Take the Bar Out with Authority (Start Your Lifts Right!)
Learn how to unrack the barbell with authority for your press, squat, and barbell lifts. This ensures you are physically & mentally prepared for a heavy set, helping improve your squat and overhead press. Taking the bar out with authority–or unracking the bar with authority–is a cue that encompasses both physical and mental preparation to unrack a heavy barbell and start your lift in the proper position.
Why Does It Matter?
It matters because we want to get stronger and complete our sets. As we transfer the weight of the barbell from the power rack or squat stand to our bodies, we can begin the set properly or incorrectly.
For a heavy set, taking the bar out loose and unprepared to hold the weight leads to our first thought being “oh, crap–this is heavy.” Thus, our first thought is not on a technical cue or a positive thought, but rather a self-defeating thought of the heaviness of the barbell. Instead, we want to take the bar out with authority so we begin the lift with confidence.
Physically, beginning with the correct set up and staying tight with a big head breath through the use of the Valsalva maneuver ensures that you are in the proper position (biomechanically) to lift more weight and complete your set. Without staying tight, the barbell’s weight will bring you out of position, preventing you from lifting as much weight as you otherwise could.
Take Your Press Out with Authority
For the press, you quarter squat and bring your elbows forward and in–close to your body. You straighten your wrists. You take a big held breath and tighten your abs and surrounding muscles.
You stand up tall and hard with the bar, maintaining the correct position you started with. Your first interaction with the press you dominated the bar, staying tight in the correct position. The weight of a heavy press can feel oppressive in the hands. Starting tight & right (“light weight baby!”) increases your chance of complete the set.
Unracking Your Squat with Authority
Taking the squat out follows the same principles as the press, though the details differ. You take a grip on the barbell, dip your head beneath the bar, and move the barbell to the correct position on your back depending on whether you are performing a low or high bar squat.
Getting tight begins with the proper grip on the bar. As tight as you can helps bunch of your rear deltoids, providing a better “meat shelf” for the bar to lie on. Maintaining thoracic extension (“proud chest”) ensures tightness. Lastly, squeezing your shoulder blades together (scapular retraction) helps.
Similarly to the press, take a big held breath and hold it. Stay tight and stand up tall and hard with the barbell. Take small, controlled steps to get into the correct position. Take another small step and squat.
For an extremely heavy squat, you will actually have to let the bar settles, as the weight on the end of the barbell bends the barbell and you want that weight to stop moving before you begin.