Overcoming Early Plateaus – The Magic of Consistency and Cues

If you’ve developed your form to a state of satisfaction, regardless of what lift is in question, you may be tempted to experiment. Very moderate grip position, stance width, bracing method changes (etc.) while still following the same general structure. I strongly believe this to be a mistake many intermediate lifters make – myself included. Of course, it is proactive to tweak and find your perfect positioning in every aspect of a lift, but these constant slight adjustments become trivial. Practice consistency and stick to one cue progression. Otherwise, you will approach the bar envisioning the lift going differently each time. Once you’ve overcome major inefficiencies in your lift and would consider yourself to be intermediate, you must find a cue progression that works and follow it to a T each single lift.

My Case

The lift I found myself most inconsistent with was the squat. My stance was too narrow at first, my hand positioning was all over the place, and the same with my depth. In this case I was squatting ATG with very heavy loads, when I surely couldn’t even get them up at precise parallel. Over time I found myself more comfortable in a wide stance, still going ATG most of the time. Eventually I got comfortable squatting to just below parralel, and only for volume will I squat ATG until I master my own cue progression. At this point in time, I was still adjusting my stance just slightly each session, as well as my grip. Wide grip was my bread and butter for the extent of a week, when it came to my attention that I could not contract my upper back to optimal tightness this way. Not only that, but my shoulder and elbow flexibility is more than sufficient to practice a close grip. Now that I’ve achieved this foundation, you’d think I was made. Instead, I would move my grip an inch outward or inward each session and go an inch wider or more narrow in my stance. There is no harm in this, however, I cannot progress efficiently whilst constantly experimenting during working sets. What I ended up doing is finding a narrow grip that I would stick with, regardless of whether or not it feels perfect every session. I’ve found a stance right in between all the experimental widths from before and have stuck with it. My grip, unrack, walkout, stance, brace, decent, lift, and lockout are all the same now. Each single lift, unless I am doing volume (in which case I find it more comfortable and beneficial to go far below parallel), plays out the same. I have achieved more than two PBs in the squat since this adjustment, and am feeling much more confident in the future of this lift for me.

What information do you benefit from?

Do not think it is efficient to constantly make minor adjustments to your lifts as an intermediate lifter. Stick to a cue progression and master it. This may be very standard coaching advice, but as a self taught lifter, I feel this may not be something so obvious. You do not progress in your lifts by constantly trying new things to see what helps you lift more. You progress by sticking to a method that works, and mastering it.

Wrap-up

I hope anybody visiting has found this helpful toward progressing themselves through plateaus or inconsistencies in their lifts. I am not a certified coach, and would consider myself but an intermediate powerlifter. This seems, however, to be very standard advice that many overlook, and thus hit a wall. Best of luck and happy lifting, my friends.

Until next time!

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