My Experience With PlanStrong

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by jca17, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. jca17

    jca17 More than 300 posts

    Hey guys. It's been a while since I've been active on the forum. Back in November I attended the Barbell Certification. I'm not in the fitness or wellness profession, but I love training, and went mainly for the experience and knowledge (while of course hoping to be able to pass the cert as well).
    The certification was as awesome as people say it is. Unfortunately I wasn't able to train for the month right before the cert, so I had to adjust to where I was at, not where I hoped to be.
    I was able to pass the squat and deadlift technique tests. I skipped the one rep DL test because I didn't quite feel it given the previous month of not training. I also skipped both upper body lifts because those have always been my struggle and I knew I wasn't close yet.
    To fill in that gap, I did a PlanStrong program for overhead press and bench press for the last 2 months.
    I really enjoyed the frequency and the amount of lifting at a variety of intensities. While I had indicated I'd prefer to gain muscle with the program, I ended up losing 2 pounds by the end of the 2 months. This is with eating past comfort and drinking 2 gallons of milk per week. At 6 feet tall and 167.5 pounds, I tested overhead press at a 100 pound 1rm and bench at a 155 sort of max.
    After the 8 training weeks, weighing 165.4 (I know the loss of weight isn't just water difference, because water weight difference actually had me down to 162.4 today), I hit 115lb in the overhead press, a 15% increase in 8 weeks on a lift I've been training continuously for over a year!

    On the other hand, I hit a 160pound true one rep max on bench press. I missed a 165 that quickly got stuck to my chest. 3 months before, I at least ground the sticking point until my spotter took over, so I was essentially weaker than I started. This was pretty disappointing, because I started the program with an easy 155 1rm. I've been training bench consistently for over 2 years now and the body weight press remains elusive. 2x body weight DL was relatively easy. It felt like no matter the program, I made progress. Starting with 185x5 and PttP, I cruised to 225x5. Then I switched to 5x5 and cruised again to 270. Then I tried a rotation of GreySkull and 5x5 to get up to 345 1rm at 170 pounds. I'd also hit 335x5 in training. This was just by 1 set AMRAP with 10 pound increments per week.

    So, why is bench so difficult? Psychologically, I felt like this program helped me conquer the lift. I got used to just always making lifts, doing it near daily, hitting reps over 90% max every week. I suppose the overhead press test 3 days before could have still had me drained. I don't know. It's a bit frustrating because at this point I've tried many flavors of bench training and while every other lift shoots up, the one lift I want to increase remains stagnant. Once a week, twice a week, 5x5, amrap, PttP, and now PlanStrong. Bench press won't budge. I think I'm going to focus on some hypertrophy training since the times my bench has actually moved, it's when I'm putting on muscle.

    Would it be worth trying the new StrongFirst American style program with the 4 main lifts for strength and muscle growth? Or is a sub-bodyweight bench two light for it to be worth it?
    KenKennedy and Carl in Dover like this.
  2. william bad butt

    william bad butt Triple-Digit Post Count

    Did you max out your bench after your 115 lb press PR, on the same day? Maybe you were a little fatigued after the press (even if you didn't feel fatigued). Personally, if I was doing the eastern style Plan strong program, I would just focus on 1 upper body press per cycle. If I wanted to do both lifts, I would choose a more western style program and do something like Monday's: squat and bench, Thursday's: deadlift and overhead press, for example.
    Carl in Dover and Maine-ah KB like this.
  3. Sasa Rajnovic

    Sasa Rajnovic Triple-Digit Post Count Team Leader

    @jca17 , in my experience I would say that the main reason for not improving your BP is choosing to do two months of two presses (BP and MP)...most probably you overtrained yourself. The frustration and weightloss go together with it. It is hard to keep muscle mass when overtraining.

    So, my advise would be to rest for a week. Than test yourself in BP only and make a Plan Strong program, or even better, let someone else do it for you. If you want, I would be happy to help you and do it. I have had some success with creating Plan Strong programs.

    One more thing, it could be great if you sent your programs for these two cycles so we can comment and learn from it. Maybe this way we could find something obvious that you missed to see when creating these programs. I think it should be done in Plan Strong section of the forum.
    Carl in Dover and Maine-ah KB like this.
  4. Glen

    Glen Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I have always found that bench press is most heavily affected by bodyweight compared to other lifts.

    A drop in bodyweight will always impact my bench. Maybe do the program again but with a surplus of calories?
    LukeV and Carl in Dover like this.
  5. Maine-ah KB

    Maine-ah KB Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    so I don't believe I've benched in my life, but 2 big pressing being trained simultaneously sounds like a lot for the pressing muscles to deal with. if I were you I would take @Sasa Rajnovic up on his offer. the times ive been through SE of PS its always helped having someone to tell me why and what to focus on.
    Carl in Dover likes this.
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Senior Instructor

    @jca17, @Sasa Rajnovic, a reminder that we don't post PlanStrong programs in this section of the forum.

