By Coach Ross Leppala
This is a story about how a bench press specialist became a well-rounded powerlifter with a growing total.
Edward Narayan has been working with RTS for many years now. In the beginning, he was one of our Guided Programming lifters. After some time of following along with that program, he upgraded to All Access Coaching in October 2019 to work with me, coach Ross Leppala. Ed is 38 years old and competes in the 140 kg weight class with over 10 years of powerlifting experience. His day job has him working in IT services before hitting the gym for training.
When Ed and I started working together, there was a major focus on developing his bench press. There was very little desire to progress his squat and deadlift. From a technical skill level perspective, he was very proficient in all three of the power lifts. Naturally pre-disposed to being a good bencher, that was his focus. So much so that he was fairly adamant about keeping the lower body workload at a reduced amount to ensure it was not interfering with recovery for the bench press.
From a coaching perspective, there were two things that were coming to mind. First, I felt the need to honor his requests. This is his journey and his choice in what is important to him. So, that was the core of our training was the development of his bench press with a fairly limited amount of squat and deadlift. Even though he had the capacity for more work in that area. Second, I wondered why someone with seemingly solid/sound technique and no health limitations would want to actively avoid squatting and deadlifting. I’ve always been under the impression that most bench-only powerlifters are competing that way due to some physical/health considerations.
As we started to build some momentum and individualize the training for the development of his bench press, the world was struck with gym closures. Ed was significantly impacted by this. His apartment space limited his ability to do a lot of the body weight work we were recommended to maintain some degree of activity during this time. The gym closures were also some of the longest-lasting closures in his part of the world that I had seen.
I believe that there is always an opportunity in every situation, even when that seems less than ideal on the surface. Since we couldn’t work on the physical development of his lifting, we took this opportunity to attack the mental side of things. Which is an aspect of the sport and life that I find a great deal of enjoyment in working with. Ed’s willingness to have personal conversations with me helped me better understand and identify why his focus was narrowed to just the bench press.
We were able to identify a few different limiting beliefs around his lifting. While the details of Ed’s life will remain private, the main idea here to connect with was that the limiting beliefs he had at the time, were such that they created an avoidance of lower bodywork and a heightened emphasis on upper body work. As we were able to identify those and what led to their creation, that awareness allowed us the opportunity to deconstruct those beliefs and replace them with ones that left Ed more empowered to attack all three lifters with confidence.
As gyms began opening back up, the biggest thing we needed to be aware of was the total workload. In the past, Ed had shown a fairly wide range of responses to loading, so the playbook was wide open so to speak. However, his motivation to attack the three lifts was higher than ever before and he had just spent the better part of a year not touching a barbell. It was important that we worked him back into his training in an intelligent manner regarding how quickly we ramped up his workload. This was particularly important as well to allow for him to build some good momentum that not only allowed for his strength to return but more importantly maintain his newfound level of confidence to attack his squat and deadlift.
As momentum started to build, he also found a gym where he felt a great sense of comradery and community with some fellow powerlifters. That gym change also help feed him a good deal of motivation and an uptick in his progress followed that as well. The pairing of work we did to help him break down limiting beliefs and find a supportive environment has allowed Ed to put on over 100 kilos to his total in the last ~2 years. That momentum is still picking up steam and I suspect that he will continue to increase in the months and years to come.
At the end of the day, intentionally breaking down limiting beliefs and surrounding yourself with a supportive cast/crew can be some of the most impactful choices a lifter can make for their lifting.
How are your limiting beliefs and environment impacting your training/total? What can you do right now to change those limits?