Weight training with the Big 3 – squat, bench and clean

Weight-training regulars know them as the Big 3 – the squat, bench and clean.

Many strength and conditioning programs utilize these movements as a part of their routine, and for good reason. They are premier exercises that will train the entire body, adding muscle mass, strength and power.

But like anything in life, it’s important to do them right. These training tips will help you improve and increase your squat, bench and clean routine.

Incorporate these subtle changes in technique and preparation to help improve your efficiency while also improving your total.

Squat

1. Full Range of Motion (ROM) – Using just your body, assume the position of a catcher in baseball.  Keep your heels down and now take notice of where your body is. THAT, is the bottom of the full-range of motion squat.  Begin with an empty barbell and squat to that same depth.  Add weight and continue to hit the same depth.  As soon as you can no longer squat to the same depth for the rep range you need, lower the weight to the previous set and repeat 1-5 more sets.

2. Knees Out – While descending, push your knees out towards your toes.  As soon as you hit depth, push your knees out even harder as you come up.  Why? A common sight to see is an athlete whose knees buckle inward while squatting.  The cause is most likely weak hip muscles and the stronger, more dominant quads will take over.  Pushing the knees out through the full ROM will activate and strengthen the weak link.

3. Hip Drive – Initiate coming up from the bottom of the squat with your hips.  To do this, first practice with just your body.  Assume the bottom squat position and now pretend someone was pushing their hand into your lower back.  “Push back” against the hand and rise up.  This will help ensure that the glutes, hamstrings and inner thigh muscles are engaged doing what they need to do.

Bench

1. Bench like a Powerlifter – Full-body tension, elbows tucked, low bar placement and leg drive, all make up the technique cues of how powerlifter’s bench-press.

2. Rip the Bar in Half – and pull the bar down to you.  Squeeze the bar as hard as you can and literally think about trying to bend it in half while you PULL, not drop the weight down to your chest.  This will engage the Lats and upper back muscles creating a better bar position and a more stable base to press from.

3. Push Yourself Away – from the bar, not the bar from you.  By doing so, you will create tension from the legs up and generate more force into the bar.  Seeing someone bench press and one leg comes up when it gets heavy tells me that they haven’t utilized their whole body to perform the lift.

Clean

1. Increase your Deadlift – Although a deadlift is not as “fast” looking as a power clean, it can and will strengthen all the muscles that are involved in the clean.  Deadlifts will let the athlete become accustomed to pulling and holding heavier weights from the floor.

2. Use the Hook Grip – while performing your power/hang clean.  To do this, place the bar in the crook of the fingers/palm (right over the calluses) and then hold your thumb in place with your index finger.  It WILL feel odd at first.  The reason why is to allow a better bar spin as you catch the weight on the shoulders.  Too many wrist and shoulder injuries occur when the athlete attempts to catch the weight with the hands.

3. Increase your Front Squat – Dropping under the bar after the “jump” phase will put you into the same position as a front squat would.  Similar to the deadlift, this will allow the athlete to handle heavier weight in this portion of the exercise.

Scott Doane Strength and Performance coach and owner of BeSTRONG Training Systems; a private training facility designed for enhancing your fitness and performance. He has trained a variety of athletes of all ages and levels ranging from middle-school to professional. Find him online at BeStrongTrainingSystems.com

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