How Can I Get Stronger?

strong seated dumbbell press

Dec 31, 2015

Question

I am 34 yrs old and have been lifting for over 12 years. I would like to think that I have a bit of experience with working out but when I look at myself, I have not achieved close to what I have pictured over the years. It has been a cycle of gaining weight up to 220-230lbs at 6' and overweight, to losing weight to 190-200 in great shape but weak and not having much muscle build.

Some of my goals are to be able to bench 315 for 6-8 reps clean, squat 405 for 6-8 reps, shoulder press 225 for 6-8 reps. I know that those are possible if I keep eating a lot of food, but I don't want to get fat in the process. I don't necessarily want to be completely ripped, which I know is serving two masters. Just would like to get stronger and bigger while staying in shape. Right now my stats are Bench 245-6 reps, BB row 240-6 reps, Squat 335-6 reps, Shoulder press 140-8 reps and I eat about 3500 cals a day and my arms are about 16 1/2" big.

I could definitely eat more, but am already overweight so I don't. I just don't have that power look I have always wanted and now that I'm older, I'm afraid it is not going to happen. Should I just cut out all the isolation exercises and do the upper lower body workout you have listed on your website and jog for 30 min 2-3x a week. I guess I just have a hard time believing that only doing one exercise like the military press can build huge shoulders or just doing the bench can build a big chest. I'm attracted to these types of workouts, but since it on a begginers page I feel it wont work for me. I also like the simple and easy weight gain workouts you have listed, which I have been following for the last 8 weeks and have made progress.

I guess I am just tired of being average in the gym, lifting the same weight as most and looking average also. Right now, I workout at home so I don't have access to machines or cables but have all the basics, which these days I just want to do the basics, not a bunch of useless exercises.

I typically lift 3x a week with 1 top set for each exercise. I will perform 20 min of cardio 2x a week either jump roping or eliptical.

Bench 4x6
Incline bench 3x8
Military press 4x6-8
Side raise 3x12
Close bench 4x6
Lying tri ext 3x8

Squats 4x6-8
Leg press 3x12
SLDL 3x8
Leg curls 3x8

BB rows 4x6
Chin ups 3x7
B curls 4x8
Alt DB curl 3x8
Ab wheel 4x20

Meal 1) Bagel/or oatmeal, tbs brown sugar, cinnamon
2 eggs, 3 turkey links
Cup of whole milk

Meal 2) 1 cup oj,1 cup milk, 1 scoop protein, tbs honey, banana

Meal 3) 1 cup rice or pasta, 6oz meat, 1 cup veggies
Or sometimes just 2 homemade chicken burritos with black beans and rice

Meal 4)Peanut butter sandwich, apple, cup of milk

Meal 5)Dinner is similar to lunch

Meal 6)1 Cup of cottage cheese, tbs of peanut butter

I eat 5 or 6 times a day depending if I worked out that day, I also can't afford to use a bunch of protein powder per day due to budget. I usually workout first thing in the morning because of family duties and homework in the evening so sometimes I have that shake first thing. It's not that I'm really overweight or anything. Just don't understand why I can't be strong, big and and shape. I will send you a link to a youtube video of what I mean following this email.

Anyway, I am sorry for the long email. Thank you for your website, it has so much knowledge and I am always on it finding new information. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks for your help!

Nick

Answer

Thanks for the email Nick.

I understand your dilemna and know exactly what you're going through. Getting stuck on training plateaus really suck because no matter what you do, it seems like you'll never get past the plateau.

The biggest trick to overcoming a training plateau is to take a step back and take an honest look at your training and eating habits. For example, you mentioned in your email that you want to be able to bench press 315 for 6 to 8 clean reps and shoulder press 225 for 6 to 8 reps. After taking a look through your training sequence, it's going to be very hard for you to accomplish this task because of two important reasons.

The first reason is that you're training chest and shoulders in the same workout. I'll be honest, your shoulders and triceps are going to be exhausted after performing the bench press and incline press. You simply won't have the physical and mental energy to be able to optimize the shoulder press.

The second reason is that we are all built differently and require different stimulation points. Some of us need more training to grow while some of us require less. I'd advise you to try and spread your training into two categories, direct and indirect training. One day will be a direct training day while another will be a "spill over" day which indirectly trains the same muscle group on a different day. This way, the muscle gets trained once directly and another indirectly. Of course, you will have to provide enough recovery time in between sessions but if done correctly, this can be very effective. This way, your muscle gets just enough stimulation to keep growing but not enough down time to go stale.

I'd split my chest and shoulder training up. If you want to prioritize your bench press, you should be training chest first and foremost in your program. However, I would drop the barbell bench press and incline barbell press and for the next 4 weeks, start using only dumbbells. You've gone stale in these movements and it's time to start improving your weak points which in my experience is always mid point (bottom) part of these movements.

Here's what I want you to do. Try using dumbbells only and come down nice and slow and make sure the dumbbells come down just past the parallel point on your chest. Pause at the bottom portion for a second and come up hard. Squeeze at the top and come down nice and slow and pause at the bottom and come back up hard. The idea here is to strengthen the lower portion of the movement which is where most people are the weakest on the bench press.

With each passing weak, use progressively heavier dumbbells and perform the bench press and incline movement in the same manner. After 4 or 5 weeks, go back to the bench press and you should notice a big difference.

The same goes for the shoulder press. Get rid of the barbell for about 4 weeks and concentrate on using dumbbells and concentrate on the lower part of the movement.

Here's a sample schedule:

Day 1: Chest / Back
Day 2: Legs / Calves
Day 3: Cardio
Day 4: Shoulders / Traps / Abs
Day 5: Biceps / Triceps
Day 6: Cardio
Day 7: Rest

Chest / Back

Dumbbell Bench Press
Dumbbell Incline Press
Dips
Barbell Row
Chin Ups
Seated Cable Row

Legs / Calves

Leg Extensions
Squats
Leg Press
Leg Curl
Stiff Leg Dead Lift
Seated Calf Raise

Cardio:

Jogging

Shoulders / Traps / Abs

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Clean and Press
Standing dumbbell laterals
Barbell Shrugs
2 Giant Sets Dumbbell Shrugs
Planks

Triceps / Biceps

Close Grip Bench Press
Lying Dumbbell Extensions
Standing Cable Press Downs
Standing Barbell Curls
Seated Alternate Curls
Preacher Curls

Cardio:

Jogging

This is a sample routine but it gives you an idea of splitting your routing into direct and indirect training segments.

Your diet looks fine. You didn't mention whether or not you're having a post workout meal. In case you're not, I'd advise you to start. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a banana and a glass of orange juice. Personally, I'd throw in some creatine into my supplement schedule. Have one serving before your workout.

Here's an article you might want to go over:

http://www.building-muscle101.com/how-to-get-past-a-bench-press-plateau.html

I hope this helps Nick,

Blake

As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.



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