He gave Tom and Chuck the 'OK', and thanked them as they took the bar from his chest. Talk about dejection! Jack was so frazzled, he couldn't bale a buzzard. He felt swimmy headed and couldn't understand it. As Jack sat on the bench, he went over things in his mind. Then, he happened to notice Bill on the other side of the gym, benching in the rack. He knew Bill, but didn't talk to him on a regular basis. At a glance, it seemed like Bill had more load on the bar than ever before.
Jack ticked off the things he had been trying for the last year. He was using 8-12 reps, not going for singles. He stopped powerlifting competition a few years before. Naturally, he had the injuries to prove it. It was not like he wasn't experienced. He wasn't deluded into thinking he had reached his genetic potential, but he hadn't gotten past 325 for even one rep.
He had tried more sets, then fewer sets. He tried more workouts per week, and fewer workouts per week. Then, there was that short period of all kinds of assistance work that really made his bench drop. And, there was cycling rep schemes and periodizing. It was harder to calculate and schedule that stuff than to actually do it. Jack knew he had the ability, as well as all of the pieces of the puzzle, but he just couldn't put them together. He headed for the locker room, pretty much oblivious to everything around him.
Bill entered the locker room shortly after Jack. "How's it going, Jack."
"It sucks. How's by you?"
"Just great. If it was any better, they'd have to lock me up."
"Scheez. What kinda drugs are you on?"
"Iron pills," replied Bill with wide grin.
"Hah! How'd your workout go?"
"Great, man! Set a PR (personal record) over last week."
"No, kidding? How much more did you lift this week?"
"One pound. It was great."
"One pound? What kind of a PR is that? It's not even worth it."
"You're right, Jack. It doesn't sound like much. On the other hand, I been setting one pound PRs for the last 40 weeks. I'm benching more than I ever did in competition; doing it for reps, not singles; and haven't had any new injuries or nagging recurring injuries."
"Forty weeks? That's 40 pounds in ten months! We competed about the same time, in the same class, and pretty well posted the same totals. What gives? I haven't been able to move my bench in twelve months."
"It's so easy, it went right by you when I told you. One pound at a time."
"But there's got to be more to it than that. Exactly how did you do it?"
"Jack, I finally realized the biggest problem I had was my ego. Every time I worked out, I had to add weight. And, we do need to do that. But, I would get greedy and make good progress up to a point, and get stuck. I'd start over, following the same load increase pattern, and, blam! Stuck again. I kept up like that for over a year.
"That's where I am now. How'd you get past it?"
"I read somewhere that if you added just one pound to any load over 100 pounds, you couldn't feel the difference. Since you couldn't 'feel' the difference, you could lift it. Since the load truly was 'heavier', you had to get stronger."
"Bill, I can't even lift this weight one time, much less, add a pound. It couldn't work for me."
"I don't think you can pick an arbitrary point and start adding one pound, Jack."
"All right, Bill. Tell me the whole story before I stomp you." They both laughed. They both knew the frustration. "Come on. Shoot."
"Ok, ok. Well, first, I took a few weeks off. It cleared my head, got me in the frame of mind for a fresh start, and got me good and rested. Then, I started over at 60 percent of my last PR."
"Sixty percent? Dang, Bill, that's around 195 for me. There's no way I could miss that. Scheez, it's not even a workout! Why not start over at 90 percent?"
"See, I told you the biggest problem was ego. I re-started at 195, too. Well, I tried to help. I guess I better get going. I got to get rested up for next week's PR."
"Whoa, whoa. All right. Let's say I did go all the freakin' way back to 195. Then what?"
"Well, I added 10 percent a week for three weeks, that got me to 260. Then I slowed down to 5 percent for four weeks. That got me to 315."
"Come on, Bill. You started over and spent seven weeks only to get to ten pounds less than you had been doing?"
"Yup. And here's the best part, I spent ten weeks adding one pound, just one little pound, and I was back at my previous PR of 325."
"Man, that seems like the long way around. Seventeen weeks."
"Think so? That was 40 weeks ago. I benched 365 today. How'd you do? And, how long have you been doing it? Let's see. One year is 52 weeks with zero progress. I went up 40 pounds in 57 weeks. Does that put things in perspective?"
"Yeah, it does. But it still sounds like a long haul."
"Well, it is a long haul, but that's just the first phase. What you do is, build momentum. That's why you start so far back, then you leverage. You don't have to start over again. After that, it's one pound at a time, one week at a time, no looking back."
"Man, that can't be right. You'd add 52 pounds the next year. After five years you'd be at 625! After ten years, you'd be at 885! By the time you retire, you'll be able to lift a house. Gimme a break."
"Now, look, Jack. You know better than that. There's no way you or I are going to move that kind of iron in our lifetimes. Heck, I'd be extremely pleased to hit 400."
"You mean, when you get close to your genetic potential?"
"Sure. We've all got limits on how far we can realistically, possibly go. Most of us would be happy just to approach anywhere near those limits. Besides, there are a lot of confounding factors that prevent the whole progression thing from being linear."
"Hey, how often do you get sick enough to miss workouts or lose ground? Twice a year? How many workouts and groups of workouts do you unavoidably miss when you're out of town on business or vacation? A few? Remember going to your Aunt Nellie's third wedding last summer on the other coast?"
"So, you mean, get real. I get it. I get rested, back way off on my load, and gradually add weight until I get around 95 percent of my previous PR. Then I switch to one pound at a time, and cruise."
"Sounds like you got it."
"Ya know, when you put the whole picture together, it makes a lotta sense."
"Just the facts, Jack."