Thought this might be a helpful post, especially as we move towards maxing our lifts at the end of the month/beginning of the next.
The most common thing I hear folks asking each other as we move towards the platforms after warmup is “What are you working up to?” This is a good question, but not the best one and certainly not one we should be using as a sole decider–especially not with regard to squatting and pressing movements.
In a busy class, we want to be looking at–in order:
1) Rack height for squats, presses, and bench press. Squats and presses are axiomatic–you should be taking the bar out of the rack at sternum height for both of these movements. There are different preferences, of course, but that’s generally a good rule of thumb and you don’t want to go very much higher or lower than that. For bench, folks of similar arm lengths will want to work together. I have relatively long arms and usually like to have the rack four notches up when I bench–this seems super high to some and not high enough to others. Figuring out how many notches you want on the rack for bench is a great start, but even before doing that you might simply look to bench with folks of similar arm length–long arms hit the bottom of the pockets or lower at rest, and shorter arms don’t. Working out of a proper rack height will add much more to your performance than whatever energy moving extra plates requires will detract from it.
2) Working weights. This isn’t as simple as only lifting with folks who are within a 10% range of your top sets, although it can be. We also want to consider that someone who is working to five sets of five at 135 or even 115 is actually a near-perfect match for a bunch of folks hanging out in the 160-180 range–the bar gets a 45 lb or 35 lb plate on each side and then it’s a matter of shifting around the smaller weights as the 160-180s hit their sets. This takes a tiny bit of bar math but certainly not overmuch, especially for folks who have been at it in here for a while. (And we do have that handy-dandy plate math table on the wall between the Marilyn and the Rocky platforms.
3) Familiarity. Some folks like to lift together, do it often, and have a good routine to it. We want to preserve that as much as we can, but again, not at the expense of impractical rack heights. I’ve seen folks out of courtesy agree to squat or press off a rack that’s lower than they ought to be using–and that’s generous and a personal choice we don’t usually quibble with–but it’s certainly not something we’d ask anyone to do if there are other options. If you are tippy-toeing to squat or press just to lift with friends…you need to stop. They will still like you, and your muscles, joints, and numbers will like you even better.
A couple of quick reminders:
*We have eight 45 lb iron plates and two 33 lb iron plates that rarely get used…use em!
*When we write up sets with 40s, 50s, 60s %s, those needn’t be exact. If your 50% on a press is 38 or 40, just use the empty 45 lb bar…you’ll be working up to 70ish anyhow and a little extra on the warmup sets won’t hurt.
*If you are starting with a lighter bar, this does not disqualify you from lifting with folks who are going heavier, especially on a press day. I would say that much more often I see folks recuse themselves needlessly from a platform based on a belief that they aren’t lifting heavy enough. A 15 lb bar on a platform where everyone is exactly the same height but some are pressing up to 40 and some are pressing up to 75 makes more sense than folks of dramatically different height pressing together just to preserve the 45 lb bar.
None of this is meant to be iron-clad never be broken but instead just sensical, especially for busy classes. We want to make sure you guys are giving yourselves the best chance to succeed in your training and not leaving weight or technique on the platform. And of course, above all, the best way to ensure that is to be keyed-in, ready with your numbers and ready to engage with your classmates and trainer.