Tag Archives: strength skill
Life is all about acquiring skills.
Think about it.
As kids we learn to crawl, then walk, then run an jump an play which finally lead in to minor sports and activities, however the best part about all that is the sense of achievement, wether you’re aware of it or not.
We like learning new things and more importantly being good at them, training should be no different.
That being said, there are plenty of exercises that people will avoid like the plague not because of a legitimate excuse but for the fact that they’re not good at the moment and it brings their ego down a peg of three.
If we take squatting for example.
A squat is something everyone assumes they can do, nay, they expect they can do, so when someone tries and struggles or perhaps fails to execute it with any good form they get disheartened and start to avoid the movement, usually opting for leg press or machine work.
Squatting is a skill, much the same as pressing, deadlifting, running, jumping, throwing and so on. The only difference is how quickly a person can learn that skill (major injury or medical reasons aside), some take longer than others but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it.
Something I’ve noticed in other people as I’ve gotten older is just how lacking in resilience they are. If something doesn’t happen instantly or go their way from the start they get pissy, make excuses and give up, bot a good trait to have.
Have I ever had the above attitude?
Yep, more times than I’d like to admit, however there’s no sense in lying about it so I might as well learn from it instead.
The main lesson I took away was this; thing take time, some more than others but everything comes with a cost of your time. You just have to pay it, if you really want to achieve anything that is.
I understand how frustrating it can be when things don’t go your way, oh and before you start thinking “I don’t agree with that.” stop, it’s human nature to get the hump when we don’t get what we want, just accept it, no one is here to judge you and if they are then let them, it literally has no effect on your life unless YOU allow it to.
Will you do something for me? Or more aptly put, will you do something for yourself.
Write down 3 skills you want to achieve.
Next, look at each skill and write down what you need to be doing to acquire that skill and HOW you’re going to achieve it.
Lastly, start working towards them.
Don’t give up, almost everything can be learnt/achieved if given enough time, you just have to want it bad enough.
Give this post a read, it should take 5min and you will improve your deadlift.
Considering you’re all intelligent people I’m sure you’ve heard to the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) and the role it plays in movement.
*A nice link for those who want some more science on it: http://www.scienceforsport.com/stretch-shortening-cycle/
*Here is the lay version: think pulling back and elastic band to store potential energy and then releasing it (kinetic energy is the result). “to shorten muscle you must first lengthen it”. Where you are right now do vertical jumps… Good, now do it without first bending your legs in to the starting position (preventing and pre-stretching of the muscles used for the jump)… Doesn’t really work, does it.
I want to talk about its relevance in lifting weights and how you can use it to improve your deadlift (all will become clear, trust me).
If we look at the squat and the bench press, they both have one thing in common that is missing in the deadlift.
Do you know what it is?
A loaded eccentric start to the lift (bar on your back/in your hands), this helps you create tension and the potential energy to overcome the required force on the concentric portion of the lift from being in the hole, where are the deadlift starts on the floor and you’ve got no real help. It’s you VS the bar and unless you’re a well trained lifter who understands how to use the SSC or at least prime your body by creating tension (pre-loading) in the required muscles yo’ll find you can’t even shift the bar from the floor.
I’m sure you’ve seen many great dedadlifters such as Eddie Hall, Ed Coan, Richard ‘The Ant’ Hawthorne, Andy Bolton to name a few, have a certain something about their set up. You know, when they pull against the bar taking the slack out (getting tight), followed by a brief pull down (or 3 in Andy’s case) and then effortlessly hoist it off the floor to victory. This pre-lift routine is their way of firing up the muscles required, creating tension and utilising the SSC to help them generate the force required to overcome the inertia and lift the weight. (This is harder to write down than I anticipated).
Here are some videos, watch for the points mentioned above:
The reason for this post is a simple one. I see a lot of people fail to do the following in the deadlift:
– Take the slack out of the bar
– Get tight (create massive amounts of tension/pre-load muscles)
– Not utilise the SSC
*Obviously a correct individual set up is required, if you don;t have those hire a coach and get the foundations, then refer back to this.
In Dynamite Deadlift (written by Pavel Tsatsouline & Andy Bolton) they cover a lot of great info and give lot’s of tips. One that Pavel has given throughout the years is to set up to the brain the deadlift and from standing PULL yourself in to your starting position from standing to create more tension (remember tension = force).
The other day I gave wrote three tips for improving one’s bench press, today it will be the deadlift, after all, there is nothing more impressive than loading up 5 plates a side for reps.
