Now that you’re feeling alpha, understand repetition ranges, recovery, and overtraining, it’s time to focus on improving your compound lift performance. These three core compound exercises are: dead lift, bench press, and squat. Each of these unique compound exercises incorporate different aspects of strength while still providing total body strength improvements. Some of the ancillary benefits of including these exercises in your regimen is improved speed, power, muscular hypertrophy, and endurance. Further benefits include a dramatically increased hormonal release which encompasses testosterone and growth hormone being released in significant amounts post compound exercises (particularly squats). This release is due to the overall bodily stress and muscular trauma that occurs during these exercises which thus precipitates a positive hormonal recovery response from the body. Another important aspect of these compound strength exercises is they allow you to build up any weaknesses and muscular imbalances you may have. These weaknesses and imbalances are very important to address because they can result in injury, and reduction of both meliorative athletic performance and aesthetic enhancement. The magnitude of benefits that can be derived from these simple compound exercises are paramount to overall improvement of physical fitness no matter what your goal, gender, age, or body type. In this article we will address some simple but vital tips to apply to each exercise that will improve your performance. Read on below…
“There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do deadlift.” - Jón Páll Sigmarsson [Four time World's Strongest Man]
Let’s begin and get you stacking some big 45 pound plates on that bar.
Dead lifting- We already went into the importance and aspects of dead lifting in an earlier article here on SwoleScience. Here are some vital strength tips for the king of total body strength exercises.
- Basic Form- Make sure your form never deviates from perfection. Do not progress in weight unless you can flawlessly execute the movement. A common and devastating error is to lift with your ego, advance too quickly in weight and thus end up rounding your back. This rounding usually ends in spinal pain in the form of a slipped/bulged disc and will keep you off the bar for months. Done correctly, dead lifts are one of the best things for back pain prevention, core strength, and overall power. Moral of the story- Keep your back straight.
- Drag the bar along your legs- It is no coincidence that serious lifters can commonly be seen with two things- protective sleeves on their shins or no skin on their shins. The reason for this is that by dragging the dead lift bar along the legs the body remains in perfect form. The reasoning for this that if the bar strays too far away from the legs the back will have a propensity to round and thus place unnecessary stress on the spine because you will be overreacting beyond the body’s natural line of stability. So SwoleScience UP and lift that bar.
- Do not flare your elbows out- Point your elbows down at a 45 degree angle towards your feet to remove some of the stress from your shoulders and incorporate more upper body strength. If you were to push someone, you would not do it with your elbows flared out, you would do it with them pointed towards the floor. Use this to your advantage when under the bar.
- Keep your upper back and butt PINNED- Do not raise your butt off the bench…ever. Keep it on the bench or risk hernia’s and back injury.
- Flex and sit on your traps- This allows your to take stress off your shoulders and dramatically improves stability.
- Keep your feet planted- Drive through the lift by keeping your feet completely glued to the floor and pushing off them to keep you in perfect bench positioning.
- Flat Shoes- Squat barefoot or in extremely flat soled shoes such as Chuck Taylors or Vibrams. If you squat in traditional air/gel soled shoes the padding will compress and thus make you unstable and unable to fully power through the movement. Furthermore the padded sole will result in a slight lean forward which can spell disaster for your back on bigger lifts.
- Toes pointed out- Point the toes out at a 45 degree angle. While some people can get away with keeping them straight ahead, once you get to bigger weights, this foot position allows for less strain on the knees and much greater stability which is paramount in heavy lifts.
- Keep your Traps Flexed- Keep your upper back tight and flexed. Forget the padded foam on the bar, your natural padding is your traps, so use them. Keeping your traps flexed will allow the bar to stay in perfect position and help keep your upper body tight and thus make it easier to adhere to strict form.
Overall Tips that Apply to ALL of the Powerlifting Lifts
- Don’t get Greedy- Don’t overtrain by accelerating the frequency of lifting or do more than one of these compound lifts per day.
- Go up SLOW- You’re not going to go up by a two 45 pound plates each week. Learn to be patient. Get used to working slow and diligently for slow and steady gains, or risk injuring yourself.
- Don’t Rush your Sets- Take your time, mentally prepare and visualize the lift before you lift. Always allow yourself time to recover before the next set in order to maximize your training time.
- Hold Your Breath- On all of these lifts implement the Valsalva maneuver. Take a deep breathe, hold it with your core muscles, and lift. Do not exhale on the way up or down or you will allow your core to weaken mid lift which will result in reduced power, greatly increased risk of herniation and back injury. Only breath at the top or end of a repetition.
- Speed- Keep a smooth and diligent pace. Hit your goal repetitions with strict form and then end the set.
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