Proper Form

Article written by Jay Stadtfeld for

When it comes time to a meet, or any other time you’re going for a max effort (this includes repetitions and one rep max testing), the likelihood of your form staying perfect is nil, as you get closer to your body’s limit.

The reasons for this vary. It could be because it’s the true definition of a max and your body realizes this and tries like hell to stop you from moving it; it could be because a kink in your body’s armor was found (not being able to keep your shoulder blades pulled together while benching, for instance); or any other numerous reason that would take forever to list.

I should preface this article by saying I’m not advocating poor form. Actually, it’s quite the opposite really. When I coach a client, I want them to get as perfect as possible, but you also have to realize that perfection is unattainable. It doesn’t exist. Their upper back may round slightly as they pull a heavy deadlift. How do you expect to pick up an Atlas stone with a perfect spine? That’s the nature of the beast. If you want to go heavy, your body will compensate in one form or another.

Many people are successful with what others deem “improper” form. Those other people are YouTube commentators who are too busy hacking away at a keyboard to actually be what they’re witnessing: Strong. We will ignore them, for they serve no purpose other than laughter.

Konstantinovs pulls with a round back. Are you going to tell him he’s doing it wrong?

As long as you’re actively trying to stay tight in every aspect, you’re training properly. Staying tight is different for each lift. Below, I bulleted certain aspects you should take note of, and find a method of “coaching cues” that specifically applies to you.

· Deadlift: I like pulling with a neutral head position. It helps me keep my upper back locked in. Pulling the bar into your shins by activating your lats will help keep the bar path in towards you, and prevent drifting of the bar. Start by pulling the slack out of the bar, so you’re not thrown off. Also, focusing on pushing the floor away with your feet will activate your hamstrings.

· Bench: Getting a good arch is imperative. It allows you to get your feet underneath you, creating a stronger platform to push from. Pull your shoulder blades together and keep them pinched throughout the duration of the lift. I suggest getting up on your traps and ass, and not having much else in contact with the bench beyond that. Activate your lats and pull the bar towards you, so your form won’t fall apart. At the end of the bar path, drive your feet through the ground and keep your lats tight as you throw the bar up.

o As a side note, your “resting” position on bench will differ based on your anatomical differences. Mine happens to be at the end of my sternum, right near the Xyphoid Process.

· Squatting: I prefer getting my hands as close to my shoulders as I can. That usually means ring finger on the rings of the bar. This allows me to get my shoulders and shoulder blades as tight as possible. Before popping the bar out of the rack or monolift (even in a meet with a monolift, I prefer to walk it out as that’s how I train), I take a deep breath and push it out into my belt (for those who don’t wear belts, I suggest the same thing), after walking it out I get my feet set, and shove them to the outside of my shoes as to activate my hips even further (I do this while pulling, too), I begin my descent by shoving my knees out and not divebombing, so as to feel my hamstring stretch. At the moment I feel it recoil, I ride that stretch reflex back up. Squatting is fairly simple.

Again, training for proper form isn’t really testing the limits of yourself. If something happens to cause a slight deviation in perfection, so be it. That will occur as you further your quest for badassery. But if your form is deviating to the extent it could injure you, then strengthen your weaknesses and get stronger over all.

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