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Setting up on the big 3

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  • Setting up on the big 3

    ok everyone, 7_Deadly_Sins today asking if I could post up some mechanics/reference points for the big three, so here goes. I just want to say that these are the reference points my team and I use - there are obviously no absolutes when dealing with body mechanics of individuals, and there will inevitably be variance; however, that being said, these remain solid reference points for all resistance training athletes.

    In the powerlifting world, setting up for a lift is everything. A good setup puts you in a position of strength and gives you the greatest opportunity to complete the lift safely and strongly. Unfortunately, and I'm not sure why, in the bodybuilding world (and I'm not slagging it here, just making an observation) a good strong setup often gets neglected, putting the athlete in a precarious position for not only safety but also for being in the strongest possible position.

  • #2
    there are three main setup points - your back, your hips, and your knees/feet.
    Back: ok this can be broken down into the upper and lower back, and both are very important.
    Upper back - the scapula (shoulder blades) should be pulled hard together and forced down towards the pelvis. The result should lead to your chest being pushed out and up. your hands should be somewhere around the power rings (unless you have shoulder issues) and your elbows should be pulled under the bar a bit. you should be focusing on pulling the bar down across your shoulders and trying to pull your elbows down to your sides. The tighter the upper back, the stronger the shelf for the bar will be. your head should be up and pushed back into the bar.
    lower back - this is the area that can always improve. start by pushing your hips back a bit and rolling your hips up. Excuse the crude analogy, but imaging showing your balls (if you have them haha) to the person behind you. now squeeze your lumbar as hard as possible. it may cramp the first few times, and that's OK.
    now don't forget we need to do both of these things at the exact same time. I'm yet to meet someone that can arch too hard and have their back too tight, so keep that in mind.

    Hips - This is tied in with the arch of the lower back. Your hips/pelvis should be rolled up and back. The first movement of the squat needs to be back, not down, and setting up with your hips facing back makes this first movement MUCH easier.

    Knees/Feet - Feet - wider than shoulder width is the strongest position for most people, as it recruits the largest number of muscle groups (quads, hams, glutes) but shoulder width can be used depending on your flexibility and your goals.
    Knees - they need to remain over the ankles at all times (shins vertical) - this can be achieved by sitting back, then down, as mentioned above. you should focus on pushing your knees out and "spreading the floor" with your feet. this will help recruit your groin as well, and will keep your joints in line.

    Ok so that's pretty much the barebones of the setup.

    squatting - the setup needs to be completely done BEFORE the bar comes out. now, for walking the weight out, your hips won't be totally pointed back, but you HAVE to keep your arch in both the upper and lower back for the walkout - setting up with weight on your shoulders just isn't going to happen.

    Set up, take the weight up, and back. Set your feet up (where ever that might be width-wise). Take a deep breath, push out against your belt (if you use one, if not, push your stomach out and squeeze it as tight as possible) - now don't lose your arch.

    Once you are set up, roll your hips back, take your air, and start sitting back - dante has used the analogy of taking a shit in the woods, I like to think of sitting off the back of a bench/box, or sitting down on a toilet. Move your hips back while keeping the knees fixed, as you approach the distance you can sit back, start heading down with your knees. Remember, as you descend, spread the floor with your feet and force your knees out - the whole time. as you reach the box ( if you are box squatting ) or the bottom of your squat, keep your air, arch tight, pulling your elbows under, spreading the floor, sitting back *everything mentioned so far* when you reach the bottom, the first movement should be forcing your head/neck "into the bar" this will keep your head up, and where the head goes, the body will follow. on the ascent, spread the floor, force your knees out, etc..

    At the top, exhale and retake your air for your next rep. Always keep your air for the whole rep.

    Well that mostly covers it I think.


