Friday, January 7, 2011

Making your strong points...stronger

One train of thought for years now in athletic training and powerlifting, etc is to concentrate on your weak points.

In theory this sounds great.  You attack whatever area is holding you back, make it stronger, and then like magic your lifts/performance improves.

It sounds great in theory, but in reality it doesn't always work that way.

First off, most guys don't know how to diagnose what their weak points really are.  They just assume because they have read a thousand times that they have weak hamstrings/glutes/triceps/vastus medialis whatever, that those are the areas they should be hitting.

I fell into this trap as well.  I read that hell, you don't really need quads for squatting.  It's all hips and hamstrings and glutes.  Who knew that you didn't needs quads for squatting????  Shit, all this time I thought that squats would put quads on a skeleton.  Now I know!

So I quit doing quad work, did box squats instead.  After all, if you want to know what your squat is just add 90 pounds or whatever to what you can box squat, and there you go.  Seems easy enough!

Oh except that quads are king for squats.  Anyone that tells you quads are useless for squatting should immediately be ignored and never listened to again.  Period.

When I went back to squatting, I couldn't squat the Sunday paper.  Sheesh, maybe because my quads had weakened because I lived on the box like a retarded monkey for 6 months, all the while expecting my raw squat to improve?  Yeah, that was smart.

I was told it was weak hamstrings that were holding my deadlift back.  Well I'm a shitty deadlifter, and I was willing to sell my soul to the devil to deadlift more than 600.  I was pulling a measly 5-something at the time, despite the fact that I was decently strong in most other areas.  After months of busting hump at good mornings and eventually working up to 425 and 455 for reps, I went back to deadlifting, and low and behold I couldn't get 500 off the floor.

Let me spell something out that most guys don't really talk about or will argue with you to the hilt about.

Weak point training is bullshit.  It's a complete myth.

If you don't wear equipment, your weak points are always going to be your weak points in relation to your strong ones.  Duh.  Sounds straight forward, however just search for "weak points" and "powerlifting" on Google and see the kind of bullshit that gets spewed by some people.

If you want to get stronger...get stronger.

Weak point training is fools gold.

Pick 6-8 compound exercise that get you stronger from top to bottom and get stronger on them.

Deadlifts and Deadlifts off of boxes
Rows of various kinds
Chins of various grips
Overhead Pressing of various kinds

When you can squat 500x20 the truth is, you don't have weak points.  Sure, something could be weak relative to something else, but I don't know of anyone who squats 500x20 that is going to benefit from worrying about other bullshit.  Do you?  No.

There isn't any special weak point training that is going to take your lifts up to elite status.  When you look at the strongest raw guys they do basic shit and go after the main lifts.  Some may say they are at the top because of genetics, and I completely believe that to be true.  However I also think there is a reason why those guys rise to the top as well.  They attack the basics for long periods at a time and don't worry about bullshit like bands and dynamic workouts and foam and all sorts of other witchcraft and horseshit.

I know and understand the frustration that comes with a lack of progress.  The problem there is, is that most guys need something in the way of gains to at least make them believe in a program or theory.  They aren't patient.  I had to learn this lesson as well.

What finally got my dead up to the 650 range?

Deadlift and pulling from mid-shin.  Basic shit.

My squat?  I've always loved squatting so just sticking with the squat got it up over 600, no belts no wraps.

After my pec minor issues were resolved my bench went right back up into the 400's simply because I could bench again.  If my elbow heals up I know I will hit 450 this year close grip if I can stay injury free.

I don't do anything to work weak points, because that would take away from the time and effort I put into trying to get stronger on the big lifts.  You can't be good at everything, so get really awesome at a few things.  Make your strong points even stronger, and the rest will take care of itself.


  1. Thank You Paul. Important lesson to Run What Ya Brung.

    In another life I was an cyclist, a long sprinter, not completely fast twitch but I could make life suck for anyone for about 1000 meters. I spent years trying to perfect the short sprint and to learn how to climb and time trial, keep my weight down and be a climber. I sucked and continued to suck, my good move never got better and my weaknesses were still weak. Then I bagged it and went to the track. I didn't lose a race for the first year. What a waste.

  2. .....and there it is......

    That's my point constantly about understanding your limitations and going with your strengths.

  3. Hi Paul, what are your thoughts on Iso-Miometric exercises for the big three? I've seen Tuscherer use them in his training.

  4. I haven't used it so I can't comment on it.

  5. On the subject of 20 rep squats - do you think there's any merit in a weak-ass powerlifter like me doing them when there's no competition in sight for a few months at least - high bar, no belt ?
    I've had some issues with my quads - my VMO almost dissapeared for a year (trapped nerve thing - wierd, no pain just shrinking muscle) - so some size would be nice.
    I could do with losing some lard as well so the extra "breathing like a bastard" might help too !
    I love this site by the way - I'll click on random google nonsense in a bit !

