I’m glad you joined me.
If you’re new to powerlifting, these tips will give you the long-lasting tools I’ve used to exercise with good form. The beauty of powerlifting is that the basics are important from beginning levels to the most elite. If you’ve already been lifting, use the things here and see if they enhance your power.
Powerlifting involves five exercises: the squat, the deadlift, the bench press, the row, and the overhead press.
Most people start off weightlifting without learning good habits and techniques that establish good form. At first, they might find it easy to perform the exercises with poor form, but later they run into injuries because they haven’t prepared themselves to handle heavy weights.
I want to teach you the unusual, lesser known techniques, mental cues, and imagery that allowed me to execute good form and get past the frustrating beginning stages of learning powerlifting quickly. It also kept me from getting injured, even under the heaviest weight.
You will have better results, and sustain strength for a long time, if you have correct form.
The powerlifting squat is also known as the “low bar back squat”, but that’s not too important at this moment.
There are a few key principles that define a correct squat.
- Maintain natural curvature of the back, or a straight back, throughout the movement.
- Feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward, and stationary.
- The hip joint dipping below the horizontal plane of the knee joint at the bottom of the movement, also known as a “parallel” position.
Most of us won’t be able to do this correctly at first. It takes time to mobilize your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back fully, so for now let’s use the following cues to work toward better form. We’re getting started on the road to mastering it.
Basics for the Body Weight Squat
Learn to squat first without loading weight on your back. Do five correctly every day for the first week.
- Feet shoulder width apart, toes forward
- Squeeze your butt
- Put your arms out in front and grab your hands together
- Breathe in and hold, tighten belly against breath
This is the start position. You should feel tight and solid.
- Keeping your torso tight and arms out in front, lower yourself by pushing your hamstrings (back of your thighs) back and your knees out.
- When the tops of your thighs are below the tops of your knees, this is called “parallel”. It’s far down enough and you don’t have to go further.
- Bounce out of the bottom position and stand up again, into the starting stance.
- Do this a few times to warm up. If you can’t reach parallel, keep doing the squats and gently bounce back up, until you are able to get lower. Don’t force it, though. It takes time.
If you can’t squat from standing, just get down into a squat position and hold it there for a minute. After doing this a couple of times, get in the starting position and try the squat again.
What to Think During the Squat
Now that you have the feel for the squat, use these mental tricks to ensure that you do it correctly each time. It gets tough, so try accomplishing one aspect per day.
Starting Stance Imagery
1. “Feet spreading the floor”
- Imagine that your feet are trying to spread apart the floor. Point your toes straight forward, get in the butt-flexed and belly-tight position, arms forward, and allow your butt to pull your thighs outward, as if trying to rotate them out.
- Your feet should remain stationary, pointed forward. You will feel them “gripping” the ground as your butt pulls them outward against the ground.
- Your foot arches will also pull up as a result of the butt pulling, giving you better support in the foot.
- Allow your toes to splay, or spread, so they can maximize grip. This is why they are attached to your feet – to grip the ground.
- You are ready to squat. You should find that from this reinforced starting position, you will be secured to the ground and ready to pull yourself down stronger.
2. “The Pillar”
- Arms forward, turn palms face up and twist your arms out, squeeze your shoulder blades, and then rotate just your hands face down keeping your upper arms and shoulders locked. Grab one hand with the other, tight.
- Take in a breath and tighten your belly against it, creating a solid pillar out of your torso. You will be holding the breath until the end of each squat.
The Squat Imagery
3. Use whichever suits you best:
- I’m pulling myself down through my legs
- I’m sitting down in a low chair
- I’m bending down to scoop up a corgi running toward me
- With the image of choice in mind, start the descent by pulling knees out to the side and creating an outward rotational force on your ankles. Feet should stay glued to the ground.
- Hamstrings pull back, as if you’re sitting down on that low chair.
- Try to not lose tension in the knees. Keep them pulled outward.
- Torso: Keep your chest out without letting your ribcage come up. Torso straight, spine neutral. It should feel like you’re maintaining torso position and not really moving or doing anything with it.
4. “Pull down into the hole”
- Think of the bottom position of the squat as “the hole”, and you are bouncing into and out of it.
- “Pulling down” is stronger then simply “lowering” yourself into the bottom position.
- Pull yourself down until you’re at parallel, slightly bounce at the bottom and come back up.
5. “Squeeze butt”
- Now that you’ve scooped the corgi into your arms, or touched down on the low chair, or pulled yourself down through your legs, come out of the bounce by squeezing your butt.
- Squeeze your butt from bottom to top, and straighten up into the starting stance.
- Let out your breath, tighten everything up again, and prepare for the next squat.
Next, we’ll get into how to use these concepts when you have a bar, or a broomstick, at first, on your back.
Thanks for reading! What problems have you had with squat form that I haven’t addressed? Hit reply and send me your thoughts!
To powerful living,
Copyright © 2016 Steve Ko, All rights reserved.