    • #3

      note this is a power bench setup:

      the scapula setup should be the same or very similar to the squat - shoulder blades together and pushed down towards the pelvis. and the pelvis should be the same as well, you want to think of putting your balls on the bench. you should be arching hard. you don't necessarily need a massive arch, but you should be squeezing your back hard in the arch and it should be enough to keep most of your back off the bench.

      the three contact points for the bench should be the traps, the glutes, and the feet. benching flat backed is not recruiting your back muscles and you're missing out on strength.

      Feet set up: this has a lot to do again with personal strengths and preferences - some guys bench with their feet under them on their toes, while others bench flat footed, while some are in between. regardless, your feet should be setup relatively wide (not under the bench) and your feet should have weight on them.

      once you are set up with your feet and a good hard arch (refer to squat writeup above for complete details) you are almost ready to go.

      grip - you want to be around the power rings (again personal preference) and you want the bar LOW in your hand - it should be sitting in your palm, to allow your wrist to stay in a locked upright position. don't let the bar roll back over your wrists into your fingers. squeeze the bar as tight as you possibly can - like your life depended on it.

      keeping your three contact points on the bench, drive your traps into the bar and take the weight out. let the weight settle above you somewhere around your clavicles (again will be different for everyone). again push your stomach out against the belt or without a belt push it out and squeeze it. Take a deep breath into your chest and hold it. to start the descent of the bar, focus on trying to pull the bar apart or bend it. your elbows should be around 45 from your body (not fully tucked, not straight out).

      Here is the tricky part - squeeze the bar, trying to pull it apart whilst squeezing your back - this will allow your back to lower the bar, not your chest/arms. focus on keeping weight on your feet. An analogy here is trying to push yourself down through the floor and bench with your three contact points, instead of floating on the bench and waiting to push the bar back up.

      touch right around your sternum, slightly lower than your nipples. keep your wrists up, feet through the floor. IF you are benching with your feet under you, focus on pushing your heels down and out. IF you are benching with flat feet, focus on spreading the floor again.

      once you touch, the drive up is a whole body movement - if you are flat footed, focus on pushing back into your traps - your tight traps with absorb the energy. if you're on your toes, focus on trying to do a leg extension through the floor with your legs - again, your traps pushing into the bench will absorb the energy. keep your butt on the bench - pushing back into your traps will keep you from pushing up and losing your butt off the bench.

      As you push with your feet, continue to squeeze the life out of the bar and drive it up with your upper body. As you drive, the bar should come up and almost immediately start heading back towards your face. not at an unsafe rate, but so that by the top it is back above your clavicles/chin. keep focusing on having your shoulders down and back, and don't flatten out here, simply straighten your arms to lockout. the path of the bar should be a sort of an inverted J.

      release your breath and reset it and go again (if doing more than a single) following the mechanics.


      • #4
        and for the Deadlift I'm gonna save my words and let exmgq's explanation run wild like hulkamania:

        conv stance, 635 + 165 chain weight, roughly 800 at lockout

        sumo stance, 771

        for starters a persons build determines his/her starting position. other factors include strength and weaknesses in your pull. for instance a puller with shorter arms will have to set up deeper to achieve the proper starting position. longer arms means a higher starting position. also if your lockout is stronger than your "off the floor" power then a higher setup will yield better results. i can lockout more weight than i can get off the floor so i have a higher stating position. whats th advantage of a higher starting position? whats the advantage of squatting higher than ass deep? the higher the squat the more weight you can move. the advantage of a deeper set up is youll be in be more upright position so more weight is shifted to "squatting" the weight off the floor as opposed to pulling it off the floor.

        setup is critical for big pulls. if you are properly setup and you let go of the bar you will fall backwards. your arms need to be hanging straight down. this means you are behind the bar as opposed to being over the bar. leverage makes a big difference whenever work is involved. better leverage = more weight being moved with the same amount of work.

        also you dont want you arms to be spread open. your hands should be shoulder width at grip.

