Product Review: PlateMates


One of the biggest problems with working with weaker clients or in exercises that require less weight (such as dumbbell curls, lateral raises, rotator cuff training, etc.) is that it’s very hard to make progress with conventional dumbbell increments. I might be able to do 15 reps with a pair of 20lb dumbbells, but might be lucky to get 5 or 6 with 25lbs. Think about it – if I bench press 225lbs and add 5lbs, that’s only an increase of about 2%. But if I add 5lbs to 20lbs, that’s an increase of 25%! Would you progress right from 225 to 280lbs? Not likely.

Enter PlateMates. PlateMates are small magnetic weights that come in small increments – 5/8lb, 1.25lb, and 2.5lb. They simply stick onto the ends of iron or metal dumbbells or barbells (they won’t work on rubber-coated dumbbells, however) to make the appropriate weight increase.

At AST, we have 6 pairs of 1.25lb plates that we use, so in our original example of using 20lbs, I can then progress to 21.25 (1 PlateMate on one side) to 22.5 (1 PlateMate on each side) to 23.75 (2 on one side, 1 on the other) before progressing up to 25lbs, giving that many more chances for improvement. This is an example of what Charles Poliquin calls the “Kaizen principle,” essentially meaning “progress any way you can.”

They can be found on Amazon for about $40 or less per pair, and they make an incredibly handy tool. Even if you work out at a commercial facility, you can just throw a pair or two in your gym bag and use them when they’re needed.

Rating: 10/10
Retail: $28.95 for a pair of 1.25lbs from Amazon

Team AST Goes to Nationals!

This weekend, 3 members of All Strength Training’s powerlifting team went to the 2011 USPF Raw Nationals to compete against over 100 other lifters. The lifters included all 3 of AST’s coaching staff – myself and Christine on Friday, and Sergio on Saturday. Another member of AST’s powerlifting team, Mark, had to miss the competition due to family commitments (but I’m sure he’ll be back on the platform as soon as we can find him another meet to do).

All of the lightweight divisions competed on Friday, so Christine and I lifted together. Christine was the only female lifter in the raw division (the raw division allows only the use of wrist wraps, knee sleeves and a belt – no squat suits or bench shirts), and competed without the use of even wraps or a belt. In the process, she set 4 USPF American records in the 123lb open women’s weight class – a 132lb squat, an 83lb bench press, a 176lb deadlift, and a 391lb total (all personal records as well). She also narrowly missed an 88lb bench press.

I also lifted raw with no equipment, in a competitive 165lb weight class (the eventual winner, Troy Smith, opened the deadlift with over 500lbs and ended with somewhere between 540-550lbs). This was my first time lifting in competition with no supportive equipment at all, and ended up coming away with a 248lb squat, 209lb bench, and 358lb deadlift (I was particularly happy with the deadlift, as that had been a lift I’ve struggled to improve on for the last 2 years).

Christine and I both left a little on the platform and felt that we could have definitely gone heavier on 3rd attempts. Christine in particular – she proceeded to break her own deadlift PR in training on Sunday by pulling 195lbs, 19lbs over what she did in competition on Friday.

Sergio lifted on Saturday, and did not have his best day on the platform. He hit his squat opener of 374lbs, but struggled with and missed 385lbs twice. He also was strong enough for his bench opener of 275lbs but was redlighted for jumping the head judge’s “press” command. He then jumped to 286lbs for his 2nd and 3rd attempts but was unsuccessful with both, disqualifying him from the rest of the meet. We’ve already talked about a few errors he made in preparation for the competition and he’ll be back in the gym on Monday ready to get it right next time.

The competition was run incredibly well, and we would like to thank Lance Karabel and Ted Isabella for putting on a great meet. Hopefully Team AST will continue to grow, and will return to the platform later this year.

Quick Tip: Build Your Back for a Bigger Bench

The bench press is often thought of as a chest-specific exercise, but when done properly with near-maximal loads, it can become a full-body movement.  And as is often the case, the chest is not the limiting muscle group in how much weight you can move.  In fact, many times a bench press plateau can be caused by a lack of upper back and lat strength.

The reason this is the case is that the body has several automatic reflexes that it will use to limit imbalances between antagonistic (opposite) muscle groups.  So when you reach the point where your lats and back can no longer help stabilize the weight, your body will shut it down and progress will come to a halt.

One simple solution is to superset chest movements with back movements, matching exercises set-for-set and rep-for-rep.  Not only will this help ensure that your back stays balanced with your chest, but there is also evidence that training antagonistic muscle groups in a superset fashion can help you lift more weight than if you had done conventional sets.  Here’s a sample approach:

Sample Chest/Back Workout:

A1.*  Incline Barbell Press – 5×6-8, 40X0 tempo**, 90sec rest
A2. Wide-Grip Pullup – 5×6-8, 50X0 tempo, 90sec rest
B1. Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press – 3×13-15, 30X0 tempo, 60sec rest
B2. 1-Arm DB Row – 3×13-15, 30X0 tempo, 60sec rest
C1. Incline DB Flye – 3×13-15, 2210 temp0, 60sec rest
C2. DB Pullover – 3×13-15, 2210 tempo, 60sec rest

*Complete a set of the A1 exercise, then rest, then complete a set of A2, then rest, then continue back to A1.  Continue until all sets of each pair are completed.

**The first number is the eccentric rep speed (i.e. the lowering part of a bench press), the second number is the pause in the bottom position, the third number is the rep speed up, and the fourth number is the pause at the top of a lift.  X denotes “as fast as possible.”