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How improve lifts without a spotter?

Discussion in 'Weight Training/Bulking' started by fernando, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. fernando

    fernando Active Member

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    Hi Everyone.

    I'm in my last 2 weeks (out of 12) of the Starting Strength program. So far I've had great progress. My strength has grown pretty significantly (historically I've been pretty weak :P) but I'm reaching the point where it's getting very hard to keep adding weight.

    My concern is mostly with 3 excercisies: squats, bench press and military press. Like I said, I've always been kinda of weak so right now my max with squats it's 60kg (2RM) (130lbs), 40kg for the bench press (4RM) (88lbs) and 25kg (55lbs) (5RM) for the military press.

    Form the beginning I always used 2.5kg or 5kg weekly (or biweekly) increments. Yet, even with a 2.5kg I'm noticing the last 2 reps are REALLY hard.

    My main fear is getting stuck with the bars and get hurt (the last rep is usually frigging impossible). And since I don't train with a partner and not always can I ask someone in the gym to help, I'm pretty much on my own. I end up doing 1-2 reps less just for safety...:(

    Any ideas on getting to pass these weight limits? I was thinking lower weights and higher reps for a while and then try heavy again. But I'm not really sure what's best.

    I'd appreciate any tips.

    Fernando

    P.S.: I'm 5.6 and 70.5kg (155lbs).
     
  2. chicanerous

    chicanerous Elite Member
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    You shouldn't have to worry about getting stuck or hurt with military press; if things go bad, just move backwards away from the barbell and let it drop to the floor. It's not ideal, but it shouldn't be a problem.

    Another option is to learn to catch the barbell back on your shoulders. As an example of this, watch how I absorb force by bending my knees when the barbell returns to my shoulders after my first rep in this video:



    That's about 25 kg heavier than my maximum military press, but, as you can see, with proper technique, it's no problem to return it to the shoulders.

    I assume you've looked to see if your gym has any cages or power racks. If you haven't and your gym does have either of these pieces of equipment, you should be able to use them to squat and bench press without fear of failure.

    As well, for bench press, mimicking spotters can be as simple as stacking things on either side of you, so that, if you can't make the rep, you can sit the barbell's plates on them and squirm out from underneath.
     
    #2 chicanerous, Sep 30, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2009
  3. fernando

    fernando Active Member

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    hey chicanerous

    I did not know that was an OK technique to improve lifts. I'm talking about your video. I'm definitely going to start trying that.

    As for your other advice, unfortunately my gym doesn't have power racks or cages, only smith machines, which I've always avoiding in preference over the free weight exercises. How about using these instead?

    I also don't think I can stack things on the sides on my gym, I can't figure out what I'd use, but I'll take a look on my next session.

    I'm curious now about the smith machines. It might be easier to control a "gone-wrong" lift in these, but not sure if it'll hinder my form or progress...

    Thanks a lot for the tips!
     
  4. chicanerous

    chicanerous Elite Member
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    The exercise depicted in the video is a jerk, which is half of the clean and jerk -- an Olympic lift. It's a good lift with fairly specific technique, but doesn't have all that much to do with pressing overhead. It's not uncommon for Olympic lifters to be able to jerk upwards of 2x what the can press strictly, as the performance of the lift is based mostly on how much a lifter can squat and support on locked joints.

    What I was trying to illustrate with that video was that, using the technique I use between the two reps to return the barbell to my shoulders, if you're pressing normally and hit failure mid-rep, you should be able to catch the barbell back on your shoulders without a problem. This is an alternative to dropping the barbell. Either way you shouldn't ever have to worry about a strict press gone wrong since it is trivial to avoid injury.

    I would try to avoid the Smith machine.

    Something I failed to mention in my previous post is that you should keep in mind that you don't have to lift to failure to improve at weightlifting. As long as you are progressively overloading your body by doing more weight or volume, you will continue to improve. So, for example, if you can lift a given weight for a maximum of 10 repetitions in a single set, but you perform 3 sets of 5 with it one session and then 3 sets of 6 or 4 sets of 5 with it the next session, you will still be overloading your body despite not taking each set anywhere near failure. Not lifting to failure and not using limits weights is going to greatly reduce any chance of injury.
     
