We have all been either asked, or have asked the infamous question, “how much do you ________?”. The question could be about any exercise, but usually its Bench, Squat, or Deadlift that get the most attention. Some people have an answer based off of recent training. Some answer with what they used to lift. Some have no idea, or do not do the exercise. The truthfulness of the answer is sometimes debatable, and here is where “fish stories” and the gym meet. Maybe the real question is, “how much do you ______, and how?”. Why the added how? An experience in the gym a few weeks back  helps illustrate:

  A young guy walks in, and has a coach training him for football. The kids in high school. He does some warm up and drills, and the watchful coach makes corrections, and maintains good form. They set up the squat rack, and the coach asks the kid “how much do you squat?”. To my surprise, the kid says 535 for one rep. This blows me away. Awesome. I’m still working for a 400 squat, and he has blown that out of the water. I’m impressed as hell. They load the bar to 225 and the coach says they are going to work up to 400 doing low reps. Coach puts wraps on the kids knees, and is giving him tips on knees, and back position. The kid unracks the bar, and does a 1/4 squat. Then another. Coach says good job, and they add more weight, then more 1/4 squats. The coach gets under the bar and tells him to watch him do squats, and does several 1/4 squats himself. I am now not so impressed, and more than a little disappointed. I went from “awe”, to “what the hell?” the more I watched. Somewhere, someone is going to ask this kid “how much does he squat?”, and he will answer 535, possibly a scout for a school program, who knows. Sometime down the road someone is going to tell him he is not doing a full squat, and he is going to have years of bad technique to undo… Its a shame.

  In the military we have the Physical Fitness Tests. There are specific standards set in the Army for the push up, sit up, and run events. Now when we get someone new, we ask about their scores for the events. If a guy says 85 push ups in 2 minutes, we are pretty sure he did them. The events graded by an NCO that enforces the standard and only counts the reps that meet it. The problem we run into when a guy is graded not to standard due to poor leadership. We have to undo all his bad technique, and his performance drops dramatically in that event. The guy gets all bent out of shape, and wonders why he did so poorly and all we can tell him is he didn’t meet the standard.

  In the gym, people train for different reasons. Bodybuilding, weight loss, strength etc. Depending on their goals and physical limitations, certain exercises are done differently, or not at all. This being said, there are many sources out there that show the proper technique for each exercise, and on the big compound lifts, a baseline standard is set. We need to adhere to those standards, and personalize them. When we train alone, and get a new PR, the PR is to the standard, and if it isn’t, then don’t count it. A PR made to standard can never be taken away, or belittled by anyone. It is when we compromise the standard that you invite trouble, and sometimes ridicule from others. Since we don’t all compete in competitions, the only trophies we receive are PR’s.

Research all your lifts and exercises. Find the competition rules for their performance, and put them into practice. Continually learn from mistakes and failures, and never stop striving for better execution. Faith, education, simplicity, experience, and effort are the keys to success. The next time you ask, or get asked “how much do you squat, or bench, add the “how” to the question. Show how its done. If there are discrepancies with the standard for the exercise, find if its due to ignorance, newbie mistakes, injury, or just bad advice or coaching. Make the corrections when needed, and accept corrections when things are wrong. 

 Take care and good lifting,


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