Three Ways To Get Stronger

During one of our Small Group Training sessions last week, I saw one of our members struggle with his last couple reps of pullups.  He said to me that it wasn’t getting any easier and asked me if I have any suggestions.  My answer surprised him.  I told him to “regress” to an assisted band pullup and DO NOT GO TO FAILURE.

For the majority of our members, several milestones seem to be everybody’s goal.  Usually, these are:

  • First pushup
  • First set of 10-20 pushups
  • Bodyweight chin ups or pullups
  • Weighted chin up or pullups
  • Horizonal TRX Rows on a Box
  • Bodyweight to double body weight trap bar DL

These can be easily obtained when you approach your training a little different .  Lots of times, the common answer to hit these goals is to train harder.  At First Capital Gym, we want to train smarter, not harder.  We enforce to our members not to train to failure but to leave a few reps in the bank during every set.  We also believe in “greasing the groove”  and taking plenty of break in between sets.

We’ll use a couple of examples to make it easier to understand.  So lets say you can do 5 solid pushups with a goal of hitting 10-20 pushups straight.  Instead of going to failure every time (doing 5 reps the first set to failure), do multiple sets of 3.  When you complete your set, you should have 1-3 reps left.  During the sets, we’re looking at perfect repetitions.  Neck and back are neutral and full ranges of motion.  You’re greasing the groove by performing every rep perfectly.  If you did 10 sets of 3, that would be 30 perfect pushups.

Lets use chin ups as another example.  Last month, Angie, one of our coaches wanted her first bodyweight chin up.  Again, instead of going to failure, we explained to her to stick with banded chin ups for sets of 5 (which was easy for her).  Again, every rep was to be perfect.  I told her to do it for a month and see what happens.  Well, this is what happened:

So let’s use the trap bar deadlift.  Mike has been doing multiple sets of 3-5 using anywhere from 225-265.  Previously, his max was about 275.  This is at 300 pounds at 155 pound bodyweight. 

When strength is your goal, time in between sets is also crucial.  We like our members taking anywhere from 2-5 minutes in between sets, and this could be too little.  What’s way too little is 30 second breaks.

These methods are definitely not new but seemed to have gotten pushed to the side in favor of more high intensity and #beastmode training.  Again, this is going to lead to overtraining and definitely is counterproductive to strength training.  For a little more explanation on greasing the groove and not training to failure, check this video out by Pavel:

In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to show you some more examples of how this can be implemented in your training.  If you have any questions on this, feel free to contact me at