Dos & Don'ts of Lifting

Dos & Don’ts of Lifting (Podcast Series)

In this series, we explore the common mistakes, helpful tips, equipment & knowledge you need to get started and crush your goals – we explore, in short, the dos & don’ts of lifting.

Ep 1: Equipment You Need

Scott & Matt discuss what you have to have, what you should have, and what is nice to have in the world of strength training.

First–it’s nice to have a home gym. It provides flexibility and convenience, though it admittedly takes an initial investment of money to get a functional gym. If you’re working to create a home gym, this is what you should have:

Get a 20kg or 45lb bar of relatively high quality–you can get a used one. They discuss all the details here.

Get 500+ pounds of weight, including 8x45lb, 2x25lb, 2x5lb, 2×2.5lb, 2×1.25lb plates (2” holes). Olympic bumper plates are really nice. Iron is economical. Consider what you’ll be lifting on–if you’re lifting on a well-made platform, bumper plates are not necessary if you don’t plan to do lots of Olympic lifting.

A power rack is better than a squat stand. This has 4 upright, safety pins or catches, j-hooks. It often can also come with attachments (pulley attachments, dip attachments, pull up bar, etc.). You want 1” spacing around the bench press height.

Regardless of if you lift in a public or home gym, you need shoes. This is the first thing you need. Don’t get a CrossFit trainer. They discuss lots of good options.

A belt is the next thing. You can get really strong without a belt, but most people end up getting a belt, as it adds weight to the bar and you want to get stronger. Dominion belts are great.

Chalk is necessary as your pulls (deadlift, row, clean) get heavy. You probably want blocks of chalk to paint your hand. If your gym doesn’t allow chalk, that’s a good indication that your gym stinks and you should look elsewhere.

Finally, here are nice-to-haves: wrist wraps, wrist straps, knee sleeves, squat shirt.

Ep 2: Common Novice Pitfalls

Matt and Scott discuss common pitfalls that novices make as they begin their strength journey.

First and foremost, many people lift with horrific form. You need to get your form right or pretty close. This either requires a coach or your needing to spend the time educating yourself and filming, watching, and analyzing your own lifts.

Many people don’t get shoes, and proper shoes make a huge difference, especially on the squat and press.

Too many people don’t eat properly. This may be food quality (whole foods). This may be not eating enough. This may mean eating way too much crappy food. Protein needs to be higher for most people.

Finally, too many people quit when it gets hard. They don’t know how to grind. You don’t have to grind every workout of every day–and you shouldn’t. But, if you can’t grind, you’re leaving LOTS of weight on the bar and holding your own development of grit back.

Ep 3: What Is A Cue?

Scott and Matt discuss what is a cue and why good coaches give cues.

You should only have to teach a lifter a lift once, but you will have to correct that person’s execution of the lift. Because we can’t as coaches lift the weight for the lifter, we have to deliver information to the lifter as they lift to get them lifting more in line with the model. We do this with a cue.

Cues can be visual, tactile, or verbal.

Verbal cues need to be loud, clear, and short. The lifter has to hear the cue, understand the cue, and use the cue.

Visual is pointing or in some other way (for example, showing a lifter a relatively horizontal yet diagonal forearm to emphasize that they need to lean over in the low bar squat).

A tactile cue is touching the lifter. A coach may physically put the lifter in the right position (grab the elbows in the press to bring them up and forward) or touching the low back in the deadlift to emphasize lumbar extension.

Cues don’t need to be correct. The point of the cue is to provide the thing the lifter needs to move more correctly during or between the performance of the lift (between is necessary for online coaching).

Ep 4: The Power Clean with Sully

Dr. Jonathan Sullivan joins Matt and Scott to discuss the merits and drawbacks of including the power clean in someone’s program. Who should perform it, and how do we evaluate if someone should or should not perform the power clean?

