Strength Training

Overcoming Your Sticking Points: A Powerlifter’s Guide to Obtaining their One Rep Max

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I walked up to the squat rack, I loaded the bar on my back, it felt heavy so I wimped it out. I couldn’t stabilize myself, and I was shaking. When I went down I felt scared. I hesitated halfway through and got buried…

I set my self down on the bench and grabbed the bar loosely. I unracked it so wild that it almost came out of my hands. On the way down my left arm wobbled uncontrollably and touched my chest crooked. When I pressed up, I got gassed half way through. Struggling to lock out, just 3 inches away and 5 seconds later, the bar came crashing down on me…

I walked up to the bar, I bent down and put my hands on the bar and pulled. At first I thought I was lifting it, but then I saw the bar bend. Determined, I got it to my knees before I chickened out at how slow it went up, and just dropped it…

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. In order to overcome your sticking point – the one thing between you and your one rep max – you have to stimulating the central nervous system, and help assist your working muscles. I believe in the progressive method of lifting when going for a max. Train your one rep max! You can do this by working on getting used to heavier weights. This will build confidence and C.N.S strength.

Example: If your max on the bench press was 315 and you want to hit 325, but every time you try 325 it feels so heavy you quit,  get 325, 335 or even 345 in your hands to get used to the poundage. If you can’t move 325 from 9 inches above your chest, how will you do it from 1 inch above?

Here are some ways to:

Stimulate your central nervous system

You do this by getting used to lifting and holding weights, and work on your strongest part of the lift. Simply said, you use partial movements and isometric holds to get stronger. The stronger you are in this range of motion, the lighter the weight will feel, and the more prepared your body will be. For pressing, you should be able to do around 20-50lb+, and for squat/deadlifting 50-100lbs+ on these types of movements.

Heavy walk outs/ or Rack pin lockouts* For Monolift users*
Box Squats
Reverse Band Squats
Half Squats from chain suspension

-Bench Press-
Rack Pin Lock outs
Board Presses (1, 2,3Board +)
Half presses from pins or chain suspensions.
Reverse Band Bench Press

Rack Pulls/18’ inch deadlifts
Box Deadlifts (around 3’, 6’, and 9’ inches)
Reverse Band Deadlift
Farmers pick/Trap bar Deadlift (Overloaded with as much weight as you can muster)

Blast through your sticking point

Lift fast and explode past your sticking point. This will activate your fast twitch muscle fibers and have your blasting right through your trouble zones. Aka Speed work. This can be done with:

  • Bands*
  • Chains *
  • 65% or less weight, for singles, 8 sets on light days
  • 85% or less 3sets, for heavy days, Speed being a relative term

*Also help with stability work

Assist your weaker muscles

Unless you dedicate your whole workout to assistance exercises (*I do this every once and a while), assistance work should be kept relatively light – around 70% or less for no less than 5 reps, and no more then 20 reps. High reps allow for healthier tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue, and also helps build them up. You already destroy your body from overloading your muscles on partial movements, so no reason to overload here. Assistance exercises should be alternated week to week.

Assistance Exercises for the:

Good mornings (both stiff legged and bent knee)
Front Squats
(Feel free to add more I hate squats)

-Bench Press-
Floor presses*
Narrow grip Bench press
Skull Crushers*(Dumbbells allow for a better range of motion and are safer)
Strict Overhead Presses*
Jm Presses (think skull crusher into narrow grip bench press)
Tate presses* (think Db skull crushers but sideways)
Weighted Dips

*Dumbbell variations should be used from time to time to build up stability.

Deficit Deadlifts*
Hang Deadlifts*
Romanian Deadlifts*
Farmers Walks (if you don’t have the equipment use heavy dumbbells’)
Bent over rows
Pull ups

* I combine all three and they work great.


Other things to consider

Form* – use the one that works best and safest for you.

Grip* – squeeze the bar HARD on ALL LIFTS, it ties in with your C.N.S.

Protective Equipment* – Wrist/Knee Sleeves and Wraps, Belts, all help keep you safe and stable for your lifts.

Programming*  You know your body better then I do, just be smart about it.  Only work out 3-4 days max, and give your body at least 2-3 days before doing similar movements. You’re doing a lot of Max effort work so plan it properly. TARGET YOUR WEAKNESS.

Typically I would plan my cycle something like this:

6 week sample cycle

  • Week 1 – C.N.S + Light Assistance
  • Week 2 – Heavy Assistance + Light Speed work
  • Week 3 – Speed work, +Light Assistance
  • Week 4 – C.N.S + Speed Work
  • Week 5 – *REST* If I have to go to the gym no more then 50% on any lift
  • Week 6 – *SFW*

My final advice and warning before giving this a try:

*WARNING* this is not a training routine, but a guide line to how to get your body used to a weight that is well with in your means.

*THIS IS FOR SOMEONE WHO: Just finished wender’s 5/3/1 on a 315 max bench and just missed 320 midway because they stalled right before lockout, but can do 305 for a few reps. Obviously they are strong enough to lift this weight but they need to work on speed and lockout power, and get comfortable with the weight again. They didn’t fail because of strength, or the weight would not have budged to begin with. It all goes down to from and feeling comfortable and confident.

*NOT FOR SOMEONE WHO: Just decided to put 75lbs on there previous max lifts while seeing hot chicks in the gym. Let me do 100lbs over my current max on the Squat by using PARTIAL MOVEMENTS is not going 4 inches down and back up. If you’re one of those guys, please bash your head against the bar, and go back to triples, doubles with weight you can move full R.O.M.

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