Simple Adjustment To Immediately Improve Squat Bracing

Simple Adjustment To Immediately Improve Squat Bracing

Two big issues many powerlifters struggle with while bracing is chest breathing and elbow position, but fortunately one small adjustment can take care of both of these issues. Scroll to the 2nd video for a full breakdown (CLICK HERE) or continue reading for a detailed explanation! As can be seen above we have two videos side by side (CLICK HERE), the left showing the common fault of many powerlifters, versus on the right what bracing should look like and what this small adjustment can lead to. It is often an issue that powerlifters breath deep into their chest as they brace, rather than into their diaphragm and expanding into the belt. This causes not only an inefficient brace, but notice how when my traps shrug and the shoulders elevate, that this also causes my shoulder to internally rotate and raise my elbows up too. The fix is simple, and that is to set the elbows and upper back before you brace. And all of these things you may already be doing, but just in the wrong order. It’s a common cue to set up the low bar position while in the rack like you are doing a lat pulldown. This creates tightness, upper back retraction, and shoulder depression that is coming from the lats and upper back muscles. But then once a lifter walks the bar out, many times they completely lose this. After they brace they try to reset their elbows and thoracic tightness, but they struggle to maintain that throughout the movement. So the small adjustment that kills two birds with one stone is to create that lat pulldown tension, depressing and retracting the shoulder, and then brace. This helps to lock in that elbow and upper back position, but maybe even more importantly it prevents us from chest breathing to the same degree. If we are actively using our lats and upper back to depress the shoulders, as we breath we will naturally breath more into our diaphragm, as now the shoulders cannot elevate and allow the room within the chest to breath in the same manner. At the same time though, we must be careful not to over extend at the lower back while doing this, but rather maintain neutrality at the lumbar spine and pelvis. To finish off this setup, after setting my upper back, I make sure to find tension within my abdominals and obliques so that as I brace I can remain neutral and draw the ribcage down into neutral alignment.

Database Of Best Powerlifting Youtube Videos

Database Of Best Powerlifting Youtube Videos

I was putting together a list of must watch videos for a current coach I am mentoring, and decided why not just share this list within the blog as well for all to access! There are many more very informative videos out there, but this list was specifically put together for an aspiring coach to learn more specific details within programming and coaching the 3 powerlifting movements. And these are no in particular order, just copy and pasted as I went along. Hope you enjoy!


Creating a Strength

Design of a Strength Block for PRs

Using Deloads for Consistent Training

Programming | Intermediate Bodybuilder/Powerlifter

Creating a Perfect Routine | Micro Cycles, Volume/Intensity & Exercise Selection

Creating a Perfect Routine | Choosing Volume & Intensity In a Micro Cycle

Volume or Intensity More Important for Strength? The Benefits of Both & Why I Focus on Volume More

How Many Sets/Reps, Intensity, Frequency & Variation For The Big 3

How To Program The Squat DUP/Sub Max Style | IMO The Best Way To Get Strong

How To Set Up a DUP Split and Program Technique Days For Strength

How To Program The Bench DUP/Sub Max Style | IMO The Best Way To Get a Strong Bench

How To Program The Deadlift DUP/Sub Max Style | IMO The Best Way To Get a Strong Deadlift

How To Program The Sumo Deadlift DUP/Sub Max Style | IMO The Best Way To Get a Strong Sumo

Free DUP Sub-Max Powerlifting Program | Downloadable Excel Sheet

Specificity – Variety Continuum — Is Specificity Really King?



Leg Position and Strength for Squats

Bracing for Squats

Low Bar vs High Bar vs Front Squat | The Differences

How To Brace Properly For Strength & Activation (You’re Probably Doing it Wrong)

Finding Your Ideal Squat Position | Why Your Squat Warm-up Must Be Different

Advanced Squat Technique to Stay Upright | Why They’re Wrong About The Wrists & Elbows

Common Squat Grip Position Mistake | New Way To Use RPE & More (info vlog 2)

Fixing a Squat Hip Shift & Tips On Accessory Exercise Selection | In Gym Vlog

Improve your Squat INSTANTLY – Extensor Tone with Melbourne Strength Culture

Chest Up ≠ Upright Torso

SQUAT: One Simple Cue to Fix Knee Valgus

A Simple Solution To Failing Heavy Squats For Depth

HOW TO: Squat like a PRO – beginners

One Quick Tip To Improve Your Squat IMMEDIATELY (And Deadlift)



Bench Press Set Up and Technique

Bench Press Bar Path and Elbow Flare

Bench Press Grip

How To Use Leg Drive

Why a Bent Wrist In the Bench Is Actually Good | Why The Larsen Press Kicks Ass | Vlog 1

Understanding Leg Drive In The Bench Part 1 | What’s ACTUALLY Happening

Which Bench Press Leg Drive Style Is Best For You |Pros & Cons of Each | Leg Drive Part 2

Grip Trick For Optimal Force Transfer In Bench | How To ACTUALLY Wrap Wraps (you’re doing it wrong)

Bench Variation, Attempt Selections & Cues to Ensure you Don’t Screw Up You Bench Press Meet Prep

Bench Press: Setting Up for a Big Arch

My Favourite BENCH CUE!

