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Brace After The Start Command

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.

Low Bar Grip Width Could Be Causing Your Hip Shift

Low Bar Grip Width Could Be Causing Your Hip Shift

Ankle mobility, pelvic position, bracing and oblique control are usually the common culprits for a hip shift, but lately I’ve had a couple scenarios where the shift actually was stemming from the upper body. I’ve known Joey for a while and just recently started coaching him, and one of the first things I wanted to address was a long standing issue of having the bar crooked on his back. I also wanted to test if this was leading to the hip shift that was present, or if that shift was developed due to an injury he had sustained a couple months prior. The simple test was to have him squat a similar load on a safety bar, which takes the element of shoulder mobility out of the picture and places the bar perfectly centered on his back. You can see if you scroll to the second video (CLICK HERE) that the shift is much less pronounced and probably after some intentional practice would be non-existent. Fortunately the first attempt at a possible fix worked, which was to slightly widen his grip on low bar squats. He also tend to flare his elbows fairly high, so between that and the asymmetric bar placement on his back that seemed to be a good starting point. Almost immediately we saw the impact and just weeks later you can see in the first video (CLICK HERE) how there is little to no shift present. Joey also worked on shoulder mobility, as we don’t want to neglect the fact that he seems to be lacking in external rotation on that left side. Joey is actually in school working on his DC and as an added bonus I had him put together a video of the specific shoulder mobility exercise he’s really finding benefit with in the 3rd video! And just to notate, the lacrosse ball in the video is use to produce an irradiation effect, as you’ll squeeze the lacrosse ball with a moderate grip throughout.

I think this issue occurs primarily due to the fact that lifter’s tend to want to go as narrow as possible to create a false sense of tightness, and partially as well due to being misinformed by old lore that the narrower the grip the better. And that isn’t to say a narrow grip is bad, it very well may be optimal for a lifter, but it shouldn’t be a band-aid for upper back tightness. If you can do a lat pulldown with a wider grip and still create retraction and depression of the shoulders, you can do that with your low bar position as well. Abbee has been struggling a bit with finding her optimal grip and tightness, so the other day I had her perform an iso-metric lat pulldown hold prior to setting up on low bar during her warmups. I told her to translate that same feeling to her low bar setup. Find the grip width that allowed her to recreate that same upper back and lat tightness to create a shelf to stabilize the bar, so that her arms weren’t stabilizing it instead. She has been struggling with biceps tendinitis from stabilizing the bar too much with her arms, so we will see in the coming weeks how this translates in keeping that at bay and creating a more solid shelf with her upper back!

Why You Should Program High Bar Pause Squats

Why You Should Program High Bar Pause Squats

In another installment of variations I like, today I want to discuss High Bar Pause Squats, specifically in the scenario of programming for low bar squatters. The key here is the added pause, and I will get to why in a bit, but first let me discuss the why’s of high bar squats in general, as we have a couple main benefits for low bar squatters.

1.) If there was a primary reason I tend program a squat variations such as high bar or safety bar, it’s to get out of constantly being in a low bar position. For many, high frequency and volumes of low bar squatting are inevitably going to lead to some type of shoulder, bicep, or forearm discomfort, so being able to have a break from that position while still training a similar pattern can make things more tolerable long term.

2.) High bar tends to be more leg dominant and less strain on the lower back. Due to this we can have a bit more focus on training the quads while not taxing our lower back over and over with low bar squats and deadlifts. Most people do not have weak posterior chains in the squat, contrary to what many preach. Rather its the quads and adductors, so high bar can act as a slightly more direct way to train them.

3.) High bar squats can be a great way to train upper back strength. Due to the longer moment arm there is increased demands on the upper back, which is why many times at maximal loads you’ll see people fold over at the chest during high bar squats. This can also reinforce back position and thoracic tightness during the squat as the lifter has to fight against this tendency to fold over.

4.) This variation can be use to help re-pattern someone’s squat who tends to be too hip dominant. Due to the longer moment arm, trying to be hip dominant during a high bar squat will immediately punish the lifter, so instead it encourages forward knee travel.

To piggy back off this last point though, high bar squats can also re-pattern someone’s squat in a negative way if performed incorrectly or at the wrong times. In particular what I find is that if a lifter starts to get a bit lazy during high bar squats, the naturally tendency is to start becoming too knee flexion dominant and biasing foot pressure towards the toes. Rather than fight the increased upper back tension, they just remain upright and squat too much with the knees. This is where high bar pause squats comes in. Due to the pause, this forward bias is punished, and lifters tend to remain over their mid-foot and with the right hip to knee flexion ratio when this pause is added in. When I programmed just high bar squats, I found frequently I needed to sub them out before this re-patterning could possibly happen, but with high bar pause squats lifters tend to be able to benefit from them for a longer period of time without negative consequences to their low bar squat pattern. Add the benefits listed above for high bar squats and now add in the pause for more consistent reps, and we have a great variation to be able to supplement the low bar. With that all being said though, I currently only have 5 of my 23 low bar squatting athletes performing high bar pause squats, so it is not a one size fits all approach, but rather a possible solution for those who may have struggled with finding benefit from high bar squats in the past!

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