For instance, the squat engages the hips, knees, and ankles to perform. The muscles involved include the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. For those who are not so clear on the anatomy of our legs, that translates to our butt, thighs, the back of our legs, and calves.
The beauty of compound movements is that we are exercising the maximum amount of muscles in the minimum amount of time. While the muscles are extending (the negative portion) we should go slowly. This range of movement we are strongest and can handle greater amounts of weight. As such, moving the weight slower gives our muscles more time under stress, which is exactly what we want.
When at the pinnacle of the negative, pause for a moment. Stop, take total control of the weight. If under the bench press, you should have complete control. The bar should be ½” from your chest. If you are at the bottom of your squat, your hips should be just beneath your knees. Each of the muscles in your legs are holding that weight and none of it is resting on your knees. Yes, this is the Pause Principle created and taught by Joe “Master Blaster” Weider. Hold the pause for 1 or 2 seconds, then contract.
The contraction of the muscles is the positive movement. It’s standing up under the squat, the press of the bench press, and the pull of the bent row. This motion should be faster than the negative range. It should be a fast snap, an explosion of movement. It is a blast of force, but with control. You do not want the bar to fly out of your hands, off your shoulders, or slam into your chest at the top of the rep.
Sets and Reps
Simple is the best way. Three sets are about all we need.
Let's take a fast course in muscle construction. There two types of muscle fiber, the slow twitch and the fast twitch. Slow twitch muscles are for endurance like long distance running, while the fast are explosive and used in powerful movements.
Repetitions for endurance go 15 and up while for strength are capped at 10. Reps for power are 3 to 5.
Form first, strength will follow. From the strength we build, endurance will be a natural growth.
Once the weights have been secured on the bar with proper collars:
- Lie down with your eyes under the bar
- Grip the bar with your pinkies on the thin smooth ring
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, arch your back slightly, keep your hips and butt on the bench
- Lift the bar from the rack by straightening your arms
- Lower the weight with control, keep your elbows at a 70-degree angle to your body, and forearms perpendicular to the bar and floor
- At the bar, squat down and grip the bar overhand, that is with your palms facing you and slightly wider than shoulders width; A wider grip will put more emphasis on the rhomboid muscles over our shoulder blades, while a narrow grip will engage the thicker latissimus dorsa
- Keep your knees bent and your upper body level with the floor
- Your back should be straight to slightly arched down. By this, Picture yourself standing at attention from the hips to shoulders, only you have that portion of your body over the floor. You do not want to have your spine arched upwards like a cat while moving weight.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together when pulling the weight up
- Hold the bar so that it touches your abdomen, then lower it with control until your arms are extended
- An underhand grip will ensure that you are working your lats as the primary mover in this exerciser.
As a former powerlifter, squats are nothing to be afraid of. Let me say that again, do not be afraid of or nervous about squats.
Use a lighter weight than you think you should use. We are doing pause reps and explosive movement from the bottom of the squat.
- Shrug your shoulders up and back, hands palm-forward around the bar, your head up and back. This presses the bar into that slot and keeps your back arched. Always keep your head up when squatting. From the bottom of the squat, there is only one direction we want to go, up. Pick a spot on the ceiling and get there.
- Do not stop with your hips above your knees. This is cheating yourself out of all the benefits of squatting. Get those hips below the plane of your knees.
- Once those hips pass the knees, do not bottom out ass on ankles. Doing so will tear your knees apart. Keep your legs flexed. The ideal position is about half-way between the ankles and the plane of the knees.
Squat and Deadlift work much of the same muscle groups. Doing them both on the same day at three sets to failure is over-doing it and looking for an injury. So, don’t do them on the same day. Period.
There are several stance widths for this, but we are going to keep this simple. Feet shoulders width, maybe just a little more or less for comfort
- Squat down all the way so that we are almost sitting on our heels
- Grab the bar just outside of our legs, the grip can be alternated with one palm forward and one backward or both palms facing the same way
- Head up and back
- Flexing firmly against the weight and the bar, pull steadily until standing upright, but do not lock the knees, keeping them slightly flexed
- Bending the knees and thrusting the hips back, lower the weight until it touches the ground, then pull it back up again
This would be the time to tell you do not bounce the weight on the floor. This is begging for an injury that you will get. Believe me, I have learned that first hand. Several times.
You will know that you are leaning back and lifting your head up enough because the bar is rubbing up your shins. Yes, it will scrape up your shins if you do this lift in shorts.
Shoulder press will be done on the scheduled push days, an example will be given at the end. The upright row, which follows, will be done on the pull days.
This can be done sitting or standing, but for our purposes it will be done sitting. This offers better control of the movement.
- Grip the bar slightly more narrow than the we did for the bench press
- Lift the bar overhead, do not lock the elbows
- Lower the bar in front with control until it nearly touches our collar bone
- Pause in the lower position and hold it here for one or two seconds
- Smoothly and quickly press the bar back into the starting position
This exercise will be used on alternating workouts with the shoulder press.
- Grip the bar slightly less than shoulders width
- Stand upright
- Pull the bar upwards until it reaches our trachea at the top of our breastbone
- Hold it for one or two seconds, then lower the weight with control
Push or Pull Days
Using both squat and deadlift we have more variety. We can alternate our lifting schedule in push and pull days. This could look like:
In this two week cycle, we are alternating the push and pull routines. This rotation assures an equal amount of both push and pull exertion over the two week cycle.
As noted in an earlier article, physical changes will take 3 to 4 weeks for you to see results. Your friends and coworkers are liable to notice results sooner.