When someone asks me for advice, usually the first question is, "How do I get strong?" That very question will send shivers down the spine of the recipient. If you are a person in need of help don't ever go up to a seasoned lifter and ask that question. The reason? That is a very general question that could take weeks to answer.
The solution? Put some thought into the specific question you are going to ask, then ask it. Hit them with a question like, "I have been doing a pyramid routine for weeks. What else can I do for a change to get out of my plateau?" Or, "I am thinking about getting into powerlifting. How does the routine change compared to a bodybuilding routine?"
We were all beginners once. We've all been in a position where we asked an experienced lifter a question and not received what we thought was a good response. Asking a general question could have be the reason. Sometimes, some guys are just a-holes. What you have to remember is that when someone in the gym blows you off, it's not a reason to give up, even if you feel like you've been shit on by the "big boys".
People like me who have trained a long time know that "newbies" come and go all the time. If you really want help, you have to prove that you're going to be there for the long haul, and not disappear after 6 months.
Everyone has to pay their dues in order to attain the knowledge you are looking for. When you are constantly showing you face in the gym, working hard, and doing things right, you'll eventually land on the opposite side of who asks the questions and who answers them. The diehards will eventually see that you are as dedicated as they, as well as working as hard as them. You will all of a sudden become someone they want to train with. No one will be saying anything about you not doing as much weight as another guy. They will be saying, "What training method are you going to next?"
Anyone who mocks you for doing the smaller weights, as long as they are being done correctly, aren't part of the "big boys" group either. They are part of the a-hole crowd. Lifters who rag on a guy because he's not doing much weight just shows that all they have is some serious fucking issues. Never go into the gym feeling inferior to anyone in there, just know to do it right and eventually you will get there.
Don't Be Fooled
One major thing to remember is that the biggest guys in the gym won't always be doing the most weight. This means that just because someone is doing a lot of weight, doesn't mean they are strong or that they are doing it correctly. So don't even go in the gym and wish you were like the big guys.
Go into the gym and watch others to see if the guy doing the "big weight" is doing it right. The people that you want to take advice from are the ones doing it right and moving the big weight. Someone who is doing half a curl on the preacher bench with 155 pounds, talking trash, and walking around like they are "King Shit" are exactly the people you don't want to take advice from on how to get out of your plateau.
Even though there is no magic pill or shortcut, there is a secret formula that, if followed correctly, will provide 100% goal attainment. Here it is: Interest. Direction. Education. Dedication. Goal. This is what I call the "strength flow chart". This is the flow chart you need to follow if you want to be a big bencher.
Having an interest in something means that it should be something that can be easily pursued. If you are currently just going to the gym, aimlessly doing a routine, then there is an interest in training. Going to the gym every single day and not having a plan is a lot harder then going there knowing what to do. Following an aimless routine day in and day out makes it easy to come up with excuses for not going to the gym.
If you are already going, and have been for a while, then the hard part is already over. THE HARD PART OF TRAINING IS GETTING STARTED. If you are already there and working out, staring at the strong guys doing their max routine, then there is interest. This is very good.
If you are training and really have no direction, then it is time to get one. If you always wanted to be big bencher, then now is the time. Not tomorrow. Looking around the gym and stopping every time someone puts more then 405 on the bar might make you a "future bench monster". You have to pay attention to what you are looking at in the gym.
If someone is maxing for an upcoming contest, and you stop because you're interested in the conversation on why and how a power lifting contest works, then you need to look into the power game. Now this is direction because you know what you want to train for. You know what you want.
If you already are training for a contest but are not really familiar with the power world yet, then this might help. Don't ever rush yourself just to find a place to fit in. In other words, when someone hasn't been competing for a while they don't know where the body is settled yet, meaning what weight division the body will end up in. Because of the abuse on the body, the power game requires more calories everyday.
Hence, the appetite goes up dramatically. People get nervous thinking they might not look real appealing knowing the amount of food they are going to have to eat in a day.
Here's the deal. You have to go through a transformation phase. You eat (and require) so many calories in a day under normal use. If you do anything outside of the normal day, then you will notice soreness and will have to take in more food to help repair the damage. Normal exercise will raise the number of calories you need. Bodybuilding is the next level and is very intense on the body and will raise the intake a ton. Power training will outright kick your ass!
Training for a power lifting contest is pushing your max to the ultimate extreme. If you max 405 and want to get better, then your need to play with weights upwards of 425-440. Not being able to handle pain means your not cut out for this line of work. You need to take in enough calories to cover the daily need, plus the requirements of power training, if you don't, then advancement is impossible. This is a fact.
Here is a good way to handle it. Take in as much good foods as you can and see what weight you end up at. A person has to figure out where the body tops out at so the body is getting enough to repair. Here's an example. If you have done a few contests in the 181-pound class and aren't really happy with your performance, then pick up the eating and see how you can do competing in the 198-pound class. Only after you figure out where you can eat like a fucking animal till the body tops out, can you set all your goals for that class.
This is the most important part of power training. Education is the key to success. Since change is a big key to success, education gives you options. How many times have you been training, become stale, and didn't change because you had nothing to change? Common problem, simple answer. You can't stick to a routine in strength training for months and months. Eventually the body will become used to it, and progress comes to a grinding halt. Variety is very important and keeps the body fresh and strong.