Bench Press: Pressing with Vertical Bar Path

How to BENCH – beginners

Bench Press: Setting up for Shoulder Depression



Pulling Slack on Deadlifts

Anchoring Hips for Better Deadlifts

Deadlift Set Up and Tightness

Use Your Quads to Find the Right Hip Height

Train Your Opposite Stance Deadlift

My Favorite Deadlift Cue

Anchoring Pt 2

How To Sumo Deadlift: The Definitive Guide

Improve Your Deadlift | Understanding the Hip Shoot

How Low Should Your Hips Be in the Deadlift? | Easy Way to Figure It Out

The Best Deadlift Sequence For Positioning/Tension | How To Actually Pull The Slack Out & Hip Scoop

Part 1 How to Pull With A Neutral Back: The Best Bracing Sequence For Deadlifting

Achieving a Perfectly Tensioned Deadlift | 3 Categories & 9 Tips To Fix Your Deadlift

My Favourite DEADLIFT CUE!

DEADLIFT: Correcting your start position

The Romanian Deadlift — the best Deadlift accessory you SHOULD be doing

How To Tell If You’re Pulling With Your Back

Pulling The Slack Out Of The Bar – A Thorough TUTORIAL

How to DEADLIFT – Beginners (Conventional)

How to DEADLIFT – Sumo



Fix Shoulder Mobility For Good | Shoulder Stability/Movement Prep


Balance and Position — One Common Error Intermediates Make

Learn to Control Your Pelvis to a Bigger and Safer Squat


Patellar/Quad Tendinopathy In Powerlifting

Knee Pain In Powerlifting

Patellar and Quad Tendinopathy/Tendinitis is a pain in the butt. Most people are in search of some magic cure for it, but in my experience it really just comes down to load management, patience, and the right mindset. Barring some obvious movement fault, you probably are not going to find some immediate answer for the pain, but rather need a structured and flexible approach of managing load and volume to provide a stimulus for recovery.

Case study in hand right now is Adam. In the beginning of May, Adam aggravated his patellar tendon. We started a slow progressive load management protocol and built up through the month of May from only being able to tempo safety bar squat 155lbs. to low bar tempo squatting 345lbs. There was a big key though in this approach, and that was to only work to what he could squat pain free each day. We have to understand that just like strength gain or weight loss, rehabbing injuries is not a perfectly linear process. There will be good days and bad days, and we must adjust accordingly to what we can tolerate on a session to session basis. The session after he hit 345lbs. pain free, he worked up to 365lbs. and felt some slight pain. According to the protocol this meant to drop back down in weight to find the correct pain free range for the day. But as with most powerlifters including myself on many occasions when I’ve been injured in the past, we do not want to drop the weight back and we force things, which is what Adam did. He kept at that weight and re-aggravated the patellar tendon. This sent him into another negative spiral and took about a month to get his mentality back onto the right approach. So beginning in early July, we started the process over again, with the biggest difference being Adam’s mindset and the understanding that progress would not be linear but rather adjust day by day as we could. You can see this in the above video’s screenshots (CLICK HERE) that were 2 weeks apart, with the top one being from July 11th and bottom from July 29th. On the 11th as he pyramided up in weight he found that at 345×4 he was experiencing some pain, but this time he stopped and concluded that was his tolerable loading level for the day. Fast forward two weeks later and he was hitting 405×4 completely pain free. Fast forward 1 more week, and Adam has hit 455×5 pain free, and this next block we will be resuming normal squat programming again.

I struggled for 2 1/2 years with quad tendinopathy always trying to look for a quick and easy fix. And then once things started feeling better, I would try to rush back to my old weights and inevitably re-injure myself once again. Once I slowed down, remained patient, and took each day’s wins as I could, within 3 months I was pain free and haven’t had any issues with my knee since. In hindsight, I think about if I had just done that from the start rather than looking for these 1-2 week quick fixes. If I had just been patient for 3 months, I would have had over 2 extra years of productive training. In the present, 3 months of rehab and slowly building back up sounds like an eternity to a powerlifter. But in hindsight that will seem like just a small blip in your strength journey compared to the years of off and on struggle with chronic pain.

Benefits Of Deficit Deadlifts

Benefits Of Deficit Deadlifts

I fought against implement deficit deadlifts for a long time. I saw video after video of people performing them with terrible positioning, rounded lower back with the pelvis tucked under, and really just turning them into an odd looking stiff leg deadlift. But rather than allow my bias to continue, I feel like I have found great use of deficit deadlifts recently. The typical reasoning I had heard for implementing deficits as a variation was to increase someone’s strength off the floor on the deadlift. But with seeing them typically performed incorrectly, that didn’t really click with me. But what I have come to realize is the understanding of HOW deficit deadlifts can improve strength off the floor, and it is not just because you perform them. It is because you perform them with proper position and leg drive to learn to to actively recruit the legs, specifically the quads, correctly in the starting position to “leg press” the floor away. One caveat to all of this is that this pertains to conventional deadlift only. Sumo deadlifts done in a deficit places the lifter in a very odd position that will either result in significant hip shoot or just end up replicating a wide stance squat. The squat in general tends to train the sumo deadlift very well, so I’d prefer to rely on squat volume and intensity to produce that adaptation rather than try sumo in a deficit variation. So with that being said, I wanted to give a breakdown of the when, how and why of implementing deficits with success.

