While working with clients at an internship this past summer, I often found myself saying, "The trick for this exercise is..." I hadn't realized it before that time, but it quickly became clear to me that I had little "tricks" for just about every exercise that my trainees performed. These tricks improved exercise execution and performance instantly, and the individuals that I worked with enjoyed those quick improvements immensely.
|Silly rabbit, tricks are for improved lifting safety and performance.|
1. When doing dumbbell rows, stick your leg straight out to the side: For the longest time, I absolutely hated dumbbell rows. I understood their utility in terms of strengthening the lats, lower traps, and rhomboids. However, whenever I did them with heavy weights, I found myself too unstable for the exercise to be effective. When I finally figured out how to fix this problem I facepalmed, as the solution was so ridiculously simple.
|This dude just looks unstable|
|The Glute Guy's got tricks.|
2. Dig the bar deep into your palms when doing pressing exercises: I will admit that the description "lifting fundamental" fits this tip better than "lifting trick" does. However, despite the fact that virtually every serious lifter know to do this, I have seen enough beginners screw this up to understand that it bears mention. Unless instructed otherwise, the majority of inexperienced lifters will simply grab the bar and hold it up near the bases of their fingers when they first learn to bench or overhead press. When the bar sits up near the fingers, it is further away from the axis of rotation at the wrist. This unnecessary distance makes the position of the hand harder to control, and it almost always causes the lifter's hands to bend back. Digging the bar deep into the palms of your hands gets the bar closer to the axis of rotation at the wrist, which, in turn, makes it much easier to maintain a neutral wrist position.
|Left = wrong, right = right|
3. Set up in the bottom position when doing rear foot elevated split squats: The rear foot elevated split squat (more conveniently called the RFESS) is a good single-leg exercise. I wouldn't go so far as to replace squats with the RFESS, but it is a useful exercise nonetheless. There are two problems that I often encountered when first teaching people the RFESS, 1) they complained about their back foot hurting, and 2) they were too close to the bench in the bottom position. The foot pain caused people to abhor this exercise, and they would do their best to rush through it as quickly as possible. The poor bottom position caused these individuals to shift their weight towards the front of their supporting foot, causing their knees to be subject to increased amounts of stress. Both of these issues were fixed by setting up for the exercise in the bottom position:
|Start down here. Weighted vest, heavy DB, and added ROM optional. Unless you are Ben Bruno.|
4. When squatting, use a thumbs on top grip and lift your elbows up: This last trick is straight from Mark Rippetoe's fantastic book, Starting Strength. Sure, sure. You've read the book. So has every other serious lifter. But, do you actually use a thumbs on top grip and lift your elbows up? I see very few people actually follow this advice, and I think that they ignore it for three main reasons:
- They have always wrapped their thumbs around the bar when squatting and it feels awkward to change.
- They believe the, in my opinion, faulty advice to rotate their elbows under the bar when squatting.
- And, lastly, they simply do not understand the long-term consequences of using a full grip and having their elbows under the bar.
|Left = wrong, right = right (as a left handed person, this trend is starting to bug me)|
Placing the thumbs on top of the bar furthers your efforts to keep the stress off of the wrists and on the back. A thumbs on top grip makes it easier to maintain a neutral wrist position when squatting. When you make the mistake of wrapping your thumbs around the bar, the bar tends to drop down into your palm during the set. As the bar digs in to the palms, the wrists tend to bend back. The best example I can give of this is an amazing lifter who went by the internet name "Blenderate". Blenderate wowed the internet lifting community with his amazing heavy high rep squatting. Unfortunately, he had to give up the sport of powerlifting due to spine and elbow issues. I hate to make assumptions, as I do not know what kind of prior injuries may have led to these issues. However, I would be surprised if his thumb and elbow positioning during his squats did not contribute to his elbow problems:
|Training tricks, yo.|