Getting off a plateau is sometimes very difficult and the only solution is change. Even though there is no simple answer to why you can bench 375 twice and can't do 405 for a max, there are things you can try to accomplish this. Changing something simple in the routine, such as the day you bench on, might be the key. With education come options. When you have the options it cuts down on the time you are stale. Plus, when coming out of a training cycle there will be a place to go. You will know exactly how to come down after the contest and how to get started going into the next one.
This is a no brainer. Don't think that goals come overnight. Or in a week. They don't. In fact, sometimes, it seems like it takes fucking forever. But when you look back, it really doesn't. You should set your goals far enough away so that you have to work for them. But don't set a goal of benching 600 pounds if you can only do 225. Not realistic. If you are doing some contests right now doing around 430-440, then setting a goal of 500-pounds is realistic.
You have to know if you are giving it your all or not. If you are not, it is a safe bet that it is going to take some work to get that 500. Be ready for it, embrace it, and work your fucking ass off to get it. Know that this is the part of the formula that makes you a beast. People start out all the time with great intentions, but end up with nothing more then a sad story about all the problems they had reaching a goal.
Dedication comes in stages. You can't start out with dedication. It comes with time. It is all about change. You have to teach the body what you want it to do. You're body will resist it at first. It won't want to change. One thing is for sure. 99% of the time, training sucks. You have to give up things you would rather be doing. You have to go to the gym when you are tired and work through a hell of a lot of pain. But, that 1% of the time when you have a night at the gym and all of a sudden are throwing around 405, you forget all about the other 99% until you are the next beast at the gym!
Set realistic goals. It is reasonable to want a 500-pound press when currently benching 425-450. Think in terms of stages. The dedication will provide the stages, but the final goal is what you will be working for. Here's an example. If you can do 450-pounds "touch and go", then can you pause the lift? When you go to an unsanctioned contest, most lifts are touch and go (as soon as the bar touches your chest, you just go and push the weight back up).
If you compete in one of the federations, then three judges will sit around you with the head judge in control. This time, you have to bring down the weight and stop it until the head judge tells you to press. Oh yeah, it is an ass-kicker. Imagine setting the weight on your chest and just waiting. Not only is it hard, but it also dramatically reduces your one-rep max. Learning to pause like this at the bottom of your lift could be your next goal.
You have to separate the two kinds of contests. You can have one goal for each kind of contest you attend. So, if you can do 450-pounds at the beginning, then make it a goal to try and pause it at a contest by the end of the year. This is how the combination and goals will show over time to be very productive and help anyone reach the big bench they desire. Is there any other reason to train?
At the end of any contest, the best lifter (especially if the bench is over 500-pounds) gets nailed with questions on how he got to this point. He got to this point exactly the way everyone else did who ever accomplished a goal. They had an interest in working out. They joined a gym. They picked a direction to head in their training. Eventually, reaching a goal became an obsession. Listen, none of this happens overnight.
People spend years learning and training to get that big bench. The body has no idea how to move immense weight. It has to be taught and developed to be able to handle such poundages. There is a certain way to do things just like anything else. If you want a big bench, then your core training routine should be set up for chest and triceps, and secondarily, shoulders and back. After that, biceps. You want to design a workout that promotes core strength first and foremost.
Summing It Up
Basically, to get that big bench, you want to work the bench as hard as you can. Also, if you train all the body parts at the same level, it will eventually drain the body and take power from the focus. This, of course, is more of an advanced concern. We need to stick to the main task at hand and get the people already working out to their goal, which is the monster bench, because as the formulas follows the ones working out already have the "interest".
Sometimes, you hit a plateau. If this is the case, refer to the "education" section. If there is education about the sport then there is variety. Variety gives you many options. With change come breakthroughs, or if you like, cracking a plateau. So many people think they are training like a powerlifter and the training routine turns out to be better suited for someone going into a bodybuilding show in 9 weeks. And, they can't for the life of them figure out why they have been stuck with a 315-pound bench for 6 months.
When someone wants to be in shape for a bodybuilding contest, the training is different than when he is preparing for a max lift. You can't do 8-12 reps all the time and think the body is going to be able to turn around and be able to push up 75-pounds more then it ever touched. You have to train for that ultimate lift. After a while of working out in the gym and making mistakes (yes, I said making mistakes), you will learn what works and what don't. Couple that with reading and talking to people who have experience, and soon, you'll be on your way to becoming a monster bencher.
You Decide Your Fate
Now that you know the basics, are you going to stick with it? This is "dedication". Once the goals are set and the dedication is proven, anyone willing to go for it can be a monster bencher. Now that the secret "formula" is out, monster benches should start popping up all over the country in no time. Since this is in print, I will note that I was being sarcastic. There is no magic way of developing something this extreme. There is only one thing: hard fucking work.
Following the strength flow chart will produce the most extreme of benches. Going to the gym and working your ass off for a year and then all of a sudden hooking up with a girl and giving up the gym ain't going to get it done. At this point finding your dedication becomes crucial. Use the time you have wisely, get in and crush the weight, and then go spend time with the girl.
If you want to become a freak, then you have to act like one. Most can't hang with being in the gym all the time. This means your chances for standing out among the crowd is that much greater. There are many people who want to be a freak. Few become one. I say, laugh at those who want it, fear those who already are.