Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Steady Progress

"People want a program that will add 40 pounds to their bench in eight weeks," [Jim] Wendler explains. "When I ask how much their bench went up in the last year, they hang their heads in shame."

That's a quote from the recent article on 5/3/1 on T-Nation.

It's worth repeating to yourself. It's something John Christy often wrote about. Like here, in Training Reality:

"Have you stuck to the basics and made “a little” but steady progress or have you abandoned ship because progress was “okay” but too slow and are currently trying a “wonder program” written by some arm-chair theoretician or steroid using phony that guarantees to put 20 to 30 pounds on your best bench press in 30 days? "

Or how about Stuart McRobert?

"Two of the biggest mistakes that people make are taking on too much training to begin with, and trying to progress at a fast pace. "

It all boils down to this - you aren't trying to make gains as fast as possible. If you do, you're bound to stall sooner rather than later. You're trying to maximize your gains period. The way to do that is to avoid getting greedy, rushing ahead of your ability to train and recover and get hurt or just fail over and over.

Take it slow and the gains will come steadily.

This post marks a special occasion for me - after a long time and much hard work, I finally bench pressed my bodyweight for a rep on 7/20. I'd done it before on machines, but never free weights. I'm not especially well built for the bench press (tall, thin, long-armed), and it's not the most important lift. But it is an important lift. It's also right on topic - a year ago, I lifted a personal-record 165 pounds for one rep at 180 pounds of bodyweight. Today, I lifted a personal-record 185 pounds at 185 pounds of bodyweight. I've done 185 before, but at a bodyweight 10 pounds higher.

That's a gain of 20 pounds in one year. I didn't get it hammering 165 over and over, or 175 or 185 over and over. It took steady work overall on my bench press, on my pushups, dumbbell presses, overhead presses, and every sort of pulling exercise around from face pulls to rows to mixed-grip pullups. It took a year, but 20 pounds on a big lift on an experienced lifter over 1 year represents the benefits of steady progress over rushing ahead hoping for a quick fix.

There is no quick fix. You just need to put the work in, steadily, recover from it, and do it again. I did it, you can do it.


  1. Often people starting a new program are coming off an existing program. Many people are not accustomed to deloading, and may have been lifting heavy for a long time without any deload. Starting a new program "too light" may well be the first deload they have had for a long time.

    By the way, deload would be a good topic for you to write about!

  2. Good suggestion, Andy. Thanks.

    And you're right on the money - if you just finished one approach and switch to another, it's a built-in deload.


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