If you’ve been benching the same weight for months and feel like you’re still not ready to move up, you might be tempted to ditch the exercise entirely and do something different. Instead, all you may need is to make a small adjustment — like a change in your grip or stance. You never know when a “micro change” could make all the difference to get things going again.
Image by US Naval Forces Central Command/US Fifth Fleet.
The usual prescription for fitness plateaus — the point where you’re not getting any better despite your previous gains — is to add more reps or more weight, change the rep scheme entirely, rest more or generally do something a bit more dramatic. But according to Eric Bach, an online strength coach based in Colorado, sometimes the tiniest, simplest adjustments, like changing your grip, the width of your grip, your stance or your foot position during something like a big, compound lift could push you over that plateau.
One possibility these micro changes work is that your body is uniquely shaped — from the length of your arms and legs to the width of your torso in relation to these limbs. Those significantly influence how comfortable you will find certain positions to be during an exercise and how efficiently you will be able to perform the exercise without injury. Basically, there’s no “one true way” for everyone to exercise (although there are generally accepted guidelines).
Anecdotally, changing the width of my grip in my pull-up worked like magic. Until someone pointed out that my pull-up grip was fairly wide, I struggled to do one. Very shortly after, I tried again with a narrower grip and busted out like two (and a half) pull-ups. Those were the first full pull-ups I’d ever done in my life (of course, I’d been continuously doing upper body work, too!).
So, try a different foot position when you squat. You’ll likely be told to keep your toes pointed forward, but for some people it’s more comfortable and safer to have them pointed out. Or, try a mixed grip (one hand over and one hand under) when you deadlift to get a better handle on the bar. These itty-bitty adjustments can have a huge impact if you’re struggling at a specific level, or breaking to more reps or higher weight.
Try “micro progressions” [Eric Bach’s Twitter]