Variation and Assistance Exercises-Getting past plateaus

Quagmire911

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#1
This is a post I made on Stronglifts.com. I thought I’d make a few changes and post it on here too.


Effort’s “Where to Start” is a great thread for beginners, and many would do very well to follow it if not a very similar approach. Heavy compound exercises done in a low rep range that give excellent strength/muscle gains, (if the nutrition is there).

However there comes a time when lifters make that all important progression from the beginner category to the low intermediate category. I have seen a lot of talk about when a lifter can be considered an intermediate, really it is not terribly important. What matters is that said lifters gains have stalled and no amount of deloading will fix the problem. They have hit a wall.

I myself had this happen. Squat went from 65kgx5 to 105kgx3 in about 3-4 months. This was from March to July of last year. My squat should be in the range of 125-140 for three reps by now, however up until a month ago I had regressed and was lucky if I would get 100kgx3. This was terribly frustrating as you can imagine, and squatting my butt of certainly wasn’t helping.

But what was the problem??? Form, seemed to be alright. Several experienced lifters looked at a video and couldn’t really see a problem. But that doesn’t make sense. Another problem I was having was that anything under 90kg felt really light, and anything over was really heavy. This does not make sense. In December I did 85kgx20 yet 105kgx1 felt like a ton. There must be a weakness…To quote Stronglifts “Yelling didn’t help.”


Alas it was Hamstrings. I thought that box squats would take care of them, but then I forget that everyone is different and what works for some doesn’t work for others. I had also done GM’s, stiff legged deads etc, surely my hamstrings would be getting hammered from that? I realize now that this wasn’t the case. Enter the glute ham raise. Never have I felt my hamstrings being involved in a movement so exclusively before. I have struggled to feel anything in my hamstrings but now they were on fire. I would be lucky as I have said to get 100kgx3 three weeks ago, but after a few short sessions incorporating GHR’s I do 100kgx6 and then 110kgx3. I knew straight away what the problem had been, I actually felt my hamstrings come into play during the squat. Coming out of the ass to grass position an inch or two above parallel they kick in and very important for the rest of the movement.

Now, there are other weaknesses in the squat movement. Also in the deadlift and bench press. This post is for those that near the end of “Where to Start” and others in general.

NOTE-These lifts should be incorporated only after you have stalled on a movement and aren’t progressing. Also remember that it may be a form problem, and it be not be necessary to change the move or start adding exercises. I won’t go into much detail, but if you have a query about a particular lift ask below and myself and others will try out best to help. They are mostly variations and other compounds. Very few iso’s.

I will also say that some will probably like some of these moves, and dislike some of these moves. It comes down to personal preference and what works for you. The only way you can find out is too try for yourself. Do not go crazy though, most of the time not much needs to change for progress to take off again.

THE SQUAT

Variations: Box squats, Pause squats, Zercher squats, Any variation that includes bands and chains. Front squats. Overhead squats. Using a cambered bar, using a safety squat bar.

Assistance exercises: Stiff legged deadlifts, good mornings, glute ham raises, pullthroughs, hyperxtensions. There are more. There are many variations of good mornings.

THE DEADLIFT

Variations: Deadlifts off blocks, Sumo deadlifts, Stiff legged deadlifts, Rack deadlifts. Romanian deadlifts. And again incorporating bands and chains. Trap bar deadlifts.

Assistance Exercises: Good mornings,GHR’s/Hypers/Pullthrouhgs. Front squats/leg press are useful for developing power from the floor. A lot of the same for squat/deads they use a lot of the same musculature.

THE BENCH PRESS

Variations: Board presses, Rack presses, Paused bench, variations with bands and chains. Floor press. You can also do incline/flat/decline bench press along with using wider, normal and close grips. Dumbbell on incline, flat, decline. Using hammer grips.

Assistance exercises: Dips, military presses. Doing isolation for the triceps can be good idea for some people, cable pushdowns and skull crushers are example. Laterals can help with shoulder strength. Again what works for some, won’t work for others.

OTHER EXERCISES

Things that haven’t been included above. These are things that help your core such as Turkish get ups, weighted situps, hanging leg raises. Everyone will probably have to do some core work at some point in time. Some will have to do it all the time.

As for rep ranges if you are doing a variation of a lift say box squats/front squats instead of squats you would use a similar method, something like 5x5, 3x3. If you were still squatting but adding in the glute ham raise as an assistance then I would personally do something like 2-3 sets for 8-10 reps. In Warboss’s routine he actually has this from the outset and I would personally do this as it was from him that I learned a lot of what I know. Again though you can vary the approach.

I was going to go into more detail about which moves help which part of the movement. The post would probably then get even more out of hand than it already has. If you are having a problem post a video and if a weakness is determined, ask what variations or assistance exercises could possibly help your issue(s).

I’d also add that different approaches can also get the job done. Using different rep/set ranges, differing volume/frequency all contributes to how well you progress. Everything is individual. These exercises as I say are intended for weak points. It may be that you don’t have a weak point per se, just that you have stalled on the movement as a whole. That is when rep/set changes etc or very slight variations in the main move are a good idea. Also a different approach.

Also don’t forget that other factors could be affecting progress. Everyone is guilty of not doing something they should. Diet could be better, sleep could be better, warming up could be better. You don’t use chalk…etc. There are many factors.

