Note: This is part THREE. Click here for part one.
It has taken me some time to finish this final installment for this series of articles, mainly because I thought for the benefit of the site I would change focus for a bit. However, since then I have continued to see horrible articles continue to be written on how to improve one's squat, or bench.
Every one of these articles seems to resemble common bodybuilding schemes with very little understanding in the development of maximal force. It is important to remember why we have even chosen to focus on these lifts. They have a great potential to carryover to sport strength and have the ability to add substantial muscle mass.
Nothing makes a bodybuilder feel better than to put down the strongmen of other sports. A big chest has nothing to do with a big bench nor does a big chest mean you are going to be able to push well in sport. However, just because you are a powerlifter, olympic lifter, or an athlete of another sport doesn't mean you can not posses an impressive physique.
Recently I have trained a gentleman who can bench double his bodyweight and is now going into fitness modeling. So, remember that number one we are talking about strength development here and not purely physique transformation.
So, after my brief editorial let me start the final chapter of how to improve the big three. Now we are going to employ more advanced methods of training along with understanding how to improve the lifts with proper analyzation of movement.
Partial Range of Motion
I am a very big advocate of full range of motion training. However, there is a time and place for every methodology. Partial range of motion training allows one to overload a range that is generally not loaded to its full potential.
For example, during a full range of motion bench press, one is in their weakest position from the chest up and will be able to lift more weight halfway up to the top.
The shaded red area shows the weakest position.
Because of this situation one can always handle more weight from halfway up to the top. So, during a full range of motion bench we do not load the range from halfway to the top maximally. This is usually important triceps work and improving lockout. So, what can we do? Using a power rack you can set the pins halfway so the bar will be stopped at this point You can also include board presses as well as floor presses.
This principle can also be used with deadlifts effectively. You can set the pins higher so the pull will load the back extensors more. You may also get upon a platform and go deeper to improve glute and hamstring strength. Usually you will use one of these variations for a cycle and then return to full range of motion training. Remember that the point is to overload ranges that normally do not receive maximal loading because of strength curves.
Chains & Bands
These methods are most associated with top strength coach, Louie Simmons. The chains and bands are known as accommodating resistance. Meaning, when you are at different points in the exercise the amount of weight you are lifting changes.
This is very helpful because most commonly the weakest portion of the lift is OVERloaded, but other ranges of motion are UNDERloaded. The chains and bands apply an increasing level of resistance throughout the range of motion. This method is also very helpful in improving acceleration. One must accelerate the weight throughout the movement instead of decelerating after the initial sticking point.
Regular Bench with Chains
View Exercise: With Chains And Bands
Start with a set of chains. Work up to a bar weight with the one set of chains, do a single, then add a set of chains. Work up to another single, and continue until you fail. Use at least two grips, medium and close to make personal records (PR's)... one per workout.
In the previous article I described how speed-strength is helpful towards building maximal strength. Well, one of the problems with any type of acceleration training is that you must take a significant portion of the lift decelerating the weight so the joint does not get damaged. This is very natural and very much a part of sport, however, if one could accelerate throughout the entire range of motion.
Some may say just use more weight, but if we look back to the dynamic effort method, it is predominately about the speed of movement of the bar. Adding weight will eventually slow down the bar speed. However, by using chains and bands you are forced to accelerate throughout the entire range because as you lift the bar the weight increases.
Even though this is a great way of manipulating the exercise and nervous system it is also incredibly stressful to the body. So, do now use this method all of the time, just like everything else use it as a tool.
There are many exercises that can help build the big three lifts directly. Depending upon the weakness in the lift you can use a variety of exercises to increase the strength of the muscles holding the lift back. For example, most great benchers will have very strong triceps and shoulders.
Most top benchers do not spend a lot of time on their chest. Below I will list some of the best exercises for improving the big three. Whether you are performing the low bar squat (as most powerlifters use) or the olympic bar squat you will have to place some different emphasis. Classically powerlifters because of their particular squat will use predominately glute, hamstrings, and low back. The olympic squat uses much more quadriceps and would have to be trained differently.
Assistant Exercises For The Bench Press
Wide Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press
Dumbbell Bench Press
Rear Shoulder Work
Rotator Cuff Work
Incline Dumbbell Raises
Front Dumbbell Raises
Assistant Exercises For The Deadlift & Low Bar Squat
Goodmornings (all stance widths)
Olympic Lift Variations
I wish I could take credit for these very innovative techniques. However, I learned these methods from other great coaches. What I hope to accomplish with this article is passing on effective methods to improving the big three lifts. Maybe a powerlifter will see a technique they have not tried, or others will find techniques that will bring new strength to their routine.
Usually strength will bring positive body composition changes. Too many trainees become consumed with hitting a muscle at every angle and becoming very lean. Sometimes the most effective ways of accomplishing the body composition goals is to go back to the classic methods of lifting.