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

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Dumbbell Pullovers

dumbbell pullovers

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

Lying on a bench with your feet on the ground. You take a dumbbell with both hands and your arms outstretched. The dumbbell is on your palms and your thumbs and forefingers encircling the handle:

  • Inhale and lower the dumbbell behind your head by slightly bending your elbows

  • Exhale returning to the starting position

This exercise work pectoralis major, triceps long head, teres major, lats and a little bit serratus anterior, rhomboids and pectoralis minor. The serratus anterior, rhomboids and pectoralis minor have the function to stabilize the scapulae (shoulder blades) and to allow the humerus to tilt over a stable support.

It’s possible to do this exercise only to open the rib cage. To do this, work with lightweights and be careful to not bend your elbows too much. And it’s necessary to use a bench in a transverse position so that your pelvis is lower than your shoulder girdles. It’s important to inhale as much as possible at the beginning of the movement and to exhale only at the end of the movement.

dumbbell pullovers

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-Steph

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Bench Press And Morphology

bench press morphology

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

I think you’ve noticed that the bench press is the most practiced exercise in a gym. And as this is the most practiced exercise, it’s also the exercise that create the most injury per year. This is why, it’s important to have basic morphology’s notions to be able to do this exercise correctly.

Arms length

bench press morphology

The majority of injuries with the bench press are muscle tears or rupture of the pectoralis major tendon (during the descent of the barbell).

The pectoralis major inserted on the humerus. As a result, during the descent of the barbell, more the arm go down and more the pectoralis major is stretched and vulnerable.

But the descent of the arm and the stretching of the pectoralis major vary from one individual to another. More the arm is long, more the humerus will go down, which causes the pectoralis major to be stretched. It’s for this reason that willowy people (a person with long body members) often have this type of injury.

Rib cage thickness

bench press morphology

More rib cage is thick and less the barbell can go down. This means a limited strech of the pectoralis major therefore less risk of injury.

It’s for this reason that the majority of great bench press champions are brevilineal type (a person with short body’s members). Having a thick rib cage and short members allow to achieve a record with a morphological safety that limits the risk of muscle tearing or rupture of pectoralis major.

Morphology has a fundamental place in sport success and it’s injuries that limit the progression. Sport progression isn’t only based on mental (mindset), diet and workout type.

It’s fundamental to adjust the training program with the morphology. Let couple things be clear : what’s good for the person next to you, is not automatically good for you.

Limit the injury risk

bench press morphology

There is a bench press variant and it’s close-grip bench press. This variant limits the arm’s descent and this reduces the pectoralis major’s stretch thus limits the injuries risks.

This variant used by bench press champions with willowy type but the disadvantages are reduced performances, triceps work more and the movement’s amplitude is more important.

There is also another variant, the partial bench press. The concept is to decrease the barbell’s descent for it doesn’t touch the chest. This avoids excessive pectoralis major’s stretching.

Muscle predominance

Depending on the muscular strength of a person, there are 2 ways to do bench press :

  • Elbows spread to make more work the pectoralis major

  • Elbows close (to close arm/chest angle) to make more work deltoids.

Regardless morphology, these techniques can be used to specifically target a muscle (elbows spread => pectoralis major or elbows close => deltoids).

Attention : for bench press, it’s necessary to adjust the technique according to the different morphologies

bench press morphology

Image A

A thin rib cage with long arms when the barbell approaches the chest during the descent dangerously stretch the pectoralis major. The risk of muscle tears or tendon rupture are increased with the weight on the barbell.

Image B

A thick rib cage with short arms when the barbell approaches the chest during the descent limits the movement’s amplitude and the pectorlis major’s stretching. It’s for this reason that there are many bench press champons with this morphology.

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

-Steph

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Rupture Of The Pectoralis Major

rupture, tear, pectoralis, major, tendon

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

Pectoralis major begins on the anterior surface of the thoracic cage and its insertion is to the anterior surface of the upper end of the humerus.

Pectoralis major is a muscle which has the function of bringing the arm forward in front of the rib cage which make it possible to make hugs.

Bench press can create small tears at the pectoralis major which can sometimes cause a partial rupturing of its tendon (around upper chest).

This partial rupture of the tendon occurs in powerful athletes who have gained an abnormally rapid strength, which didn’t allow time for tendons to strengthen. This injury can also happen to athletes who make a « dry » diet, so a low-calories diet to better make muscles more visible. These low-calories diets weaken joints, tendons and muscles.

The wound always arrives during a bench press and affects only the clavicular head of pectoralis major.

The rupture of the tendon can be so painful that the athlete may lose consciousness. Often a tumefaction with eccymosis apprears on the anterior surface of the arm and the retraction of the clavicular head create a hollow around the upper chest.

Diagnostic error

how much

A problem that very often happens with this wound is that doctors, after diagnostic, considers it to be gravity-free. This is an understandable mistake because during the diagnostic, the injured person can make all movements related to the pectoralis major’s motor function. It’s for this reason that doctors consider this wound as a simple muscle tear rather than a ruptured tendon or a severe muscle tear.

Indeed, many muscles compensate the functional loss of clavicular head of pectoralis major to continue to move the arm. I spit of the rupture of the clavicular head of pectoralis major, it’s possible to raise the arm forward by the sternal portion (middle chest) and abdominal portion (lower chest) of the pectoralis major which also compensates.

When there is rupture of the pectoralis major, it’s necessary to have it reinserted as quickly as possible on the humerus with a surgery operation.

If not done as quickly as possible, there is retraction and fibrous transformation of the muscle. In this case, surgery is no longer feasible.

It’s true that the injured person can still move his/her arm without the upper portion of the pectoralis major but the injured person can never regain its initial strength and will be seriously handicapped to continue to do heavy bench press.

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

-Steph

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Front Raise

front raises anatomy dumbbell shoulder

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

front raises anatomy dumbbell shoulder

Standing with your legs slightly apart. Take a dumbbell in each hand in pronation. You can keep dumbbells on your thighs or on the side :

  • Inhale and make an alternate raise of your arms forward (or antepulsion) until your eyes level.

  • Exhale at the end of movement

front raises anatomy dumbbell shoulder

This exercise work mainly deltoid’s anterior beams, clavicular beam of the pectoralis major and a little less the rest of deltoid. In all arm raise movements, scapula fixators (shoulder blades) on rib cage such as anterior serratus and rhomboids, are also used allowing humerus to tilt on a stable support.

front raises anatomy dumbbell shoulder

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-Steph

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