This exercise is recognized as the Cornerstone of every strength-gaining program and although it seems to be a very simple exercise to perform at first glance, it has some technical aspects to it that you need to understand to do it properly. It is not for men only, as I have shown as many women how to do it if they want to gain strength. Admittedly, these women were Police Recruits or women within the Police who wanted to gain entry into Specialist Squads, but as a pure strength-gainer, there is no better exercise.
This is basically a one-dimensional exercise, although there is a slight forwards/backwards motion in the up and down movement, so you shouldn’t have any lateral (sideways) movement, as this will cause injury and imbalance. It is essential to perform the movement with perfect technique before you graduate to lifting heavier resistances. You should continue to perform it with perfect technique and understand, for me personally as a strength trainer, I tell people to leave their Ego at the door of the training room if they wish to gain most out of their workouts – and, that they don’t injure themselves. To this end, you must try to concentrate on three essential ingredients if you want to maintain perfect technique –
- Always lift with a straight back (anatomically straight, with the natural curves of the spine in alignment) and maintain this position of your spine throughout the movement. So your legs do all the work at lifting the weight. To help you maintain this position of the spine, keep your chest up and head in a neutral position ( in alignment with your spine). So you only bend from your hips, not your waist.
- Keep the balance of the movement through your heels throughout the exercise. People tend to over balance forwards, which places a big loading on their spine and hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thighs). Maintaining pushing through your heels and keeping your chest up will,also help you develop the power through your hips and legs.
- Keep tension throughout your body for the duration of the exercise. This will help you maintain the correct positions through the lift and generate far more strength than you think possible and is the key for you to be able to do this.
As I stated previously, this exercise looks simple to perform at first glance, but there are some technical elements that you should know. So –
- place your feet at hip-width apart under the barbell, so that you can see your toes when you are looking at the bar.
- bend at your hips and knees, keeping your back straight (I make no apologies repeating this), and grip the bar in either both hands over grasp grip or in a mixed grip ( one hand over grasp and the other under grasp) . To enable you to develop the tension in your upper body, grip the bar in a vice-like grip (your palms wrapped tightly around the bar. To develop lower body tension, grip the floor with your toes (this is easier to do with flat, thin-soled shoes. Lastly, to help keep your spine straight, squeeze your belly muscles as if bracing yourself against a punch in the gut. This links that chain of tension throughout your body.
- so the movement is simply standing erect while keeping your arms straight, pause at the top of the lift, before replacing the barbell back down onto the floor under control (so don’t drop the bar). Pause before repeating the movement, but ensuring you maintain whole-body tension. You don’t need to perform any more than 5 – 6 repetitions for each set as it is an exercise that is very taxing on your body.
There are many variations of this basic movement, but these ideas can be covered in future blogs.