The most frustrating part of training for any sport is facing a plateau in skill development. The desire to progress is captivating, but it can also be limiting.
I will give you an example, over the past year one of the biggest focal points of my training was to reach a 135kg (300 Pound) bench press. For a long time, I was progressing towards it. I pressed 285 around march. However, in March during the prep for one of my meets I struggled with some elbow tendonitis. This kind of pushed back my progress, resulting in me only pressing 245 and 248 in the first two meets I did in 2016.
After both competitions, I experimented with a variety of methods in order to progress my bench. I played around with feet up bench, higher frequency, higher reps basically all the tools. I found some improvement. But, despite all the hard work, it didn’t immediately materialise and I only managed to press 279 at Nationals.
Things really changed when I focused on where my inefficiency was located in the movement. While my strength was relatively high, my technique was poor. I barely utilised my extensive leg strength to help me complete the reps. I was inconsistent with my set up, and I rarely used pauses.
So in the few months that has followed the competition, I have been working hard on integrating those elements into my training. I have been experimenting with my stance, moving my feet underneath the bench and using flat shoes. Using more paused work and increasing my bench volume with sub maximal weights. This work was used to improve my technique as well as building specific strength in the movement. Continuing this for several weeks combined with putting on weight and getting more sleep finally helped me to reach a 302.5 bench and this week a 140kg (308 lb) bench.
So that was a convoluted explanation, and the answer to breaking through a plateau is much more individual than just doing what I did. But, the important takeaway from my example is to stay consistent and take a step back.
Stop focusing on the short term and consider the future progress you can make. While the short-term gains are always enticing and motivating, you can sacrifice long-term progress by being stubborn. It was tough for me to accept problems with my bench press, acknowledging the weakness led me to the goal I desperately desired.
This is why I am a great proponent of videoing yourself and having good training partners to support your development or alternatively hiring a coach. This was a great learning process for me. I was able to take a back seat and figure out ways in which I could improve my technique and become more efficient in the movement.
So overall takeaway is to change things up. Take a step back and figure out what you need to do, to get to the next level and then do it. Strength training is a long journey, so take your time to focus on what you need to do to reach your goals and remember strength has no limit!