        make your arms as long as possible. takes a lil practice but it will knock several inches off your pull. do not try to shrug the weigh at all. your traps must be relaxed. shoulders rolled slightly forward. arms relaxed except for the death grip. to practice this next time you pull, at lockout, relax your arms and shoulders and see how low you can get the bar to hang. youll be surprised.

        dont pull back past the upright position. the rules say all you gotta be is upright.

        once the bar gets past your knees quit trying to pull the weight up and focus more on getting your hips forward. watch the clips i posted and notice my hips. hips forward and the lift is complete. im upright, arms relaxed, shoulder rolled forward, traps relaxed.

        sumo is a shorter pull than conventional. i pull sumo in meets but most of my training is done conv. why? i train conv more because its a longer pull. meet time i pull sumo for the shorter pull. also if you have the flexibility using an ultra wide sumo stance is even better. youll be even closed to the floor. i was working with a young lady here in the gym the other night and i had her feet all the way out to the plates. her pull was maybe 8" and she was locked out. she is short with long arms. she was pulling smoother than she ever had and pulling weight more easily. she was also setting up way too deep which did not suit her strengths.

        taking the slack outta the bar. (this means to have the bar bent as far as its gonna bend without the weight coming off the floor). once setup there is a couple ways to do this. after setting up and just before you pull arch your back upward slightly. this will take the slack out of the bar, pull your shoulders/traps down and get you in the highest starting position possible with your set up style. the other method is to setup jes a tad deeper than you normally would and using leg drive to do this. i prefer the first method esp if im in gear. heres a clip of this

        700 x 2

        well there is a lot of info dumped on yall. to start with your #s may go down but in the long run this stuff flat out works. i was stuck for a long time with a 675 pull. i went to winston-salem to train with travis mash one day and he worked with me and gave me all this stuff to do. my #s did go down at first but within 5 months i pulled 804. i filmed my pulls and watched them over and over til i got it right. im not saying my form is perfect but it is a lot better than it was. the biggest difference is i used to be locked out with the bar above my pecker. now as you can see its near mid thigh. thats at least 8 inches knocked off my pull.

        good luck.


        • #5
          ok so that's the barebones of the lifts, there are TONS of variations and tips to give during a lift, but those should help, at least I hope they do haha


          • #6
            Freakin' awesome! Thanks Jay.
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            • #7
              Great stuff. Much appreciated Jay!!


              • #8
                Thanks a ton Jay.
                jay question about bench, if your feet have to stay flat on the floor, would anything that you typed change?
                And, would anything at all on either 3 change if you're raw or geared?

                Did you do any special techniques to help with the arch in squat other than put on weight and squat?

                Thanks again, great info!
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                • #9
                  flat feet on the bench remain the same, spread the floor with your feet, arch, rolling your pelvis, nothing changes really.

                  the only changes would be in gear is you can squat wider safely, other than that, the same principles apply, only in gear your weaknesses show up real fast haha.

                  arching comes with conscious thought and practice. also, you'll want your accessory work to compliment the arch muscles.


                  • #10
                    I should also add that the hard arch that is discussed in the squat post can be applied to just about any and all exercises - rows, curls, etc - any time your body is supporting a load


                    • #11
                      Excellent read JC! Thank you for taking the time to write this gem up, greatly appreciated. Now, if only more people would read this and apply it.


                      • #12
                        I just tried mimicking the squat set up... major rear delt crampage!!! ughghghghhh
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                        • #13
                          Thanks for posting this Jay. Lot's of info to cram into my brain.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KendoKid View Post
                            Thanks for posting this Jay. Lot's of info to cram into my brain.
                            it is a ton to concentrate on at once. i suggest taking 1-2 things are concentrating solely on them and giving them all your focus until its second nature. then take 1-2 more points and repeat. trying to think of it all at once while lifting tends to just lend to confusion and difficulty focusing on any of it.


                            • #15
                              WoW! After reading that I can already tell that I am doing a few things wrong and will need to try to put some of those techniques into practice. I am going to have to re-read this every time I lift for a while, should make me think about it more and of course get better!
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