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If you want to be strong, you have to adapt to the idea of ​​moving heavy weights. Powerlifting—an exercise where the goal is to lift as much weight as possible in squats, bench presses, and deadlifts—is the most reliable way to achieve this goal. But when people apply the unique technology of this sport to all aspects of their training, problems arise.
To the untrained person, all forms of weight training look the same. Bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting-you lift heavy objects and then put them down. Rinse and repeat until your time is over. But this is not the case. As I said in the previous column, there are different techniques and protocols for different goals, as well as different repetitions and weight-bearing schemes for building maximum muscle and maximum strength. There are also different tools, and the barbell—the standard tool for powerlifting—is just one of them.
Unless you are a weightlifter in training, there is no need to make the barbell the first and last tool you can use. Don’t get me wrong-weightlifting has time and place, but most people who go to the gym don’t want to set a world record; they just want to look and feel their best every day. There are other variants of powerlifting staples, and they can still provide excellent results without putting unnecessary stress on your body. Let’s take a look at some.
Although they are different exercises that emphasize different muscle groups, there are many things in common between squats and deadlifts. In particular, restrictions on activities that prevent someone from squatting properly (stiff ankles, tight hips, barely movable shoulder blades) can also make deadlifts difficult. This also means that the solution is the same: lose the barbell and focus on single-leg exercises.
Any gym worth joining will have a huge hexagonal barbell with handles on both sides, called “slashes.” Just like magic, this tool almost eliminates the technical requirements of traditional deadlifts, while still maximizing its effect. The slash also allows for a more upright posture, which shifts the focus from the lower back to the quadriceps. Now you have the best of both worlds-a hip-dominated exercise that can also train the quadriceps.
Single-leg exercises are the perfect complement to the slash deadlift and my favorite lower body training method. Split squats, Bulgarian split squats, skater squats, Romanian deadlifts on one leg-there are various ways to modify and load these unilateral moves. Single-leg training also provides greater benefits for developing balance and coordination. These exercises force you to slow down and focus, so as to achieve better execution and results.
Weightlifting has the most obvious impact on the bench press. Unfortunately, the technique that allows these athletes to press 2 to 3 times their own body weight—overly arched backs and fixed shoulder blades on a bench—has become a standard bench press exercise. For many years, I have followed the same principle; once I stopped, the shoulder pain that had been bothering me disappeared—it’s no coincidence.
Let the scapula and upper arm work together is the key to shaping a big breast without damaging the rotator cuff. It all boils down to basic biomechanics: in order to create a stable and effective compression movement, your shoulders need to be able to rotate around the chest cavity. If your shoulder blades are fixed to a bench, this is impossible, no matter what the powerlifting crowd says.
Dumbbells allow for better control and a more complete range of motion, which is why experienced weightlifters often give up the barbell when lifting. Personally, for the same reason, I like push-ups. Combine any of these exercises with ropes or flying, do some push-ups, and you will soon wonder why you bother with bench presses in the first place.
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If you want to write to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter.
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Post time: Aug-26-2021