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Breathing/Bracing On The Bench Press For A Better Arch

Breathing/Bracing On The Bench Press For A Better Arch

A big misconception on bench press is that you breath and brace in the same manner as you do on the squat and deadlift. But especially with those trying to create a higher arch, trying to breath and brace in the same manner on bench press is going to be of detriment. Above you can see with Abbee’s (CLICK HERE, slo motion in the 2nd video) before and after, we implemented changes with her breathing and bracing patterns on bench. If we try to replicate the bracing patterns of our squat, what is going to happen is this “belly expansion” as you can see in the top video. This belly expansion raises her belly button to be the top point of Abbee’s arch, and in the process depresses her ribcage down. You might look at this and say she has a big arch, but that arch is in all the wrong places. We want the touch point of our bench press to be the highest point of our arch, which is usually the bottom of the chest/sternum, not our belly button. So to do this, I cued Abbee to be intentional as she inhaled to “expand her ribcage”. On the squat and deadlift that may create unwanted extension, but that is because those are different movements. On the bench press we are wanting that extension to elevate that ribcage to its highest position, as well as blowing up that ribcage to create a “barrel chest”. People frequently talk about how if you want a big bench, get a big barrel chest. And while in that reference they are alluding to the hypertrophy of the chest, we can create this same concept with our breathing. So while “chest breathing” is a big no-no on the squat and deadlift, it is the go to for our bench press. And as you can see on the bottom video of Abbee, as she breathes and braces that ribcage expands and elevates to cause that touch point to be the highest point of her arch.

So the one drawback to expanding the ribcage through breathing is the possible elevation of the shoulders. If you watched my video on bracing in the squat and deadlift, I gave a particular cue on how to prevent this elevation. On the bench press it is the same concept but just through a different means. With our leg drive, we should be creating a horizontal force that is sliding us back onto the bench to “roll up onto our traps”. This leg drive helps to create the initial ribcage elevation, which then is maximized ever further by inhaling to “expand the ribcage”. This leg drive and elevation naturally creates retraction and depression of the shoulders, and in sense traps them underneath us as we maintain that horizontal leg drive. So the key on bench press is that we must achieve this leg drive and elevation before breathing and bracing. Leg drive and ribcage elevation needs to proceed that inhalation so that this trapping of the shoulders prevents them from elevating as we breath and brace. When done correctly, we can still expand the ribcage and create this “barrel chest” while maintaining shoulder retraction and depression throughout.

Volume vs. Intensity for Novice/Intermediate/Advanced Lifters


Volume vs. Intensity for Novice/Intermediate/Advanced Lifters – CLICK HERE

As we progress in our training age, our programming must progress as well. While there are many variables that we can manipulate within our programs, volume and intensity remain the two staples for how we create the overload stimulus to produce strength. In my latest YouTube video, I dive into a theoretical discussion of my thought process in regards to the manipulation of volume and intensity, and specifically how that relates to the progression of novice to intermediate to advanced lifters. This is meant to be a general breakdown of how I relate the manipulation of these variables into the structuring of programs for lifters. As well as my anecdotal thoughts on what I see between the different spectrums of lifters around the country and what type of training they are responding to. If you can make it through my 24 minutes of rambling, hopefully you’ll come away with a better understanding of how to use these two variables to optimize your training based on your current training age and needs. Click the link above you watch!

Squat Cue: Let The “Chest Lean”

Squat Cue: Let The “Chest Lean”

If you are an athlete I coach, there probably isn’t a cue you have heard more from me lately than let the “chest lean”. A very common error in many lifters is a disconnect between their chest/ribcage and the low back/pelvis. As can be seen above with Matt (CLICK HERE), his ribcage and pelvis act separate of each other. Much like the knees and hips struggle at times to act cohesively in their movement during the squat, the same happens with the ribcage and pelvis. While his hips and lower back wanted to hinge, his chest wanted to stay straight forward and upright. People often get stuck in this pattern due to a feeling of needing to stay upright, but in the end the result is the actually the opposite. Most of the time what happens is a compensation at the bottom once hip flexion has maxed out. The chest falls to match the lower back angle, then resulting in a chest fall pattern coming up. Matt is an anomaly in that he is able to fight against this pattern happening, but Matt is also a world class squatter who developed extreme strength in this position. But, this didn’t mean for Matt this was okay to let happen. The position on the left continually resulted in instability, with his right leg internally rotating and his hips shifting to the left at maximal weights.

