Simple Hip Shift Fix

Simple Hip Shift Fix

The reason for a hip shift can be fairly complex at times and could be attributed to a multitude of reasons, but a simple start to look at before all else is foot angle. As you can see (CLICK HERE), Payton in the left video is biased throughout the move to his right side. And if you look at his feet, it’s very slight, but you’ll notice that left foot is angled out just a bit more than the right. Typically what you’ll see if one foot is angled out more than it should be, is the lifter will bias and shift towards the opposite foot. On the right video, you can see the feet adjusted (left foot angle came in) and now Payton’s squat is more neutral. Like I said, simple fix.

It is not always this simple, but as mentioned this a good place to start as it is easy to notate foot angle and easy to implement the changes. To dive more into what I see though, also notice how throughout the entire movement Payton is biased towards the right. That is another sign to me that foot angle could be a resolution. It is not some sudden shift as he comes up out of the whole, but rather a shift where he continually is offset throughout the movement. But what we need to be careful of is that our proper foot angle side to side is dictated by what we can’t see, and that is our hip anatomy. We can’t physically see the anteversion or retroversion of each hip, so it’s always hard to determine if asymmetry in foot angle is actually an issue, or if it’s just our natural stance. Since this is an easy thing to experiment with though, it is something I typically do and have lifter’s make slight adjustments and notate the outcomes. In Payton’s case he slightly moved in the angle of his left foot and it worked. Or he could have slightly moved out the angle of his right foot and we may have seen the same resolution. I have actually had a lifter who’s foot angle was symmetrical and a shift was present, but when we angled out the foot of the side she shifted to, the shift reduced. I give credit to Dean Somerset for this as it was one of his articles on hip shift that pointed this out to me. If you’d like to give that a read, CLICK HERE.

How To Rate RPE

How To Rate RPE

Using RPE to help auto-regulate training has become a very popular trend within powerlifting, and for good reason. It can be highly beneficial in allowing a lifter to progress in an appropriate manner based on strength gain, or the opposite, allow a lifter to down-regulate their training when strength just isn’t there on the day. But it is also very misunderstood, and many people fear the thought of RPE as it puts a sense of responsibility on the lifter to accurately determine the appropriate loading for the day. So to help calm these fears, I thought I’d put together a checklist for different ways to choose the appropriate load, how to accurately rate RPE as best as possible, and how to best use auto-regulation to your advantage.

1.) First and foremost, understand RPE is a subjective rating that is a range. The fear of RPE comes a lot from lifter’s thinking they need to be perfectly accurate. But when I program @ 7 RPE for a lifter, I like to think of that as more of a guiding range. Really anything with 6.5-7.5 is very acceptable, and anything within 6-8 RPE is still within the general training stimulus we are looking for on the day. Now as you get experienced, the goal is to become more accurate, but if you are just starting to utilize RPE don’t fear these small deviations. Instead, use RPE as a guiding range to help develop your ability to subjectively rate how many reps you have left in the tank.

2.) To piggy back off point #1, a good practice for lifter’s who are just starting to utilize RPE is to also prescribe a range of weight to use. So if I program a single @ 7 RPE for a lifter with squat max of 500lbs., the objective load based off coinciding %’s would be 445lbs. But to allow for a range of 6.5-7.5 RPE, we could give the option of a weight within 435lbs. to 455lbs. based on how they feel that day. You just have to be careful to not use this crutch for too long. As you become more experienced learn to make those judgement calls rather than having these guidelines of weights.

3.) Your biggest tool for gauging your top set RPE for the day is your warm-ups. Typically all of us have a habitual last warmup we take before our top set or working sets, and for the purpose of this article let’s say that is 405lbs. Every squat session you hit 405lbs. and you know exactly what it feels like on a good day versus a bad day. Take that knowledge and then make your best educated guess on what weight to choose for the RPE top set. And let’s put an emphasis on educated guess, as that is what it is. It not some solidified guaranteed number that will always be perfectly accurate. It will instead be your best subjective estimate of what you can do for that day. Let’s say last week you hit a top single of 445lbs. @ 7 RPE, but this week 405lbs. moved better than last week. You have another top single @ 7 RPE this week, so based off of that information you can make an educated guess that you could add 5-10lbs. over last week’s single. Or maybe 405lbs. didn’t move that great, or maybe just moved about the same as it did last week. Then maybe a range of somewhere around 435-445lbs. will be best. Too often people only see RPE as a means to regulate up, but also understand it’s a way to regulate down. Your 1RM fluctuates daily, and that’s not a negative, that is just lifting. So use RPE to adjust accordingly and you’ll see the best results from it.

