Conversations at the gym, patience is important and stop comparing yourself to others
From Enthusiasts Training

Conversations at the gym, if I’m eating, drinking and training right, why am I struggling with this exercise?

This gym conversation explored the importance of patience and not comparing oneself to others. It’s amazing how quick he got to those numbers on his other lifts.

It’s a regular day at the gym, and this kid calls me over asking for a spot on the bench press. He’s been training for just under a year. Only sixteen years old, he has managed to get his squat up to a hundred and seventy kilogram weight in this short time. His deadlift, he managed to lift a one rep two hundred kilogram PR after three deadlift sessions, he tells me. Yet when it comes to his bench press, he’s struggling and suffering.

At the time, I was mid-session and between sets, but I’m always happy to help someone with their lifts or spot them should they need it. So I make my way over to the bench press he’s using and we go through the particulars of the set and my duties. This time, he’s hopeful almost sure he’s going to get it. He finds the right song, puts his wrist straps on, tightens his belt and sets himself on the bench ready for a lift off.

Incidentally, if you are going to ask someone for a spot, call them over when you are ready to start your set. Don’t call them over and only then start getting all your stuff together and ready for your set especially if they are in middle of their training because this can take time. They are doing you a favor and are also in the middle of their session. Your set prep along with your actual set can take up more time than their rest break.

Anyways back to the point, he tries his set and fails the rep requiring a lot of assistance in the spot. He looks at me sadly, practically crying and blubbers that he doesn’t understand why he can’t push the eighty kilogram rep. He explains to me that he has been stuck on this weight for six weeks, and it just doesn’t seem to work. Mentioning his squat and deadlift numbers, he was struggling to make sense of it.

To him the science is simple. He’s been working at it for what to him seems like forever, but he just can’t get the lift. It’s the simple physics of it, he explains to me, is that he eats, drinks, and trains, so it stands to reason that he should be able to lift it. He just can’t understand what’s going wrong. With the intention of encouraging him to keep going at it and not get too disheartened, I responded with a few likelihoods as to why he may be struggling with this particular lift.

Disappointed by his latest attempt, I tried to encourage him to look at it in a different way. If we’re talking about the physics, I reasoned, it’s the fact that he has managed to get his squat and deadlift numbers up that high so quickly that must really be the defiance. It was the being stuck on a not so light weight or struggling after only six weeks trying that was the norm, not the other way around. Was he expecting to just lift extreme heavy weight on all exercises straight away?

It’s important to have patience with it. He would have to separate his other achievements and look at this particular exercise as an individual element which may take more work and time than the others. He will get there eventually especially if he works on it with the same focus as he did his squats. Besides, some people, such as myself, are actually better or stronger on the pull and leg movements than on the push movement.  

His response was well at least you’ve crossed a hundred kilo bench, almost expressing it as if this was the holy grail of bench press weight. I explained simply that I had been doing this and training for probably around ten years longer than him, so it’s only likely that I may be lifting a heavier weight than him. Moreover, I often struggle on the bench press even though I may have done the same weight a hundred times previously. And that I’m pretty sure it took me a lot longer than he did to get to those high squat and deadlift numbers.

Another element to keep in mind is that there is also the surrounding muscles that one needs to do as well as the accessory exercises when it comes to the bench press. The secondary muscles, short muscle fibers as well as the back and latissimus dorsi muscles are often neglected. If one is struggling with this lift, it is often the neglect of these that really should be worked and focused on a bit more in order to build a stronger foundation for a stronger bench press.

It was important to express the significance for patience, encourage him, and remind him that he shouldn’t get disheartened. He should just keep at it and definitely not compare himself to someone who has been working at it for ten times longer than him.

As I went back to my training and routine, I couldn’t help but feel a little hypocritical in my preaching.  In my early days of training, I felt similar disappointment when I didn’t achieve a lift or a challenge that I had set myself. The important thing is how you use the disappointment. He’ll get the lift eventually, I’m sure of it. And with time he’ll also look back and have learned to use the disappointment in a positive way making him stronger.

Founding partner at LIFE ON FITNESS. I'm a fitness enthusiast (not a fitness 'professional'). Being massively obese, I started my fitness journey at around the age of 14. It wasn't the cool thing to do yet, and didn't even know what my life was missing. It only got better as I researched, tried, studied, and tested evermore fitness elements and knowledge. I write my thoughts with the hopes of inspiring even one person to achieve their life goals as well as their fitness goals. But most importantly enjoy and get the best out of life.

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