Strength Theory – Progress Update

Strength Theory - Progress Update

Strength Theory

I was pretty bad at keeping up with my blogging over the past month, so I ended up skipping my reflection post on how my second round of Strength Theory went. In this post I’ll touch a bit on that and how my last cycle of Strength Theory went because there are some interesting similarities and differences to analyze.

Starting with the bench press… I was able to hit an all-time (true) PR of benching 230 with no assistance on my first cycle of Strength Theory. My second cycle I missed my 235 attempt and this was the first lift in all of my Strength Theory training that I missed. It was certainly a bummer, but it gave me something to really work towards and I could focus on the weak part of my bench. So in cycle three, I decided I would add in pause reps and banded line-man presses every single bench day. This would help me with my explosiveness so I wouldn’t stick slightly above my chest when I run out of power. The result? Another 5 lbs jump in my bench press for cycle three! So while I missed one lift, in about 3 months I’ve added 10 lbs (4% increase) to my bench press with essentially no body weight fluctuation. I realize that doesn’t sound impressive compared to people adding like 50 lbs to their bench “with this one simple tip”, but this was the real result of me just working hard and putting in time. I’ve been lifting for over a decade (becoming more and more serious as time has gone on) but I’ve always been maxed at 225 on my bench… and that’s just no longer the case.

My deadlifts have consistently gone up in every cycle of Strength Theory that I’ve done so far… And this is awesome. I think one of the reasons why is that I’m actually practicing my sumo deadlift as my main lift and I’m putting in the necessary reps to build confidence and familiarity in the lift. I also think that rack pulls are really helping to build my grip strength since I end up getting more volume with a much higher weight than I’m used to. I used to have a hard time budging ~400 lbs off the ground, and my PR is now 420 lbs. In the same time frame as my bench, this is about a 25 lbs (or 6%) increase. Here’s a shot of my last deadlift PR:

One thing I am noticing on the deadlifting front is that I’m nearing  my maximum for rack pulls. There’s absolutely an imbalance in my body because my working sets are easy in my conventional stance compared to my rack pulls, which in cycle three I was having a really difficult time with. I actually had a missed-lift on my rack pulls but I think this was after the day where a blood blister on my palm had developed… so… a bit of a reason there.

My squats have been an interesting ride so far. My non-maximal days for my squats (high and low bar) were always PR breakers for all three cycles. However, my last (third) cycle was the first time that I couldn’t break my 3-rep PR. I had to hit 3×320 and two reps in I called it. I think I’m starting to get nervous handling weights that high without a box, so I need to build up some confidence there. Interestingly enough, my front squat strength is increasing like crazy. Like my sumo deadlift, I’m attributing a lot of this to just familiarity in the lift. Every time I break my front squat PRs, I’m feeling more and more like there are little tweaks that would let me get a bit more weight or another rep or two and it’s not necessarily a muscular limitation… So that’s a really good feeling.

Here’s two shots from last cycle where I broke my 6 rep PR… And then smashed that by another 5 lbs.

And spoiler alert as I start to work into cycle 4:

What’s Next?

I think it’s important to set a few goals for cycle four as I start that up:

  • Continue to practice explosiveness on benching days. Pause reps and banded line-man presses have been working quite well.
  • Experiment with more volume on benching days because every time I’ve done it, I’ve gone home feeling awesome.
  • Keep pushing the boundaries on front squats… My back is keeping very straight even on my grinder reps, so just keep working at it.
  • Get more lower back work in… Deadlifts will have a HUGE benefit from this, but I NEED to put in the work. Least favorite thing to do at the gym (aside from cardio, duh).
  • Build confidence back up in the low bar squat. I don’t know what the answer for this is yet though.

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