Deadlift Correctly (Part 3)

deadlift

If you didn’t read the first parts, click Part 1 and Part 2 

I read a Nerd Fitness article and I learned good stuff.

Grip the barbell

deadlift grip

The strength of the grip is an important part of the deadlift. There are 2 types of grip:

  • Overhand grip => The palms of your hands are towards your body (pronated grip).

  • Over-under ou mixed grip => One palm of your hand is toward your body and the other towards the outside (one hand with a pronated grip and the other with a supinated grip).

  • Hook grip => Your thumb is under your fingers

For beginners, the double overhand grip is the best to have a safe grip.

Use the mixed grip when you have more experience and you lift heavy because there are disadvantages. Stress on the shoulders is uneven and can create problems or injuries in the biceps whose palm is outside. As the stress on the shoulders is uneven, it’s easier to lift heavy weights.

When you begin deadlift, your grip’s strength is powerful enough to lift the barbell because your back’s strength is correct. The day of your back’s strength is more powerful than your grip’s strength (your hands slips slowly), that’s when you need to think about improving your grip.

If you don’t like the mixed grip, you can use the hook grip.

Wrist straps

Straps can help you lift heavier because your grip is assisted by a strap that is wrapped to the barbell and is hooked to your wrist.

I advise you to use wrist straps only when you lift very very heavy. This is not a thing to use all the time otherwise you’ll lose the natural strength of your grip.

Gloves

The truth is that the gloves don’t improve the grip. Gloves create a space between your hands and the barbell, this increases the diameter of the barbell and make the barbell harder to hold. Gloves prevent you from having a secure grip, I advise you to use them only if you have ripped callus to your hands.

With this video , you’ll learn to take care of your hands to avoid having this type of injury.

Belt

Many people in gyms use the belt in the wrong way, but you’re a smart one. The belt is useful only when you’re lifting very heavy weights and it’s not only for your lumbar. With this article , you’ll learn how to use the belt in an effective way.

Note

Use a mixed grip and a belt isn’t necessary to lift very heavy. Watch this video of Anthony Mychan  who do a deadlift at 249.47kg (550lbs) at a Nerd Fitness Camp with a double overhand with no belt.

Common mistakes

common mistakes

Rounded back

Having the back rounded throughout the movement may cause injuries. It’s necessary to have your spine in a neutral position.

Note => there are some powerlifters that purposefully round theirs upper back to decrease the range of motion, but this is a sport specific move, still a fault, and something you should not consider as a beginner.

Head raised and look up

To have a raised head create a hyperextension to your neck. This can cause injuries. Keep your head in a neutral position like your spine.

Hyperextending at the top

In fitness competitions, exaggerate the top of the deadlift has become popular for quickly show the judges that hip and knees locking is done.

Use the squat position

Deadlift is not squat. Deadlift doesn’t have the same start and end position as the squat. Deadlift is a different movement than squat.

Barbell makes a forward movement

It’s necessary that the barbell stays above your shoe’s laces and the barbell needs to be lifted vertically all along your body.

Barbell’s movements towards the front are to be avoided.

Your torso rises after your butt

We call it the « stripper deadlift ».

It’s important that your torso guides the movement and that your body moves in the same rhythm upwards.

Bend your arms

Often people bend their arms to lift the barbell more quickly. Unfortunately, this is a bad tactic because this can tear biceps muscle. Keep your arms straight during the movement.

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Squat Correctly (Part 3)

squat

Classical errors

I read a Nerd Fitness article  and I learned good stuff.

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 

Squat is a movement that we make since baby, it’s a basic movement. But when I started to do squat with weight, I make mistakes and I’m going to talk about the classical mistakes we make when we’re newbies.

Put all the weight on your toes

You need to have your heels glued to the floor throughout squat. This is important for spreading your bodyweight and weights on the barbell.

You also distribute part of the weight on the balls of your feet but it’s not the total weight. You should be able to move your toes in all directions during the squat.

The total weight (your bodyweight + weight on the barbell) is divided between the ball of your fee and your heels.

Don’t squat down too low

Your squat should go down at least until your hips joint are below your knee (parallel).

