Testing Your Strength Is Holding You Back (Here’s Why)

Gabe Johansson
3 min readFeb 14, 2024

Back in 2015, I was the strongest I’ve ever been on squats and bench press, lifting 350lbs and 265lbs respectively.

The way I got there was by doing a modified version of Bulgarian style strength training which had me doing heavy single rep sets 3 times per week on squat and bench press and once per week on deadlifts.

In a mere 6 weeks my strength and confidence under the bar skyrocketed, but…

The reason I stopped this aggressive strength building phase was due to a debilitating shoulder injury that, interestingly enough, happened on a light day of “pump” work aka lots of reps.

This injury put me out of the gym for 4 months, which was extra rough mentally because I was working at a gym at the time.

Fortunately, once I recovered I reverted back to a method of training that allows me to gain strength without maxing out.

And it’s kept me injury free for 8 years now.

Here’s A Prime Case Study Of This New Training Method:

Fast forward to 2018, I was really focused on bringing up my deadlift since it was lagging behind my other lifts even on that foolish program I just talked about.

My ultimate goal at the time?

405lbs for just one rep.

So here’s what I did:

I trained legs twice a week, with the first day being heavier and the second day being lighter.

On the heavy day, I would use a weight I could do for about 10 reps, but only did 3–5 pristine reps.

Then I dropped the weight by about 10% and did another 3–5 pristine reps.

And that was day 1 for deadlifts.

3–4 days later, I would do a light day where I used a weight I could do for 15 to 20 reps…

But only did 4 sets of 3 perfect reps.

This combined with the same system for squats brought my deadlift from 365lbs all the way up to 405lbs in only a few months.

And the only time I maxed out was to attempt that 405 when I felt confident enough.

The Magic Behind This Phase…

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Gabe Johansson

Man. Husband. Father. Went from skinny fat to fit. Now I'm on a mission to help 1000s get in great shape. Join 116+ readers: https://GainsWithGabe.com