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Gilgongo

Imbalanced progress: SQ, DL vs Bench, OHP

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I'm 53M and been lifting for over two years. Started with SS, then moved on to a programme of my own design after six months, but it's very similar to SS only with longer recovery periods. 

 

Over that time, my squat and DL have improved a lot. Plugging them in to strengthlevel.com says I'm comfortably mid-intermediate for my squat, and even tipping into advanced for my DL (1.85 x bodyweight). 

 

However, my bench and OHP have not seen anything like that improvement. I'm only just intermediate for by bench, and mid novice for my OHP. 

 

I do have pretty long skinny arms, and the rest of me isn't exactly well built either. But how come I'm so imbalanced? I alternate benching and pressing twice a week, and usually do one or the other after squats too. Chins after DLs usually too.

 

 

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Long limbs definitely make it more challenging. That being said, as long as you're programming progressive overload in your workouts, you should see at least SOME progress. Everyone builds muscle differently, so it could be that lower body muscle is just easier for you than upper body. It's also possible that you might benefit from switching up your movements and rep/set schemes, but without more detail on your exercise selection that's all just supposition. Overhead lifting often lags behind, simply because lots of people have shitty posture and don't work on their back (pulls & rows) enough to balance that out - and therefore their shoulder isn't optimally positioned, and there's a limit in how much you'll be able to lift safely as a result.

 

Just as you need a knee dominant (squat) and hip dominant (DL) movement each for your lower body (at a minimum), you also need to hit multiple planes of movement for your upper body as well. That includes vertical pulls (pull ups/lat pulldowns), vertical pushes (OHP), horizontal pulls (rows), horizontal pushes (bench), and even some stability & anti-rotation stuff for your core to keep things supported properly. If you are missing any of these, start incorporating a more balances approach to your upper body movement. At any rate, the most important thing is to measure your progress against YOURSELF, and not against anyone else, or even other 'averages' (unless you're competing or something similar) - the most important thing is that you're staying active, maintaining your health, and having fun.

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I don't really know why your lifts are imbalanced, but I'll just throw in that my squat was way behind until a trainer looked at it and showed me how to fix my form. Then I made rapid progress and it caught up a bit with the deadlift. I also think limb and body lengths and ratios can make a big difference. And maybe it matters where you start from in terms of previous exercise. I was quite sedentary (except for walking) before I started lifting, and my pulling muscles have been really slow to respond while my legs have been a bit more responsive. I'm going to try putting pulling movements first (before legs and pressing) for a few months to see if they catch up a bit. Anyway, maybe you could get a knowledgable trainer to look at your OHP, then prioritise it for a few months. If you want to. 

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Thanks, I did in fact get a trainer to have a look at my OHP as well as my squat and DL (at the Bethnel Green Weightlifting Club https://bgwlc.co.uk - anyone reading this in London,UK, you can just drop in and they'll have a look at your form, free of charge!). They gave me some tips for my squat which turned out to give me a huge boost later on, but they said my OHP was fine. 

 

My arms have been making some progress, just very small. I guess I should be content with that rate of progress while my lower body lifts are doing well. I'll see if I can incorporate some more vertical pulls in with what I'm doing. Right now though, I tend to plateau out on the same weight for 3-4 weeks then try microloading from there until I hit another plateau maybe 0.5Kg later. It's agonisingly slow going, 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Gilgongo said:

Right now though, I tend to plateau out on the same weight for 3-4 weeks then try microloading from there until I hit another plateau maybe 0.5Kg later. It's agonisingly slow going

There are more ways to program in progressive overload than just increasing the weight.

 

You could:

- lift slower to increase time under tension

- lower the weight and go for extra reps

- try for an extra rep at the same weight

- add pauses between reps

- add partial reps for the weakest part of your lift

- try pyramid training

- take less rest time between sets

- add isometric work, you could add weighted stretches

- try more explosive movements to recruit more 'fast twich' muscle

- add auxiliary lifts to bring up lagging areas

- change the exercise entirely to hit the muscles from a different angle

 

Additionally, you could experiment with changing around your volume/frequency (eg. upper body work might benefit from more frequency) - either more or less, toggle the options until you find something that seems to help! Be careful to maintain good posture during your upper body lifts, overarching your lower back and/or rounding your shoulders can result in injury long-term. Maybe something like grease the groove training might help?

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