By Paul Oneid
In part one, we discussed the issues that we are training around. It would be ignorant of me to think that I can fix his hip issues, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make improvements. Through proper exercise selection, we can teach Dean to engage certain muscles that have been neglected and reduce his reliance on the muscles that he has been compensating with. We will also have to make sure we aren’t prescribing movements that are above his abilities, or that he doesn’t feel have provided benefit to him in the past. How do we know what these are? We ask!
This step is straight forward. Dean has achieved some significant success as a lifter, specifically in the deadlift, and he is a coach, himself. He should know his body well enough to give me some insight into what works and what does. Does this mean that I trust him? Absolutely not, but it gives me more information to work with when building his program.
- What are your limitations on the lower body?
o Pain with deep knee flexion in an flexed hip position (decreased with proper bracing)
o Inability to brace for extended periods under load (2-3reps max)
o Slight hip shift when hip hinging
- What are your limitations in the upper body?
- What do you feel has most benefitted your bench press?
o Bodybuilding work
o A supplementary pressing day
o Overload work with slingshot, or accommodating resistance
- What do you feel did not benefit your bench press?
o Board work
o Floor Press
I am not going to elaborate on why these didn’t work for Dean, but it is safe to say that he wasn’t diligent with his technique (to be discussed later)
- What do you feel has most benefitted your deadlift?
o I leave it up to you
- What do you feel did not benefit your deadlift?
o Won’t be able to do more than 2-3reps per set due to bracing
o Conventional should be avoided due to hip shift under loading
o Other than that, I leave it up to you
- What do you feel benefitted your squat?
o I leave it up to you
- What do you feel did not benefit your squat?
o Same limitation on reps per set (2-3)
o I leave it up to you
This is the part of programming where I need to assess the type of lifter Dean is, his personality, his strengths and his weaknesses. I am going to be blunt here and nothing I write hasn’t been said to Dean, so he knows what’s coming. Dean is a HEADCASE, plain and simple. This is something I can relate to. He is a coach and has a lot of knowledge, but he overthinks everything. Dean is also an athlete and played football at a high level for a lot of years, so he knows how to move aggressively. What do you get when you have an explosive athlete who is overthinking all his actions? You get what’s called “paralysis by analysis.” Too many things going through his mind while he is trying to move fast, so he ignores them all and moves like shit. Not a great recipe for success and it’s bitten him in the behind, hence the extended stint on the injured list recently. It will be my job to channel his thoughts in one direction through simple and concise cueing and objective feedback. I need to hold him accountable for his mistakes and try to break some bad habits that he has developed.
Dean has left the squat in my hands. This will be the lift that requires the most work. Because Dean has forced himself to continue to squat in the presence of some imbalances and poor mechanics, his squat is a mess. His stance is too wide for his hip mobility, causing his knees to collapse in the hole. His feet are turned out way too much which decreases the torque on his hips, which in turn decreases his ability to control his knee tracking. Finally, he breaks in the mid back and gets pitched forward on the descent. All of this leads to him cutting his depth and leaving a lot of weight off the barbell. He is way too explosive to only squat 600lbs. Dean has put his trust in me and I am going to revamp his squat, one change at a time.
- Narrow the stance and reduce the angle of his feet.
- Cue him to load his hips by hingeing and then sit down, as opposed to reaching his butt too far back
- Lower his bar position slightly. Not low bar, because he has long femurs, but not as high as he has it.
The Bench Press
Overall, Dean’s bench press isn’t terrible, but he has some bad habits that need to be addressed. He uses a wide foot base, and a max width grip. The max grip will inherently make him slower off the chest, but this should be accommodated for with the leg drive from his foot position. Dean is also taller and long limbed, making his stroke longer, but he arches well to compensate. He identified that he found a supplementary pressing day and bodybuilding work made the most beneficial impact on his bench press. This is an accurate assessment because he needs to get bigger. More muscle to move more weight. He also felt that overloading with the slingshot and accommodating resistance helped his bench. What he doesn’t realize it that they helped his bench because they forced him to finish his reps.
- I have instructed Dean to hold all his lockouts and reset his air every rep on all his working sets.
- Dean never locks out his presses. This problem is two-fold because he also tends to roll his shoulders forward on the lockout. He loses positioning and can’t lock out his reps under heavier loads. This change will initially raise his RPE and drop his working weights, but if he is patient and diligent with it, it will pay dividends in the long run.
- This is also why he didn’t find that floor press and board work improved his bench. He didn’t use the correctly and finish his reps!
- Over time, I will ask him to try to get his feet more north/south
- Dean’s feet are turned out. This decreases the torque at the hip and takes away from his leg drive. This will be a long-term fix and not something I will harp on too much until the upper body positioning is improved.
This is by far and away Dean’s best lift. He should be a 700+ deadlifter at 198lbs, but he has a few bad habits that we are going to fix. Dean pulls sumo and unlike a lot of lifters, he able to pull it aggressively and break the floor with some speed. He does well to carry this speed towards the lockout. Where Dean’s deadlift breaks down is his upper back. He pulls with a rounded t-spine. This IS NOT a bad thing, but it does cause some issues for Dean’s lockout. We will be working very hard to strengthen his upper back and lats, but we will also be making some tweaks to his technique to allow him to use those upper back muscle better.
- Lock out all your reps for 2-3seconds before putting the bar down.
- Dean, again tries to rush his deadlifts, as he does his benches and rarely locks out his reps with his head tall and shoulders behind the bar
- Raise your eye position and do not drop the chin at lockout
- When Dean drops his chin, the upper back sinks down. This is good if you want to decrease the length of the stroke, but it is bad when you aren’t locked out yet and need your upper back engaged to finish the pull
- I will cue Dean to keep the crown of his head tall and push his chin through the back of his head, not down into his chest. Try this at home and feel how your low traps and erectors engage.
- I will ask Dean to take a slightly wider grip on the bar
- When you watch Dean’s pull, you see his hands are slightly inside his shoulders. This doesn’t allow his lats to fully engage and lock in his spine. Shoring up this area will greatly improve his lockout strength and the increased spinal stability off the floor will negate the slight increase in stroke length.
Now that we have done our needs assessment, we know what areas need to be addressed to allow Dean to lift the way he needs to. Some of the issues are small, like the tweaks in the bench, while some are wholesale revamps, like his squat. Dean is set to make some big improvements to his total coming off this most recent injury if he is patient and doesn’t push the envelope. Slow and incremental improvements will be the ticket to some nice PRs. In the next installment, I will go over how I will use the 10/20/Life principles to build Dean’s program. If you’re interested in learning more about our team’s philosophy, be sure to grab a copy of the 10/20/Life Second Edition. You can also follow along with Dean’s log to see how the program looks on a day to day basis.