In powerlifting we constantly talk about manipulating volume and intensity, the frequency of our lifts, and sets and rep ranges. But we rarely discuss how to optimize your weekly training split. There was a trend for a while that as long as the work got done, it didn’t matter when. I will be on the opposing side and disagree with that. How we structure our week greatly impacts fatigue management and the recovery between sessions. If we squat 3 days a week, how we systematically place those days within the weekly structure can have profound effects on how we recover between sessions and the performance standards we can predict day to day. In my latest YouTube video, I break down how to program your weekly training to structure your squat, bench, and deadlift sessions to optimize recovery and manage fatigue within a micro and mesocycle. I show the theoretical principles of how we induce fatigue and how we recover, and how switching around training days creates higher fatigue debt that compounds week to week. I show the optimal ways to structure training based on 2, 3, or 4 day lift frequency. And I discuss how lifts not only relate to each other within the weekly structure, but the possible crossover interference that lifts such as squat and deadlift have on each other. If you are looking to find consistency and predictability within your training, this is a must watch topic to create a system of training for you that can produce superior results. Click the link above to watch!
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Pause Squats and Deadlifts For Deceleration
Pause squats and pause deadlifts, two of my favorite variations. An issue though you see discussed around Instagram is about how often people really aren’t pausing. A 1 second pause turns into .5 seconds or maybe not even a pause at all. I am here to say something probably a bit surprising, but based on the intention of why the pause was programmed, to me that’s not as big of an issue as you’d think. Above we have examples, with Brandon hitting a very good 1 second pause versus Shane’s probably looking more like a tempo squat than a pause squat (CLICK HERE). And in the 2nd video we have Joey with a rushed pause deadlift, followed by a long pause where he gave a little call out to Abbee to show he could pause a deadlift! For both Shane and Joey I instructed them to pause longer, but that was to fulfill the desire to self limit rather than to induce the training effect I was looking for from a pause squat or deadlift. The training effect I was looking for was accomplished, even with the rushed pauses.
The more I program pause squats and pause deadlifts the more I realize the true intention behind their benefit to my system of programming is their ability to create patience and deceleration in parts of the movement where many lifters rush. While the length of the pause can create added needs for stability, reduced stretch reflex effect, and self limiting capabilities, I find the major benefit is how it affects the descent of the squat and the setup of the deadlift.
For squats, without cueing, lifters will naturally control their deceleration better when they know they are pausing, regardless of pause length. A fault of many lifters is trying to accelerate into the bottom position to get a greater rebound effect, and many times this just results in a breakdown of bracing, control, and position. Whereas when we know we are pausing, we decelerate with more control knowing that for a split second, there is nowhere to go. There is no rush to come back up because we first must come to a stop. Which is exactly the training effect I want. I want lifters to command control throughout the entirety of the movement, wherein often times that is lost at the bottom. For Shane, this particular rep turned into a tempo squat. And not because it was a tempo squat, but instead because he inadvertently controlled the descent more with the knowledge that he would need to decelerate at the bottom. On other reps he paused longer, but that didn’t mean this rep was a lost cause. I cued him to make sure to pause longer as the other intention I had of pause squats being programmed was to self limit. But the primary intention of the movement was still accomplished with the goal of controlled deceleration.
For pause deadlifts, it’s fairly common to find lifters who can almost pause deadlift their regular max, and consistently will say how if they don’t have pause deadlifts programmed their form starts to regress. This all comes back to what a knowledge of an incoming pause subconsciously does to the intention of your setup. If you know that as soon as that bar breaks the floor that you have to stop, you naturally will be in less of a rush to set up. Like clockwork, I see noticeable set up improvements when lifters perform pause deadlifts over their regular deadlift, especially with sumo pullers. On conventional deadlift you can get away with a rock and roll style jerk and explode deadlift, but with sumo you have to be very intentional. With Joey, he can basically pause deadlift his competition PR, and whenever we take out pause deadlifts we tend to see a regression in form. He starts to rush his setup, he isn’t as intentional about foot pressure, and he will lack the same tensioning with the bar. Notice none of that has anything to do with how long he pauses, just the fact that the knowledge of a pause creates a sense of patience. Unlike pause squats, I don’t typically program pause deadlifts to self limit, but rather as an accountability measure to force this patience during the setup. A common thing talked about with pause deadlifts is it helps with strength off the floor. And with what I covered we can understand why. It’s not that it truly increases strength, it’s that it improves our setup through this patience to allow for a stronger position to break the bar off the floor. For many of my lifters, I cue them to “pause deadlift their regular deadlift, but then just don’t pause”. I want them to have the same intention in thought that they don’t need to rush. While we need to get that bar moving, we don’t want to sacrifice position to do so, so the intention of pause creates the subconscious reaction not to rush.