Maybe you have a special training that asks you to make a lower squat, it’s up to you to see. But making a parallel squat is enough to work your muscles well.

When you do a partial squat , so you have a squat above the parallel, you’ll work more your quadriceps than your hamstrings, in addition you put a lot of stress on your knees. The more you squat down, the less pressure you put on your knee.

Very, very often, people make a connection between squat and knee problems. Unfortunately, it’s a negative myth, a lie that makes people afraid of squat. For exemple, a gym member saw me with my knee wrap and said : « Be careful when you squat, you’re going to hurt yourself ! ». But does he know that my knee wrap increase my squat’s performance by 5-10 % ? I don’t think so. Here are some interesting articles here  and there .

The more you squat down, the more you work your glutes. But when we squat down, we have to go back up. And more we go down and more it’s harder to go up (strength and flexibility). The squat in parallel (your hips joints below your knee), it’s enough.

If you have trouble to squat down at the parallel, it could have several causes : little mobility to your ankles, to your hip flexor or your hamstrings ; weak glutes ; poor pelvic alignment (among many other things).

Knee position

squat knee position

To do a good squat, you must have your knees aligned with your toes. As the body of every human being is unique, the position is slightly different from one person to another but your knees shouldn’t be too much outside or too much inside. Your knees are more or less in the center.

Back position

squat back position

During the whole squat, you need to have your torso up and your shoulders back. This position allows you to have your spine in a « neutral » position. This avoids having your back in hyper extend and not having your shoulders rounded forward.

Head position

squat head position

There are people (even personal trainers) who will tell you to look up or down. Let’s test it right away with an anatomical version.

When you look at the ceiling, your cervical spine is in an unsecured position and when you add weight, it becomes dangerous. Look at the ground is not better.

You need to have your head in a « neutral » position. To be able to do this, look straight in front of you. Focus on a point in front of you so that you’re able to hold a tennis ball between your chin and your torso.

Too much weight on heels and inside/outside of the feet

Often, when we’re beginners, we are so focused on putting the weight on the heels and having a good position with the knees we forget to keep the ball on the floor. You need to divide some of the total weight on the ball of the feet because it’s very difficult to keep the balance when all the weight is on your heels.

It’s the same for the inside or outside of your feet. As you put the total weight on your heels, you try to keep balance with the inside and outside of your feet. Keep the ball of your feet on the floor to distribute part of the total weight and it will be easier to keep the balance.

Complex

complex

Don’t worry, I also had difficulties to do a squat with a good technique. I’ll explain to you something I used to learn the technique. Using a box or a bench is also useful for people who have knee problems and can no longer do bodyweight squat.

Using a box/bench is great for learning to squat down by distributing well the total weight between the ball of your feet and your heels rather than on your knees and toes.

Find a box/bench that allows you to be in parallel with your squat when you’re sitting on it.

The lower the box/bench is, the more it will help you to have stronger hips. If the box/bench is exactly parallel, it will help you to have stronger quadriceps. If you’re a squat beginner, don’t worry, a box/ bench at the right height for you to be in parallel or a little below when you squat down is perfect.

Let’s go to do bodyweigth squat. Put the box/bench behind you and do one step forward.

Inspire, throw your butt back, keeping your knees aligned with your toes and squat down until your sit completely on the box/bench. Keep your body contracted and control movement.

When you seated, don’t move and study your position. Is your back and core contracted ? Is the total weight distributed between the ball of your feet and heels ? Is your head in a neutral position ? Once you answered these questions, you can get up by using you hips up. Don’t shift the weight forwards on your toes to help you get up. Use your heels, keep your shoulders back with your chest up and keep your knees aligned with your toes.

After some sets, you’ll understand how to better use your body and you’ll be able to make the movement in a fluid way.

You’ll know when you’re doing a good squat. This is when you’re in the low position of squat and when you get up, you don’t swing forward but you put the weight on your heels.

