Barbell Powerlifting

Basics of the Bench Press

THE BENCH PRESS

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The bench press is an upper-body strengthening exercise where the athlete lies back on a bench with feet on the floor and proceeds to press a barbell from the chest until arms are locked out, and then lowers it back down to the chest. The bench press is a phenomenal upper body strengthening exercise that works not only the chest muscles, but also the arms and shoulders as the athlete maintains a steady and straight torso while the barbell is raised and lowered. Athletes should feel the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles activated as they complete the bench press.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

[embed]https://youtu.be/H9o23VdFgXc[/embed]

MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Three Points of Contact: When setting up for the bench press, you want to maintain three points of contact with your body at all times: your feet on the ground, your butt on the bench, and your shoulder blades on the bench. If your butt or feet are raising off the floor or bench respectively, this puts your back in an unsafe position that could cause strain.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which does not use your pectoral muscles optimally when pressing heavier weights, and recruits more use of the tricep muscles.
  3. Eyes Below the Bar: Whenever you do a bench press, you want to start the movement with the bar centered above your chest. To achieve this, set up your bench so that your eyes are directly below the bar when the bar is resting on the j-hooks. Once you lift the bar and lock your arms out, you will see that the bar is correctly above your chest, ready for you to do a proper bench press movement.
  4. Shoulders Back and Elbows Up:As you push the bar up over your chest, continually try to keep your shoulders externally rotated back and feel the bench beneath your shoulder blades while your arms are fully locked out. To focus on gaining external rotation, push the pits of elbows so that they’re facing behind you. This will create in your shoulders and arms and keep the bar stable.
  5. Elbows Tucked In: As you lower the barbell to your chest and press back upward, focus on keeping your elbows tucked in toward your torso. This prevents bowing of your elbows, which can cause unnecessary impingement on your shoulders while performing the bench press. Remember: this is a functional movement. If you were to push a car, you would push with your hands and elbows close to your body, now bowed out from your body. Use the same mechanics of a functional pressing position to safely and correctly perform a bench press to gain maximum strength.
  6. Keep Breathing Steady: The rhythm of your breathing can also be an important player when performing the bench press. Try to focus on taking a nice, large inhale of breath at the top of the movement, when your arms are fully extended. Maintain that breath in your lungs while you lower the bar to your chest, and exhale once you’ve pressed the bar a quarter of the way up or more, or when it’s at the top. Holding your breath while the barbell is lowered and pressed upward actually helps your core stay stable, prevents unnecessary movement of your torso, and ensures a safer position.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.

Raw Shoulder Strength with the Strict Press

THE STRICT PRESS

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The strict press is an upper-body strengthening exercise where the athlete lifts a barbell from shoulder-height to a locked-out position above head, and then lowers it back down to the shoulders. The strict press is considered a compound movement because it effectively works not only the shoulders, but also arms, back and core muscles as the athlete maintains a steady and straight torso while the barbell is raised and lowered. Athletes should feel the shoulders, triceps, back and core muscles activated as they complete the strict press.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

[embed]https://youtu.be/eEUc6bIMh0I?list=PL6qqXth6zHKpRE_7JiHS_CfKKYYkO4c9r[/embed]

MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Set Up at Shoulder Height: Set up the j-hooks and barbell to be just below shoulder height as you stand in front of the rig. This will allow for you to easily get the barbell on and off of your shoulders before and after you perform the squat movement.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which causes them to set up incorrectly with the athlete’s upper back slightly hunched forward. Keep hands a bit further apart with thumbs’ width from the knurling and you will be able to maintain a better position throughout the movement.
  3. Adjust the Front Rack: Whenever you do a strict press, you want to start the movement with a front-rack position, meaning the bar is placed on the front of your shoulders. However, unlike a front-rack that we use for the front squat or other movements, your front rack position for the strict press should not have your elbows up and forward in front of the bar. Instead, you want your elbows beneath and slightly in front of the bar to create the best possible pressing position with your arms.
  4. Keep the Ribcage Down: To prevent your torso from breaking open as you press upward, focus on tightening your butt and abs. This will help keep your ribcage locked down so that you are in a safe position while pressing upward. If you allow your ribcage to open up and you lean back, the strict press will not be as efficient nor work the muscle groups as well as it should. Instead, it will look as though you’re doing a standing bench press and risk tweaking your back.
  5. Biceps to Ear: As you press the barbell up, focus on keeping your biceps toward your ears so that the bar is directly overhead. To achieve this, tuck your chin as you push upward, so that the bar can travel in a straight line instead of having to move up and around your head. Once the barbell passes your head on its way to the top, punch your head forward. This will help keep your rib cage locked down and ensures the bar is traveling in a straight line.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.

Driving Strength with the Deadlift

THE DEADLIFT

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The deadlift is one of the most functional weightlifting exercises that can be performed, as it mimics the everyday movement of picking things up off of the floor. While the deadlift can have a bad rap for creating injury in the back, it is certainly an exercise that can be performed safely when proper form is utilized. The movement itself relies on the athlete’s ability to pick up a barbell from the ground, raise it up to hip-level as he/she stands upright, and then lower the barbell back down. The deadlift is a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups throughout the body. Athletes will immediately feel the backs of the legs activated as they perform the movement, with the bulk of the exercise focusing on the use of the hamstrings and glutes, as well as the core muscles which hold the back in a safe position.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

[embed]https://youtu.be/OGkjqjC4hgs[/embed]

MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Keep Core Tight: Focus on keeping everything between the shoulders and hips static while performing the movement. To achieve this stability, squeeze your abdominal muscles and push your shoulder blades back. This will provide a solid trunk throughout the movement and prevent strain on the back.
  2. Feet Below Hips: Keep your feet directly below your hips, versus taking a wider stance, as this will actually help you generate more power during the lift. Moving your feet out will put you more into a sumo deadlift position, another version of the conventional deadlift.
  3. Heels Locked on the Ground: Besides keeping that tight torso throughout the movement, the second most important piece of proper form for the deadlift is keeping your heels locked on the floor. As athletes increase the weight for the deadlift, the tendency is to move further into the toes. However, it’s critical to keep the heels locked down so that you can fully engage your hamstring muscles and get the most power from your legs.
  4. Hips Fully Open: Just as you would do with a squat, open the hips fully at the top of the deadlift movement.
  5. Bar Close to Shins: Efficiency of the deadlift movement is all about how far the bar has to travel. The closer the bar stays to your shins and legs, the less distance it has to travel. Therefore, try to imagine the bar almost grazing your shins and thighs as you raise and lower it. Ultimately, you’re creating a straight line for the bar to travel, which is key for maintaining proper torso form, preventing back injury, and also creating as much efficiency in the movement as possible.
  6. Lean and Squeeze: The heavier the weight becomes on the bar, the more we want to use gravity to our advantage to help us raise and lower the bar. Two ways you can do this are by squeezing your butt and leaning back as you lift the bar. Firing up the butt muscles enables you to gain even more strength from your lift. Slightly leaning back as you lift also gives you more leverage as you raise the bar off the ground. Both of these coupled together should give you more of an advantage while you deadlift heavier weights.

 

TIPS & TRICKS:

