How do powerlifters get so much stronger than gym rats? How do bodybuilders get so much bigger than gym rats? Simple, they have goals to train towards. When your progress has plateaued, it’s time to evaluate your goals and what you are doing to reach them. If you are a bodybuilder, why are you going so heavy? If you are trying to get stronger why are you training bodyparts instead of movements?
If I had a dollar for every time a young powerlifter told me that they are stuck in their squat but “train legs hard” I’d be able to buy myself a lifetime supply of Helix BCAAs. Athletes and strength sports competitors should program their training around their competition movements. Sure, there’s room for work on your quads if your deadlift is stalling above the knees (for example) but all auxiliary movements beyond your main movement should be programmed to aid the main movement.
Top athletes don’t just blindly program leg work to get stronger at squatting, they squat, they do squat variations, and they target whatever muscle groups might be holding them back. Think “Squat Day” not “ Leg Day”. All big powerlifting programs revolve around this concept. Don’t train your chest, train your bench. Don’t train your legs train your squat.
At the same time, I recently got to train with a friend who is an NPC bodybuilder. His training was literally backwards from mine. Whereas a powerlifter will squat first and then do auxiliary work to bring up weak points, he did hundreds of reps on a half dozen auxiliary exercises before we ever got to squat. His goal isn’t to build a big squat so he focused on the auxiliary work to build the muscle groups and we squatted at the very end. I’ve squatted over 1000lbs in a half dozen contests and have squatted 700+ in the gym in just a belt for fun but after an hour of high rep work his 400 lb. squat for 10 reps just about killed me. It’s a totally different type of training.
So, stop and think about your last week in the gym. If your goal is to get strong, what did you do to get stronger? Did all of your movements aid in this goal or were you just blindly training muscle groups? If your goal is to get bigger, did you try to lift a max weight when you were fresh or were you really training for size only? Trying to do everything makes you good at nothing.
Pick your goals and go get some.