So to fix this we first adjusted Matt’s bracing patterns, as I discussed in my squat setup video on YouTube (If you have not already watched that, I highly recommend doing so to make full sense of what I will discuss next). From there the two main cues for Matt were to drive the knees forward and let the “chest lean”. His previous pattern came from leading with his hips to create the hip hinge. But if we are properly braced, leading with “chest lean” will allow the torso and pelvis to act as one unit moving together. Unless you have the world’s shortest femurs, your torso isn’t staying upright, so there is not going to be a scenario where you can maintain position without that chest having to lean in some manner. I’ll get hesitancy from athletes with this at times as people feel like if they allow their chest to lean, their upper back is going to collapse forward. But what they come to find is their upper back actually feels more stable than ever when we are properly supporting that ribcage now from top to bottom. And notice Matt is a high bar squatter. Typically people have the misconception that on the high bar squat you should try to stay more upright, but watch any of the best high bar squatters in the world and you will see this “chest lean” pattern from the start. And with the low bar squat usually require more of a lean and hinge, “chest lean” is a required pattern in some manner within any squat variation. Lastly, notate the head position change for Matt. Typically the head and ribcage like to stay together, just like the lower back and pelvis tend to stay together. For Matt, we needed to slightly lower his head position to better help guide this “chest lean”. As I’ve said many times before, where the head goes the body follows. So if we want our chest to lean, the head is a large contributor in helping to guide the intended position.

How To Learn From Your Coach

How To Learn From Your Coach

I have been coached by Brad Couillard since October of 2018. As a coach myself, I hired Brad not only to help accomplish my own lifting goals, but as a primary way for me to continue to learn myself. I’d argue there is no better way to learn about powerlifting than to have a knowledgeable coach. And with that, I wanted to discuss what I have learned from Brad and how I’ve applied it. Too often people just regurgitate what their coach says, rather than learning, understanding, and applying it within their own system. There have been things I’ve learned from Brad that maybe I didn’t even try to apply until 6-9 months later, after extensive research myself and gaining a better understanding so I could teach, rather than regurgitate. While I could probably list a couple dozen things I have learned, the 4 points below are the key topics that I look back on and can see the transformation I’ve had as a coach over the past 2 years due to Brad’s guidance.

1.) Something I used to do was structure off-season training blocks having the majority of the exercise selection with technique in mind. For some reason I started to get away from that though. I started programming with more competition specificity and not allowing enough time periods of lower absolute intensity training by using self limiting variations that promoted technique improvement. For anyone who has been coached by Brad, he loves tempo work. Like tempo on every exercise of the entire week, and 5 second tempos for reps. He wants to slow down everything to hammer positions and engrain those patterns. And while I find high benefit in tempo work, I think what I found within my system is that I had a strong preference for pause work. Pause squats, pause deadlifts, long pause bench, and so on. In particular Pause squats became a major staple in most of my programs, as they seemed to engrain the squat pattern and cueing I’d teach more than anything else. I started to go back to being more intentional with off-season training blocks and taking long periods of time to focus on these variations to master positions, as I saw the benefit and the long term success in my own training from these types of blocks that Brad would program for myself and his other athletes.