4.) So now you have chosen a weight and hit your top set, how do you rate it? I am going off of the assumption that if you are reading this, you understand that RPE coincides with reps left in the tank. If not, CLICK HERE and read up on that first. Understand this is a subjective rating you are giving based on how many reps you feel you could have done. Typically the best course of action is to make your best educated guess, and then use video to confirm or change that opinion. If you rated it a 7, and then watched the video and confirmed it was a 7 RPE, congrats! But let’s say it moved slower or faster than you thought. Do not just rely on video and put confidence in your subjective rating too, as the mental approach dictates a lot of what we are capable of. Typically if internally I rated it a 7, but on video it looked like a 6, I’ll then call it a 6.5. Or the opposite, on video it look like an 8 but I know I had the strength for more than 2 more reps, we can adjust the rating to 7.5. Use video to make small incremental changes or to confirm what you already know.

5.) This is going to be a general guideline, as someone’s velocity on the squat, bench, and deadlift is very individual. But for the most part, a 6 RPE looks just like every other rep you did prior, which is why it is hard to rate. Basically if it moved really fast and could be anywhere between a 4-6 RPE, they look too similar. This is where you have to really rely on your own internal judgement rather than video. Starting at 7 RPE though, we typically can see our first initial slowing of the bar. It’s very minor, but it is present. At 8 RPE there is an obvious difference, and maybe at this point we can see where a very slight sticking point is present. And at 9 RPE, there is a very obvious slowing of bar speed and an evident sticking point. While this is going to be different for everyone, I find this as good general guideline to use when taking your subjective rating and then using video to confirm or deny that based off of bar speed.

6.) Within a new training block, I usually tell my athletes who are programmed with some type of RPE training to be conservative on Week 1. Many times we are starting a new variation, new rep range, or a new accessory movement, so it is best to slightly undershoot to get a gauge of your strength rather than to be too aggressive. This then gives a good baseline to build off for the following weeks and to use the above points to make the best estimated guess for the correct weight and rate the RPE as accurately as possible. For accessory movements in particular, powerlifter’s as a whole tend to sandbag the progression of these more so than they would the competition movements. Let’s say we have Dumbbell Bench Press programmed at 3×8 @ 8 RPE, and Week 1 we use 100lbs. Barring you have some specific feedback during warm ups Week 2 that indicates you shouldn’t try to progress the weight, add 5lbs. Worst case is you slightly overshoot the RPE and then for sets 2 and 3 you can drop down to 100lbs. But that in its own right is progression. You don’t have to do 3×8 with 105lbs. to progress, but rather 1×8 @ 105lbs. and then 2×8 @ 100lbs. is a progression over Week 1. Remember RPE is a guiding range, and this is even more true when it comes to accessory movements. This doesn’t mean continually overshoot your RPEs, but takes those risks on your accessories at times. There is less risk to overshooting an accessory movement than a competition squat, bench press, or deadlift. So as a coach I’d rather see my athlete pushing progression on accessories and overshooting occasionally rather than sandbagging consistently.

7.) Which ties right into my next point, and that is overshooting is not always a bad thing. Now if your ego isn’t being checked at the door and you consistently are overshooting every week, that is an issue. But an occasional overshoot just means you have the right mentally to progress and take risks when you think the strength is there. Powerlifting requires progressive overload for strength gain, and progressive overload means you need to be adding more weight to the bar over time. A big reason people fear RPE is because they fear overshooting. I can tell you those are the people that maybe should be overshooting at times, as their mentality is to fear doing too much weight. As mentioned, let RPE be a guide and range, not an objective number you have to always perfectly rate.

8.) Lastly, let’s say you take that risk and you really overshoot that top set and that top set then regulates what your back off sets are. What I have my athlete’s do is notate the weight they did to the side, but then enter in the weight they probably should have done into the program to calculate the weight for the back-off sets. This is an easy adjustment and takes away much of the negative issues that come from overshooting. Now just 1 set was affected rather than the whole workout. Or the opposite, let’s say you greatly undershoot. Most likely in this scenario if it was a pretty big undershoot, lets say 1.5 RPE or more away from the programmed set, increase the weight and take another set. But remember RPE is a range, so if you were programmed an 8 RPE single and it was a 7, that’s within a reasonable range. And you have to take into account that RPE 7 single fatigued you in some manner, so the weight you could have done prior at an 8 RPE maybe now be an 8.5.

