So your hip hurts? The good news is there are always safe workarounds in the case of injury or lingering issues. Coach Sarah Walls begins her two part series on understanding how to apply safe training to the lower body with a labral tear in the hip.
I recently bought the 3rd edition of Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. As I read through it I had a light bulb go on when reading the squat section more specifically when he refers to body positioning based on your chosen bar placement, high bar or low bar. Rip is a huge proponent of the low bar squat (I am as well) however a lot of people find this position extremely uncomfortable so they utilize a high bar, which is perfectly fine. In order to make your squat efficient as possible however, you need to make sure you are utilizing the proper leverages. Rip does a great job explaining just how to do this and what your body position should look like based on your bar placement. I decided to take a very little snippet from the book about this subject and talk about it a little more in hopes of helping your squat out. Please keep in mind this is all referring to a normal free squat with a straight bar, not variations there of (cambered bar, safety squat bar, etc.).
To kind of reiterate the point you can observe the pictures below to get a better feel for body position based on bar placement. For more in depth information I strongly recommend purchasing Starting Strength.
I still feel people aren’t grasping the importance of a proper squat set up in regards to the upper body. The whole movement starts from the upper body so to have that first line of defense be lackluster will undoubtedly make the entire lift suffer. The goal of the upper body during the squat is to be as tight as possible; engaging every muscle from the scapular retractors all the way to the spinal erectors and everything in between. I will inform you now that using a grip with a “bent” or “lazy” wrist position will prevent your squat from being all that it could be. Failing to straighten the wrist during a squat will cause a failure to engage all necessary musculature equaling out to “force leaks” both in the eccentric and concentric portions of the lift. I have posted the video below before but I figured I would post it again to show people how to use a different type of squat grip in order to overcome mobility problems to achieve a straight writs position. Check it out again!
In efforts to conquer my fear of speaking in front of a camera I decided to make today's entry a video post. We all need to work on our weaknesses and mine happens to be public speaking and speaking on camera; it’s like kryptonite to being able to organize my thoughts. Anyway, practice makes perfect so the following video is talking about why I prefer to use the box squat (as opposed to a squat to box) as my preferred method when teaching proper back squat mechanics. I hope the audio is loud enough; just in case the two main reasons I go into as to why I prefer box squatting is safety and posterior chain strength development. Enjoy…
A house won’t be much of a house without nails, screws, and cement. I would say the same goes for your training as well. Consider your main movement of the day (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, pull-ups) the building blocks of your house. With that first lift you have the makings of a giant mansion; now how will you hold it all together? This is where your “assistance” work or “supplemental” work comes in. The assistance work of your program act as the nails, screws, and cement that solidify the work you’ve put in with your main movement. They will provide your house the ability to stay strong and not crumble.
Before I go any further let me explain what qualifies as assistance work. If your main lift of the day is a squat then your assistance would be a variation thereof. This can be another bilateral movement or a unilateral movement; but almost always compound in nature and will mimic the movement pattern of your main lift. Examples of assistance work for a squat would be a box squat, front squat, split squat, BSS, etc. (these lifts can be used as a main movement but in this instance they would be considered assistance work). Your assistance work can be used for different reasons be it to reinforce the movement pattern of your main lift, bringing up weak points and imbalances, to make the main musculature stronger and bigger, etc. Regardless of the reason the main point becomes that assistance work will get you stronger and better at the main lifts which in the end will make you stronger overall. Plus it gives you yet another way to get your Hulk on and smash weight.
I’m not saying go out and work up to a heavy double on safety squat bar good mornings for an assistance lift, that would just be overkill. I believe you should still be moving some appreciable weight but the volume should be greater than your first lift (as long as your volume for your first lift wasn’t absurdly high). In order to work on your weaknesses or to get better at the movement pattern you need to practice. This would be the reason why it’s important to keep the volume higher; it provides a lot of practice.
How much volume are we talking here? You want to give yourself a rep range that is going to work on your specific goals. Is maximal strength your goal? Then I would probably keep the volume low (18-30 reps). Is hypertrophy your goal? Then I would probably keep the volume on the higher end (30-50 reps). Keep in mind I am speaking generally, there are many exceptions to what I just said based on a person’s strength level. One exception would be if you have a relatively young training age then I would stay at the low end and be focused on quality not quantity. What I like to do is pick a number of reps and flat load it over a few weeks. For example, if I picked 24 reps for my total volume then my sets/reps would go something like, week 1: 6x4, week 2: 5x5, and week 3: 4x6. This way I can stay at the same volume while hitting it in different ways each week. Mark Bell has talked about this before and I think it’s a great way to go about programming your assistance lifts.
The tricky part in all this is to keep from going overboard. As I stated before I feel you should be using heavy weight but that heavy weight should be appropriate for the volume you are working at. If your max deadlift is 315 then it’s probably not a good idea to try and do 300lbs RDL’s for 5X6. You would look awful doing it, if you could even do it at all. Good luck trying to groove a movement pattern using 95% of your deadlift max (yeah I did the math, what of it!). Have you ever read or heard a fitness professional say “just focus on your main movement; don’t worry so much about your assistance work?” The reason they say that is because if they told you to treat it with the same intensity as your main lift then you would probably load the bar as heavy as possible and the lift would look as ugly as this dog.
