Lifting is a closed sequential skill – this means in non-jargon that it is a skill where the variability involved in its execution is down to the lifter performing the task there is no weather or opposition to get in the way of you trying to impose your will on the barbell. It being sequential means that you need to perform each element of the task well or in the correct manner to give you a chance of being successful in the next element of the skill.
Put into even less jargony terms this means for something like a bench press lowering the bar under control in the correct bar path increases your chances of executing the lifts off the chest favourably as you will be loading up the muscles eccentrically in the correct/optimal sequence and the bar will touch the chest at the point where you have the greatest amount of leverage. Dumping the bar onto your chest with as little control as possible means the variability in this process is much greater, which in turn means the chance of you ending on the chest at the point of greatest leverage being reduced.
Dropping in quick might give you a greater elastic potential at the bottom of the lift but when you get to handle close to limit weights that increased percentile of elastic energy is going to be nothing when you push the bar in the wrong path and into a sticking point you can’t overcome.
Everything in the world of the lifter is controllable when it comes to training from the gym you pay to train in, the club you pay to train in or the coach you pay to look after your training. You are in control of these decisions the buck stops with you. The buck stops with you when it comes to training practices as well.
List out your squat process from getting the bar out of the rack to completing the rep.
Can you do this with little thought, has your pre-existing routine shot into your head just from reading that sentence? If not then I suggest you get thinking about creating a routine as it is probably the single biggest performance factor for your performance probably more so than your programme or nutrition. If you don’t have a set procedure then your performance will vary widely, you won’t be able to hone in on the things that went wrong during your execution you have no base from which you can create a practice.
Everything you do should have purpose
When I am talking about the routine I am not talking about strutting about in front of the bar like a fucking peacock only to then lift with ameture technique. In the last competition I attended there where a number of female lifters who adopted a sumo stance, created an elaborate pre-lift routine which is probably more analogous to a dance, grabbed the bar and then proceeded to have their ass fly up, lumbar spine round at a terrifying speed and extend and their knees to buckle. This is not routine this is a waste of fucking time.
The routine should be developed around execution, the routine should prime you mentally but this happens long before you touch the barbell. When you come towards the barbell you should be checking through how you are going to make sure your performance is picture perfect to ensure you are in the correct positions at the correct time.
Every time you approach a bar to lift you should be approaching it with intention it doesn’t matter if it is 20kg and you have a maximum back squat of 470kg you should be treating the bar like it is 475kg. Every single time you step up towards a barbell it is a chance to hone in on your technique to refine your routine and to become better at what you are doing.
Why you need routine for the smallest detail
Edinburgh barbell has been training on a Monday night for the last 12 or so weeks in a great gym in Edinburgh called #Bobsgarage. Over the past two weeks, I have been helping Robert (the owner) with his squat technique and helping him to refine his execution and improve his technique. We spend around an hour going over the basics last week and ended up with a great result 160×6 squat for a rep personal best and much-improved form. We went over his squat again last night to refine a few things and to cement principals.
Bob was constantly misaligning the bar on his back with his grip being uneven on each set of squat and regardless of the amount of times I reminded him of the steps he should take while addressing the bar or threatening physical violence for not paying attention we didn’t have much joy until I interrogated him like a primary school headmaster on every single step he was taking throughout his squat set up. This might seem like needless cruelty or pettiness to some people, these people do not understand performance or creating a performance.
The above is bob’s squat routine, it’s not my routine it’s his he has written it out and he will be referring to it everytime he approaches the barbell to make his execution consistent. The expert performers and high-level athletes have routine in everything they do from how they get out of bed in the morning to how they eat their meals. You don’t have to be obsessive about your life. But you have to be obsessive and exacting every single fucking time you approach a barbell.
Creating a pre-set routine will no only remove the variation from your practice and give you a stable base from where you can more easily enact technique change and optimisation. It will also remove a lot of the doubt and fear you might experience when lifting a new rep max or heavy set. Once you slide into your set up then doubt and fear will wash away with the familiarity of your boot up sequence.
Write out your routine for each lift in as much detail as possible.
Read it over.
Write it out again.
Next time you lift go through it relentlessly every set regardless of the weight on the bar.
Adopt this routine for the rest of your lifting life and whatch alot of the insecurities and inaccuracies in your performances melt away.