T Nation

"How Often Should You Change Lifts?"

My personal thinking about changing exercises is that you need to stick with movements for a long time BUT you need to change them often!!! Let me explain.

The way I see it. The main lift of each session should remain the same for a long time (8-12+ weeks) because you need something to evaluate your progression objectively as well as to assess your weaknesses.

The way you should work is:
2. Plan your progression on your main lift for the mid/long term… doesn’t have to be a full periodized scheme with percentages but you need a plan on how you will train that lift and what you want to accomplish on it.

2.Do the main lift as planned

3.Use the performance on the main lift to evaluate what are your weaknesses (part of the range of motion, a specific muscle group, etc). Not just how much weight you are lifting but where is the sticking point and technical issues.

4.From that evaluation you select your assistance exercises for the day. The goal being to address the problems you just diagnosed from doing the main lift.

So the assistance work can indeed change at every session if needed. It has to be something that fix what you feel is holding you back in the main lift.

The main lift of the day helps you select the exercises that will stimulate strength and size growth the most by addressing something that is lagging.

Then you use the progression on the main lift to evaluate if your exercise selection is adequate… if you are not progressing then you might not be selecting the proper assistance work.


I’m glad my question(s) inspired this :slight_smile:

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That’s actually what I like about my T-nation forum: it helps me better understand what people want to learn

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I still hope you’re planning that article about the “how” to choose the assistance lifts :grinning:

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Using assistance exercises to weak links is interesting concept to me. I always thought investing 100% in the main movement, maybe do it with different rep/volume/intensity was the best way to progress and add muscle (layers).

And when I “grind”, or fail to move more weight week after week/month after month, I attriubte it to “Neural fatigue” or CNS failing on the low reps.
It didn’t occur to me that my muscles weren’t big enough (muscular vs. neural failure)

So keeping a stable compound lift/minor variation to benchmark progress and select assistance exercise to boost weak links AND HYPERTROPHY is the name of the game now

This is a pretty smart philosophy. While we are on the topic, if one has an injury that inhibits their strength on the main lift, should they stick with the main lift with a lower intensity (say 3x10 @60% instead of 3x5 @80%, for example) for the 8 to 12 week duration or change their “main lift” until the injury is healed?

THIS is what we want! Thanks coach!

Now you are all listening to us and stuff…I would really appreciate an article on assistance/isolation for assistance. 915 and The Best Template definitely give some insights on how to do assistance, but I would really like an all-round guide which helps finding the weak spot (well, most of the time that is quite obvious), and what to do to fix that weak spot.

If you do or don’t, still thank you for your awesome work in the community!

Stick with the main lift if you can do it lighter without any issue AT ALL. Change it if there is an issue even at lighter loads. Even with higher reps, when fatigue sets in you’ll be able to see what is weaker.

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CT, ime sticking points and weak muscle groups doesn’t go away easily and I’ve to use particular strategies with selective assistance work to get rid of them for quite some time. Do you think some type of progression model is helpful in such case, for example I’m weak at the start from chest when doing bench press and when doing assistance work with paused bench I utilize double progression method while I use different method (54321) for my main lifts.

The double progression model is a good system for the assistance exercises if you keep reps at no more than 8, ideally.

As for the bench being weak in the bottom position you might also not be using you lats properly or not keeping your upper back rigid.

What would be the right remedy to use lats properly during the bench? Should it be improving lats strength or focus on setting up more tightly?

Well you need to learn how to engage them.

The drill I use to teach it is as follow:

  1. Set up on the bench and hold the bar as if you were going to do your bench press.

  2. Have a partner stand behind you (where a spotter would be) have have him try to pull the bar toward him, you resist him to present the bar from moving over your face. He pulls just enough so that you have something to fight against, since you are keeping the arms straight, the lats will do the work, which is the feeling you want when setting up.

  3. Slowly lower the bar as if you were going to bench press it. During that time your partner goes down with you (ok that’s weird) still trying to pull the bar toward him, that will teach you how to keep the lats tight during the eccentric.

  4. Then you slowly push the bar up, still with your partner doing the same thing.

This drill will teach you the feeling of engaged lats in the bench press. With enough practice you will be able to copy that feeling when bench pressing and then you are golden.

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Thanks CT, this innovative idea is awesome. I’ll definitely try it tomorrow.
To learn this feeling of lats engaged during bench, is it a good idea to practice this drill 2-3 times a week ?

Every time you are in the gym, for 5-10 minutes, until you get it perfect when you bench

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How would you periodize some techniques to the main exercises instead manage reps or change lifts? If goal is size and strength for instance:

A. Weight Releasers
B. Inerta or pins (partials)
C. Isometric contractions (against the pins)
D. Pause al low position (Klokov example)

Would be blocks, is not a periodization what I wrote, I mean I try understand how to use some techniques between reps scheme blocks.

I would only use the isometric contractions as activation. I find it to be effective to boost contractile strength for a session but I don’t think it is optimal for a whole phase since you lose the timing and coordination of the movement.

BLOCK 1 - Lifts from pins, but it has to be close to the full range of motion and you still have to pay attention to the eccentric phase.

BLOCK 2 - Weight releasers/accentuated eccentrics


BLOCK 4 - Regular lifts

CT, I tried the banded version of the above drill. Nobody was there at gym to spot and I usually train alone, so I wrapped two bands around the both ends of the bar and tied them to the bench posts, similar to sweeping deadlifts. After using the drill for a few reps I felt a great pump in my lats which felt awesome but ruined my squats workout that followed. Is it ok to practice this drill at the tail end of each workout?

Perfectly fine. Motor learning is only about doing it as often as possible. The time and place doesn’t matter.