Gyms are a social place. If you go at the same time every day, you’ll start to notice a few familiar faces, and soon you’ll move from nods and friendly smiles to full-fledged conversations (though you may never actually learn their names). Because I’m pretty consistent with my training habits, there are a few people at the gym who I interact with regularly. And a few days ago, one of the other gym faithfuls approached me to call out my bench press form. In a very friendly way, this good gym-samaritan pointed out that I wasn’t bringing the bar low enough to my chest, at the bottom of my reputation. I was surprised, and only partially because gym etiquette clearly prohibits unsolicited form advice (unless the person seriously at risk of hurting themselves).
Identifying a Weak Spot
I’ve always known that this was an issue of mine, but I’ve never been able to correct it. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of improvements, but I continue to struggle at the very bottom of the rep. This is a weak spot, and we all have them.
And though they can occur anywhere, most people struggle with relative weakness in the shoulders and back. Excessive sitting, combined with push-heavy training routines, leave us prone to these issues. For postural balance, it’s important that you perform an equal, if not greater volume of pulling exercises for the back and shoulders. If you can’t row as much as you can bench, you’re probably imbalanced.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
On paper, there’s an easy way to address your weak spots – simply train them more. But in practice, it’s a lot easier said than done. Changing your routine is tough, especially when it involves taking a step backwards.
When you’ve got a weak spot, be it an entire muscle group or just a part of an exercise, you need to take a different approach to course-correct. This adjustment often involves using lower weight, and that’s sometimes hard to do. In my bench press example, I need to focus more on the bottom part of my repetition, but I probably can’t do this with the same weight I normally use. And while I know I need to change my approach, I’m reluctant to actually do it. Instead, I continue with the same old routine, procrastinating until next week to make a change. This is a symptom of ego lifting.
Fight Your Ego
Ego lifting is pretty common in the gym, especially among men. Even when no one 's watching, we want to lift the most amount of weight we can, usually to our detriment. Even if you’re not the competitive type, it’s difficult to set aside your heavy lifts for something lighter. It feels like taking a step back. Because of this, we end up ignoring our weak spots and continuing to let the problem live on.
Training Your Weak Spots
If you want to make real progress, you need to make a real change to your routine. If it’s an entire muscle group that’s lagging, you’ve got to train that muscle group more. Consider adding a designated day into your routine to really increase your training volume. It may also be worth re-arranging your schedule. If you always train your weakest muscle group after leg day, or at the end of your cycle, fatigue may be impeding your ability to make progress. Shake it up for a change.
If you’re struggling with a specific exercise, drop the weight and isolate that area. You should also look to re-prioritize exercises inside of your day. Most people start off their workout by performing their heaviest compound exercise first. But if you want to make significant progress, direct your energy towards those weak spot exercises. It may be a bit of an ego hit to use less weight on your subsequent lifts, but your progress with thank you.
If you change your training frequency or intensity, it’s important that your nutrition follows suit. Make sure you’re getting the protein and energy you need to power your recovery and fuel your next workout.