadlift by standing on a bumper plate or a couple of mats. You don’t want to go overboard with the height of what your standing on so keep it about 1-4 inches, any more will start to change the lift a bit too much. At the moment I use these after my main deadlifts with about 80% of what my deadlifts were, however I have used these as my main exercise for some training blocks.
Close Grip Bench Press – Close grip bench is a great tricep builder and big strong triceps are vital for benching. You don’t need to go super close with your grip, index finger on the smooth part of the bar is as close as I would go.
These lifts are going to be more difficult than the conventional exercises they are based upon and as such you should decrease the load you’re using. I find around 80%-90% of your normal working weight is a good place to start, but it will vary.
Take home message
Don’t let limited progress derail you from your overall goal or make you constantly change your programming.
Implement these subtle variations to help improve your main lifts, I would try them for a month or so before you revert back, hopefully stronger and ready for new personal records.