There are two general types of strength. There’s your peak strength, which is what you want to enter a competition with. Then there’s your everyday strength, which is what you can do when you’re as off-season as can be. This is the strength you have just sitting there, accessible at any time.
Right now, I’m thoroughly off-season, and my numbers are downright embarrassing on the competition lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift). That doesn’t mean these numbers should be embarrassing, per se, but because I know I’ve lifted much more weight with greater ease, it feels sucky.
For reference, my best ever squat was 2x150kg (in competition I went for 155kg but failed — I peaked early and have since confirmed that the worst thing I can do prior to a competition is to take a deload), my best ever bench press was 95kg in the gym (only 92.5kg in competition), and my best ever deadlift was 190kg in competition, which felt easier than I thought, suggesting I probably could have gone for a heavier weight. These numbers were all set while weighing 70kg.
This week, having barely lifted above 80kg on anything for about 3 months (I’ve been working on various techniques to increase muscular activation throughout the rep without increasing the weight used), and having not deadlifted once in that time, I decided to test my 1RM’s and see what my baseline strength levels are. I did this for the 3 powerlifts, but also for overhead press, pull ups, dead rows, front squats and high bar squats.
What I found interesting — but not at all surprising, is that on the non-competition lifts, 3 months of light lifting has had a relatively small impact. In fact, I even hit a couple PB’s this week! On the competition lifts, it’s generally been a bigger deal. I currently weigh 65kg. Here are my results:
- Squat: 130kg (failed at 135kg) vs historical best of 2x150kg (theoretical max even higher)
- Bench Press: 85kg vs historical best of 95kg
- Deadlift: 170kg vs historical best of 190kg
- OHP: 55kg (failed at 60kg) vs historical best of 60kg
- Pull Up: +30kg (12.5kg PB)
- Dead Row: 70kg — I could have gotten more weight up to my torso from the blocks, but not without massively cheating; I’ve never tested my max before, but the heaviest I had previously performed was 3x60kg, and the same day as this week’s test I did 5x60kg, so that’s a rep PB
- Front Squat: 100kg (5kg PB)
- High Bar Squat: 130kg vs historical best of 140kg
It’s interesting to note that of the general lifts, the only ones in which my strength had demonstrably decreased were OHP and high bar squat. This is interesting because the old PB’s I have in each of those lifts did actually occur from doing peaking programs for them. The strength I’ve maintained on my OHP is particularly interesting because I actually had done any overhead training in over a month prior to this week, due to schedule issues. And the strength I maintained on high bar squat is particularly interesting because it’s the same amount as my competition low bar squat.
Strength isn’t just about your squat, bench press and deadlift, nor is it about what you can do on competition day. While your numbers in a competition are a measure of strength, they aren’t indicative of what you can normally do. Over time, you should be getting stronger across a variety of lifts and movements, throughout different rep ranges and volumes. Focusing on a few lifts to peak in is all well and good (and I encourage it), but don’t forget about the broader groundwork of everyday strength that those peak numbers are launched off of.