The Number One Thing That Is Holding Me Back In Strongman

What I am doing to improving my weak link and how you can apply it to fixing anything holding you back in your own training.

Having a strong ability to press things overhead is a critical component to being a successful strongman. I really suck at overhead pressing and as a strongman competitor, that is inexcusable. This is my journey to making immense improvements on the number one thing that is holding me back. It will also serve as a guide to how you can balance out your own weak points. 

3-Point Summary:

  • Take care of injuries first.
  • Overload your weak movement pattern at your maximum recoverable volume for at least 4-6 weeks.
  • All other training goes into maintenance mode.

 

Overhead pressing and any kind of pressing movement has always been my weakest link. Throughout my training career I have been plagued by shoulder injuries whenever I get close to making a breakthrough in progress and strength. 

Here’s just an example of how bad my overhead pressing still is. From my latest competition 

 

 

My left shoulder has been an issue for half a year now, which has left me unable to build any strength with pressing. 

Which leads me into the first rule of training your weak point that supersedes all other rules:

Take care of any nagging injuries and get the athletic therapy that you need!

Don’t go in to training your weak link from a deficit you can’t easily get out of. Treat you injury first, then attack. I’ve had setbacks in training my pressing before due to shoulder problems, but most were quickly rectified through proper shoulder mobility warmups or by triggering some lingering tension with a lacrosse ball. My most recent problem has been more than just a lingering pain though. I didn’t see any improvement until I went and got it treated by my local sports chiropractor. Don’t be stubborn and try to fix all your problems yourself. If you have the medical benefits or financial means to support the cost of treatment, do it. But if this is unrealistic to you, start with trying to help alleviate the problem yourself. This is a story for another day, but mobilitywod.com is an excellent resource for getting started.

Time Frame and Exercise Selection

A minimum of 4-6 weeks is needed of direct focus on improving your weak point, although prepare to run the marathon, not the sprint. This is a very specific training cycle and so you should expect to see progress in your targeted weak link during this time, while everything else is simply being maintained. 

Primarily choose compound exercises to target your weak point, with some more additional muscle specific movements for whatever you’re targeting. All other movements and body parts will be put on the back burner during this time. For example with my current goal of improving my overhead pressing, my current training plan will include three days of pressing specific work, in addition to daily overhead specific mobility work. My training plan will start out with two strength specific days and one day of technique and speed work. Click here for access to my full 6 week training plan for improving my overhead press! 

Volume / Intensity

As we are focused on getting our weak point stronger with this training block, the principles of typical strength training parameters are going to be the main determinants of sets and reps performed while improving the weakness. 

The majority of the work should be in the 75% - 90% 1RM range for up to 20 sets per muscle group per week. Typically sets will be in the 3-6 rep range, obviously with the lower rep range the closer to your 1 RM you work. The work needs to be taxing, but not to the point of failure in every set. In order for overload and progress to be made, total volume needs to increase from week to week. Now because I am focusing just on pressing right now, I will push the volume to closer to 25-30 sets per week, just for what I am focused on - the pressing movements and muscles. In order for this to work without dragging my ability to recover from training through the dirt, I have to focus primarily on maintenance mode for the rest of my training. Reducing the volume and intensity for training the remaining muscle groups will help to balance out the recovery demand of the specific overload work. A cube style of training works great for maintaining the remaining movement patterns. Alternate weeks of max effort, repetition and dynamic work, in my case for squats and deadlifts is what I’ll be doing. 

The key to making this training work is through the concept of maximal recoverable volume (MRV) as it relates to overload. My goal is to train with the maximal amount of volume I can recover from for my targeted weak point. The book Scientific Principles of Strength Training goes in to detail on how to determine your MRV and these videos from JTSStrength are a brief primer on concepts surrounding overload:

 

 

 

Now I know I said that I am going to do 25- 30 sets per week for pressing, but if it turns out that I am exceeding my MRV by doing this, I will drop the volume a bit so that I can continue to hit PRs and keep moving forward. 

I am going to establish my MRV through two means:

  • The first is outlined in the Scientific Principle of Strength Training in that MRV can be identified when your reps in the 75%-90% range drop below 3 reps and you can’t match the reps and sets you did the previous week.
  • Monitoring HRV.

I talked about HRV in this article here. It can be a very useful tool for determining when you are exceeding your stress tolerances from training and life in general which is why I believe it to be a more sophisticated way of identifying MRV than just the rule-of-thumb I outlined above. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Crush your weakness with a vengeance! Click to tweet this

I want to help you out with targeting your own weak link. Follow my progress with overhead weak point training or share your own progress on social media using the hashtag #HulkSmashWeakPoint. I’m going to be following-up with how well targeting my weak point worked when my next competition comes around in about 6 weeks. 

Share this with someone you know who’s performance is being held back by a weak link that could use some help. 

Leave a comment below about what you’ve done to train your weak link.

Fortissimus

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