In conclusion, I am not saying everyone should go start rushing their pauses, but I do think we should understand what the intended training effect truly is of these movements before rushing to judgement (this does not apply to bench, bench needs to be paused to a competition standard). In regards to creating more control through deceleration on the squat and patience on your deadlift set up, a shorter pause still accomplishes this training effect. Just don’t go bragging about your pause squat PR that wasn’t paused, that should be instead compared to your regular PR.
The bench press has multiple phases within the movement, and in my latest YouTube video I break down every aspect of each phase to create the optimal bench press technique.
During the setup, I show how we should grip the bar to create better force transfer from the forearm through the wrist to the bar. I look at how elevation creates depression, and how cueing excessive depression can be of detriment. And unlike how we brace on squat and deadlift, I cover how we inhale to expand the ribcage on the bench press to create a “barrel chest” position. There’s even more with the setup though, and that includes the importance of the obliques and how they control the ribcage and increase serratus activation. As well as why you actually can lock your elbows no matter how much you say you can’t, and how over-retracting is leading to your soft elbow position.
For the descent, I break down how the bottom outside of our palm is the “mid foot” of our bench press, and how to control the bar through the proper center of gravity. I bust the myth of “bending the bar” and how we should keep a stacked forearm position under the bar instead through cues such as “break at the elbows” and “drop the elbows to the floor”. As well as explain why we want to bias away from the anterior deltoid as much as possible.
As we come to the pause, I explain how to use leg drive to elevate the rib cage and chest to “stop the bar”, rather than pulling the bar down to you. Soft touch vs. a sink method pause is a debate between many powerlifters, and I detail why I prefer a soft touch bench press and how that will lead to more control and faster press commands come competition time. And lastly, I explain how 3 of my lifters have torn their pecs prior to working with me, and how all 3 of these linked back to the sink and heave method on bench press.
We finish with the press, and honestly that is fairly simple. If everything prior was correct and we loaded tension on the primary movers, the press is just an expression of that built up tension. But, what about “pressing the bar back”? Unfortunately I think your coach yelling back, back, back, back during your 3rd attempt at a meet probably isn’t doing much, and rather you should fix the setup, descent, and pause instead.
And lastly, I cover some universal quick tips for bench press training that I believe will benefit any lifter in improving their training for the better.
Needless to say, I packed a lot of info into this video and hope to make you all better bench pressers because of it! Click the link above to watch!
After finishing part 2 of the programming series, I realized after discussing those videos with a couple people that I couldn’t stop there, and that I was missing a very important topic. This topic is how lifter psychology plays into optimizing the program for an individual. You can have the greatest program ever on paper, but if it doesn’t play into a lifter’s psychological strengths and weaknesses, it can completely miss the boat. In my latest YouTube video, I break down the mental factors that can affect programming and how we can make adjustments to best suit a lifter’s needs. Lifter adrenaline/intensity, confidence, focus, motivation, stress, and habits all play into how a lifter executes what is written down. Take the same program and apply it to 4 lifters who greatly differ based on psychological traits, and you’ll see 4 different ways that program is interpreted and played out. Click the above to watch!
Drive the knees forward for some of you may sound obvious, but the “sit back and drive the knees out” cue is still widely used today, and by many coaches universally with their athletes. In my latest Youtube video, I break down the issues with the “sit back and drive the knees out” cue, why it does not have the same carry over to raw lifting, and what the majority of lifters should most likely be doing instead. I take a look at what is actually happening bio-mechanically in the squat and what muscles are the prime movers during different phases of the concentric. I break down why sitting back more and switching to flats isn’t going to fix your knee pain. I give a detailed analysis of the 3 main cues I recommend and how to implement those. I then take a look at the BEST raw squatters in the world and what they are doing. Hint: 85% of the 24 best male squatters in the world drive their knees forward and do not rely on the “sit back” cue. And lastly, I break down the form of 2 of my lifters, as well as highlight the lifter who I think may have one the best looking squats in all of the USAPL/USPA. Click the link above to watch!