Long life to squat

Squat is cool

Ok, the majority of people say that squat is bad for knees but the truth is that it’s the safest movement and one of the best to improve your knees health (when the squat is done with a good technique). This help to strengthen your knees, improve your stability and reduce the risk of injury. This is valid for people over 60 years old.

If you already have a knee problem or have pain with squat and think your do squat with a good technique, you need to see a doctor or a physical therapist to check your knees.

What are your difficulties when you try squat ?

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Squat Correctly (Part 2)

sqaut

I read a Nerd Fitness article  and I learned good stuff.

Click here to read the Part 1 

Barbell Squat

I know 3 types of squat and this is the best known : the high bar back (also named « Olympic Squat » or « Oly Squat »), the low bar back squat and the front squat. Maybe there are others but I’ll talk about the best known.

The difference is how you place the barbell.

Depending on how you place the barbell on your body, this will modify the squat’s mechanism and geometry. Which means that you will use your muscles slightly differently depending on how you place the barbell.

  • The Low Bar Back is a posterior chain dominant squat

    posterior chain muscle

  • The High Bar Back and Front Squat are a quad dominant squat.

Here a diagram form the book « Starting Strength » to better visualize the barbell’s placement.

diagram barbell placement squat strating strenght

Don’t worry, these 3 squat’s type work the same basic muscles. As you know each exercise has its variants. Now, you know the 3 variants of squat.

Go, find in your gym a squat rack,  a power cage or a squat stand  and place the barbell at the height of your clavicle. If you can’t do this and the height is too low or too high, choose the too low. I have never seen anyone lift on toe and with heavyweight, the accident is guaranteed.

power rack squat rack squat stands

As you read in my articles « Know how much weight to lift (Part 1 et Part 2) » [url link], it’s important to do a warm up with the barbell without weight. I don’t want to know how much you want to lift, do some sets with the barbell without weight to prepare your muscles and joints.

Low bar back squat

It’s the most popular squat’s type for beginners, general lifters and powerlifters. It’s also the squat’s type taught in the book « Starting Strength », one of the best book for beginners.

Once you have adjusted the barbell’s height, be in front of the barbell. Take a step to be under the barbell and grab it with your hands. For this squat’s type, you’ll use a thumbless grip so that your wrists aligned with your forearms.

Usually the grip’s width is near of the shoulders to create a meaty shelf to place the barbell on the muscles in our upper back (deltoid posterior). If you aren’t comfortable, you can have a wider grip. And with time, when you have more flexibility, you can have a grip near of your shoulders.

Here is the difference between a « wrapped grip » (left) and « thumbless grip » (right) : 

barbell wrapped grip thumbless grip

Once the barbell is on your back, stand up, contract your core (squeeze butt and abs) and step back. Normally, if you followed instructions well, you can only step backward. If you can take a step forward, you’re in the wrong direction.

This squat’s type is a posterior chain dominant squat and you’ll be able to lift heavier that the 2 others squat’s type.

High bar back squat

For this type of squat, you’ll start the same way but you’ll put your thumble around the barbell. This isn’t a thumbless grip.

The grip’s width is near of the shoulders to create a meaty shelf to place the barbell on the muscles in our upper back (deltoid posterior) like for the low bar back squat.

If you lack of flexibility to have a narrow grip, you can place the barbell 5cm (2inches) higher on your trapezius instead on your posterior deltoid. Which means that the barbell is placed almost on your shoulders.

Look the difference between a high bar back squat (left) and a low bar back squat (right) :

high bar back squat low bar back squat

Attention : the barbell placed almost on your shoulders and not on your spine. If you feel the barbell touching your spine, it’s too high and this can cause serious damage.

Place the barbell on your back and take a step back. Stabilize and tighten your core and squat down.

To do this squat version well, you need to keep your torso more upright. If you had difficulties to keep your torso upright with the bodyweight squat, it will be a little be more difficult here.

You can try, there is no problem but lift lightweight until you do it well to correct yourself. It would be a pity if your torso collapses and the barbell rolls on your neck (avoid this pain, really).

Front squat

For this squat’s type, you need to place the barbell in front of your shoulders. This squat’s type is quad dominant so you have to be able to keep your torso even higher than the high bar back squat.