2.) One of the main reasons I hired Brad originally was because of his knowledge of PRI (And maybe slightly because I thought I would eventually look like Charlie Dickson if Brad coached me too!). But what I learned more so once I started being coach by him is more than just the knowledge, but the specific application of PRI within powerlifting. PRI has been a hot fad recently and you see a lot of people doing these crazy things with probably not much understanding or intention of what they are doing. This is for sure one of the things I spent a vast amount of time studying on my own before ever trying to apply it myself. And while some of the warm-ups and movement prep exercises you see can be great, more so what I learned was the understanding the body and its mechanics within movements through a PRI lens. The way I look at the squat, bench press, and deadlift as movements is completely different than 2 years ago. When I worked in Fitness Management for Gold’s Gym, I used to tell my employees that if you can’t look back 1 year and think to yourself, “Wow, I really didn’t know what I was doing” then you didn’t learn enough in the past year. I can for sure look back 2 years and be dumbfounded how I could even teach the squat, bench press, and deadlift without the knowledge I now have. That doesn’t mean I was a bad coach 2 years ago, but it does mean Brad has helped me spark an understanding of these movements that goes way beyond what I used to know.

3.) About 3-4 months into working with Brad I sent him a long video one day about how I came to realize I wasn’t really that motivated to push like I used to, which I’ll explain what that means later. We had spent a good deal of time working through my current injuries and improving patterns within my movement, and started to finally push a bit more. At that point came the increased soreness and fatigue. While that necessarily wasn’t a bad thing, its just powerlifting, from my context I had just spent 3 years not being able to squat, bench, and deadlift. I realized at this point I didn’t care as much about making progress as much as I did about just being able to train and feel good doing it every day, not just some days. I am telling you as a coach, if you want to be a high level powerlifter, there is no such thing as feeling good all the time. I knew that, but I also knew my goals had shifted. If I never added another pound to my total, but I felt good day in and day out, I would be content with that (but I will still take progress, but that was now a lower priority). That probably isn’t what most coaches want to hear from their athletes, in that they don’t want to push anymore. Brad had a unique understanding of what I was going through though, as he had gone through the same thing himself with injuries, and without any hesitation he immediately adjusted our focus and training to match my goals. This gave me an even better understanding as a coach of adapting to my athletes goals and taking their feedback to heart. It is not like I didn’t do that before, but I think seeing Brad’s willingness to listen and adapt opened my eyes to being more understanding of everyone’s individual needs and tailoring a program not only to help them progress, but to maximize their enjoyment and be centered around their goals, not mine.

4.) I have done some form of RPE training dating back to 2014, but probably for the 2-3 years prior to working with Brad I had been biased a bit more towards percentage based training in how I programmed. In hindsight, that is most likely because at the time I found I preferred percentage based training for myself, as I loved having a number that I had to hit in a workout. I also had the time had a fairly narrow focused of how to apply RPE training, and that limited my application. In working with Brad, I think he naturally started to gravitate toward RPE training for me due to my injury history and some ups and downs we saw in training. To allow for auto-regulation, RPE based training made more sense for me than strict numbers. I as an athlete grew a lot from this, as I started more and more to understand how to do the best I could each day rather than forcing pre-conceived ideas of what I thought I should do. That is exactly why I spent 3 years being injured, because as soon as I felt good I’d start trying to do the same weights I had hit previously. But now as a more experienced lifter, I understood that I can only control each days performance and what I did 1 year ago or what I will do 1 year form now has no bearing on what I should do today. This led to me having a much better understanding of RPE training, how to implement it, and allowed me to find ways to be fairly creative within people’s programs to best utilize auto-regulation as a tool for each individual. I have people I have coached for years that we had tried RPE training prior with the little success. But now that I had a much better understanding of how to be creative in applying this training tool to suit an individuals needs, I found these same people thriving on RPE based training. My issue before is I was using RPE without much context behind it. And rather now I think about how and why RPE specifically could benefit an athlete and how we could best utilize it.

Comprehensive Guide To Foot Rooting In The Squat

Comprehensive Guide To Foot Rooting In The Squat – CLICK HERE

What is foot rooting in the squat? While that question seems fairly basic and straight forward, I can tell you their is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what foot rooting is. Ask 10 different people and you will probably get 10 different answers of what cue they use, but few probably could actually break down the anatomy and mechanics behind foot pressure and strength. In my latest YouTube video, I give a comprehensive breakdown of what is foot rooting, what is our mid-foot, how we create tension within the foot, how we find our mid-foot, how we maintain foot control, and skill practice drills to improve strength and context with our foot position. Click the link above to view!