This post is by no means definitive however I thought it would be a good idea for the guys that will be coming to the end of their newbie gains, and perhaps have inherit weaknesses. For me, I know that I must target my hamstrings in some way or another or else my squat will go no where.

I would ask that the more experienced discuss, and also add other variations and their own methods of getting past sticking points. For the newer guys it is intended that you ask and learn about these new moves to help you with your lifting, although feel free to contribute a move if you feel it necessary. I hope that this is beneficial for at least one person, if it is then that is all that matters. Good luck and lift hard,

Quagmire

Ps-And thanks to WBA for his knowledge and guidance, this thread wouldn't have been written if it were not for him.
 

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spesmilitis

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#2

Quagmire911

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#3
Thank you for the additions Spes, perhaps I will incorporate them at some point. I am particularly interested in deadlifts from hell.

Another one for the posterior chain is reverse hyperextensions, forgot to put that in.
 

EFFORT

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#5
i think i would confuse a lot of people if I posted about getting passed sticking points
 

Quagmire911

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#6
EFFORT said:
i think i would confuse a lot of people if I posted about getting passed sticking points
Why? Lots of advanced Westside stuff do with bands and percentages?
 

wolf116

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#7
I just can't believe how complex WSB training is. I was looking into it as the next step but god those meat heads are to smart for me. So many variations.
 

EFFORT

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#8
Quagmire911 said:
Why? Lots of advanced Westside stuff do with bands and percentages?
yeah the band/chain/% stuff is pretty straight forward......i'm talking about stuff like this ..... high volume/high frequency , low volume/high frequency , rest pausing, tut, super sets, drops sets, failure work, extreme stretching, over training a body part on purpose, 10,000+ calorie days, all sorts of confusing stuff that would pretty much go against most of the stuff i say here.
 

wolf116

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#9
EFFORT said:
yeah the band/chain/% stuff is pretty straight forward......i'm talking about stuff like this ..... high volume/high frequency , low volume/high frequency , rest pausing, tut, super sets, drops sets, failure work, extreme stretching, over training a body part on purpose, 10,000+ calorie days, all sorts of confusing stuff that would pretty much go against most of the stuff i say here.
10,00 calories! holy moly!
Where did you learn all this stuff EFFORT?
 

Quagmire911

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#10
Doesn't sound confusing to me, but I suppose some people could get a bit carried a way and start adding a lot of stuff that they don't need. A lot of the stuff you mentioned isn't really necessary for the level this post was aimed at, which is why I am sure you aren't posting about it.
 

spesmilitis

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#12
EFFORT said:
yeah the band/chain/% stuff is pretty straight forward......i'm talking about stuff like this ..... high volume/high frequency , low volume/high frequency , rest pausing, tut, super sets, drops sets, failure work, extreme stretching, over training a body part on purpose, 10,000+ calorie days, all sorts of confusing stuff that would pretty much go against most of the stuff i say here.
Yeah. I've been training in squats and deads for a year and half now, and its at least one year too early for me to get into that stuff. A lot of people will think that they should do that stuff instead of getting the basics down (form, diet, routine). I bet that wolf, quag and quiksilver would be ready for those techniques though, they have a solid understanding and follow of the basics.
 

Quagmire911

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#13
Smolov may be on the cards for me in the next 3-6 months. Kerpal is doing it at the moment. We will see how I do now that I have worked out that weakpoint.
 

Quiksilver

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#14
spesmilitis said:
I bet that wolf, quag and quiksilver would be ready for those techniques though, they have a solid understanding and follow of the basics.
haha thanks thats flattering. im not ready for that stuff yet though. knowing/understanding and consistently practicing those concepts are two different animals.

When I've strung together 6 months of good workouts and solid diet(got this one down to a science now:)) then i might make that next step.

Why wouldn't you put your name in that list spes? you've been pretty solid for over a year now. Are there numbers you're trying to hit or something?

By the way, good thread! I'll see what I can do about not letting it fall through the cracks.
 

EFFORT

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#15
wolf116 said:
Extreme stretching? Can you explain this EFFORT? Is that a DC thing?
Yeah its a big part of DC's program. Your stretching out the muscle fascia. Doing extreme stretches can work some wonders for changing the appearance of a muscle, and also one of the best ways to bring up a lagging body part. You just have to becareful! Thats why its not recommended for newbies.
 

spesmilitis

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#16
Quiksilver said:
haha thanks thats flattering. im not ready for that stuff yet though. knowing/understanding and consistently practicing those concepts are two different animals.

When I've strung together 6 months of good workouts and solid diet(got this one down to a science now:)) then i might make that next step.

Why wouldn't you put your name in that list spes? you've been pretty solid for over a year now. Are there numbers you're trying to hit or something?

By the way, good thread! I'll see what I can do about not letting it fall through the cracks.
I got enough on my plate right now for improving on my lifts, except for the weighted pull-up. Its hasn't really improved in over a year (65 lbs at 7 reps to 70 lbs at 7 reps). However, my main focus right now is my squat and deadlift.
 

JohnnyIrish

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#17
Good to know. I'm not stuck yet progress wise but its only a matter of time. I'll keep this thread bookmarked and refer back to it in the future.
 
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