Instead of stepping under the barbell, you place the barbell in font of you on your shoulder. To grip the barbell, it’s a little bit more complicated because you need to have mobility and flexibility in your wrists.

Front squat is done with a full grip around the barbell like the other 2 squat types but most people let the barbell roll on their fingertips (a three finger grip is enough). If you like’re me, you don’t manage to have 3 finders around the barbell, there are 2 variants :

Keep your hands to hold the barbell (if not the 3 fingertips is enough) and keep your shoulders high so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. And squat down.

It’s important that you keep your shoulder as high as possible during the front squat. When you’re gonna squat down, you’re gonna feel the weight on your arms and it will probably correct your position, drop the weight otherwise you will hurt yourself.

What squat do ?

This is an excellent question. You’ll meet 2 clans that clash in the gyms : high bar back squat VS low bar back squat. Both clans have good arguments but that doesn’t help you make a choice.

The truth, test the 3 types and look with which you feel most comfortable, which you have the best technique and with which you can squat down the lowest (your hips joints lower than your knees). Once you have well studied and tested the 3 types of squat, you’ll find your type of squat.

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Squat Correctly (Part 1)

squat

I read a Nerd Fitness article  and I learned good stuff.

I’m sure that in your gym, everyone says it’s good to do squat ? But who do your see really doing ? There’s not a lot of people, it’s weird, no ?

I do the squat on leg’s day but the truth is that it’s actually a « full body » exercice. « Full body » means that it’s an exercice that work several different muscle group at the the same time.

The squat mimics a lot of natural movement that you use everyday and if your goal is to gain muscle and lose weight, the squat is perfect.

What I see in my gym is that people who have never done squat are very intimidated and they use Smith machine to be reassured. But the Smith machine is very bad to do squat because it prevents you from making a natural move.

With this article, you’ll know everything about the squat and you’ll be able to do it without problem.

Why

how much why

The squat is one of the most fundamental functional movements of our lives.

Look at babies, they bodyweight squat quietly. it’s by growing that we stop doing squat and be on a chair for hours.

When you travel, you see in countries, people do full squat to sit and chat, it’s fun. There are even restroom where you have to do a squat.

It’s modern furniture and technology that make us want to do less squat but fortunately we can get back to basics and squat all life.

Squat is a movement that uses multiple joints, hip and knee joint. This is what we call a compound movement.

Squat is a movement that uses legs muscles, hips muscles, core muscles, back muscle, shoulder muscle and arms muscle. That’s why I told you it was a full body exercice.

What is cool with squat is that it increases your flexibility and it strengthens your bones, your muscles and your knees.

The fact that squat uses several muscle groups in your body, your body must increase your anabolic hormone production  to exercise the movement. This is cool because it helps to lose fat and gain muscle.

Strengthening strength in your knees and in your hips decreases your chances of having injuries in everyday life.

You saw, it’s really good for your body to do squat. Now, look at the different type of squat.

Bodyweight squat

bodyweight squat

It’s the simplest squat version, it’s the squat we used to do when we were babies.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your toes should point lightly to the outside, about 5 to 20 degrees outside.

Look before you and fix a spot on the wall in front of you. You’re going to look at this point while you’re squatting. You don’t have to look at ceiling or look at the floor. For me, it also helps me to stay focused.

Put your arms straight forward so that they’re parallel to the ground. Keep your spine straight. Your spine shouldn’t be rounded or too arched.

Be concentrated to properly distribute the weight on your feet. The weight must be on your heels and the ball of your feet. You must feel like you glued to the floor. With this technique you’re able to move your toes throughout the squat.

During the squat keeps your whole body contracted. Here we go.

Inhale, swing your hips back and push your butt back. You swing your hips back to bend your knees. It’s important to swing your hips back to begin the movement. If you start by bending your knees to begins the movement, the day you’re going to lift a heavy weight, you’ll quickly feel the pain and difficulty.

Continue to look in front of you by fixing the spot on the wall in front of you. Keep your back straight to have your spine in a neutral position and your chest and your shoulder up.

