Training tips for the big three - Squats, Bench Press & Deadlift

Tips for the Big Three: Squats, Bench Press & Deadlift!

By WPC 90kg world champion powerlifter Chris Jenkins


Try and get the position of the bar below the traps and over the rear deltoids. This will feel awkward at first but is much better than using a foam pad or having a high bar placement. You will be able to handle heavier weights without putting stress on the top of your spine / base of your neck area, also your stability will be much better. Balance is everything when squatting. The squat is a fantastic core exercise that will help to give you better balance. I can remember being at a world championships back in 2009. The judging was very strict on the depth of the squats. The top part of the thigh had to break 2 inches below parallel. With a low bar placement, my balance was much better than the lifters with a high bar placement causing a large number of lifters to fail the lift. Remember to keep your head up, try and find a spot on the ceiling or wall in front of you. Focus on the spot as descend, push back so the overload goes to you gluts and hips. Never drop down with your knees going forward, always push your knees out and bum back. If you watch some of the best lifters in the world on clips from YouTube, you will hear the coach shout "back, back". This means they are trying to remind the lifter to push back and not just drop down. This will make you break parallel easier, save your knees and give you more power and explosion from the lift.

Bench Press:

The bench press is more technical than people think, when you set up on the bench take a 16-18 inch grip on the bar or where you feel stronger. Try and push your shoulder blades together on the bench, with practice try and arch your back keeping your feet planted on the floor. Get your spotter to make a count of 1, 2 then on 3 make sure you take a good breath of air. This will fill your lungs full of air, decreasing the distance the bar has to travel. The shorter your range of movement, the better! Also, should you lose control of the bar, having your lungs full of air will protect your body from the weight, if it drops on you. Make sure the spotter hands the weight right out to the line where you plan to bench from, this will help you avoid shoulder injuries and allow you to focus on getting stronger in your line from chest to lockout. When the bar descends, keep your elbows tucked in and not flared. Descend at steady pace, keep everything tight at the bottom. A lot of lifters make the mistake of relaxing a few inches from the chest. Your losing vital power from the bottom doing this. At the chest explode the weight as fast as possible to lockout, keep the bar in a straight line and not pushing back over the face. When the bar is at the chest also remember to stamp your feet as hard as you can, you will be able to apply more force to the bar.


For me the deadlift is a very mental lift, being negative in this lift can mean the difference between lifting the weight and NOT. Set up on the bar with your shins touching the bar. For every inch your away from the bar, you have to apply and extra 100 pounds of pressure to get the weight moving. A lot of lifters use baby powder and shave the legs to reduce friction. I have seen lifters do this just for competition, in reality they should do it weeks, even months beforehand. If you use heavier poundage in the gym week in, weak out, then you will be a much stronger athlete. Using chalk will help a lot with gripping the bar. Feet placement can have an effect on how you lift considering your body type and levers. If you point your feet straight forward, you tend to use a lot more hamstrings on the lift. Turning your feet out will involve more hips and gluteus. Try and set up your grip then pull as fast as possible after you are warm. If you pull fast, in theory you should generate more force and be able to shift heavier weight. Also foot wear is a good point when deadlifting. Try and use wrestling slippers or a shoe with no heel. You want to be as close to the ground as possible, to decrease your range of motion.

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