Attack Your Weaknesses!

One of the simplest yet overlooked ways of getting stronger is finding your weaknesses and making them strengths. I love using different training methods but sometimes it pays off to do the simple thing. This is why I place a lot of importance on self-awareness. With self-awareness, you can know what areas you need to work on. This applies to fitness and life in general. The first and simple step is identifying your weakness(es). Once you identify them, you attack them.

How To Identify Your Weaknesses

There are two ways I identify my weaknesses, soreness and sticking points. This why I like to focus on compound lifts. With soreness, I like to see what parts of my body have extra soreness. These extra sore body parts are the ones I need to work on more. For example, if your triceps are extra sore after bench pressing, you can do close grip bench press or skull crushers to address your weak triceps. I always prefer compound lifts but isolation exercises can help you target weak points.

The other way is by looking at my sticking points. The best way to know your sticking points is by lifting heavy. When you’re lifting heavy, you’ll notice what parts of the lift you have the most difficulty, thus you’ll find what’s holding you back from getting stronger.

How To Attack Your Weaknesses

The two ways to attack your weaknesses is strengthening the weak muscles or doing sticking point specific exercises. The first one is a no brainer, if you have a weak muscle group just train it. There are various ways to really target weak points. You can use single limp exercises like the Bulgarian split squat and bent over rows. You can do isolation exercises like the skull crushers, glute bridges, and hamstring curls. Bodyweight exercises are also great for targeting specific weaknesses, especially joint weaknesses. If you’re a lifter without access to weights, you can use this time to do bodyweight exercises that target weak points.

For sticking point issues, paused work and overcoming isometrics will help tremendously. Doing paused squats has helped me improve my ability to get out of the bottom position. You can do pauses at any position that you feel you’re weak at. Overcoming isometrics are specifically done to break through sticking points and can lead you to incredible strength gains. There’s so many ways to use Overcoming Isometrics but the most common way I’ve seen is with a barbell, power rack, and safety pins.

The idea is to push the barbell against the safety pins at various joint angles. You’ll select the joint angles you struggle in the most.Since you won’t be able to move the pins, you’ll be exerting maximum force. Doing this teaches your body to exert a lot of force at that particular position. The more force you apply, the easier it is to move the weight.

How I’m Attacking My current Weaknesses

My two current weak spots are my triceps and my hip flexors. I noticed my tricep weakness from struggling at the lockout point on my bench press. I saw my hip flexor weakness from doing squats. My hip flexors are often sore after I finish doing squats.

For my triceps, I’ve been doing a lot of isolation exercises as well as cross crawl movements that engage the triceps. I’ve definitely noticed improvements in my lockout strength since placing a stronger emphasis on tricep training..

For my hip flexors, I’ve been doing band work. The exercise involves me lying on my back and placing my feet on the bands. Once I’m set up, I bring each knee to my chests , with the band acting as resistance.

I’ve also been doing hurdle jumps at a local track. These automatically engage the hip flexors based on how I have to tuck in my legs to get over the hurdles.I’ve noticed a difference in my power when squatting. I’ve also been able to engage my glutes more when I lift.

Another way I’m targeting my hip flexors is to look at the cause for hip flexor weakness. I’ve made it a point to stand up more each day. Sitting for too long weakens and tightens hip flexors. I’ve also been stretching my hip flexors so they can be strong and mobile.

Below is a link to a Stack article with great information on Overcoming Isometrics:

https://www.stack.com/a/overcoming-isometrics-the-weird-exercises-that-can-instantly-make-you-stronger#:~:text=%20For%20example%2C%20contrast%20training%20for%20the%20upper-body,minutes%20and%20repeat%20for%203-5%20sets%20More%20

Photo by Ashutosh Sonwani from Pexels

Tendon Strength

Why you should focus on strengthening your tendons for overall strength.

It’s common knowledge that you need to lift weights in order to gain strength, but what if you don’t have access to weights? What if there’s a global pandemic going on and all the gyms are closed ? Are your strength gains doomed ? I wouldn’t be writing this post if that was the case.