    @jca17, a couple of speculations as to your BP thing. Could be that, as others have said, you simply were not ready to test a BP 1RM on the day you tested it. Could be, despite the fact that you ate _more_, you didn't eat _enough_. Seriously, and from one skinny person to another, some of we wee folk don't understand how one has to eat when doing a lot of exercise and wanting to gain muscle. Could be there are issues with your BP form. Could be that your BP and your body need some pretty serious assistance exercises to shore up some weak spots.

    Could be a lot of things.

    Sasa Rajnovic and Carl in Dover like this.
  7. jca17

    jca17 More than 300 posts

    Thanks for the thoughts, everyone!
    This was a PlanStrong program prepared by StrongFirst (the one you pay for). And a 15% increase in 8 weeks on a lift I've been plateaued on for a long time is incredible.
    This is a completely positive review for a paid PlanStrong program (which I won't post details on), followed by a programming question for my specific adaptations to bench pressing. I kind of mixed those two separate aims in my first post.

    I tested overhead press on Friday and bench press the following Monday. The warm-up lifts all felt more difficult than they had even the previous week, (like the 85%-92% warmups), so it makes sense that some sort of lingering fatigue affected my lifting on the day.

    Also, the miss at 165 was different than my miss at that weight 2 months before. Then, I got stuck a few inches off the chest and eventually as it started to sink my spotter pulled it up. This time I hit the sticking point and immediately the bar came down to my chest like something shut down. I'm wondering if the rotator cuff muscles are part of the fatigue and my body kind of just went into self defense and aborted, in which case I'm grateful I failed the lift so quickly :)
    Sasa Rajnovic and Carl in Dover like this.
  8. Carl in Dover

    Carl in Dover More than 300 posts

    @jca17 ....if I was in you situation I believe that I would post a few videos here so we could see what's going on. It sounds like your programming and diet is OK, so maybe a form check is in order? Not saying that your previous instruction was incorrect, you may not be implementing it correctly.
    I would be interested in in foot, elbow, and forearm positioning to start with.
    Take them from several positions with approx 75% max.
    The friendly folks here may be able to give you some pointers, or you may need to engage a qualified personal trainer/Powerlifting coach for a session or two.
    I was fortunate in finding Kristie, a StrongFirst certified, SFL nearby and hired her to help me with my form. It was definitely worth the money.

    Carl in Dover
  9. william bad butt

    william bad butt Triple-Digit Post Count

    JCA, it is hard to know what happened... Maybe you were fatigued, or maybe you peaked too early.

    I know it is frustrating to work 4 or 8 weeks or so preparing for a goal and then missing. Sometimes after a cycle, you just don't get stronger and plateau (it happens). You are lifting a weight that is at (or very close to) your maximum capability, you are not always going to get it. Be happy for the huge success on the press and come back and work on your bench press again.

    After injuring my back, my deadlift has been stalled for years. Very frustrating. Even after my bench and squat starting moving up, rapidly, my deadlift was stuck. It took me years to move my deadlift up 10 lbs! Did I mention it was frustrating, lol. I was so happy when I made that 10 lb improvement (mind you my current max is still significantly lower than it was pre back injury). It still felt so good to break through a plateau. In almost all regards, I am stronger now than I've ever been in my life (lifting, kettlebell lifting, etc) But, improving upon the deadlift has given me some trouble. The funny part is that pre injury, the deadlift was my strongest excersise. I know it will come with time.

    Rest, then reset, and come back. Do it again. Break through the plateau.
  10. Sasa Rajnovic

    Sasa Rajnovic Triple-Digit Post Count Team Leader

    I think that your main focus now should be on getting some rest and than start all over with just one of the presses you want to improve.
    I remember from Plan Strong event that Pavel mentioned number of repetitions in one month of world class powerlifters sometimes can be really high. But, that number of repetitions is only reachable for a very experienced athletes. People that can benc press a car or something. Not us :)

    Also, what else did you do in your training? I know that for me using one or two lifts with Plan Strong plus some swings is more than enough to be in relatively good shape. It all depends how much time for training and resting one has.
  11. Sasa Rajnovic

    Sasa Rajnovic Triple-Digit Post Count Team Leader

    Understood Steve :)
    Steve Freides likes this.
  12. Bro Mo

    Bro Mo Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I'll start with the fact I have not done a plan strong program to compare it but three elements/methods I've found that have helped me improve pressing (which I struggle with also) are:
    1. Run the program again
      • Adaptations happen somewhat randomly and, with all the variables involved, sticking with a program for another cycle or two sometimes is all it takes to see the benefits of the first cycle.
    2. Back off sets (learned in Marty Gallagher's Purposeful Primitive)
      • Work up to a days 5 rep max, take 25% of the weight off and do 3 sets of 8. I noticed more hypertrophy doing this than any other method(s) I've tried.
    3. Max rep last set (learned from Jim Wendler's 5/3/1)
      • Do easy-ish sets for however many you're going to do for the day but do as many reps as possible on the last set and perhaps take a short 10sec rest to get even a few more reps in. Those rep maxes are good psychologically; if you got 8 reps at some weight, it's reasonable that with a little more weight you could do 6, etc.
    The back off sets I can only do for a couple weeks before it beats me up. The max rep set at the end method is more sustainable. Simply running the program again is probably very low risk and the most sustainable.
    Abdul Rasheed likes this.

Share This Page