Monday, April 7, 2014


In the past, I have mentioned several times the idea of not being able to be “strong all over”, but had done so in passing.  It seems that my lack of attention to the topic resulted in many cases wherein this notion was completely ignored in the face of my other arguments, such that I feel it is necessary to expand upon and explain this concept.

We must understand that being “strong” and being “weak” are at most philosophical qualities, not physical.  There is no clearly defined metric for that which is strong and that which is weak, at best, these qualities are nebulous and highly dependent on the individual.  Self-esteem and one’s perspective of external reality also contribute to how one will interpret data specifically as it relates to self in this regard, such that one can perceive themselves as strong where another would consider themselves weak even when both individuals have identical stats.  It is with this understanding that we can realize that being “stronger” or “weaker” at something simply depends on one’s perspective on the matter.

You say I am weak at the hurdle, I say I am strong at being bad at the hurdle

What I am arriving at is this: when we become stronger at a certain aspect of a lift, we in turn are also becoming weaker at the other aspect of it.  I do not mean this in the sense that the active increase in strength of one portion of a lift in turn actively weakens the other portion of the lift, but that instead, by matter of definition, that which are not strong at in turn becomes our weak point.  As a matter of example, if one were to see a lifter that is incredibly explosive off of their chest on the bench press and is never witnessed struggling here, the claim is made that they are strong off their chest, but the necessary inverse of this is that this same lifter is weak at lockout.  Much like a bell curve, there exists extreme ends of the spectrum where one’s ability on a lift lies.

We are approaching the age-old dilemma of the optimist versus the pessimist in regards to this argument.  Is the glass half full or half empty, or perhaps, was the rep half complete or half incomplete?  Realizing this, the truth is that no lifter is “strong all over”, and wherever a lifter is strong, that means the opposite domain of that strong point is in turn the lifter’s weak point.  It is just as much valid to say one is strong off the floor as it is to argue that the same lifter is weak at lockout, for the sentiment expressed is the same: the better portion of the lift is the start, and the worse is the end.  We may try to be politically correct in that we say one is “less strong” or “not as strong” in a certain portion, but these niceties merely obfuscate our intentions and assessment, for the reality is that we can identify the strong and weak points of the trainee.

Having a grading scale with 4 words that indicate success and only one that indicates (slight) failure is meaningless

This understand of how the inverse of strength is weakness is critical when it comes to assessing the value of a training method, for many our unwilling to accept the reality that, by the pursuit of strengthening a movement, we are in effect weakening another aspect of it.  In my pursuit to advocate training methods like partial ROM and ROM progression work, I have many times witnessed resistance in the form of trainees worrying that training in a partial ROM will make them weak at the opposite side of the ROM spectrum, failing to realize that this weakness is the result of becoming strong at another aspect of the lift.  I have been told that training touch and go deadlifts makes one weak off the floor, but when I ask why one would choose to be weak on lockout versus weak off the floor, I often find there is little response.  For some reason, we are accepting of a program making us weaker at some portions of a lift so long as it follows all the established norms and conventions of the current method of thinking, but once a program deviates from the rules, we rapidly ignore where the program makes us stronger in order to fixate on where the program will, by comparison, make us weaker.  Sometimes, it is worth pursuing a program that makes us “weaker” at some portion of the lift if it means we can finally get stronger on the lift as a whole, for sometimes, building up the parts we have been neglecting, whether intentionally or conventionally, lets us finally make some progress.

  Anyone who claims to be strong all over is simply not lifting enough weight to find their weakness.


  1. Weakling bro-pothesis: It is preferable to be weak near the beginning of a lift (ie in the hole of the squat, off the chest on the bench, and off the floor on the deadlift) as a failed repetition will take less out of you. If you get 10% through a rep and fail it, you've only expended so much energy. However, if you nearly lock something out and struggle only to fail, then you've expended quite a bit of energy into a failed rep.

    It also might help psychologically. If you're weak at the bottom of the lift, then you know you can lock anything out that you can get started. If you know you have a weak lockout, then there might be a longer time where doubt can sit in.

    1. I enjoy your thought process and believe in it myself. I appreciate knowing that, if the weight moves at the start, it means I got the rep. That said, many seem to prefer being strong at the start of the lift, and I imagine this is because it appears impressive when the weight flies from the start of the lift, even if it results in a missed lift at the end. It's easy to convince one that it's merely a technique issue at this point, and that the strength is already there, when in reality, it's just a different place to be weak.

  2. I always thought the best place to be weak is the top simply because overload work is much more fun, and honestly way easier. If I was fast off the floor and needed to go 4-6" block pulls to strengthen my deadlift, I would be happy as hell. Whereas being weak off the chest/hole/floor is kind of dejecting because you fail the lift before it even starts, and still have to worry about the rest of the ROM. Right now I'm weak halfway out of the hole and it's great because even though my form breaks down, I never actually fail and fall back, and when that day comes: wee heavy lockouts and ego lifts!

    1. On the alternative, I find many appreciate being weaker in the beginning of the lift because it means a chance to lift even LIGHTER weights with more ROM to keep progressing. I fell into that trap for a LONG time with my squats, constantly making the squat more difficult at the cost of weight on the bar, and when it came time to move heavy weights, I just didn't have it in me.