1. As I’ve already alluded to, the main reason I have programmed deficit deadlifts is to help a particular athletes with understanding how to properly utilize leg drive in the starting position of their deadlift. I would consider this a more advanced variation though, and I think the reason it is misused so often is that people jump right to deficits rather than learning the basics of deadlifting prior. As shown above (CLICK HERE), Joaquin already had a decent deadlift. His positioning was fairly good, bar path was solid, and he developed good tension off the floor. But he tended to lock his knees out too early, and I blame this on the over thinking of the cue “pull” rather than “leg press” off the floor. The first thing he mentioned when I had him do deficits is how much more he felt his quads engaged, and that was spot on with what I was looking for. For someone who has more issues with their deadlift and cannot achieve good positioning, tension, and bar path, I am probably not going to implement deficit deadlifts. Instead, I’d rather work on technique and form on their normal competition deadlift and maybe with pause deadlifts as well. But when someone needs that last little bit of leg drive reinforcement off the floor, deficits are starting to becoming my go to.

2. So that is the when and why, so let’s now take a look at the how. The single biggest thing I think I may do different than others with a deficit deadlift is that I don’t want much of a deficit at all. Typically 1.5 to 2 inches at most, or else it starts to become a very different movement, and a movement where a lifter most likely will not be able to maintain proper lumbar and pelvic position. Just like with how I program close grip bench press, we do not want to stray too far away from our normal competition movement pattern or else we start creating new habits that may carry over in a bad way. Second, one of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people touch and go on deficit deadlifts, which pretty much eliminates the whole point of doing them. If we are bouncing off the floor, that momentum is carrying through that 1.5-2 inch deficit and now just putting us right back into our normal deadlift position anyways. And lastly, we need to make sure the deficit variation is creating the desired effect we want on the lifter’s movement pattern. With the video above we can see this all in action. Notice how Joaquin’s knees were locking prematurely and how initially off the floor he had a slight hip rise and chest fall. Whereas with the deficit deadlifts, as soon as he initiates the movement his hips and chest rise together, tension stays on his quads as well and he “leg presses” the floor away.  His lock out is more fluid between the hips and knees, rather than mainly a hip extension dominant lock out. If we are implementing a variation of any of the competition movements to help improve some type of position or movement fault, it is vital that we see that improvement within the variation. If we are not, then it is just reinforcing the same bad positions and not achieving the desired effect.

How To Control Pelvic Position In The Squat

How To Control Pelvic Position In The Squat

The infamous glute squeeze at the top of the squat. The “fitspo girls” do it thinking it increases glute activation while powerlifters tend to do it to create a neutral pelvis during their initial bracing, and both are wrong. For powerlifters, it is very important that we find neutrality with our pelvis before we descend, but using the glutes to achieve this is a misconception that stems from a misunderstanding of how we stabilize the pelvis. The single biggest issue stems from the fact that if we are to stabilize the pelvis in a neutral position, we need to do so with a muscle that is going to be in an isometric contraction throughout the entirety of the squat. The glutes unfortunately cannot accomplish that, and typically the first thing you see with those that squeeze their glutes at the top is that they do exactly what they were trying not to do, which is move into an anterior pelvic tilt. The fact is the glutes must lengthen as we descend, so they cannot stay in this squeezed/contracted position. Instead we need to use the abdominals and obliques to control our pelvic position through proper bracing. A simple way to show this is to stand up straight and then forcefully exhale as hard as you can. If you were to take a video from the side while doing this, you would probably see that as your abs and obliques contract from the forceful exhale that your pelvis pulls under you. This is the same concept we want in the squat. We need our abdominals and obliques to isometrically contract and hold our pelvis in the proper position throughout. Any time we see anterior movement of the pelvis, that immediately tells us then our abdominals and obliques are lengthening rather than staying isometrically contracted, a fault many lifters have.

I had to go way back in @netzer_strong’s videos to find the above comparison (CLICK HERE), as a couple years ago he was at fault of the “glute squeeze”. We can see that because of this  the first motion he had was this booty pop as the glutes un-contracted and stretched. Whereas on the video on the right, Joe starts in a soft hip position with a neutral brace, so all he really has to do is drop the hips straight down while driving the knees forward. To counter the “glute squeeze”, the setup Joe is in on the right is exactly what I coach. A soft hip position now allows the lifter to counter their natural instinct of needing to pop the hips back, and rather now just drop them straight down.