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September 19, 2023

221 | How To Strengthen Weak Points and Enhance Your Lifts

221 | How To Strengthen Weak Points and Enhance Your Lifts with Annie Miller

In strength training, you’re training skills. You’re entering into a practice with asymmetries, past injuries, weak points and more. Whether you were an athlete or have never played a sport in your life, very people have perfectly balanced muscular and joint function.

To be clear, that is not the end goal of training. And you’re not failing if your body is not yet in perfect balance.

BUT – a massive use and benefit of strength training can be to improve weaknesses. And that, as a byproduct, also improves our strengths. 

Aka why strength training is the GOAT in my opinion for longevity in a physically functional life.

So how do you go about improving movement patterns and gaining strength in areas we have weakness? Just keep going? Add more weight? More reps? That’s what we answer today.

I share my process below – what to focus on if you’re a trainee or a trainer.

Find the leaks

Both of these are most easily identified through simply videoing lifts. And typically they’ll become more prominent as load increases. We lose efficiency and it shows through the movement, in one way or another.

  • Energy leaks where you break position

This happens when you see an area of the body “give” during a movement. Think knees caving in (valgus) coming out of the hole in the squat. Or elbows flaring out during bench press. There is a weak part of the mechanics within the movement.

The point here is to identify the weak point – where is it happening? And what is actually happening during the energy leak?

  • Sticking points where your velocity slows

You’ll be able to see this in video. Velocity slowing as volume increases is normal. That should happen through the WHOLE concentric phase. A sticking point typically manifests when the load increases and velocity slows through a specific portion of the concentric phase – think half way up from the squat, or at the start of a pull up for many people.

This differs from an energy leak as form doesn’t break. The movement simply SLOWS and then picks back up.

Break the skill down into parts & train the parts

Once you’ve identified the actual weakness, you’ll need to TRAIN in that specific position and portion of the movement where either the energy leak or the sticking point happens.

We can gain strength in 15 degrees in either direction of an isometric contraction at a given joint angle. Ie: You have a sticking point half way up in the pull up. So, you add in isometric holds at or just before that 90 degree position. And then reap the gains in 15 degrees above and below that point.

In general you’re going to ADD capacity before load. That comes through adding time under tension holding the proper position (energy leak) and then “powering out” of said position if working past a sticking point.

Train the actual skill under less load, with more control

The goal here being to NOT break position or to keep speed consistent depending on what form of weakness you’re training.

Train weak points often 

Like any other area of the body, if you want to make gains, we need to CHALLENGE the movement and the tension placed on said movement from a muscular standpoint.

I say these drills or adaptions (adding 1 and 1/4 squats, or isometric holds in pull ups) take the place of your normal prescription. You can then add in extra work (say clamshells or abduction work for knee valgus) in the warm up or as burn out after the lift.

But train these OFTEN and be consistent. It will take WORK to build up weaknesses. 😉

Side to side discrepancies 

If you’re addressing side to side strength imbalances (ie your right shoulder is stronger in single arm vertical pressing or your left leg fatigues slower in step ups), then follow these progressions:

  • Start on weak side
  • Match strong to weak side load and reps
  • Add extra set to weak side (AMRAP)
  • Retest strength or capacity on each limb (choose weight to perform right and left. Rest between sides. The goal being that they are equal).

That’s it! Happy gains my friends.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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