Tip 1 – Pull Out The Slack
If you’ve watched any top deadlift champion you will noticed they all seem to pull against the bar first, some do it with straight legs, other do it in a rock bottom position. It doesn’t matter which they do because they are all doing it to achieve the same thing, taking the slack out of the bar.
When you pull the bar off the floor it typically bends, every bar has some give in it, you must pull this out and stay tense to get it off the floor, if you don’t it will feel like the bar isn’t moving because you’ve not initiated the first pull correctly. Practice by getting tense and pulling agains the bar to feel the slack come out, once it is it’s time to drive the floor away and get your hips through as fast as possible and lock out a new PB.
Tip 2 – Keep Your Head Neutral
It’s fairly common for people to crank their neck back and ‘look up’ and while in theory this will help keep your back straight, in practice it doesn’t work so well. When you set up you want to keep your head neutral and slightly tuck your chin. That doesn’t mean looking down, your eyes can look up while your head remains neutral you know.
By keeping a neutral head position you will in effect lengthen your spine, this will help prevent rounding of the lower back and also allow a stronger neural connection, meaning you can lift more once you get this technique down.
Tip 3 – Lots of Single Arm Rows
A great many people will complain about their grip being the limiting factor, now while they are not necessarily wrong, they are not really sure of why their grip gives in. They think it’s because the grip is weak when more often than not it’s actually their upper back that is weak and as a result the brain says “Wait… we have a weak upper back… we can’t really lift this I don’t think. Better loosen the grip to prevent the stronger muscles lifting it and safe myself from injury.”.
The single arm row, or the Kroc Row is a great way of building an impressive upper back and as a result increasing your overall deadlift because your brain will now allow your to grip harder than before.
Use those three tips to improve your deadlift and start breaking your old PB’s.
Bonus Tip – Front Squat Crossover
Deadlifts can be very taxing to the body. Even reduced weight speed reps can take their toll. The front squat is a great exercise not only for building legs but also upper back strength and postural strength (through the upper thoracic). This is a must do accessory movement to your deadlift. The front squat also has a lot of crossover to your back squat and even your pressing movements as it teaches you to stay tight and breath in to your diaphragm properly.
The bench press is the gym bro’s favourite exercise by a long long way and today I will give three simple tips to help improve those numbers so that when someone asks “How much do ya bench?” you can answer with an impressive amount.
Tip 1 – Let The Weight Settle.
People are in too much of a rush to power out their reps they don’t even notice that they are not settled on the bench properly. When I say about ‘Letting the weight settle’ it means un-racking the bar and holding it for a few seconds to allow your body to stabilise, along wth and compression in the bench foam to happen so that you’re nice and balanced (This goes for the squat, overhead press, jerk and other such movements too).
The next time you bench take out the weight and let it settle while making sure you have a solid set up (feel flat, ass on the bench, shoulders on the bench, wrists straight, the bar in the correct place in your hands etc), I can guarantee that you will find the exercises much easier, you will also be able to get tight too, which nicely brings us on to our next tip.
Tip 2 – Getting Tight.
Getting tight is something you will hear all good lifters talk about because it’s incredibly important. When you brace correctly by breathing in to your belly (diaphragm) and actively squeeze the bar as hard as possible while contracting your back and lats hard you recruit more total muscle, this means more power and also more stability, both of which you need to bench a lot of weight.
Practice this with just the bar, dare I say it you want to get to the point of discomfort with how tense your body is because that means you’re along the right path. DOn’t forget to stay tight throughout the entire bench press movement, especially the pause at the bottom – this is required in a comp which leads to my next tip.
Tip 3 – Pause Every First Rep
Pause reps have had their merits sung plenty of times and doing a set of entirely composed of pause reps is great for strength but it can limit the amount of volume you can achieve, this is simply due to the weight reduction you would need to have a meaningful set of pause reps. If you pause the first rep of every set of bench presses (or presses in general, then finish the rest as touch and go), you will get the benefit of control, strength, volume and patience because it will take out the need to rush, which will be very helpful if you compete in Powerlifting as you don’t want to get a red light for pressing before the command.
There you have it. 3 tips to help you improve your bench press numbers.
Bonus Tip – All The Pressing
A great way to train is by hitting all your pressing movements in the same session, starting with OHP, followed by Incline Press, then Bench Press and finally Dips (you can use push press in this is you wish too). By training this way you will build a strong upper body and hammer in lots of volume on your pressing ability. Use a ramping style rep/loading system for this, meaning if you start on 5 reps for OHP you stay at 5 and add a little bit of weight until you can’t hit 5, then go to incline starting on the weight you failed on in the OHP and repeat, then bench and so on, the dips can be weighted or not depending on if you want volume not hem or not. Doing this twice per week is more than enough to start with.