If you’re like me and still get impressed by crazy amounts of weight on a barbell then I salute you. The world has gone “play it safe” crazy mad I think. As much as I love feeling great and being sensible with training, I still LOVE to see the boundaries being pushed with human potential and it’s a damn shame when you see someone with crazy farm boy strength doing nothing but Swiss ball exercises and running. People shouldn’t be afraid of getting their bodies STRONG.
Let’s look at a real-life example, for all the cool flips Spider-Man could do, his deadlift was one empty web shooter away from embarrassing. Now Kingpin? Kingpin LIFTS! It’s easy to see who’s more superior when it comes to fighting – everyone knows running away and outsmarting people with webs is cheating… CHEATING!! Imagine if Spider-Man gave up all that silly gymnastics stuff and actually apply himself to his strength!? He would hammer the lower weight divisions! (I would actually like to give a shoutout to Stan Lee here, a true genius of creativity and heart)
But, as I once told Uncle Ben to say to Spider-Man: “with great power, comes great responsibility”. If you’re going to get strong, you will need a bit of upkeep to help avoid the niggles that build up through the deliberate pounding you put your body through.
I have a few supplementary exercises that you should place a bit of focus on to avoid having to take time off training. I would also like to stress that even if you feel fine at the moment to try them anyway. Every time I get a power lifter, strongman or weightlifter coming to me with an long-term or recurring pain they always struggle with at least some of these drills. As simple as they may seem, it is incredibly important to be able to do them so you’re able to use the right muscles correctly during bigger lifts. Remember that your body can get crazy strong even if you’re doing things wrong.
The hamstring slider
The hamstring slider is incredibly humbling. Yes deadlifts strengthen your hamstring, yes glute ham raises strengthen your hamstrings but the often missed element is training your hamstrings with your hips fully extended, the of pulling your heel up to your butt – BENDING YOUR KNEE. If you cannot do reps of this for fun then there is a serious disconnect with your hamstrings and your hips and that will have a hinderance on your actual strength and could cause you to strain your lower back at max loads.
I have seen people who are able to lift stupid heavy weights but not able to do any of these without their hips dropping… coincidentally they’re also the ones with the most back problems.
15-20 reps should not be an issue for you if you want to make sure your hamstrings are working well!
Single arm pressing
If you train in a predominantly bilaterally (both arms working together) then you are at high risk of your stronger side taking over. At max effort lifts the body will find the path of least resistance – this is where you see people leaning backwards or one arm going up faster than the other etc. No you don’t need a triple-banded-balance-ball corrective exercise for this; how about some HEAVY single arm presses! Make a note of the weight you can do in both arms individually and the amount of reps you can do before one arm gives out.
The first thing to look out for would be a major difference in you 1-3 rep max range; if your right arm is the king of the weights and your left arm is like an inflatable sausage then sorry you’re heading for an injury in no time. Not joking.
The next thing to test would be reps, pick a moderate weight and see what you can get for max reps on one side then see how the other side does, if you can get 20 reps on one side and only 12 reps on the other then that will also present itself under fatigue with a barbell.
You have got to keep an eye on this stuff if you want to make progress.
Single leg work with weight
Balance is so important – this is a key exercise for bigger dudes. They seem to think it’s ok to not be able to balance on one leg just because they’re big and that’s not the way it works because, well, y’know, they’re big and stuff.
But anyway.. Just like your shoulders, your hips can become really dominant on one side, this is where you start seeing a single shaking leg when deadlifting, or the sideways squat onto one leg. If you can’t do any kind of heavy single leg deadlift with good control then you are losing out on a massive training adaptation. Forcing each leg to figure itself out and owning the single leg deadlift is core training, and the great thing about it too is that because it’s a deadlift, it transfers directly to…. your deadlift! Just like the individual shoulder press, if one of your legs has you spinning out of control and the other is totally fine, then simply practicing this is your movement fix!
It doesn’t take as long as you think it does to get the hang of these movements. Aim to do all of them at least once a week until you notice a shift towards balance between your left and right sides. After that every other week will do just to keep on top of the general compensations from strength training.
End range training is my collection of strength exercises and skill work plus all of the drills I use for my clients, if you want to know more about effective warm ups and workouts then you can pick it up here.