Benefits Of Pause Squats That Are Overlooked

Benefits Of Pause Squats That Are Overlooked

Probably everyone reading this right now has done a pause squat at some point. And most likely you are understanding of the typical benefits of pause squats which can include improving bracing and control in the bottom position, improving depth, self limiting the competition squat, or acceleration during the initiation of the concentric. While all these are true, I believe that are some other overlooked benefits that many people do not realize. In my opinion, pause squats may be the king of squat variations. Almost everyone can benefit from them in some way and they have very little cons but many pros. In particular, I find they can reduce the negative impact of a mis-grooved rebound, they can help with foot and ankle strengthening, and are easier on the knees. Let’s dive into each one of these points further.

1.) I consider rebounding out of the bottom of the squat a technique. The better we can control that position and maintain tightness, the more we can be consistent with that technique. But the more we rely on a fast eccentric and large rebound affect, the more we put ourselves in danger of mis-grooving. This used to be me. I used to rely so much on that rebound that if I got out of position just slightly, my strength would drop 10% or more. I had to hit that rebound perfect or it was a night and day difference. I find pause squats as a way to reduce this issue though. And not because it helps with creating control and stability at the bottom, but because it increases our ability to squat out of an isometric position rather than a quick eccentric to concentric rebound. My athlete’s who have strong pause squats in relation to their competition squat 1RM have less of a distinct strength drop off when they slightly misgroove the rebound. They are able to recover easier from this because they can squat almost the same from an isometric hold at the bottom. So when they find themselves just slightly out of position they can quickly recover and still accelerate out of the bottom without a large rebound effect.

2.) A fairly common technique for improving ankle mobility is taking one of your lighter warm-ups and just holding that bottom position to stretch into deep ankle dorsiflexion. While I don’t prepose intentionally doing this with heavy pause squats, at the same time you are involuntarily getting this effect. This is especially true when we perform legitimate pause squats, not the ones that look like you are rolling through a stop sign, but rather strong isometric pauses at the bottom. And we can further this on technique or tertiary squat days with long pause work of 3 second holds at the bottom. I typically would program something like this for the reasoning of improving bracing and control in the bottom, specifically thinking of the core and hips, but the inadvertent benefit is it also can help to strengthen the foot and ankle. We have to hold a solid arch and ankle position while pausing, and this helps to create improved strength and control at the most flexed position of our squat.

3.) This final reason will have opposition, but I believe from experience and analytical breakdown that pause squats are easier on the knees. Find anyone with chronic patellar tendonitis, and I would put money on there is a direct correlation to high competition squat specificity and frequency, ex: “The DUP” from 2014-15. Now I am not saying everyone that does high specificity squatting will have knee issues, just that there is a correlation. The more we rely on a hard rebound in the squat, the higher the compressive forces are on our knees. I don’t have exact numbers for these, but the greater the elastic rebound effect, the more force those tissues have to absorb to decelerate and reverse the direction of your movement. When we pause, those forces decrease. If throughout our training year we can decrease force on the knee while still doing a variation that can have a direct strength impact on our competition squat, there is reason to believe we can sustain higher intensities and training volumes doing so. Injuries are caused by the overloading of a tissue past its tolerable limit. If we can reduce that overload on the knee joint through variations like pauses, analytically I can come to the conclusion that it may be easier on our knees in the long term when used at the appropriate times within our training.

How To Determine Your Optimal Squat Stance

How To Determine Your Optimal Squat Stance

Stance width is very individual, as our leg vs. torso lengths and hip anatomy all will determine what is going to be most optimal for each lifter. A lifter needs to find a stance that they can consistently hit depth based on their hip mobility, is pain free, creates the most efficient force production, and suits their individual leverages and mechanics. But there are a couple general rules that hold true, with the main being that we want our stance width to be a happy medium between our internal/external rotators. When this is achieved we should find that our knees track directly with our feet, we are able to maintain optimal foot pressure and position, and during the eccentric and concentric portion of the squat we do not see a bias in tracking inside or outside of this position (see the 4th video, (CLICK HERE), for a good example of what this should look like). The old school setup and cue though was to have a wide stance and drive the knees out as far as you can, and while that may have application within equipped lifting, there is downfalls in the application to raw athletes.

Both our internal and external rotators have a role in hip extension, and when we over-rely on one or the other we see an overcompensation to return to that happy medium. For instance we see Payton (CLICK HERE) in a wide stance with his knees driving far out versus a narrower stance. When he is overly wide and driving his knees out, his adductors are lengthening and being put in a less advantageous position to play their role in hip extension out of the hole. So what happens? As soon as he initiates the ascent we can see his femurs internally rotate so that the adductors in short can do their job. This isn’t a case of knee valgus, its a case of overly biasing towards hip abduction, and then having to compensate with the adductors when they are needed to be the primary mover of hip extension.

