Brace After The Start Command
As competitive powerlifters, we hear time and time again about the downfalls of messing up the commands on meet day. We practice them in training, we reiterate them in the warm up room, and then we execute them on the platform. But what we tend to not practice as much is the execution around the start command. Too often the start command is taken to literal, meaning powerlifters take it as a command to start right then. But the command is rather letting us know that we can start now as we please, and there is no rush to immediately descend on the squat or bench press once the command is given.
The video here (CLICK HERE) shows Nik with an issue we ran into on his opener at his meet a couple weeks back. He got white lights so it was a good lift, but notice how he braces, creates soft knees, and then you can hear me in the background yelling “knees” in regards to locking them as he wasn’t receiving the start command. This was on me as a coach. I should have informed Nik prior to wait until the start command before he actually started his setup to brace. With the way I coach bracing and pre-descent tensioning, as well as many other coaches, it tends to slightly unlock the knees at times. I want a lifter to find tension in their quads, hamstrings, adductors, and glutes as they brace, and that is very difficult when the knee is fully locked or even hyperextended. So just a slight, slight break can help bring context to the tension they are trying to find. But, this needs to be done after the start command. We must fulfill the obligated standards to receive the start command, and then afterwards initiate our bracing setup. This serves a second purpose too, in that we do not want to sit there holding our breath any longer than is needed. If we inhale before the start command, a lifter very well might sit there for 4-5 seconds before actually descending which could result in light headedness. This all sounds very simple and obvious, but I also bet most people reading this haven’t actually thought deeply into their exact start command ritual, and especially do not practice it.
For bench press, this same topic would be relevant for the elbows. With many lifter’s emphasis on large arches and shoulder retraction and depression, many times this is going to start naturally unlocking the elbows. So just as with the squat, we need to first prioritize receiving the down command, and then finish our bracing setup. Sometimes bench differs a bit though, as its hard to retract once everything is settle on the bench. So typically the sequence I would recommend is to settle the feet and butt into position, and then make a concerted effort to lock the elbows, wait for the start command, brace, and then descend.
Like I said, this is a fairly simple concept. But practicing this in training and in the warm up room can be the difference between getting the start command or being told to re-rack the weight because the knees/elbows were not locked.