“Punishers”: Corrective Exercises in Online CoachingWe often will prescribe corrective exercises. Coach Andrew Jackson calls them “punishers,” exercises that punish the lifters when they do them wrong, but you may prefer to call them “correctors.” The point of punishers is sometimes to correct a muscular weakness but more often to overwhelm bad habits with good ones. Used correctly, they can help close the distance between the coach at the computer and the lifter under the bar.
Punishers: Corrective Exercises in Online Coaching
If I have you in the gym, I can put my hands on you and move you into the right position. I can grab a TUBOW (Terribly Useful Block of Wood) and fix your knee slide. I can shout at you in real time and correct your bench press bar path. At Barbell Logic Online Coaching, we coach you online. You send videos to us, we look at what you are doing, and then we tell you how to make it better. It works very well, but it is not quite like in-person coaching. I can’t use any tactile cues, I can’t use a TUBOW, and I can’t yell at you. There are benefits to the delivery of online coaching, such as being able to show you, frame-by-frame, what you are doing, but there are also difficulties. What if you just can’t get your form corrected from words? What if you are a motor moron?
We often will prescribe corrective exercises. Coach Andrew Jackson calls them “punishers,” exercises that punish the lifters when they do them wrong, but you may prefer to call them “correctors.” I have a few clients who have great difficulty keeping their knees from shooting back and collapsing in as they come out of the bottom of the squat. I like front squats for such lifters for two reasons: 1) it forces them to do a squat movement without the knee cave since, if you cave too much, you’ll drop the barbell, and 2) it helps develop quad strength, which removes the cause for the knee cave. I suspect the first reason is more important. The point of punishers is sometimes to correct a muscular weakness but more often to overwhelm bad habits with good ones. Because they address something about the lifter’s perception—their mental model of the lift—their use requires some precision and discretion. Used correctly, however, they can help close the distance between the coach at the computer and the lifter under the bar.
Here are some examples of punishers:
Front squat or high bar squats
I’ve seen encouraging results for addressing knee cave. They don’t always work, but they can be helpful.
Paused squats or pin squats
Useful for excessive hip drivers—people who flop forward as they come out of the hole. These can be paused at the bottom or right at the sticking point.
Coach Brooke Haubenstricker says, “For an iso deadlift, you would load up the bar with more weight than you can lift, set up like usual, then put a ton of tension on the bar and hold it (back extension + bar tension) for 3–5 seconds. Relax and repeat.” Isometric deadlifts bring all the lifter’s focus to one part of the setup and allow the coach to correct back extension without being in the gym with the lifter.
Halting or deficit deadlifts
Useful for lifters who don’t use their legs/knees early in the pull.
Michael Burgos likes these for people who can’t seem to hold back extension at any load. After the first rep, the lifter lowers the barbell in a reverse deadlift, pauses just before the point where the lower back flexes, and then pulls the barbell back up.
Adam Skillin will have his lifters pause 1 inch off the floor to fix “cat-backers.” “I make them pause excruciatingly low, 1˝ off the floor. It really sucks, and almost everybody corrects the issue(s) by their second work rep.”
Some lifters lay back too much during the press. If it’s too extreme, layback causes the lift not to train the shoulders. The lift becomes a standing bench press. Andrew Jackson likes seated presses to solve this problem since layback is almost impossible when you are seated.
I will program slingshot bench presses to help prevent this problem. The slingshot constrains the elbows from flaring, and I have found lifters tend to carry the good elbow position over to the regular bench press.
These are a few examples of weird exercises your coach may assign to you. Be assured that it is not because your coach hates you. It is to fix your form in the best way possible, without being in the gym with you.
 I am a motor moron. No disrespect is intended.