The Squats & Science Perspective

The Squats & Science Perspective

The first time I bench pressed 365 pounds was during my senior year of high school in 2007 at a weight of about 168-170 lbs. I barely had an idea of what I was doing and had no clue what powerlifting was, but I knew I liked lifting heavy weights. I was making some solid gains in bench and I figured 405 pounds would fall by the beginning of the summer, I was pretty wrong.

Fast forward 7 years to June 2014 and I’m on the platform at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in South Africa, 364 pounds on the bar for my third attempt, aiming for a silver medal in bench in the 74 kilo class (163 lbs). The bar pops off my chest, makes its way past the half way point and hits a brick wall.

My second attempt gave me fifth place and I flew home with a consolation medal in my suitcase. To say missing the podium on bench was a disappointment would be an understatement. 365 pounds had been a brick wall for me for 7 years, and it beat me on the biggest stage in raw powerlifting. Whenever you hear somebody talk about a plateau because they only added 10 pounds to their bench in the last 6 months, show them this post.

So what should I change? Maybe I should buy that slingshot thing, or do reverse banded chain presses. I have been using DUP methodology for half a decade, maybe I should hop on that Hyper Pyramid Fire Monster program my buddy told me about. In situations like these both novice and experienced lifters tend to abandon ship, washing up on the shore of whatever fad is currently circulating on their Facebook feed. It’s not that easy.

Every athlete needs to be looking inward, analyzing not only the things you do at the gym but your ideas and assumptions about your sport. After Worlds I had some choices to make about the direction I would take in my training, at a time where my performance left me wanting something new.

Well, here’s a video of me 6 months after Worlds, hitting my nemesis 365 pounds for 8 reps at 184 pounds (83 kilos).

It turns out I didn’t have to change much. I ate more food and did the exact same evidence based training and programming that I had believed in for years. I had to make the jump to a weight class where I didn’t think I’d be successful, but it turned out that was my limiting factor.

The takeaway from this personal anecdote is simple, don’t buy the snake oil. Use your curiosity and objectivity to learn as much in your sport as you can, and be skeptical of everybody that tells you they know the solution.  Personally, I needed to admit to myself that I couldn’t make it to the next level at the weight class I competed in my whole powerlifting career. Find your limiting factor and fight the urge to buy the snake oil.

Jordan Berke
Founding squat scientist, OpenBarbell contributor, avid tinkerer at Squats & Science
Jordan Berke graduated in 2012 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Florida State University. He is the Co-Founder of Squats & Science, Co-Founder of the FSU Weightlifting Club and Inventor of OpenBarbell. He has several state titles, two national championships in the junior and open 163 lb class, and was a member of team USA at the 2014 IPF Classic World championships in South Africa. He is currently training in Brooklyn, NY to regain his national title in the 83kg class.
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