    #4 chicanerous, Oct 2, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2009
  5. tensdanny

    tensdanny Well-Known Member

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    I've got caught under a rep while benching before. Beyond what everyone here is advocating (which is right on the money), in a worst case scenario I would think you'd be able to throw the weight off of you by either throwing it to one side or rolling it down or body to your waist and from there onto the floor.

    Despite failing on a rep, you'd be surprised by how much force you can generate when panicked. I definitely threw the bar and weight off of me to my side about 3-4 feet away. It was fairly impressive and embarrassing at the same time.
     
  6. jason (uk)

    jason (uk) Active Member

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    why not use a smith machine or dumbells ?
     
  7. Nowhereman

    Nowhereman Well-Known Member

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    When you get stuck are you following the guidelines from the book? Remember, if you get stuck the program has you lowering the weight a bit and then climbing back up. At least that is what I remember reading, I don't actually have the book, but I just ordered the 2nd edition.

    And Chic is right. Powerlifters rarely go to failure and the get real strong.
     
  8. philph

    philph Well-Known Member

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    Don't do what I did.

    I hit failure in the middle of a close grip DB bench press rep, and with one arm and shoulder now transformed into abject jelly, I didn't think I could "tip" the weights away to the sides without losing control and injuring my wrists or hands, or dropping them on myself.

    After a moment's disordered thought, I formulated a plan to first throw one DB away (using the arm on the side that felt like it still had some control left in it), and then use both hands to make the remaining DB safe.

    Well, the first DB went flying across the room, and I was just about to congratulate myself when I realised I had forgotton about both balance and recoil.

    The bench lurched in the opposite direction, the final tip-up accellerated by the DB still in my other hand, and I crashed painfully into my weight rack.
     
  9. philph

    philph Well-Known Member

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    On a related note, I have also had a couple of times when I bailed out suddenly even when not training alone. Unfortunately, it was quite alarming and unpleasant for one guy who (maybe due to limited space, or just oversight) had decided to start doing some stuff on a mat very near to my bench. The DB landed not far from him, which resulting in him making a complaint to the gym administrators about me. In truth, I would say we were both at fault—he shouldn't have taken the risk of putting his mat right near to a bench where someone is clearly using heavy weights to failure, but I now know to check my immediate vicinity before starting any such set.
     
  10. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    Then how do you squat? Do you have a squat rack? Most of the squat racks I've seen have fixed safeties in case you need to dump the weight. Power racks allow you to set them at different levels.

    As Chic says....no need to worry about military press. When I start to fail on MP, I just step back a bit and bring the weight down to my shoulders again.

    The only one you should really worry about is bench press. I would suggest benching in a cage (that is what I do), but you said your gym doesn't have a cage. A great alternative for you (as suggested above) would be to use DB's. That way, if you find yourself failing, you can just drop them....and you won't have to worry about crushing yourself underneath a bar.
     
  11. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    lol...what a wuss.
     
  12. john_e_turner_ii

    john_e_turner_ii Active Member

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    My advice is find a workout partner. Since my wife started working out with me and we spot each other, we both have had significant gains. Bench press is especially dangerous without a spotter. When I used to have a home gym, and no spotter, I lost control of the bar and tore a gash in my fingers on the rung, and the bar came crashing on my head. Luckily it bounced off and didn't crush me. Very scary. Ever since, I either just did dumbbell press or have a spotter.
     
  13. JoeSchmo

    JoeSchmo Well-Known Member

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    Yup, people don't realize that the bench press is one of the most dangerous exercises in the gym. I don't feel the least bit bad about monopolizing a cage to bench press. It has helped me out of some bad situations in the past......
     
  14. Foley

    Foley Well-Known Member

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    Unless you can find a workout partner (who can spot properly) or someone else, then you just have to stop 1 or 2 reps short of failure.
     
  15. Jaer

    Jaer Well-Known Member

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    I know, right? I mean, dodging the tossed weights from other lifters bailing is part of my condition training!

    Power rack all the way or don't go to failure. I do use the smith machine for benches at times, but only when I go real heavy and failure can set in unexpectedly. I make sure I don't stick to benching solely on the smith machine because I think that would be limiting, never needing to balance.

    When I bench press with DBs, I lack the mobility in my left wrist to adjust and rebalance (I also can't hold the DB straight in my grip :eek:); if the weight starts to teeter or wiggle, I can't regain control and just need to bail. Happens pretty often, but I keep an eye out for others on that side. No one squished yet.
     

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