Instead of Crunches, Deadlift and Front Squat
- Deficit Deadlifts
- Front Squats
Problem: Weak off the floor. Bar doesn't even budge.
1. The bar is too heavy! If your 1RM is 400 pounds and you load 500 on the bar, do you really expect it to budge? It doesn't matter where your sticking point is if you're picking a weight that isn't even close to what you can handle.
Solution: Tell your ego to wait for you in the car. Take some weight off the bar so you can find where your true weakness is.
2. You're slower than molasses going uphill on a winter day. Just as its name implies, the deadlift is performed from a dead stop on the floor; it's to your advantage to develop force quickly.
This is especially important with heavier weights, as the bar won't necessarily move initially when you start the pull. The faster your rate of force development (RFD), the faster that God-awful "will this ever budge?" feeling will go away. If you're slow, you'll miss (or give up on) the lift before you ever approach near-maximal force values.
Solution: Essentially trick your body by pulling from a deficit. In other words, do your deadlift variations while standing on a box or platform up 1-6 inches in height. Once you "return to Earth" and pull from your regular altitude, the weights will seem to fly off the floor. You can go from deficit to normal in a single session to improve your speed on normal sets by tricking your nervous system.
For further education on the deadlift issues and solutions, continue reading: Deadlift Diagnosis
A primary benefit of front squats is that they increase your core strength. Most of the time when you’re talking about increasing core strength you tend to think about crunches, hanging knee raises and planks. With front squats however, the load to the front of your body forces your abs and core to stay activated to stabilize your body throughout the movement. If your midsection isn’t activated and your torso isn’t erect during the movement, the lift is likely to fail as the body is unable to support the load.
Front Squat Setup
- Your shoulders support the weight, not your hands. Always keep your chest big & elbows up.
- Your foot stance should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes must always follow your knees. Point your toes out to about 30 degrees.
- Utilize a big chest by putting your chest forward & lift it up. This gives the bar a solid base to sit on & makes it impossible to round your upper-back. Tighten your upper-back.
- Look forward, not up! Looking up is bad for your neck and looking down will make your lower back round. So look forward at a fixed point in front of you.
- Grip the bar at about shoulder width, or at a position in which the hands will not be trapped by the shoulders when the bar is “racked”. A narrow grip pushes the bar against your throat, making breathing difficult. A wide grip makes it harder to keep your elbows up.
- The bar should be placed on top of your front shoulders. Behind your clavicles & close to your throat. Open your hands, relax them. Your upper-arms should be parallel to the floor – so the weight doesn’t end on your hands and the elbows should be squeezed toward each other. Admittedly, it takes a little flexibility. The best way to get this flexibility is… wait for it… do more front squats!