We all have exercises we are terrible at and hate to do. Even if our main squat, bench, and deadlift movements keep crawling with progress we just can't seem to get any better at these exercises we suck at, and we dread doing them. The truth of the matter is if you get better at the exercises you suck at you will likely improve your main lifts quicker than ever before! Chances are that you are weak in these exercises for a reason and they illuminate a major muscular weakness for you
Even if you were to take some time off from performing your main squat, bench, and deadlift exercises and just focused on things you suck at I bet you would see major improvement. Sometimes it's difficult to eat a slice of humble pie and work with lighter weights while seeing everyone lifting more than you, that is how these lifts get neglected in the first place. In an effort to bring understanding to this topic and to also be upfront and honest with myself I am going to point out 3 major weaknesses of mine regarding the squat, bench, and deadlift and how working each exercise I suck at can improve them
Squat Movement Weaknesses
Wide Stance Squats - I have squatted 515 raw w/ wraps but when it comes to taking a wide stance which includes more hamstrings and glutes the weight decreases rapidly. My main stance especially in wraps is close, as a result I have built up some strong quads over the years but my hamstrings remain severely under developed. By working with a wide stance I will be able to strengthen my hamstring and glutes and transfer that to my close stance. This was a very humbling experiencing while trying to learn equipped squatting which is very posterior chain dominant. I would barely get 80 lbs out of my squat suit because I was so accustomed to close stance raw squatting
Hip Thrusts - While I have seen many athletes moving plates on plates of weight with a barbell on this exercise, I struggle to do much more than 2 plates strictly for reps. Partially a result of extremely tight hip flexors which pull my pelvis into a poor position to activate glutes. Thus my glutes haven't fully developed and have a hard time firing in movements. By continuously working out my structural imbalances and developing powerful glutes (which happen to be the biggest muscle in the body) through this excellent exercise, I could drastically improve my force out of the hole on squat.
Glute Ham Raise - I think my record for bodyweight glute ham raises is 3... I currently struggle for 1 at a heavier bodyweight. This exercise is non existent to me because I cannot even perform it yet. Most my glute/ham work comes by way of 45 degree bench until I'm able to develop a strong enough posterior chain to control my body. This is an excellent total posterior chain developer and would take my squat to new levels, as well as change my whole equipped squatting experience
Bench Movement Weaknesses
Overhead Press - At the time my best raw bench was 370, I max overhead pressed 200. Big discrepancy. It has been something I have worked hard at to even develop to 200. It has been an enormous help in building my raw bench, I can already see the transfer. Classic example of pinpointing a big weakness and attacking it, it gets you stronger!
Incline Bench - A common theme here with me is poor shoulder development. As with the overheads my incline bench which incorporates shoulders to a large degree also sucks. By testing your overhead and incline bench vs your comp bench, you can learn a lot about what you need to improve. By both those exercises being weak you can be sure that you need to hammer more shoulders
Barbell Rows - You would always like to see a good balance between what you bench and what you row. This tells you that your pressing and pulling strength are well balanced and you are unlikely to develop imbalances that could lead to injury. This is not the case for myself. I have a hard time even handling 200 lbs on a barbell row for 5 reps. This screams to me a major weakness which is the back. We already know that lats play a huge role in stabilizing the bench press. Work back until it's almost up to par with your pressing
Deadlift Movement Weaknesses
Romanian Deadlifts - As mentioned with squats, my hamstrings are underdeveloped. With deadlifting being such a hamstring and hip dominant movement and even more so with romanian deadlifts, you can see how I would have trouble with these. Not only do I have trouble adding weight but I also have trouble maintaining position with heavier weight and while repping out. Check-listed as another exercise I suck at and need to improve to add weight to my pulls
Deficit Deadlifts - The most difficult phase of the deadlift for me no matter whether sumo or conventional is getting the bar off the floor. Since deficit deadlifts makes it just that much harder to break the floor, it is something I struggle greatly with. By building up my weakest point in the lift by using extended range of motion I will be able to explode up with more strength in the lift. I have used this technique of extended range of motion with the duffalo bar on bench and it completely corrected the weakness I had off the chest
Double Overhand Deadlifts - Something not often considered in lifts is the importance of grip strength. While I am not at the point of lifting enough weight to have a grip problem, my grip is most certainly a weak point. An embarrassing moment for me was one morning in our biomechanics class in college. We were testing force production of grip strength through grippers. There were a couple other powerlifters in the class who battled each other with force outputs of 800-900 Newtons. When it was my turn I consistently turned in 300-350 N performances, right on par with most women in the class who didn't even strength train. Double overhand deadlifting is a great way to build up that grip strength and something as you could guess, is a horrible lift for me
These are just some of the lifts that I suck at. For you it might be totally different since no two people have the exact same strengths and weaknesses. The key is being able to pinpoint what you are weak at. This you can determine by testing out all different variations of lifts. If there are big discrepancies then analyze what muscle groups tend to be holding you back and build up those lifts you suck at
If the lift you suck at is similar enough to the competition squat, bench, or deadlift in mechanics and how it's performed then you could even make it your main movement of the training session. By prioritizing your worse lifts you give yourself the greatest opportunity to build them up. For example since I suck at incline benching, I may just make that my main movement for 3-4 weeks and work on building that up instead of my flat competition bench
This is not as easy of a concept as you think. It seems simple enough to go into the gym and do these lifts you suck at but it really takes some mental fortitude. It's not easy to get excited about doing things you are horrible at and put 100% effort into them consistently, especially when you have to wait to see the pay off in your main lifts. It takes someone who truly wants to get stronger and wants to be a champion lifter to take a step back in order to take a leap forward
Remember, you are only as strong as your weakest link so make sure your links are all strong! This type of strategic lifting will propel you forward!
- Coach Ben
If you need help analyzing where you might be weak and would like a custom training program designed to bring up your personal weak points contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org