I’m in the same boat as a lot of gym goers who don’t have access to weights. It can be frustrating thinking that the progress you’ve made will go away. This doesn’t have to be the case. Something that’s often overlooked in gaining overall strength is the strength of your tendons. When you lift heavy weights, one thing that happens is your tendons and joints get stronger. This is your brain sending a message to your body that this change is necessary so you can handle that stress again.

It makes sense when you think about it. The stronger your tendons are, the more load your body can handle. As a student of strength I’ve done some research and discovered that a lot of the old school strong guys really focused on their tendon strength. A lot of these guys are known for incredible feats of strength despite not being so big. During this break from the gym, I’ll be focusing a lot on strengthening my tendons to help me to at least maintain my strength.

Exercises That Will Build Tendon Strength

High Rep Bodyweight Exercises: Doing high rep bodyweight exercises is a great way to strengthen your tendons. I’ve used high rep training in the past to help strengthen my knee tendons after suffering an injury. Famous fitness coach Max Shank used high rep squats to recover from a bone bruise caused by a hyper-extended knee.   

Isometrics: Since the day my gym closed, I had the idea of adding isometrics to my training routine. A lot of the old school strongmen I mentioned earlier were big on isometric training. It’s forgotten now because it doesn’t look as cool as moving heavy weight. There are two types of isometrics that I’ll be using; overcoming Isometrics and Extreme Isometrics.

I’ve played around with overcoming isometrics before but I never did it consistently. The idea is to use all the force in your body to move an immovable object. You might ask what’s the point of trying to move something that can’t be moved. The benefit to this type of training is your activating and using a large amount of muscle fiber. You’re applying as much force, if not more than you would for a 1 rep max. I’ve mentioned in the past that the key to maximum strength is applying more force .

In relation to tendon strength, exerting maximum force on an immovable object will place stress on your tendons as well as your muscles. This stress will force your tendons to adapt so it can handle that stress next time. It’s the same concept with how your body adapts to traditional strength training. Fortunately, overcoming isometrics doesn’t compress your joints the way traditional barbell and dumbbell training does.

The other type of isometric training that I’ve been utilizing is extreme isometric lunges. I’ve used these from the to time but now I’m willing to commit to them to reap their full benefits. The idea is to hold a lunge position for up to five minutes on each leg. In addition to stronger knees, you can expect to see an increase in leg muscle size, better nervous system function, and better athletic performance. The most I’ve been able to do is two minutes on each leg. After a week of consistent isometric lunges, I can already feel a difference in the stability of my knees. 

The key to making this work is your mindset towards the exercise. Rather than treating it as an endurance exercise that you need to hold for a certain amount of time, treat it as survival. You need to mentality that you’ll die if you drop in the lunge. This mentality puts extra stress on you. With this stress, your body and nervous system will adapt to make a stronger you.

Plyometrics: the stress put on your tendons through plyometrics forces your body to strengthen them as a result. Just like with weight lifting, you don’t want to overdo plyometrics. I speak from experience when I say doing too much volume on your plyos will lead to joint pain.

One of them best plyometric exercises to improve tendon strength is the depth jump. This is also the most strenuous so do these only when you’re ready. You’ll know you’re ready for depth jumps when you can squat at least double your body weight and learned proper jumping and landing techniques. The reason it’s so powerful is that it causes an impact of up to 3x your body weight on your body. That’s a lot of stress and in order  for you to handle that stress again, your body needs to adapt.

If you want to build strength without weights, focus on strengthening your tendons. By strengthening your tendons and joints, your body will be more equipped to handle heavy weights and other external forces.The interesting thing about the training methods I mentioned in this post is that they’re also know for strengthening the nervous system. There are no excuses. Let’s get to work! Below are some resources I’ve used to help me 

Benefit of High Rep bodyweight exercises:  https://www.t-nation.com/training/8-minutes-to-awesome

What motivated me to try extreme isometrics: https://www.just-fly-sports.com/one-mans-dive-into-extreme-isometrics/

Medical research talking about the muscle activation of isometric exercises: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11717228

Photo by Leon Martinez from Pexels

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