Strength Coach Answers
Part One. Common Exercise Technique Questions
Frequently asked Strength and Conditioning Questions Answered by a Strength Coach
When I perform Olympic lifts such as the power snatch I tend to shift my weight too far forward toward my toes as I move the bar overhead and perform the catch phase of the lift. Where should the majority of weight be placed on my feet?
As with most exercises and athletic movements your weight should be balanced over the center of your feet. Make sure you begin the lift with your feet flat on the floor, your weight balanced through the center of your feet, and make sure your torso is neutral, not leaning forward or backward. As the bar begins it’s upward movement make sure it remains as close as possible to the body. Allowing the bar to stray away from the body during the snatch can cause your weight to shift forward. When you receive the bar make sure your arms are locked out with your shoulders directly underneath the bar, your torso is vertical, and the bar is directly over the center of your feet. Make sure you are not jumping forward or backward when you move under the bar as that can cause you to become unbalanced.
How far down should I be “squatting” when performing an exercise like a push press?
When you are performing an exercise such as, a push press or a power jerk, it’s probably not the most beneficial to think about the initial downward movement as a squat. Most strength coaches and Olympic lifters will refer to this initial movement as a “dip” a reason you may not want to refer to the initial movement as a squat is because your mindset may differ as you prepare yourself to squat vs preparing yourself to perform a more explosive Olympic lift. To quickly find out the approximate depth of the initial dip you can try to jump or imagine trying to jump as high as possible from your push press stance and pay attention to how far you dip down, it will be very similar to the depth of your push press dip.
To be specific the bar should be lowered approximately 10% of your height or you should perform about a quarter squat.
How wide should my grip be when performing a barbell bent over row and should I grip the bar with an overhand grip or an underhand grip?
Your grip width for the barbell bent over row should generally be slightly wider than shoulder width. Most people can start with a full thumbs length away from their shoulder width or the inner knurling and adjust their grip width from there. Although there are many variations I recommend you use a pronated grip or overhand grip when performing the barbell bent over row and it should be a closed grip, which means you should wrap the entire thumb around the bar. By using this grip you will not only help strengthen your back it will also improve your grip strength.
Can I use a bench to perform step ups or is this “x” height box appropriate to step up on?
Simply, the height of the step should be approximately knee height. For most people the height will be about one to one and a half feet high (12-18 inches). Most benches and boxes that fit that criteria will be appropriate as long as the are secure and do not shift as you step up. Knee height is a general rule but may not be appropriate for untrained individuals or younger children.
What is the benefit of adding chains when performing an exercise such as the bench press?
When using chains during the bench press it simply places a greater amount of resistance at the top of the bench press and less resistance at the bottom of the lift. The most common method of using chains during the bench press requires the use of a chain that is long enough to wrap around the barbell and for a portion of the chain to remain on the floor when the arms are fully extended. As the barbell is lifted further from the floor naturally more of the chain will leave the floor adding to the weight of the barbell and increasing the resistance at the top of the lift. As the barbell is lowered toward the chest during the bench press more chain will be on the floor resulting in a lighter weight. This technique can be useful if you are having difficulty locking out at the top of your bench press or if you having trouble getting the weight back up after it is lowered toward your chest.
Using bands is an additional method to change the placement of resistance during the bench press.
What weight medicine ball should I use when performing upper body plyometric throws?
Upper body plyometric medicine ball throws should be done with 4-8 pound medicine balls. If you are a stud, you can probably progress to 10-12 pound balls but these movements need to be explosive. The goal of upper body plyometric throws is not to attempt to throw the heaviest medicine ball you can pick up. The goal is to be fast and explosive. You should here a good pop sound as the ball hits the ball. For these exercise you do not want to use some bouncy rubber medicine ball which can come off the wall very quickly and be dangerous. You want to use a high quality soft shell medicine balls such as the ones from the Dynamax Elite Series. They are not cheapest but if perform medicine ball throws for athletic performance or work in a team setting using medicine balls daily you know the value of quality medicine balls.
When setting up to perform a deadlift how close should I be to the barbell?
When you perform a deadlift you want to keep the barbell as close as possible to the body in order to perform the lift safely and reduce the risk of injury. When you set up for the deadlift you want the barbell to be as close to your shins as you can get it without rubbing. Your shoulders should be directly over or slightly in front of the barbell while keeping your back in a healthy position.