Get down

As you go down, stay focused so that your knees are aligned with your feet. I remember that when I started squatting, I had to concentrate on not having my knees inside my toes. When this happened, I would push my knees out to be aligned with my feet. Of course, your knees must not exceed the width of your feet.

Imagine you have a Start Wars light saber on your knees. The light saber should be between your second and fourth toes, it’s a little trick to help you have your knees aligned with your feet.

Squat down until your hips joints are lower than your knees, this is the parallel position. It’s necessary to look at the hips position and not the thighs position because the thighs size can be different from one person to another. If your hips joint aren’t lower than your knees, you do a partial squat.

Once you’re down, it’s time to get back on your feet.

Get up

Continue to have your whole body contracted and push on your heels and keep your feet on the ground as well.

Stay focus so that your knees are aligned at your feet like when you get down and contract your butt up to be sure to use your glutes.

The most important thing is that you have to keep your body and your core contracted all along the squat. It’s important to learn to do this right away because the more you lift heavy, the more it will help you to have a good body’s position during the squat.

Note :Every human being has a unique body so none of our squats will look perfect. A person who has a short femur  will have a slightly different squat than a person who has a long femur. And it should be added that many people are working to improve their mobility problems. What I mean is that if your squat looks different from the person next to you, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Leverage Bench Press

leverage bench press

I read a Frederic Delavier’s book « Strength Training Anatomy » and I learned good stuff.

Lying on a horizonzal bench with your butt glued to the bench and your feet on the ground :

  • Inhale and press

  • Exhale at the end of the movement

This guided exercise works the pectoralis major, mainly the sternal parts at the end of the movement. This guided exercise also work a little bit the triceps and anterior deltoids.

Variant : By pulling out your chest and arching your back, you work more the lower part of your pectoralis major (chest). But beware, this technique is harmful for people with back problems.

Share this articles if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Close-Grip Bench Press

close grip bench press

I read a Frederic Delavier’s book « Strength Training Anatomy » and I learned good stuff.

Lying on a horizontal bench with your butt glued to the bench and your feet on the ground :

  • Takes the barbell with a pronated grip. The distance between your hands varies from 10 to 40 cm (3.9 to 15.7 inches) of your wrists flexibility.

  • Inhale and lower the barbell by controlling the movement to your torso.

  • Press and exhale at the end of the movement.

This exercise works the inner chest and triceps. This exercise can be part of an arm training program. By doing this exercise with the elbows along your body, it allows to work more anterior deltoids. This exercise can be done at the Smith machine.

Attention : There are several different morphologies so it’s possible that the close-grip create wrist pain. In this case, it’s advisable to spread the hands slightly.

Share this articles if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph

Bench Press

bench press

I read a Frederic Delavier’s book « Strength Training Anatomy » and there is good stuff.

Lying on a horizonzal bench with your butt glued to the bench and your feet on the ground :

  • Takes the barbell with a pronated grip. The distance of your hands is wider than the width of your shoulder.

  • Inhale and lower the barbell by controlling the movement to your torso.

  • Press and exhale at the end of the movement.

This exercice work mainly the pectorals and a little bit triceps, anterior deltoids, serratus and coracobrachialis.

Variants

  1. You can do this exercise by arching you back like powerlifters, This allows you to use your lower chest which are more powerful for lifting heavier weights. But you have to pay attention to your back if you want to avoid injury, caution.

  2. You ca do this exercise by making the press with your elbows along your body to work more your anterior deltoids.

  3. You can do this exercie by changing the gap between your hands :

    your hands closer => inner chest

    your hands wider => outer chest

  4. You can do this exercise by changing the trajectory of the barbell :

    By lowering the barbell to the lower chest (near the edge of the rib cage) to work the lower pectorals

    By lowering the barbell to the middle of the chest to work the medial pectorals

    By lowering the barbell to the upper chest/lower nech area to work the upper pectorals

  5. If you have pain in the back or you want a better isolation of the pectoral work, you can do the « press » with your legs raised.

  6. You can do this exercise with a Smith machine.

Share this article if you think it can help someone you know. Thank you.

-Steph