You’ve been in the gym for about a year’s time. You’ve seen yourself make huge strides forward, not only have your bench numbers gone up but so has your squat! However the longer you spend hitting your weekly routine the less success you find yourself having. Until one day you notice that your lifts seems to be failing consistently at the same point, you have hit your sticking point. Frustrated with your stagnant progress you aren’t quite sure what to do next. Does this sound like something you have experienced during your lifting career? It happens to the best of us! Defining your sticking point and figuring out what best way to overcome it is a key point in becoming not only a stronger lifter, but a more educated one. In this article we will discuss the nature of sticking points and how best to strategize against them.
What exactly is a sticking point? A sticking point is the point in a lift in which the resistance cannot be overcome by muscular strength. This restistance cannot be fought through due to either muscle weakness or a biomechanical position that is disadvantageous. (3) A lift is not only comprised of muscular strength but also acceleration. When you hit a weak portion of a lift the acceleration is not great enough to move the bar. This deceleration and loss in upward momentum of the bar creates a sticking point.(3) Getting past your sticking point may take longer then making conventional strength gains, therefore understanding why they occur will be pertinent to increasing your numbers! (1)
Now that we know exactly what causes a sticking point, how do we get past it and start lifting some heavy weight? There are multiple strategies to overcome a sticking point. Some of these different techniques include varying your exercise program, doing partial reps, changing up rep speed, varying rest time, and altering your number of reps and sets. We will delve into a few of these strategies in depth in order to get a better understanding of them.
1) Strengthen the Weak Muscle
You’re only as strong as your weakest link. This saying directly relates to sticking points. Complex movements involve multiple muscle groups, isolation isn’t the name of the game. While how much of a particular muscle group is used at certain times of a movement varies, most lifters have a basic understanding of which muscle groups are involved in certain positions of a complex movement. By honing in on what portion of a lift is your sticking point you can then draw a parallel to what muscle groups are the main mover. An example of this can be seen in the squat. If you are having a difficult time at the bottom of the lift there is a large chance your glutes are the weak link.(3) An easy fix would be to incorporate different accessory work into your routine that target this muscle group. Wide stance squats and sumo deadlifts would be two good choices to encorporate in your program that target your glutes. Continuing to add accessory work that makes sense for the muscle groups that contribute to your sticking point will allow you to better overcome your own individual challenges.
2) Getting Past the Weak Zone
Understanding the muscle groups that contribute to your sticking point is one aspect, but what about knowing how to get through the sticking point itself? By knowing when to overload a point in your lift you can easily make the adjustments to get past the difficult area of any complex lift.(3) An example of this can be seen during the bench press. During this movement the triceps are the main mover powering the last half of the movement. (3) Therefore, if you are having a challenge locking out the bar it is important that you not only strengthen that muscle group but also that you create new challenges for it. A good way to overcome this particular sticking point would be to change up your routine by involving the use of chains. Chains are a great resource for this lift because they help to build speed at the bottom of the motion, as well as force the lifter to explode and power through the upper portion of the lift with more resistance. The weight on the bar will lessen as the bar is lowered because the chains will begin to coil on the ground, yet as you push upward more weight will slowly be added to the bar as the chains raise up again. By putting more stress on the top portion of the bench press you will begin to strengthen your triceps, eventually leading to a higher bench weight. (2) Sticking points can be obliterated by strengthen your weakest link. Remember to make weaker muscle groups stronger not only with your every day accessory work, but by adding something new into the mix.
3) Upping the Acceleration
Creating more acceleration during the beginning of the lift is a good place to concentrate on when studying your sticking point. As mentioned earlier, a lift not only includes muscular strength but acceleration as well. By entering your weak zone with as much bar speed as possible it will be easier to power through your sticking point. If you are able to avoid the point in which all velocity is stopped you will be able to avoid the lift stopping all together. The concept seems easy enough, right? But how do you increase your bar speed? By strategically planning days within your training programming that address the issue of bar speed you will naturally make your movements faster. Make sure to include exercises throughout the week that are higher in volume and lower in weight. By concentrating specifically on each rep being as explosive as possible you will start to increase your acceleration. In time you will begin to see increases in your overall strength due to this. Lifting isn’t always about the weight on the bar, folks! )Even if us powerlifters like to believe it is.)
Sticking points can be a frustrating aspect of your training cycle, however by better understanding them you can strategically plan how to get over the hump. Having a full understanding of your body and its weaknesses is the first step, this includes pinpointing the sticking point itself and understanding how your body moves. Then by focusing on speed work your acceleration will increase. Combining these three steps will only help you to overcome the area that has been holding your training back. Having a curious mind and educating yourself about not only your sticking point, but about the entirety of your training program, will lead to many successes in the future!
1) Canning, Matt. “Bodybuilding – Sticking Points.” Bodybuilding – Sticking Points. Bodybuilding Pro, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
2) Tartar, Ben. “Weight Training With Bench Press Chains.” Weight Training With Bench Press Chains. Critical Bench, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
3) Thibaudeau, Christian. “T NATION | Sticking Point Therapy.” Testosterone Muscle Articles. T Nation, 9 Aug. 2005. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.