July 25th 2011 was the day I started training for the Richmond Marathon and Nov 12th was the day of the event. During this 16 week period one of my main goals was to not lose any significant amount of upper body strength as measured by my bench press stats. Previous marathon and half marathon training cycles had diminished my upper body strength by roughly 15% (estimated since I didn't keep good records back then).
I decided to do my 12 Exercise Free Weights Routine with a Heavy Weights/Low Reps strategy 2x a week on Thursday and Sunday with a hope that it would be enough to maintain my base strength (meaning that I would be able to perform the same routine over the course of the training cycle without reducing the weights). The only exception I made to this was the bench press itself where instead of 12 reps I decided to take it to failure and I alternated between 120 lbs on Thursdays and 130 lbs on Sundays. (Starting out in July failure occurred at 12 reps @ 120 lbs and 10 reps @ 130 lbs).
For the first 10 or so weeks the failure rep stayed about consistent, then I was completely amazed when sometime around week 10 of the 16 week training cycle my bench press failure rep started kicking in later and later until I was eventually doing 22 reps @ 120 lbs and 17 reps at 130 lbs. Having nearly doubled my muscular endurance for this exercise at a time when I was running 4 times a week for 40-50 miles was not something I had thought possible. The fact that I had about given up cycling during this period may have played a role, and I was still swimming roughly 2 x week just for the record.
With the marathon just weeks away I knew it would be ill advised to change up my strength training routine, but I knew something good was happening with my arms and chest so I was looking forward to using my post marathon recovery period to focus on strength training with an emphasis on discovering my 1 rep max for 5 popular power lifts. I already had done a bench press 1 rep max at 160 lbs back sometime in the early summer and I had a good idea based on the one rep max calculator that a big improvement was on the horizon for my bench press 1 rm.
What I discovered was that the 1 rm calculator gradually becomes more accurate as the weights increase and the reps decrease as I progressed closer to the calculated target. Based on 22 reps at 120 lbs the calculator estimated me capable of a 288 lb lift. My first 1 rm attempt after the marathon was at 190 lbs and that failed so I knew I had to reevaluate the dependability of the calculator.
Since I was having such great results lifting 2x week I stuck with that to some extent, but I started adding 10 lbs to my bench press each time and I also started doing a few lifts on non lifting days for testing purposes. A few days after I took 160 lbs to failure at 9 reps I was able to complete the 190 lb lift and a few days after taking 170 lbs to failure at 7 reps I was able to complete a 200 lb lift making that my new 1rm! In theory I suppose I could keep progressing this pattern to a 220-225 lb lift, but I have 4 other lifts I'm working on and I'm happy where I'm at with the bench press for now, so I just don't see a need.
With about 1 week remaining in my post marathon recovery/strength training cycle, I won't be devoting as much time to lifting since I need to get my run base built back up in time for the Frozen Toe 10k on Jan 7th, but I plan to keep doing some testing until training for the Blue Ridge Half starts sometime in February, then I'll let it plateau again.