The problem with fitness professionals coaching that or writing that is now people seem to just go through the motions when it comes to assistance work; they feel it’s not important. Well I’m telling you now that it is. Just work hard and make the reps look smooth!
I know it can be challenging for people to get in their training session with their hectic schedule. Your main movement is primary and crucial but your assistance work is a close second. If you need to cut out anything then cut out your accessory work (accessory work would be something like tricep pushdowns, delt raises, facepulls; most of the time they are single joint movements done at a high volume, 30+ reps near the end of a training session). You really shouldn’t lose focus on anything while training. All your movements should be intense and deliberate. If you can’t devote the effort needed to an exercise then you shouldn’t do it at all. With that said, it’s time to show your assistance work some love, it has feelings too!
“…Would be interested in hearing more about what it takes to enter a powerlifting competition: requirements, mentality, gear/no-gear, training, scoring/judging, what it takes to win, etc.”
This was a comment left on my meet write-up blog post from last week. As soon as I saw it I thought what better way to talk about this than through a post for everyone!
Scoring and Judging/What it Takes to Win
Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift (they are performed in this order). At a meet you get three attempts at each of these lifts. At the end of the competition your highest successful attempt from each of the three lifts will be added up for your “total”. Your total is what determines your placing within your division/weight class. In my opinion your placing should not be a focus for you especially if this is your first meet. Your goal should be to show up and to perform because most people won’t even do that.
The scoring is based on a lighting system. Each of the three judges has a light and if they deem the lift to be successful you will be rewarded with a shiny white light. If they feel the lift to be unsuccessful they will ruin your life with a red light. Have no fear because all you need is two white lights for the lift to count!
I’m not going to go into great detail about what the judges are looking for. To learn more about this here is the link to the IPF rule book…. http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/fileadmin/data/Technical_Rules/IPF_rulebook_01_2011.pdf
Gear or No Gear
This is the only place where I feel things get tricky. People get WAAAYYYYY too bent out of shape about this to the point of ridiculousness. You have three ways to compete in powerlifting; Raw, Single-ply, and Multi-ply. This is entirely up to YOU and your GOALS and don’t let anyone sway you one way or the other. As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter what you choose because at the end of the day we all have the same goal… to get stronger. Nevertheless you will come across the close-minded people who will tell you gear is “cheating” (not sure how it’s cheating because geared lifters compete only against other geared lifters) or “not true strength”. These elitists’ get under my skin because they have probably never been in gear and have no idea what it’s like to train in it, so therefor, in my mind they have NO room to give an opinion on the subject. More importantly why do they care what YOU do? The people who care about what others do have their own personal issues to figure out. I have competed raw and single-ply and I love both. They both offer their own challenges and are both fun to train for. It’s weird and ridiculous to me that people get so up and arms about the whole thing, it’s like 5 year olds fighting about whose toy is better. If you want to lift raw, lift raw. If you want to throw on a bunch of gear then do that.
My only caveat to this is that unless you have two solid years of strength training under you than you shouldn’t wear gear. It takes A LOT of strength to even handle single-ply equipment so unless you're going two years strong, just start out with a few raw competitions.
This is the easy part. Just get better at squatting, benching and deadlifting. The best way to do that is to perform the lifts several times a week. It can’t get much simpler than that. If you want a good set in stone program just do Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and I promise you’ll get stronger. Don’t want to do that? Then use the Westside Barbell template. People want to treat this like its rocket science. They paralyze themselves with fear about what programs best fits their body, there strength level, etc. If these are the questions you’re asking yourself then all you really need to do is get in the weight room and press something, squat something, and pick something up off the ground and work on doing it correctly and everything will fall into place.
This encompasses a great deal of things which is why when talking about it I like to refer to Mike Robertson’s T-Nation articletitled, “7 Reasons Everyone Should do a Powerlifting Meet” (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/7_reasons_everyone_should_do_a_powerlifting_meet ). This is an awesome article and spells out everything in a very simple way. In order to do a powerlifting meet you have to be able to do one thing… to truly say that you care nothing about what other people think of you. Most of the time when people tell me why they don’t want to do a meet it’s because they are scared of other people. They tell me they don’t want to embarrass themselves or they say there not as strong as everybody else. No one cares that you’re not as strong as them and no one’s waiting to laugh at you for failing a lift or bombing out of a meet. It is perfectly understandable to be afraid of putting yourself out there for people to see you fail. However, it is unacceptable to allow that fear to control your actions. It is your ability to face and overcome your fears that will define you as a person. So what if you fail? Failure is a marker of two things; that you actually tried and that you learned.
I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been training; I implore you to go sign up for a meet. It doesn’t matter what federation or where it is just sign up for it. Find one that is 10-14 weeks away and go train for it. Can’t squat, bench, or deadlift correctly? Go turn in an entry form and your hard-earned money and I BET you will learn how to do all of those things pretty quick. Don’t wait around saying “well, I’ll just wait a little bit until I get stronger” or “I’ll wait a little bit until I feel a little more comfortable”. If your training for something you’re going to get stronger than if you aren’t, FACT! Chances are if your excuse is that you’re waiting to feel a little more comfortable then you probably rarely step out of your comfort zone when it comes to other aspects of your life as well. If you choose to test your limits then go to http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/and find a meet.
That first meet changed more than just how I approach lifting – because the lessons you learn from training and competition can be carried over to nearly every aspect of your life. -Mike Robertson
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