  1. Shoot Knees Forward on the Pickup: Sometimes athletes find that their backs curve while performing the deadlift. One reason may be a lack of mobility in the ankles or your leg length / torso length / arm length may not allow you to set up in the proper position. If you’re struggling with this, let your knees shoot forward slightly as you drop down to pick up the bar. This will help you focus on maintaining a straight torso. The key is to swipe your knees back as you lift the bar upward, so that your knees are out of the way. Otherwise, you will find that the bar can hit your knees or you’ll have to do unnecessary work of moving the bar out around your knees as you lift upward.
  2. Keep Knees Back on the Drop: Interestingly enough, while it helps to shoot knees forward as you go to pick up the bar, shooting knees forward while you’re at the top of the movement can actually have the opposite effect. When you’re at the top of the deadlift, your back is already in a nice, straight position. To keep the torso straight and prevent your back curving as the weight drops with gravity, shoot your butt back and focus on keeping the knees back and slightly unlocked until the bar gets below the knee line. Once the bar is below the knee line, it’s once again safe and effective to let the knees come slightly forward.
  3. Switch the Grip: The weight on the barbell can begin to feel heavy on your grip quite fast. To prevent losing a good grip, consider using a hook grip, where the first and second fingers of the hand wrap on top of the thumbs. This provides more grip stability as you perform the deadlift. You can also use a flip grip where one hand has the knuckles facing forward and the other has palm forward. This counter positioning of the hands provides additional grip strength that helps you lift heavier weights with ease.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.

Better Backside with Barbell Lunges

THE BARBELL LUNGE

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The barbell lunge is a variation of the standard lunge that incorporates the use of a barbell in three possible ways: a back rack, front rack, or overhead position. The barbell lunge is performed the same as a standard lunge, having the athlete places one leg in front of the body, with the foot flat on the floor and the knee bent, while the other leg remains behind the body. The only difference is that now the athlete must maintain stability with the addition of the weighted barbell. Barbell lunges are a great exercise for strengthening the quadriceps (front of the legs) and glutes (butt muscles) in the body. They also provide an efficient way to continue to work on balance and core strength as the athlete focuses on keeping the bar in a stable position while keeping the chest upright.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

[embed]https://youtu.be/gfNgtVxhfhg?list=PL6qqXth6zHKpRE_7JiHS_CfKKYYkO4c9r[/embed]

MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Make a Good Stride: As you step forward with your leg, make a long enough stride so that your weight stays in the heel of the front foot and also prevents your knee from going too far forward where your heel comes up off the ground. Each person’s stride length will be different depending on his/her height, but finding the right stride will protect your knees and ensure you’re getting maximum efficiency from the movement.
  2. Touch the Back Knee: There’s no need to bang the back knee down on the ground once you’ve made the stride or step forward into your lunge. Just lightly touch your knee to the ground before standing back up.
  3. Push through the Heel: To stand back up, focus on pushing through your front heel to gain momentum and get yourself back into standing position.
  4. Knees Over Toes: Keep your knee straight forward and pointed toward your front toe, versus letting the knee tip inward or outward. This will protect the joint and will prevent injury to the knee.
  5. Keep Chest Upright: Just as with the air squat, keep your chest nice and tall and don’t round your back as you complete the lunge. Your spine should be in a neutral position as you lunge forward and step back upright each time.
  6. Keep Arms In Proper Position: When performing a front-rack or overhead lunge, it’s important to keep arms in the correct position. Just as with the front squat, keep your elbows high and shoulders rounded forward in order to maintain a good front rack position throughout the front rack lunge. When performing the overhead lunge, maintain lock-out in your arms overhead while focusing on turning the pits of your elbows to the sky so as to keep the bar balanced overhead without causing strain on the shoulder.

SCALING: Sometimes our mobility or lack of strength can hinder us as we attempt to perform movements with proper form.  Remember: Scaling isn’t a negative thing! It will help you gain strength while staying in a safe position until ultimately you can perform the movement in its entirety. Stay encouraged that as you continue on your fitness journey, you will find that you won’t have to scale as significantly or as often.

  1. Body Weight Lunges: It’s critical to always ensure that before attempting a barbell lunge, you can safely perform a body weight lunge. If you’re struggling to stay steady or keep proper form, scale down to focus on performing body weight lunges until you have gained the strength and control to add a barbell.
  2. Lower the Weight: If you can’t stay stable with the weight you have on the barbell, lower it or even use just the barbell itself. Focus on form instead of weight and the strength will come.
  3. Limit the Range of Motion: If you’re not able to make it all the way to the ground with the back knee, go as low as you can while keeping your body steady and your torso in an upright position.

