Weaknesses: How to find them with Efficiency Ratios

 In Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Strength Training, Technique

Weaknesses: Find It and Strengthen It

Weaknesses are a tough part of sports. They can sometimes be blatantly obvious and others are difficult to see. When there’s a weakness, I want to solve it as soon as possible. Typically, so do most athletes that want to improve, or they will avoid it at all costs. I don’t like solving issues over time. The sooner we can tackle a weakness, the stronger the athlete and the faster we can see improvement. During a certain training block I will typically implement 2 – 3 different movements to attack a weakness, depending on how taxing the movement is on the body and the weakness. This can be anywhere from accessory work, to deviates of the main lifts, and a combination of the two. The end results are much more pronounced at the end of the year than if I had spent the whole year doing “general training.”

 

What’s Your Weakness?

How can we identify what weakness to focus on? In bodybuilding it’s somewhat easy since you can see which muscles are underdeveloped. I mean, you basically just look at the person and say, hey, lets fix that. But for performance guys, the best way to find out what lift(s) are weaker or lagging is through strength ratios.

You do this by comparing ideal strength levels or ratios between lifts. Poliquin’s Structural Balance material, as well as analysis of the world records are great sources for finding and developing such ratios.

These ratios aren’t perfect. Different body types may be more advantageous for some lifts and disadvantageous to other lifts. On the other hand, having more experience with one movement might make it elevated. Although these issues exist, ratios remain a very solid way to identify weaknesses.

There are also different ways to apply and manipulate ratios based on your goals and what type of lifter you may be.

 

Ratios For People Who Want to be Strong

When you are trying to establish your ratios for overall strength you need to test yourself in the main lifts. I don’t use 1RM values because 1RM strength fluctuates a lot from day to day. Instead, I prefer to test for a 5 or 3RM, both in the reference lift (back squat or bench press) and the comparison lifts (front squats, powerlifting deadlift, military press, curl, etc.).

These are the big lifts that are the main lifts in most “basic strength” training programs like 5/3/1, Starting Strength, and my own programs . These are the lifts that everybody should do and focus on.

They are also applicable to raw Powerlifters, although using and competing in gear throws off these ratios, and they may no longer be applicable. Once again, I prefer to use a 3 or 5RM to establish these ratios. Most of the time I use 3 reps, but 5 is fine with lifters with less experience.

An all-around athlete can build a profile with the lifts that covers the whole body and/or are important to him. I don’t personally include the preacher curl and reverse curl in there (for example), but some might want to use them. No matter what you do, the more you compare exercises, the more you will know about where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Personally, the most versatile and telling exercise to use for a reference point is the squat. These obviously do not account for differences in leverages that might make you genetically suited for specific lifts. They are, typically, a very accurate and objective idea of what you should focus on.

 

CrossFitters, Olympic Lifters, Athletes

CrossFit competitors, Olympic lifters, and other athletes should also use the strength ratios for their strength lifts. The Olympic lifts can be especially telling in determining weaknesses in these competitors.

For these lifts I prefer to test with a technically solid 1RM, as testing with 5 reps is too many res for such a technical and dynamic movements. Here the ratios can tell us if the athlete lacks strength, power, or technique. For example, if a lifter’s power clean and power snatches have a very high ratio (are above 85% and 67.5%) versus the clean and snatch, it tells me that the individual is either super powerful or has technical or mobility issues in getting under the bar into a full squat to receive the barbell.

This is something I often see in CrossFit athletes. Many times, they practice the power variations to benefit speed during Metcons, but often do not develop proper technique and timing to properly move and get under the bar.

If an athlete has a very large back squat but his clean & jerk and snatch are low compared to his squat, it’s obvious that the issue is technique related. Instead of trying to get stronger, he should invest more time in practicing the Olympic lifts themselves.

Much less common is someone who power cleans more than he can front squat, but I’ve seen it among CrossFit athletes. Occasionally you will someone who is a much stronger puller than squatter. That type of person will not be able to clean, in the full squat, more weight until he increases his leg strength. Even if he were to practice the full clean constantly, his numbers would not go up because his legs are not strong enough to stand up with the bar. His time and energy would be better used working on leg strength and increasing his front squat.

Focusing on your weaknesses is the only way to continue to move forward and progress. Attack the weakness and make it a strength.

Efficiency Calculator

Using these ratios and different reference lifts a coach or programmer can determine where an athletes weaknesses are and implement movements to improve them. Many coaches have some sort of system to do this. I have created my own efficiency calculator that can be utilized by any athlete FOR FREE!!! Follow this link here to try it out!!.

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