Sully has 3 criteria for assessing whether someone should perform the power clean:

  1. Want to do it
  2. Aptitude to do it
  3. Tolerate it

For those who meet the above criteria, it can be beneficial.

Sully believes the power clean develops and trains power. It is an accessory pulling exercise. It also introduces the lifter to Olympic weightlifting, a whole other arena in the strength and barbell world that that lifter might be interested in.

The power clean also helps the lifter learn how to commit to a movement pattern. You can’t hesitate with the clean. This carries over to other lifts, like the squat, in committing to the execution of the lift.

Matt, Scott, and Sully agree that to be a good, well-rounded barbell coach a coach should be able to coach the power clean and power snatch.

One thing they also agree on is that the power clean is not appropriate for a novice’s linear progression program.

Lastly, there are the limitations and realities of the coaching session. In a 2-hour out-of-town session, there’s not enough time to coach the power clean and the other 4 lifts. Because of this, the power clean is best for clients who you see multiple times a week in-person (though it can be coached online, especially with some in-person additional coaching and the client being able to commit to filming and looking at his own lifts).

Ep 5: Training Older People

Matt and Scott discuss how to train older clients.

Barbell Logic’s age demographics tend to skew older, so the company and its coaches have lots of experience coaching older clients.

Depending on the age, almost everyone can deadlift. Many can squat, bench press, and press. Some lifts may have to be modified, but an exercise similar to the lifts can be executed for most older clients.

Older people can and should train hard. For older people, this means intensity. Intensity is what older clients are missing from their life. Grabbing the groceries, for example, is a low-intensity exercise, so they need to lift heavy and add muscle mass as a type of insurance.

Volume, however, wrecks older people. Use less volume than you might program for younger clients. Frequency–number of workouts in a week–might also be less. 4-day splits for the very old are not recommended. You might do a 4-day split over 3 days or even have them only train twice a week with full-body sessions.

Ep 6: Hype or Not?

Matt and Scott discuss whether you should get hyped for a lift. They tend to say no, unless you’ve practiced getting hype and your form is good.

If your form isn’t locked in, don’t hype.

Also, there is an importance for regularity before lifts. Because of this, you shouldn’t act completely differently for PR attempts than lighter attempts. Do the same thing.

If you’re an advanced lifter, you might have a pre-PR attempt rituatual that is slightly different than a normal attempt. For Matt, this doesn’t bring hype but rather focus. You need to be intensely focused and present for these attempts.

For many lifters, having the one cue that you should focus on can help. Your coach and you develop the one cue for you to focus your technical focus (might be KNEES OUT for the squat on the way up, for example).

Lastly, consider the differences between the meet and lifting in your garage and gym and practice for those differences (practice squatting and pressing looking into an open room as opposed to close to a wall).

Ep 7: The Master Cue

Matt and Scott discuss the master cue, a cue developed based on a basic understanding of biomechanics that can be used for many lifters.

You cannot perform a squat correctly if the center of mass of the barbell-lifter system is not directly over the center of balance (your midfoot). The midfoot really means, however, that weight is balanced between the balls of your feet and your heels.

Because it can be hard for people to think about keeping the bar over the midfoot, we tend to draw the attention to the foot. As a coach, the foot is a helpful point to focus on to determine what is going on with a squat. As a lifter, paying attention to where you feel the pressure on your foot helps tell you if you’re properly balance or too far back on your heels or forward on the balls of your feet.

Because of this, the foot serves as a diagnostic tool for the squat.

Ep 8: Warm Ups

Matt and Scott discuss why we warm up and how to properly warm up.

Warm ups–like much with lifting–can come with lots of confusion and misinformation. First, why do we warm up?

We warm up to warm up the tissues, so this is the general purpose of warm up. We also warm up to practice the movement and prepare our neuromuscular system for the work sets, including the fact that as we add weight the center of mass shifts closer to the barbell, so the correct performance of the lift actually qualitatively changes.

So, how do we warm up?

