The most important thing you need for power development is technique. With poor technique, not even adding weights will help build your power. There are three big reasons why technique is important-

  1. It trains the correct movement pattern
    By correctly doing the movement in a way that builds the muscles you want, it makes you more comfortable with that movement in general. This improves carryover to other movements and builds the right muscles. For example if you squat correctly, your legs and hips will get strong, and as a result your vertical jump will improve. If you squat wrong your back may get stronger but your legs will remain weak.
  2. A stable technique is easily loadable.
    The better your technique the more the target muscles get built and the lesser the chances of injury. This makes it easier to keep increasing weight safely and fast.
  3. You will avoid injuries.
    Correct technique builds the muscles while protecting the joints. This allows you to train longer and harder and there get stronger in the long run.

Good technique is best built using regressions- easier variations of the exercise that force you to lift correctly. The powerlifts are the ideal way to build raw strength and power using the least exercises. So I have first described the basic technique for each powerlift, then given a regression system to learn it.

The Squat

In the Squat, you place the barbell on your back, bend your knees and hips, sit down until your hips are below your knees and then stand back up using the strength of your legs. This movement trains the entire lower body and indirectly trains the back. I have described the high bar technique which is better for beginners as it develops more raw leg strength.

Critical Points

  1. Ensure the barbell is set 2-3 inches lower on the rack than where you intend to place the bar. Grab the bar with a grip that is 4-6 inches wider than your shoulders. A narrow grip allows you to be stable but could injure the shoulder if you are inflexible. Take the narrowest grip that is comfortable.
  2. Place your heels under the bar, then dip your head and place the bar on the shelf formed by the shoulders, behind the neck. Push your chest out by pushing the elbows towards the midline of the body and squeezing the shoulder blades. Arch your lower back by pushing the tailbone up and back and keep it that way.
  3. Breathe in and expand your belly. With full lungs squeeze your abs as if you are trying to crush yourself. This is critical for back safety.
  4. Squat the weight up and take just 2-3 steps back. Your feet should be shoulder width and your toes pointing slightly outwards.
  5. Reset your abs and take a breath, then commence the descent by pushing the tailbone back and putting your weight on the heels. Look straight forward and let the knees bend. Push the knees away from each other and sit between the legs. Go down till the hips are just below the knees. Do not go too deep.
  6. Reverse the squat by pushing the elbows forward and under the bar while driving through your heels.
  7. Reset your breath and abs at the top before the next rep. Never breathe during a rep.

 

Regressions

These are listed in increasing order of difficulty. Spend at least one week (3 workouts) at each stage before moving on to the next stage.  All the main technique points are the same as described above.

  1. Goblet Squat- Hold a dumbbell by one end with both hands and place it on the upper chest and squat. Instead of driving the elbows forward on the ascent, push the head back.
  2. Front Squat- Hold the barbell in front of your shoulders, on the shelf formed by your deltoids. Push the elbows up as high as you can, the upper arms should be parallel to the ground. Grip the bar with your fingertips only, using the same grip as a regular squat. Just like the goblet squat, push the head back on the ascent.
  3. Box Squat- This is identical to a normal squat except you will squat down to a box and place your butt on it and come back up. Use a box that is 5-6 inches lower than your knees. Do not sit completely on the box, rather let it take just a fraction of the weight- not more than 50%.
  4. Pause Squats- This is identical to a normal squat except you will pause at the bottom for a 3 second count.
  5. Regular Squat

 

Bench Press

In the bench press you lie down on a bench and lower the barbell to your chest and press it up using the strength of your arms, shoulders and chest. This exercise trains the entire upper body.

Critical Points

  1. Stability is key to pressing big. Lie down on the bench with your lower back arched, chest out, your heels under your knees and shoulder width. Your body should be wedged between your upper back on the bench and heels. Your butt should be touching the bench but not fully resting on it. Your chin should be directly below the barbell.
  2. Your shoulders should be down and away from the ears at all times. Do not let the shoulders shrug.
  3. Pull the bar out of the rack without letting your position change or shoulders shrug.
  4. At the top your elbows should be locked and the bar should be directly above your upper chest. Push the elbows in and under the bar and lower the barbell to the bottom of the sternum. Touch the chest fully and pause for a second before pushing it back up in a diagonal line towards the face. Remember, on the descent pull the bar down towards the feet, on the ascent push the bar up towards the face.
  5. Alway keep the elbows directly below the bar and the weight on the base of your palms. Keep your wrists straight at all times.
  6. Push your heels into the ground and your head into the bench during every rep. Set your abs and breath just like the squat at the top of every rep. Hold your breath during the press.

 

Regressions

All the basic technique points are the same as the bench press.

  1. Dumbbell Floor Press- Lie down on the floor with your legs straight and together. Your elbows should be tucked in about 45 degrees. Your elbows should rest on the ground fully and the bells should be balanced over them. This will teach you how to keep your elbows under the bar and how to keep your shoulders safe.
  2. Barbell Bridge Press- This is a floor press with a barbell. Keep your feet next to your hips and push through your heels to lift your butt in the air as high as you can. Your butt and back should be tight. From this position bench press normally.
  3. Regular bench press.

Deadlift

In the deadlift you simply grab a barbell which is on the ground and stand up until you are perfectly erect. This exercise trains the entire back and indirectly trains the grip and legs. I have described the conventional technique here which is better for the beginner as it develops more basic back strength which almost everyone needs. The sumo style will be discussed in a later article.

Critical Points

  1. Your feet should be hip width apart pointing about 15 degress out. Your shins should be 1-2 inches away from the bar.
  2. Your back must be arched at all times. To do this, push your chest out and push your tailbone back and up, and squeeze your entire back and keep it that way.
  3. Set your breath and abs like the squat after you arch your back.
  4. To reach the bar/ descend, push your butt back and hinge back on your heels. Let your kees bend naturally and grab the bar with your hands just outside your knees. Your weight should always be on the heels.
  5. Push through the heels, push your head up and shove your hips forward to lift the bar. Do not let the butt shoot up faster than the bar comes up.
  6. Your arms should be relaxed and perfectly straight at all times. Your arms do not lift the bar, they are simply chains, and your hands are hooks; that hold the bar while the hips, back and legs lift.
  7. Slide the bar up your legs, do not let it drift away from you.
  8. Rest the bar on the ground after every rep and then reset your abs and breath.

 

Regressions

The same basic technique applies to these.

  1. Partial Deadlift- Put aerobic steps under the plates, such that the barbell is just below the knees. Your knees should touch the bar at the start. Deadlift normally.
  2. Deadlift to knees- This is a bottom half deadlift. Deadlift from the ground to a point just 1 inch below the knees and pause there for 2 seconds.
  3. Conventional deadlift.

Partial Deadlift

This article should give you a simple way to build good technique and clarify any doubts about basic lifting. Remember the better your technique, the better your long term performance.

Commands to Fix technique
Squat Bench Press Deadlift
-“Chest Out, Butt Back!”

-“Weight on the Heels!”

-“Head Back!”

-“Knees out!”

-“Drive the Elbows!”

-“Big air, abs tight!”

-“Chest Out!”

-“Drive your heels, head into the bench!”

-“Elbows under the bar/ Elbows in!”

-“Pause!”

-“Chest Out, tail bone up!”

-“Back tight, abs tight!”

-“Slide up the legs!”

-“Head back, weight on the heels!”

-“Arms Straight!”

 

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