We all have times when we wished we’d done better in a strength workout. Well this post is all about how you can crush your weight lifting sets and never feel that way again.
When you’re working in the gym, one of the issues you run into is a breakdown of your form. Take the squat for example. When the load is heavy and you’re a couple of sets in, you’ll often find that you’re not only physically fatigued, but mentally as well.
The result is that you start putting forth the minimum effort you need to get through the set. You’ll find that coming out of the bottom of a rep, your knees extend, but your waist doesn’t. What you end up with is your ass in the air and you have to try to finish the rep with a heavy-A-F good morning.
You have to put your heart into each rep to crush your weight lifting sets.
Doing a heavy set, especially, demands focus and drive in each rep. The upside is, it’s only for a couple of reps at a time, but it’s taxing none the less. You have to mentally commit to each rep. You have to forget everything else, step up to the bar, grip it as tight as you can and drive through the rep with all of your focus.
Try to push your legs through the floor and your shoulders through the ceiling when you’re hitting that squat. When you’re deadlifting, you’re not just picking up the bar, you’re trying to push the Earth down with your legs. Give your sets everything you have, and they’ll pay you back. Don’t just get through the workout. Get in there and murder it.
Nail your form in order to crush your weight lifting sets.
Being mentally prepared is only one half of the coin. You have to actually know the proper way to execute each lift. So let’s go through some of the more popular and useful lifts. Hopefully you’ll pick up some new tips.
The Back Squat
Since we’ve already touched on this, we’ll start with the squat. We won’t cover everything for the sake of keeping the post to a reasonable length, and I cover more of this in my post on how to squat better. So on to how to crush your weight lifting sets when doing the squat.
The first piece to consider, at least with lower body exercises, is your stance. You should vary your foot width periodically for structural balance, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. For now I’ll cover a normal, shoulder-width stance that you’ll use most of the time.
The stance should feel natural. It will likely be shoulder width or just slightly wider. I like to use the trick where I poise for a jump. The width my feet naturally take is the width I use. I like to point the toes slightly outward to open my hips so my ass has room to drop. Like I mentioned before, using this same stance all the time will make you walk like your legs are chafed due to the muscular imbalances it will cause. Don’t forget to change up your stance periodically.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about grip for a squat. It’s really for lack of a better word. Your hand and arm positions do make a difference in the squat.
Were talking specifically about a back squat here. Check out the post above for tips for the front squat. When you step up to the bar, grab it with a width that, again, feels natural for you. This is a matter of preference.
I’m not a very big guy, and I like to have my hands a little outside my shoulders. I’ve seen a lot of big guys go all the way out to the rack. Find your width and grab the bar. Get underneath it with your upper traps squeezed together. That way, the bar won’t press on your spine. No need for a pad here. If you don’t know this trick, the pad doesn’t help. If you do know it, there’s no need for the pad.
Before you unrack the bar, take a second to squeeze your hands as tight as you can. Really try to indent the bar. This is a nice hack I use to excite the central nervous system. This is part of getting yourself mentally prepared for the set. You’ll find it’s pretty much a universal tool that helps you crush your weight lifting sets.
The Bench Press
We all want to be better at this one. We’ll cover the grip and stance (for lack of a better word) that will set you up to crush your weight lifting sets in the bench press.
The rolls of the grip and stance are reversed here when compared to the squat. He’re you’ll want to change the grip width often for better structural balance of the muscles. But we’ll just stick to the most common one for now.
Most people will go just a little outside their should width. However, what a lot of people never pay much attention to is the upper back. A lot like with the back squat, you should retract your shoulder blades before you unrack the bar. You’ll notice a difference in how sturdy you feel. Having a good foundation will make you much stronger during the set.
Again, the bar squeezing applies here. Try to leave your hand prints in the bar before you unrack it, and keep that grip throughout the set.
Don’t be the guy who’s feet are flaying around while trying to raise the bar off his chest. Nothing makes you want to quit a workout more than being that poindexter. We’v all been there at some point, Bro.
You want to plant your feet into the ground so you have something to push off of. This is part of the good foundation I spoke of. If you ask world class bench presser, Scot Mendelson, about benching technique, he won’t hesitate to tell you how he blew his quad while benching. So you want to tuck your legs under the bench and plant the balls of your feet into the floor.
How much leg tuck you use is up to you. The more you tuck, the larger the arch in your back will be. If you’re thing is power lifting, that’s fine, but it may not be advantageous for everyone.
I’ll be quick here since a lot of what we’ve already covered applies to this exercise. The main difference here is you should vary both your stance and your grip for the deadlift. I cover this more in another post that’s all about the deadlift that will further help you crush your weight lifting sets.
One point I need to stress for your deadlift is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS keep your lower back tight while deadlifting. There’s no shortage of people on YouTube showing off their cat-back skills. Some channels even make a living off of pointing out this flaw.
I have two hacks for avoiding this. The first is to stretch the hamstrings. I know it’s not really a hack, but it’s the main reason you round your back any time you bend over, not just when you deadlift. You can try right now to touch your toes while keeping your back tight. You feel an unmistakable stretching sensation in your hamstrings.
The second hack is actually a hack. Pretend you’re doing a back flip when you start to pick up the bar. This will cause you to put all of your force into the lift and trick you into tightening the erector spinae muscles of the lower back.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful.
Thanks for reading,