Warming up should be done relatively quickly. The heavier the weight, the longer it will take to warm up. You should roughly use 5 warm ups, but if you’re in a cold environment you might need more. Also, as you progress through the workout your tissue is warm, so the purpose of the warm up shifts more toward the practice and preparation. Fewer warm ups can be done for exercises later in the workout.

You also don’t need to be precise with warm up weight. If some app tells you to warm up at 88 pounds, just do 95. For the most part, stick with 25lb and 45lb plates, unless your work set weights might be relatively low.

You don’t need to warm up between warm ups, especially the early ones. You might rest about 1 minute between the last couple warm ups, and definitely before the work set.

You also can warm up for the next lift in between work sets.

Unless you’re an exception (extremely small or extremely big and strong) start with 45lbs for the press, bench press, and squat and with 135lbs for the deadlift.

Ep 9: Saving Time in the Gym

Matt and Scott discuss how you can save time in the gym, because we know (with rare exception) you lift to live not live to lift.

LP workouts shouldn’t take that long. Early workouts should realistically take about 45 minutes. This will increase to 60 minutes as you rest more and the weights go up. They should NOT take more than 90 minutes.

If you’re in a hurry, warm up for your next exercise between work sets. Also, start with short rest periods (2 minutes). This can increase, but upper body exercises require less rest and lower require more, but if you’re pressed for time you don’t need to rest more than 5 minutes. If you have the time, by all means rest longer, but WHO CARES if you’re NOT DOING THE PROGRAM perfectly because you can’t rest 12 minutes between squat sets.

If you’re even more pressed for time, you can use the 4-day split for LP, with 2 exercises (squat & deadlift one day, press and bench press the other). This results in shorter workouts.

You can also do 1 lift a day if you’re in a huge rush.

Having a home gym helps as well. This eliminates the commute time.

Lastly, lots of people are “busy” doing BS. Think about how you can reduce or eliminate some of that BS.

Ep 10: Gym Etiquette

Matt & Scott discuss how to behave properly in a gym, because to many don’t respect the equipment or the people around them. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Take care of the equipment and put it back where you got it. Treat the equipment with the respect it’s due.

Wipe down your bench and similar equipment. Put the weights away properly (right location, and lips out on the weight tree).

If you’re in a big box gym, don’t give others unsolicited advice. If they ask for advice, give it–if you’re a coach, this person might become a client. If you receive advice, don’t act like you want it. You can be polite, but if that person gives it the second time, that person needs to know you don’t want or need your advice.

Headphones can be a useful tool in gyms like this to tell people you’re not interested in talking to them. If there is a chance of good coaching, however–if you’re in a good gym–then don’t wear the headphones. Enjoy the fact that you’re in a gym where you can receive excellent coaching.

Don’t break up the blocks of chalk–they should be block.

Don’t use baby powder.

Act like a professional in the gym. You know what you’re doing. You know why you’re there. Act like it.

Ep 11: The Myth of Maintenance

Matt & Scott discuss the myth of maintenance and how this doesn’t really apply for people, despite what people often claim.

Sometimes life prevents strength training from being a high priority, so you do your best. Work, injuries, vacation, etc. can prevent improvement in the gym. When these things are not preventing improvements in the gym, then do your best to improve in the gym.

The day will come when you won’t hit any more PRs and you will train to stave off strength and for your health.

People tend to think that they’ve reached a point where they’re strong enough and they don’t need to get any stronger. Now, if your goals change–you want to pursue some other athletic endeavors–that’s fine, but you still train and training requires at least some attempt to either get stronger or stave off weakness the best you can.

There are also drawbacks and real costs to getting to elite levels of strength. This level of strength does not increase your health. It’s not enjoyable. You’re putting strength above everything else in your life, and we’re not calling for that.

That being said, for most people, they’re not even close to strong enough. They haven’t put in the time, effort, energy to pursue fitness, strength, and health.

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