  6. Yeah man I think that changing it up will give your joints, and mind a break for a while. And 20 reppers are infamous for adding more mass, which can def translate into a bigger squat.

    Add in some good walking/hill sprints the day after and clean up the eating. It's that simple.

  7. I feel so bad I invested money into having boards for board pressing made.

    At one point my 3-board press was 80lbs more than my regular raw bench ... and it still did not move.

    Once I began getting stronger at overhead pressing and bench pressing more often each week my bench went up. Who would have guessed?

    And all box squatting ever gave me was knee pain. And guess what resolved it? Regular deep squatting! Oh the humanity ... not everything that Louis Simmons says is right for everyone.

    The empire is starting to crumble though. Five years ago everyone was doing Dynamic Days and sled dragging, today there is more sticking to the basic lifts and hill sprinting, which is a good thing.

  8. The empire has definitely been crumbling for a while. I think one of the reasons so many guys latched onto that is because so many guys want to feel like they are a part of something. Not really because the training methods are sound or the philosophy is correct. But because they can wear a t-shirt and use a bunch of terms no one fucking understands.

  9. My 2 cents.

    In another life I was a geared powerliter. I wore Metal ACE briefs and a Pro suit, an Inzer Rage X with an open back, reinforced neck, and grid stitching, and an old Marathon deadlift suit.

    At any rate, when I was doing that, weak point training worked. I could just barely raw bench 300, but with tons of tricep and upper back work, as well as board presses out the wazzoo, I could easily smoke 500 in my shirt.

    We did a ton of banded squats, 2-3 blues a side off a box, and I got myself to an 800 squat in gear.

    My deadlift has always been decent, so the gear wasnt an issue.

    My point being, weak point training has it's place IF you are wearing gear. If you are a point. You do pause squats Paul, and to me, that is kind of weak point training because it trains the body to be strong out of the hole, something that doesnt matter when you are gear up. You pull from mid shin, this is weak point training as well because this is where the bar speed begins to slow, and causes the bar to stall above the knees. So training that area helps build bar speed at mid shin.

    I have found that when your conventional stalls, do sumo. Conventional pullers have strong backs and soft hips. Sumo brings the hips up, but continue to pull mid shin conventional to keep the body and back strong. Then after 12 weeks go convetional off the floor, and if YOU HAVE BEEN PULLING SUMO CORRECTLY, you will hit a conventional PR. Most conventional pullers switch to sumo and the pull sumo with their backs. This wont help, you have to engage the hips and strengthen the hips. Working myself up to a 600 sumo lead to a 700+ conventional.


  10. Rick -

    First off, great post.

    Second, yes I do pause squats and block deadlifts but as compliments to my main lifts. Not in place of them, which is what "weak point" training for a lot of guys has become. Their program starts to center around weak point training and assistance work, and progression as the number one goal on the big lifts stop. All the while their "weak points" are going up.

    I can actually just pull from the floor now and improve my dead. I really do pause squats because I like em as a back off. I squatted 585 for a triple without concentrating on anything but squatting.

    The older I get, the more I realize these things (weak point training and assistance work) don't matter a whole lot. Not in the grand scheme of things.

    I still need to give your sumo to conventional a go.

    Always appreciate your input!

  11. I wonder how many "raw" lifters this post rings true with? I certainly can relate to it, and have fallen for "train your weak points" after becoming frustrated with lack of progress! Is the answer really just patience and continuing to work the basics?!

  12. For the most part, yes. Specificity will always reign supreme.

    Steady and consistent will always win the race.

  13. Great article. I'm reminded of a quote from General Patton when discussing the philosophy of focusing on addressing the weak points (the flanks) of cavalry:

    "Some goddamn fool once said that flanks have got to be secure. Since then sonofabitches all over the globe have been guarding their flanks. I don't agree with that. My flanks are something for the enemy to worry about, not me. Before he finds out where my flanks are, I'll be cutting the bastard's throat."
    -George S Patton

  14. This is awesome. Thanks for posting.

  15. Hi Paul

    Love the blog. Seeing this article was posted back in 2011 & the focus was changing back then to how in the last year there has been a real back lash to Louis's methods of box squats & band squats for the raw squatter. Do you think box squats are any use for a squatter with weak hamstrings?
    My own lifts are currently nothing amazing & I'm currently training with a powerlifting team. Our coach tells me I have weak hamstrings. At my first meet I squatted 286 @165. My 2nd meet is coming up shortly. The issue I have been told I have is that I'm a quad dominant lifter & that I don't sit back enough. The lack of hamstring strength causes me to come forward when shit gets heavy. My coach is very much into the whole Westside template of training & is advising doing a shit tonne of box squats & then direct hamstring work. Do you think lifts like RDL's, Stiff legged deads, Good Mornings & GHR's are good enough on their own to bring up hamstring strength? Do you think box squats will really strengthen my hamstrings & have a carryover to the raw squat?

    1. You don't come forward when you get heavy because you're quads are too strong. It's probably because your technique is wrong.

      And you don't need box squats.