Less than a week after I talked about my effort to do a 120kg squat, for one proper rep (i.e not cheating by quarter squatting) I achieved it! It took months and much longer than expected but I did it!
Despite going to the gym for over 15 years it was one of those moments where I was tested and realised I still have much to learn.
To summarise the situation, I think of two statements that I have seen said in the lifting community.
“Strength takes time” which I first heard from Adam Pulman.
“You can’t go in the gym every week and give a PB – the only PBs I do are on the platform” which I can’t remember who said this thanks to the fickleness of lasting impressions that is Twitter. But if you think this was you and you are a powerlifter with a beard, let me know.
Strength takes time
It was a great feeling to break through the plateau, it’s only 15kg, but if you’ve ever been there you know what I am talking about.
Do get there I really ramped up working on my legs and like a man possessed I was squatting nearly everyday – but with the pressure my body really felt it!
Normally I would be up for continuing heavy to maintain my result, but my knees felt absolute hell – I lift wearing what I call SSSS – shirt, socks, shorts, shoes – I don’t do use any support belts or knee pads because when I lift I want it to be all me.
You can’t go in the gym every week and give a PB
For the next few weeks I lightened the load – halfed it actually to 60kg and it still hurt!
By not constantly being in beast mode my body recovered and I worked my way up to my bodyweight doing 90kg for 15, an impressive feat for lifting in itself requiring lungs as much as legs. By this point, I knew I was ready to go again…
I got my ambitions on big sights – I would do 120kg for three.
I eased into the squats starting off light to make sure my knees were fully warm for the pressure. I worked my way up to 105kg what I previously called my ‘faltering’ weight (the maximum weight one can go to before they start losing form). I did a solid, but heavy five.
By 110kg I felt gravity driving me into planet Earth. I repped for three, with baby giraffe legs showing on the last lift. I think I found my new falter weight.
After a generous rest, I hit 115kg. That hard steel bar felt like it could cut through my shoulders. I repped one, back down I went. I attempted to pull myself back up but the momentum failed and for the first time since going for heavy lifts I hit the safety bars.
Thank god I wasn’t going ass to grass.
To get out I simply ducked myself to the floor, did the crawl of shame and de-racked until I could get the bar back into place. It’s easy to be embarrased by these types of things at the gym, but I just remind myself no one gives a shit.
Strength takes time and once you have it, it seems to disappear quick without constant attention.
From a squatting perspective, my next steps are to maintain by building endurance on the heavy squats (105kg – 120kg) with more reps.
Strength does take time – and I have dedicated over six months to improving my squat, which I’m content to have achieved – though this has been at the expense of my other lifts.
My current focus is on a 90kg bench press, which was set due to my recent PB of 82.5kg – a mere 7.5kg extra in weight to lift, but not to be underestimated. I will probably be tied up during the Autumn/Winter months trying to break through to the next level.
One thing I have changed up since switching focus to bench is having a much better plan. For many years I have just gone to the gym and lifted lots of heavy stuff targetting specific areas because I got to the comfort zone of knowing what I was doing. Perhaps too comfortable.
I am hoping that by planning a bit more, I can see more effective results. We shall see.
Do you have any tips for improving heavy lifts? Let me know in the comments below.
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