 

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.

Obliterating the Overhead Squat

THE OVERHEAD SQUAT

A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The overhead squat is a variation of a barbell squat and is an exercise used to strengthen the lower half of the body. Just as the name implies, the overhead squat requires that the athlete perform a squat while holding a barbell above his/her head, with arms in a locked out position. Just as with the air squat, the back squat or front squat, the overhead squat requires good hip, ankle, and torso mobility to get the hip crease below the knees.  The overhead squat also requires good stability and mobility in the core and shoulder muscles to ensure the bar stays steady above the head while the athlete completes the full range of motion for the squat. Athletes will immediately feel leg muscles activated as they perform the movement, with the bulk of the exercise focusing on the use of the quadriceps, but also an activation of core and shoulder muscles as they keep the torso in proper position.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.

[embed]https://youtu.be/KUYaA85mmwM[/embed]

MOVEMENT BASICS:

  1. Set Up at Shoulder Height: Set up the j-hooks and barbell to be just below shoulder height as you stand in front of the rig. This will allow for you to easily get the barbell on and off of your shoulders before and after you perform the squat movement.
  2. Shoulders Back and Elbows Up: As you push the bar up overhead, continually try to keep your shoulders rotated back while your arms are fully locked out. To help with this, also focus on gaining external rotation in your elbows by pushing the pits of your elbows up toward the ceiling to create torque in your arms and keep the bar stable. This will ensure your shoulders don’t rotate forward into an unsafe position that may cause strain on the joint.
  3. Arms in a V: To find a correct grip, place your hands a ways out from the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Depending on your mobility, some athletes are able to put their hands closer together on the bar. However, if you’re just getting started, place them farther apart to create more stability while you keep the bar overhead. However close or far you choose to put your hands, you will see that all athletes have a slight V in their arms, versus holding arms straight above their heads.
  4. Remember the Basics: As you perform the overhead squat, keep the basics of the air squat in mind: keep your feet about hips’ width apart; ensure toes are straight forward or possibly slightly angled out, depending on your mobility; keep your weight in the heels with your butt back; stay focused on moving the knees directly out over the feet; and maintain an upright chest. All of these are essential to perform the squat without injury.
  5. Look Straight Ahead: As athletes focus on keeping proper form, it’s common to see them look down at their legs or toward the ground. However, this actually pulls you forward and throws you out of position, especially since the weight is in front of your body. Focus on keeping eyes forward to keep the rest of your body in proper alignment.
  6. Focus on Range of Motion: When dropping into the squat, proper range of motion is having your hip crease below the knee. This helps take weight and pressure off the knee itself and engages your glute and hamstring muscles to provide maximum strength for your entire leg versus just the quadriceps muscles. Also be sure to fully extend hips open at the top of the movement for the most bang for your buck.

SCALING: Sometimes our mobility or lack of strength can hinder us as we attempt to perform the overhead squat with proper form.  Remember: Scaling isn’t a negative thing! It will help you gain strength while staying in a safe position until ultimately you can perform the movement in its entirety. Stay encouraged that as you continue on your fitness journey, you will find that you won’t have to scale as significantly or as often.

  1. Consider Shoulder Mobility: If you struggle to keep the bar overhead with your arms locked out, or without your arms falling too far forward or backward, you may have shoulder mobility issues that are hindering you. If that’s the case, this may be a movement where you need to work up to adding weight onto a barbell to safely perform it.
  2. Lower the Load: If mobility isn’t an issue but you’re still struggling to keep the barbell safely overhead in a locked out position, lower the weight. It may take a bit of time and practice to increase your weight for this movement, as it’s one of the most complex squat movements we perform.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 

BARBELL POWERLIFTING SERVICES: Technique at Every Stage

Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.