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3 Mistakes Before the Bar is Unracked

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3 Mistakes Before the Bar is Unracked

When looking at the big 3 lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift), we need to look at how to perform them optimally to increase leverage and the poundage being used. At Showtime Strength & Performance, we run 2-3 powerlifting meets a year and usually are at another 6-10 meets a year. After watching many of the best lifters ever and watching first-time competitors, we have noticed some huge differences that lead to big pounds gained or lost in competition.

In addition to moving more weight on each lift, creating optimal tension will also reduce the chance of injury because the load is being moved by the stronger support, which gives it less of a chance to load into weaker muscle groups. Lets take a look at the 3 biggest mistakes we see on the main lifts before the bar is ever unracked.


Breath - The breath is still something I have to think about every single time I get under a bar. This is something I never thought about until Dave Tate showed me a quick breathing trick that I have worked on - and since had major improvements on lifts because of it.

Inhale into the stomach, lock in all the way around

Pull air in through your mouth-this helps fill the upper body with more tightness

If you see the shoulders raise during this, the air isn’t efficient and most of it is going into your head. We are trying to fill everything from the waist to the head to create as much tightness as possible. Joe Bayles worked with me on this and as I became better at it, I was unracking an empty squat bar earlier than I thought because the tightness was flexing the bar without me “forcing” the bar out. This is helpful because obviously as weight increases the bar will not pop out.

Feet- On all three lifts, the feet must be screwed into the ground and then either driven down or twisted to create tension. Many time when someone has an unstable unrack or struggles to get the bar off the floor in the deadlift, it is because their feet aren’t being used to create tension throughout the entire body. This is missing out on important drive from the hamstrings, glutes, and ab muscles. Lifting heavy weights is all about learning to be more efficient with the movements. Yet, we have all seen or been the person who has happy feet on every lift. This doesn’t help and the sooner a lifter can fix it the better. On squat and sumo deadlift, we tell people to spread the floor as much as possible, but they also need to screw their feet in before doing so. Conventional deadlift, we will have people squeeze the floor with their heels and toes and think of their start like a leg press. On bench press, whether legs out or tucked under, the lifter can’t move their feet once that is set. As soon as they do, they're moving their base and have to start all over.

Elbows - This is another one that is simple, but is often missed until later on in a lifter’s career. Not having the elbows in the correct position will make it difficult to create tightness in the movement from the very beginning. On Squat, the elbows should be under or as close to under the bar as possible. If they’re behind the bar, it will shove the bar forward on the lifter. On bench press, the elbows have to be interlay rated before the bar is lifted out. This will help the lifter load the weight into their lats, not the front delt and pec muscles. If the elbows are out on a bench press it will also increase range of motion and usually take the bar out of a straight path. On deadlift, the overhand needs to pull the elbow towards the body, while the under hand is externally rotating, together creating tension on the bar.

Failing to do so, could let the bar windmill out of control and float out in front of the lifter making it much more difficult to complete the lift. Most elbows issues can be corrected by strengthening the lats and mid back because in all three lifts, that is what you're trying to draw recruitment from with elbow placement.

For any questions on technique or set up on the lifts, please email me at nick@showtimestrength.com

Nick Showman

Showtime Strength & Performance










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Guest Sunday, 09 August 2020