The most popular article on my website month after month is “What Percentage Of Your 1RM To Use On Variations“. I know when I first got into powerlifting, a big question I had was how to use my competition squat, bench, and deadlift 1RM/training max to then calculate something like a tempo squat or 3 second pause bench press. And from my research, outside of a couple tidbits here and there in forum posts, nothing like that existed. So from my coaching experience I put together a list of all the squat, bench press, and deadlifts variations I have used, and where I generally find athlete’s strength on those movements. In my latest YouTube video, I dive deeper into this topic with how to actually program these variations. I briefly cover the general percentage of 1RM that these variations fall under, but more so I dive into how to actually calculate and program these variations within a percentage based or RPE based program. These will not be 100% universal, and there are going to be outliers from what I recommend. But this will hopefully give most people a great starting point rather than just completely guessing, as well as the ability to program these appropriately within their training program. Click the link above to view!
Benefits Of The Safety Bar Squat That Are Overlooked
I am a big fan of the Safety Squat Bar, and I actually wrote a whole article on its 4 primary benefits over on @powerliftingtechinque. These primary benefits included allowing shoulder mobility to be a non-factor, naturally creating a more neutral pelvic orientation, having a self limiting affect, and it can be used to address certain movement/muscle weaknesses in the squat. But I wanted to cover a bit more of the lesser known benefits of the SSB, much like I did with pause squats in a post last December. There are some very specific things with the SSB that provides high benefits that most other squat variants just cannot replicate.
1.) For those proficient with the SSB, one of the things most people come to realize is how much less they have to cue certain patterns in their squat. The SSB tends to naturally create a more neutral pelvic position, it creates a forward weight bias that results in a natural forward torso lean as you descend, and it greatly simplifies your setup and bracing. There is no need for a complex setup and bracing routine, as outside of inhaling to create intra-abdominal pressure, it kind of just takes care of the rest. So when an athlete gets proficient with an SSB, they get to go on auto-pilot a bit more. Less overthinking and more squatting. For me in particular, when I use a SSB really the only thing I am thinking about is foot pressure. I find my mid-foot, I find medial pressure side to side, and I descend into that almost like the floor is a leg press platform. That “leg press” platform is lowering towards me as I descend, and then at the bottom I push it away through my feet. What the rest of my body does tends to take care of itself, so now I can worry more about that direct connection to the floor and really simplify my squat pattern.
2.) 9 times out of 10 hip flexor pain is related to anterior pelvic orientation creating less room for femoral range of motion within the hip, creating this “pinching” in the front of the hip and causing hip flexor pain. And 9 times out of 10 the way to fix this is to improve pelvic orientation, which is easier said than done. A very common tool I use in these instances when hip flexor pain flare ups occur is increasing SSB frequency. Now if an athlete is struggling with pelvic orientation on a low bar squat, we need to fix that. But if the pain is bad enough that they can’t low bar squat, we will SSB instead, as the SSB naturally tends to create a more neutral pelvic orientation as I have mentioned. But probably more common than just completely taking out low bar squats, is that I will leave low bar squat in the program on a secondary or tertiary day. This allows technique to be continued to be worked on, while we use the SSB to drive intensity and volume on other days. I have found time and time again that this allows that hip flexor pain to decrease due to the improved positioning the SSB creates, yet never once did we have to lower volume or relative intensity to achieve that.
3.) If you watched my video on YouTube “Understanding Hip Shift In The Squat”, you will understand that sometimes what the lower body does is a compensatory action to positioning errors with the shoulders. If we lack shoulder mobility on one specific side, this could create a chain reaction downwards, resulting in a hip shift. Well how can we know for sure with someone that shoulder mobility is the cause? Have them squat with a Safety Bar. This takes shoulder mobility out of the equation and allows us to see instead what the lower body does without the tug and pull of the shoulders/upper body. If we see a noticeable improvement with the hip shift, we can have a higher degree of confidence the shift on a low bar squat stems from asymmetrical shoulder mobility. And if this hip shift is correlating to any type of pain, then much like point number 2, we can continue to push intensity and volume on SSB while working on low bar technique during a secondary or tertiary day.
Other than maybe back rounding in the deadlift, I don’t think there is anything else that triggers the form and injury police on social media more than knee cave/valgus. Go to @kingofthelifts and any post with just the slightest touch of knee cave will be followed by 17 people who probably don’t lift themselves having to point out how that lifter is going to tear their ACL. In my latest YouTube video, I take a deeper look into knee valgus to give a better understanding of why it occurs and from my experience, how it seems to have little correlation with injury. I work on debunking the myth of weak glutes being the primary cause, and instead give 6 potential reasons (including weak glutes, because that is a potential cause, albeit unlikely) you are experiencing knee valgus in your squat. I’ll give a hint….much of the time it is just the adductors doing their job and is just normal deviation from the norm. But with that, sometimes knee valgus can cause potential roadblocks in regards to top end strength output, so to optimize technique I look at what the potential causes are so we have an understanding of where the breakdown is occurring and what we can improve. From there, I show real life examples of 6 of my lifters that each experience 1 of the potential causes, so that you can see exactly what I am discussing throughout the video. Click the link above to view!
Within powerlifting programming, there are pretty strong opinions both ways in regards to the need to program deload weeks. Some say it is a waste of a week where you could be training hard, while others program deloads on a structured and/or reactive basis. I am in the camp of having regularly scheduled and/or reactive deload weeks. From experience, I see a lifter’s longevity increase from deload weeks not only due to physiological reasons, but maybe even more so due to the mental and psychological benefits it provides. In my latest Youtube video I cover the 6 reasons, physiological and psychological, of why I program deload weeks. I detail how to determine the frequency of deloads needed on an individual lifter basis. I break out Google Sheets once again to give a conceptual template of how to program deload weeks, including me screen recording myself programming a deload week as an example. I explain how to individualize the extent of the deload not only to a particular lifter, but to each one of their lifts separately. And lastly, I take a look into how deload weeks can be one of the best tools for determining how to taper and peak into a meet. Click the link above to view!
Shoulder retraction is a fairly well known topic, but I think misguided in its application within powerlifting and the bench press. In my latest Youtube video, I dive fully into this topic and how we should have active retraction and protraction throughout our bench press range of motion. Pinching your shoulder blades back as hard as you can from the get go and holding them there throughout the press has for some reason become this supposed magic trick for shoulder health and decreasing range of motion, but both are fallacies. While there are a lot of factors of why we need a moving shoulder blade, one of the biggest that most do not know is from the relation of the long head of the tricep to the scapula. I break down how this relation affects our bench press movement, I look at how to keep ourselves accountable during our initial setup to make sure we do not over-retract, I describe the two main cues I use to promote active retraction through the eccentric phase, and then the main cue I use to promote protraction through the concentric phase. And lastly, per my title above, I give you the answer for why you can’t lock your elbows. Especially the often seen 1 elbow that just stays “soft” no matter what you do, and how you can fix that to not only get the start command, but also hopefully prevent or fix some nagging pec minor issues. Click the link above to view!