Programming is almost always biased towards load, sets and reps. That makes sense. You can’t get stronger unless you find ways of lifting heavier barbells. The more cumulative work you can do, the stronger you will become, so program accordingly.
But that said, many new lifters overlook the role of time in their training. Sure, you might be lifting more weight week to week, which is great! But that will not last forever. You’ll need another strategy, another variable to manipulate.
Loading is critical, but how much total time are you spending under that load? Do you measure it? If not, you are likely rushing through your training. Every single rep, it adds up, you know? You can’t just waste all of those opportunities. Here are a few of ways I like to inject more time into my training. I recommend you play around with this and see what works best for you.
Hands down, one of the very best ways to get stronger is to work pauses into your squat training. Spend more time at the bottom before coming up, maybe 2-5 seconds. In the front squat, you can also hold the load between rep’s for a count of 3-4 full, deep breaths. You won’t need much weight at all to make your thoracic spine scream.
Get better at holding the load and staying in position. Slowly work the load backup as you get used to this. When you go back to train regular squats, you’ll be much stronger. You’ll be a much-improved lifter.
I recently got pinged by Mark Bell for dropping my deadlifts a little prematurely. That won’t do, so I’ve added a little variety into my training…Deficit pulls for sets of 5.
Once a week I will lift while standing on a few rubber matts. I also wear some high-heeled Weightlifting shoes, which enable a very deep squat position at the start of this long, very hard pull.
At the top I will squeeze the barbell, my back and my butt, greatly strengthening my lockout (Thanks, Mark!). Next, lower the bar slowly back down to the floor. Don’t set it down. Instead, reverse the bar by shoving your feet back down through the floor, pushing the hips through, and squeezing the rear again.
Again, as with all of this stuff, go light at the start. Try 70-80% of your best pull for 3-5 sets of 5 reps. Inch the load up as you get better at the movement. It’ll pay off in a big way.
Maybe you care about how much you bench, or maybe you don’t give a shit at all. But I bet you want strong arms, right? You want to get better at push-ups, handstands, jerks, push presses, ring dips, something, all that.
Here’s a tip that I used all of the time back when I played football. It was a quick way to rapidly improve my work capacity prior to combine testing. My best ever performance in the bench press was 38 repetitions with 225 pounds. Not bad. I figured I would start doing this again!
Pick a pressing movement. Usually, I will use dumbbells or a specialty barbell, but you could do this with dips, pushups, what have you. It just takes a little creativity.
Start at the bottom of the range of motion. Hold tension across the muscles, but don’t move the load. Count to at least 10 seconds, but don’t get too fatigued. Next, do 10-15 rep’s where you move the load up about 1/3 of the way. Then, do 10-15 half reps, then 10-15 full reps. Let me say, you’ll be smoked and stronger in no time!
Play around with this stuff and see what it can do for you. If you have questions, toss them in the comments below.