Everyone has heard the saying “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
This is a principle of training I’ve been exploring more the past couple years in my training.
The best way to get stronger at an exercise is not always focusing just on that exercise.
Yes, there’s the SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) which basically means you get good at what you specifically practice doing.
But you have to recognize that in an exercise there is often one specific area that is the weak point. In many lifts this will be called the sticking point, whether its at the top, middle or bottom of a lift.
For other exercises it may not be about the strength, but flexibility or something else.
In doing the exercise itself, you may only be training this weakest link the smallest bit.
What that means is that there are other exercises, assistance exercises, that could help you improve even further and faster.
I share the following example not because you should follow suit. Most people aren’t working on this exercise…and if they were, chances are they’d have a different weak link. Instead, I’m sharing it to give an example of this principle in action.
One of my major goals right is to bent press 185 lbs. (same as my bodyweight) with a barbell.
Currently my best is 165 lbs. and I’m very close to hitting 175 lbs. so I’m closing in.
Of course, working on the barbell bent press itself is critically important. I’m not saying that shouldn’t be done.
But in addition to that lift, I’ve been working with a number of assistance exercises. The hard part for me is standing up with the barbell once my arm is straightened out. This seems to be a combination of shoulder integrity in changing the angle as well as torso strength to come out of the position.
One of the exercises I’ve been working on is a series of cable assistance. You can see this in action here:
This involves a few different exercises all done in a series:
- Wig-Wag (that is a circular movement with the shoulder in each direction)
- Shoulder Corkscrew
- Side Press
- Windmill to Overhead Squat Transition
Each of these in their own way helps to build the shoulder integrity (by that I mean strength and stability through a multitude of planes of movement all relevant to the bent press).
Doing this I’ve noticed myself saving some bent presses that came out of the ideal groove that I know I wouldn’t have “caught” otherwise. So it is working!
So much so that I no longer think the shoulder integrity is the weakest link. Tomorrow, I’ll share another exercise I’ve just started using.