Let’s get it in with that progressive overload talk. So I’m sure I’ve discussed how 2016 was the year I took 2016 seriously, and I changed my body over the course of a few months. I had been doing these exercises for years, but never got the heavy weights to match my ambitions until then. Late spring that year I was making fortnightly trips to Argos and Decathlon to get increasingly ambitions training equipment. Over the course of the year, I followed a thoroughly improvised training plan, which essentially said: when you’re comfy with a certain weight, take it up a little.
I now think it was the wrong approach.
The bench press is a great place to start. I began in April 2016 at 165lbs (74kg), and I could only manage 40kg for 3×10 reps. By the end of June, I was doing 2×10 at 70kg. I have no idea how I got there.
In terms of bodily gains, it worked, but in terms of execution, I was actually regressing.
2018 and I decided I was going to do things differently. I looked at my notes about how much I was lifting at my peak, tried to lift 80% of them and it wasn’t shifting at all. I started watching training videos again and knew for a fact I wasn’t doing some fundamentals before: concentrating on mind-muscle connection, making use of the downward reps and especially not squeezing at the peak of movements. So I took my weights right the way down.
I’m now just over 200lbs (nearly 91kg). Despite all of that extra weight, I can only bench press 55kg for 3×10. To get as high as 70kg, I know for a fact that I wasn’t doing things properly before. It was all fake and the ‘strength’ of 2016 was just false. I was only kidding myself before. And as I was the only person that knew what I was lifting – and I was training exclusively at home – what was the point of lying to myself.
Now I can be truthful to myself. I feel no way about humbling myself; dropping the weight when I know I won’t be able to lift whatever’s on my barbell. Overloading works in some instances, but in most, I would just be pushing weight without purpose. Now my technique is on point, I’ve got control of every inch of every rep I do with every exercise, and while training with less weight than my first perceived ‘glory days’, I’m on top of my game.