So how do we find this happy medium? For the most part it is a bit of experimentation, but looking at Payton’s video (CLICK HERE), the position his knees internally rotate to gives us a good idea of exactly where they need to be. If you scroll over to the second picture, you’ll see a breakdown of where he knees stacked vertically over, and then the outcome of that once he narrowed his stance to that position. Now even with the narrower stance he has some slight internal rotation of the left leg, but thats where it gets tricky and the issue actually lies more within his feet, which is another topic altogether. But the main thing you can see is now instead of both femurs internally rotating equally together, the right knee stays directly stacked over the foot and for the most part the left does as well. The sign that the wide stance was not optimal was that both legs internally rotated to the same degree. When we are seeing this, it’s typically telling us one of two things. Either our stance is too wide, or something is going on with our foot pressure that is creating internal rotation up the chain on both sides. We need to address both of these issues to see what is the cause, but if you find just simply bringing in your stance a bit changes that movement dramatically, this is probably your body telling you that anatomically your optimal stance should be narrower.

Scroll to the 3rd picture/video though (CLICK HERE) and we can see the opposite issue with Shane. He tends to bias towards a narrower stance and dramatically drives his knees out for two reasons. First, he needs room to be able to hit depth, so when he is too narrow he has to create room for depth my driving his knees out. The second reason is because he lacks the needed hip mobility/control and wants to greatly bias towards this narrow stance with high degrees of external rotation and abduction. Based on where his knees want to naturally track, you can see where his feet should be aligned, but he tends to find trouble with range of motion when he actually has his feet in that position. But he only has trouble finding that range of motion when he continues to bias back to a narrower stance. In the instances that he has been able to stick with the slightly wider stance, his body has adapted and started to feel more naturally comfortable in the position.

You might ask though if he just feels more comfortable narrow, why not continue letting him do what feels comfortable if it’s working? In his case, his squat is fine with that narrower stance, but his lower back is not. The extreme bias towards abduction tends to lead to extending the low back as well, which low back pain has been an on and off issue for Shane. If we can develop better adductor and pelvic control within his squat, we can reduce his over reliance of wanting to extend his lower back and anteriorly rotate his pelvis.

Wide Stance Squats To Improve Hip Mobility and Control

Wide Stance Squats To Improve Hip Mobility and Control

Brandi has been struggling with a shift in her squat for a long time, and we’ve tried a lot of different things that seemed to help at times, but never fixed the issue. Ankle mobility, foot pressure, bracing, tempo, pelvic position, and more, and nothing really seemed to be the true fix. Recently I thought more into how it might relate into the internal rotation of her femurs, and had her do a couple drills that kind of helped, but the fact is that it did not create any lasting affect. So fast forward to this block and I decided to implement the idea of wide stance tempo squats. I don’t think this is revolutionary to implement wide stance squat to fix knee valgus and a hip shift, but I think the reasoning of why I did it is much different than most. Many would prescribe wide stance squats to improve glute and the external rotators strength, similar to putting a band around your knees or doing lateral walks. I’ve covered this before, but I doubt most people truly have weak glutes or hip external rotators in their squat. Whereas with Brandi, I had her implement wide stance squats to create a loaded internal rotation stretch to hopefully transfer to more range of motion in her normal competition stance and greater control at higher degrees of IR. The wider a squat is, the more internal rotation of the femur that is needed, so loading this position was going to allow a more long standing affect than some simple drills or stretches during her warm-up. As can be seen (CLICK HERE), we have a video of 250lb. single from last training block versus a 245lb. pause squat single from this block, with a pretty dramatic difference in the level of shift. And if you scroll over to the 2nd video, you can see the week 1 wide stance squat versus week 4. Not only has she completely eliminated the shift on the wide stance, notice how inadvertently she has widened her stance even more, probably unbeknownst to her.

For how this was programmed, I implemented this on her tertiary day as it wasn’t about how much weight we can lift wide stance, as it was more about a loaded stretch and learning to control her position better at greater degrees internal rotation. Taking that we see the application back to her normal stance and greatly improved control of her femurs in that bottom position with basically the same weight, yet with a self limited variation that typically in the past would exacerbate the issue from going even higher on the relative intensity scale. Since then, I have implemented this on a couple other athlete’s tertiary squat days and all have come back stating how much more comfortable and controlled their primary stance then feels, so when it comes to needing to improve femur control and internal rotation, this has been added to my go to list as a great option for a fix.