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How To Master The Compound Lifts


If you read my previous post on the five crucial principles to follow in order to achieve a strong and lean physique, you’ll know all about point number three and its impact on your success.

In this point I explained that you want to learn to perform the “Big Three” to the best of your ability. The squat, bench and deadlift. These 3 exercises should be making up the foundations of your training, with all other exercises taking on a supportive and accessory role.

Why? Because the majority of your frame needs to be strengthened and built up, and it’s almost impossible to achieve this with ab crunches, biceps curls and burpees.

The big three will work multiple muscle groups, allow you to increase strength gains at a progressive level and build you a physique in a shorter time than ANY OTHER training method.

So if you are relying on circuit classes you are going to fail because you won't getting better at said movements, only better at the body weight, work-till-you-sweat philosophy stuff.

If you are relying on home workouts you are going to hit a plateau VERY quickly because body weight exercises can only take you so far before they become impossible to increase the difficulty of, unless you are a successful human flag practitioner or gymnast.

If you are relying on cardio (great for health) you are going to fail…

So we need to get in the gym, get dumb strong and lift some manly weights.

Who knew?

But not everyone is an expert in bench press arches, hinging at the hip and squatting with a weighty load on their back.

So today I’ll show you how you can become an expert at the major lifts.

As a side note – there are far too many different ways to fix a movement and so I won’t be able to cover all of them in today's post. That being said, I’ll throw in as many different examples as possible to at least give you a better understanding of what might need improving in your specific case.

1) Never stop learning technique

Like anything in life. The more you know, the less you know.

It's a nice and humbling feeling to know that you will never master a lift because you are always going to be adding weight to it and finding out where your form breaks down the heavier you get.

This is apparent in 1 rep max attempts where we are putting our body into new territory through a new amount of weight lifted. Your body will try to lift the weight in any way it can, and so form can tend to be slightly compromised due to the added challenge.

A back arching in a deadlift. A bum coming off the seat on the bench. A hip shooting back coming out of the bottom of the squat. These are all tell-tale signs that something needs fixing.

Your best bet is to film yourself performing the exercise (no-one cares that you are filming yourself exercising. Seriously. I’ve done it about 178 times and no one has said anything ONCE. Some people have even asked if they can hold the camera!)

Have a look at the footage and break down if there are any glaring holes in the chain. If so, go back to the drawing board and work on this portion of the lift.

But what if you don’t know what went wrong?

Show it to an expert!

This is what our Strong & Lean Academy Members is partly designed for. Members are able to post videos for us coaches to review and we help them achieve a more solid lift.

If you are serious about your goals and would like to jump in to the community, please email rich.angelfitness@gmail.com.

We are SUPER picky about who we let in because this is a VERY DEDICATED group of individuals who want to carve out a strong and lean physique. Otherwise we might be seeing your squat form real soon!

2) Break down each section of the lift

There are different parts to the major lifts that you might not even consider.

For example, when we bench with a barbell. There’s the setup, the unracking of the bar, the lowering of the bar, and finally the pressing portion of the lift.

When you break down a lift by it’s phases you’ll be able to correctly define where you are weakest and implement change to fix this particular problem.

For example, if you are benching with a flat back you should do all you can to start creating an arch for two main reasons. 1) So that you can shorten the range of motion the bar has to travel so that you will be able to lift more weight, and 2) you’ll reduce the amount of shoulder rotation carried out which will improve the safety of the exercise and ensure you will have healthier shoulders.

3) Work on assistance movements to fix weak links

One you’ve figured out a weak link in the chain then it’s time to add in some extra or bespoke work to get that part perfected.

This can be done two ways. The first is by building up a muscle that is weaker than the others by adding in some isolation exercises.

For example, if you struggle to lock out the bar at the top of the bench press then you probably have weak triceps. Fix this by adding in some extra tricep extensions or skull-crushers to increase the size and strength.

The second option is to work on a particular movement pattern that would be considered the weakest part of your movement.

Finding it hard to lift the bar off the ground when attempting the deadlift? Then I would work on fixing this by adding in some pause deadlifts to specifically fix this issue.

4) Increase volume and frequency

Repetition is the key to mastering ANY skill, and no different when learning the big three. Want to get better at the squat? Do it more than once per week, or add in an extra set or squat variations such as the pause squat to increase technique and skill acquisition.

You could also add on an extra set and reps to your regularly scheduled lifts.

Again, if you are unsure where you should even begin, then apply for a place in our members area and save yourself all of the hassle and wasted time!

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