Sport360's Alex Rea took part in a physique challenge earlier this summer and now embarks on a new challenge with Desert Barbell.
Sport360°’s Alex Rea has teamed up with the guys at Desert Barbell to embark on a six-week powerlifting challenge, working alongside industry experts ahead of his first ever competition – Powermeet 5.0. In week two, he visits DB co-founder and strength coach Patrik Hedvist to breakdown his technique for the three lifts: squat, bench and deadlift.
If there is one piece of advice appropriate for any form of weight training, and it should be inscribed on our hands as a permanent reminder, it’s that technique reigns over numbers.
Let me give you anecdotal evidence. When I first entered a weightlifting gym in my late teens, the prevailing thought and fear was not to be an utter embarrassment.
In a gym full of meatheads, the idea of lifting light weights had me believing I’d be laughed out of the place.
However, the apprehension was misdirected. Opting for 60kg on the flat barbell bench press seemed like the right thing to do, even though the result was a wobbling bar barely reaching halfway when out of the rack.
An old guy, comfortably in his 60’s, watched my strife once or twice from afar and then somewhat nobly stepped in.
“Forget the weight, focus on the form,” he explained. “Nobody will laugh at you for the weight you lift, but they certainly will for the way you lift.”
Short and sweet, but sound advice I’m sure you will agree. It’s remained with me from day one because constructive criticism should always be received with gratitude rather than a grumble.
It’s the only way of developing in a discipline which is hallmarked by improvement.
So when the switch from bodybuilding to this powerlifting challenge presented itself, the prominent thought was to work on clean technique because get that right and the numbers will take care of themselves.
When it comes to the three lifts, squat, bench and deadlift, from a powerlifting perspective at least, my form for the trio is rather primitive.
Being afforded the opportunity to pick the brains of Patrik with a three-hour video analysis session at Scandinavian Health & Performance was like meeting an oracle.
From markedly altering my genuinely dangerous back-up movement for deadlifts into a hip-hinge manoeuvre, to utilising leg drive and contraction through shifting my feet back on the bench, to then noticing the need to tuck my elbows and brace more for the squat, Patrik spotted and corrected every fault, big or small.
The comparison between the before and after, was laughable and in a sport like powerlifting, the need for a coach like Patrik isn’t just advised, it’s a necessity, no matter what level you’re at.
Armed with this knowledge, the idea going forward is to drill each movement over and over again. Filming will be a huge help and every lift will be videoed to ensure form remains consistent.
Incidentally, you’ll know you’re in a gym with powerlifters around because the floor will end up looking like a teenager’s bedroom. The mountain of gear just strewn all over the place, weightlifting shoes, belts and straps is practically a signature.
The program designed by Patrik (a 3-3-2 split for squat, bench and deadlift) gives my body an opportunity to properly learn each lift and quickly become more efficient.
Over the next few weeks the improvement will be obvious.
COACH CORNER WITH PATRIK HEDQVIST (@borjetheswede)
You have taken the decision to walk along the powerlifting road. The first piece of advice I can give, is let the progress take TIME. It´s about learning a specific skill, to master three complex movements. The body needs time to learn and adjust.
Secondly, and this may sound contradictory, train both all-round and specific. What I mean by this is to be as specific as possible with the actual lifting movements, but don’t be afraid to train a lot of assistance exercises. A great example is the shoulder complex, the primary portion of the body involved in bench press. When training bench press a beginner should aim to perfect the technique with a straight bar and competition form. However, it is important to strengthen the shoulders in all angles so; incline presses, different rows and cable work is a good way to uphold a good balance.
What can become a challenge is the enormous amount of programs that can be found online, and the easy access to see how the world’s elite athletes train. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great way to spread the sport, but one must remember that these individuals are elite lifters, often with many years of experience. Keep it simple and keep a good basic structure, start according to your actual lifting level, that’s the best advice.
When it comes to the actual lifting, the best advice is to have a good coach screen your technique so that you lift according to your own personal structure. Should you use a wide or a narrow stance? Sumo or conventional? The answer is always “it depends”.
How to choose the above will be discussed in the coming weeks.