I enjoy running Westside Barbell’s standard template in my own training. For anyone that doesn’t know who/what Westside Barbell is, I’ll summarize quickly:
The average top-5 squat at Westside is 1143 lbs.
That is just slightly less than a SmartCar.
For anyone that doesn’t know what the Westside Barbell standard template is, I’ll summarize that quickly too:
Max effort, dynamic effort, and repetition method training. And attack the muscles that you use during your main lifts.
Westside is a powerlifting gym, so their main lifts include the bench, squat, deadlift, and all of their variations. The standard template gives me tons of freedom to pretty much choose any exercise I want and run with it for the day. I can also choose all of my assistance exercises for the day, or do nothing. Freedom.
For many, this type of training is unique, as the goal is not a “good workout” or “pump,” but to get a good lift in, work hard on the accessory stuff, and get out of the gym.
There is an end goal to this type of training and that is to add numbers to your powerlifting total.
However, this plan can be somewhat of a trap. If you aren’t careful, you may fall into a desolate pit of frustration if you only attack the lifts that you’re good at. Maybe you’re great at front squat, trap bar, and sumo stance variations of things, but can’t pull conventionally to save your life. Maybe your abs aren’t all that strong and you don’t like the ab wheel (or L-sits, or leg raises, or planks), so you don’t do any ab work. Or maybe you just flat-out don’t enjoy glute-ham raises. And all I can say to that is that nobody enjoys glute-ham raises, so just do them anyway.
This desolate pit of frustration is not relegated to powerlifting circles though. It can be the case for somebody who wants to lose weight and only benches because it’s easier than eating right and doing some interval training. Or somebody who wants to gain weight but only runs miles because that’s all they know. If you are constantly working on your strengths, you may be ignoring weak points that are holding you back.
I’ll use some personal examples. My trap bar deadlift is abysmal compared to my conventional deadlift. My sumo isn’t much better. My overhead press is awesome, but I can’t floor press to save my life. I couldn’t hold an L-sit for more than 10 seconds up until a few months ago. This past summer, I wasn’t feeling very athletic so I went to my high school and ran hill sprints for half an hour until what I was doing could not even be considered a sprint anymore. And let’s not even get started on comparing my front squat to my squat.
I’m not talking about working your biceps a bit because your sleeves are hanging a little loose. I mean literally finding the one thing you suck at and doing that one thing until you don’t suck anymore. Here are a few good reasons why you should spend time attacking your weaknesses in and out of the gym.
1. It will make you a well-rounded person (or lifter).
If you are a personal trainer, maybe you know the anatomy and physiology book back to front, but you have no people skills. That could be holding you back from being the best trainer possible. Get your nose out of the books and work on those people skills!
The same goes for an exercise enthusiast. Maybe you can bench press 350 lbs, but can’t pick up more than 75 lbs off the floor without “throwing out” your back. Try working on those legs a bit!
2. It will save you some training stress.
When you’re doing some heavy lifting, training stress is what causes the adaptation that makes you bigger or stronger. Training stress is the reason behind why a session of heavy deadlifts takes so long to recover from.
Try working on your weak lifts. You’d be surprised at what a 30 or 40 lb difference can make in terms of recovery. That’s one reason I love training my weaknesses, I can get a great lift in with (sometimes) significantly less weight.
3. Your weakness(es) may be holding you back from achieving your goals.
Let’s say your quads hang over your knees like a pair of bowling balls, but you can only squat 135 lbs. Maybe you need to work on your glutes, or hamstrings, or core, or upper back, or general squat pattern, or your coordination. It could be anything. But something is holding back your squat despite your mammoth-sized quads. Attacking that weakness could bring up that squat!
Or maybe your weakness is peanut butter. And by peanut butter, I mean one entire 16 oz jar of peanut butter every day. Those seven jars of peanut butter each week could be holding you back from your goal of losing weight.
4. Working on weaknesses promotes balance and prevents injury due to imbalance.
Anyone that’s ever trained hard for anything knows this: making yourself strong makes you weak. I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. Any time you decide you’re going to make something strong, something else is going to become weak by comparison. There are no perfect programs. Intermediate and advanced lifters find themselves with aches and pains due to muscular imbalances all the time.
For example, over the course of the last year, I’ve found myself with pain in the knee, elbow, shoulder, and knee again. These nagging pains went away by subsequently strengthening my hamstrings, biceps, scapular stabilizers, and glute med, in that order. All I needed was a bit of tender loving care on my weak points.
So here’s something to think about over the weekend.
Find a weakness of yours. Maybe that’s eating well. Or maybe you’re ignoring lifts that you don’t like because you aren’t as good at them. Whatever your weaknesses are, try finding one and working on it next week. But don’t let your weaknesses hold you back from your goals.
Go Sox. And Pats.