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Barbell How would you evaluate this advice on barbell strength training

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mjikia

Level 1 Valued Member
I'm a complete novice, so I don't know what I don't know. I don't have a personal trainer, but I looked around the gym, found the guy working the biggest weights and asked for advice on how to do stuff, and he really went out of his way to help me out, even coached me on how to do the exercises he advised. He seems like a good guy, I see no reason to doubt him, but I make it a habit to trust but verify, so here goes.

(paraphrasing what he said, I hope I don't misconstrue what he told me)

As I understand I'm in heaven, since I'm a beginner and I should be able to make surprising progress at a fast rate. I should keep it simple, my workout now and in the future should revolve around 3 to 4 compound lifts, any exercise I do, should be these 3/4 lifts or, in the future, accessory exercises for these lifts. Isolations, as he told me, are for intermediate or advanced lifters, and beginners have no business doing them. The weights I work with should increase by 2.5kg (5 pounds) or 5kg (10 pounds) every workout. Also walked me through the warm-up sets.

He advised to start out with:
A) low-bar squatting, as it will improve spinal integrity and in the long-term will make me less injury prone when it comes to hips and lower back
B) OHP or Military press
C) Bench press
D) Deadlift (he really stressed this one, since I have a very bad posture, and this is supposed to help).

In terms of high-bar squatting he told me not to try it for several months, since it'll mess with low-bar squatting form as a beginner, but I should get into it eventually, as it'll help me with Olympic lifts, if I ever want to try it.
+Exact quote 1: "It's just fun to flex on your gym by throwing around other peoples squat PRs"
+Exact quote 2: "Also low-bar, as great as it is for health and overall strength, it doesn't give you monster quads, and you know...f*** that"
He apparently switches in-between the two every 6 months, as he said, it's not for a strategic reason, he just likes doing it that way.

In terms of sets, I should definitely do 3, 4 or 5. He hasn't heard anyone make a solid argument for one or the other, so I should just choose one and stick with it. In terms of reps, people do anywhere between 4 to 8 reps as beginners, but no one does 7, so I can do 7 if I want to be contrarian or something, but generally 8 reps might be tough to power through for someone who doesn't have an athletic background, and working in fives is just a nice number to work with, so I should just stick with that, but it doesn't really matter for a beginner, I'll make progress anyway, so I should do what I want and stick with it.

in terms of workout days, no consecutive days, worst case scenario 2 days a week, best is 3.

That's pretty much it, he told me to ask him again when I plateau in around a month or two+-.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
That's good, if not great advice. Regarding the squat I don't think the specific style is that important, it's important that you squat. But yes, pick one and stick with it for a while, as with the reps and sets as well.

Overall he sounds like a guy worth listening to.

Enjoy the training!
 

Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
What is described here is a solid barbell “Linear Progression” strength program. When he mentioned “heaven”, he meant that you are a long way from your ultimate strength potential, therefore a couple of neat things happen: first, your untrained state mean that relatively little training stress is necessary to trigger an adaptive response in a single session. This means warmups plus 3 sets of 5 in those exercises with a starting weight you can just begin to “feel” will be adequate to trigger an adaptive response while not grinding you into a thin paste. So, you can do it on Monday, eat, sleep, and be ready to repeat the session with the other press vaiant (press & Bench alternate) on Wednesday. Second, this means that the only training variable you need to concern yourself with for the next few months is LOAD. The exercises don’t change, the set/rep scheme (Volume) doesn’t change, there is no need for accessory exercises. Thirdly- a couple neat things will happen to you if you donthis right: you will experience what it’s like for training stress to directly and observably translate into increased performance. Not at first, but at some point everything is “heavy”. Yet, you will continue to meet the load for a good long while. At some point a “landmark” weight like 100 kilos in the squat is now one of your warmup sets. This process either develops or reveals mental toughness, tenacity, and grit. Or its absence. To do it right you must be “all in”.

That’s what a properly-executed linear progression program can do in an untrained individual.

One small quibble with your new gym buddy is that you cannot add 2.5kg or 5lb to the pressing movements (Press and Bench). You will implode almost immediately if you try. However.... you CAN add 2lb to them and progress reliably for almost as long as you will be able to add 5lb to the “big” movements - squat and deadlift. So get some “fractional plates” on Amazon. Don’t pay for fancy paint.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
@mjikia Welcome to the forum! Squat form is quite subjective. As @Antti says, I wouldn't worry too much about high bar versus low bar, as long as you're able to squat with good form and get stronger without destroying yourself.

Overall, it's solid advice that will set you on the right path for making solid progress in other areas if you choose to.

Not sure what's wrong with having 'monster quads' though, but each to their own. :D
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I agree, great advice! This guy knows his stuff. Let us know how it goes!
 

Molson

Level 5 Valued Member
I would say it is a great advice if you forget adding 2.5/5kg per session, as Bill already mentioned.
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 7 Valued Member
Great advice indeed. The strength lifts that will never be out of style make up the basics of strength training with a barbell. Any master is a master of the basics. As far as reps go, I believe 5 reps are solo for a beginner, or anybody. Beginners are not as neurologically efficient or proficient at the movements, as such their reps tend to get better as a set continues as they learn how to adjust. A top dog can get away with less reps, as he/she is able to perform the first reps of a set with proficiency and this fatigues quicker. 5 reps on the big lifts will never go out of style. Ya know, Bill Starr, Reg Park, Starting Strength, StrongFirst 5 x 5?
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
If you want to read more on this style of training I recommend
A) Power to the people by Pavel, and
B) Tactical Barbell

PTTP is more minimalist and principle based. TB has a wider scope (in terms of exercises and schedules) and has more structured plans.

And if you want an even more general picture I highly recommend
A) Intervention by Dan John, and
B) Easy Strength
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I'm a complete novice, so I don't know what I don't know.

First off, congratulations on having this wisdom and actually acting on it. I'm serious - this is a great mindset.

I don't have a personal trainer, but I looked around the gym, found the guy working the biggest weights and asked for advice on how to do stuff, and he really went out of his way to help me out, even coached me on how to do the exercises he advised. He seems like a good guy, I see no reason to doubt him, but I make it a habit to trust but verify, so here goes.

I laughed when I read this because in general I hate the advice to "look for the biggest guy and ask for help", but this has worked out pretty well for you. You probably won't go wrong with this advice for the first couple months. The only caveat I will add is this - follow his advice on progressively adding weight, but don't become a slave to it. If it takes you 2-3 sessions to feel comfortable with the weight, that's fine. As we say here on the forum often, OWN the weight then move up. You will not harm long term progress by holding back the weight increase for a session or two, and you might actually set yourself up more optimally for the long run.
 

mjikia

Level 1 Valued Member
Thank you all for the advice, I didn't post for a while until I actually followed the advice. Good to know type of squat doesn't matter, I'll just try to learn both in the future for fun.

I've made several adjustments since I ran into some problems.

A. The low-bar squat form, as I was taught was a bit awkward once the weights reached my bodyweight, my calves were exploding, letting my knees track just a couple inches forward fixed it, I'm also not pushing them out intentionally anymore, since it happens naturally since the adjustment. My friend at the gym gave me this cue and honestly it fixed a bunch of problems at the same time, depth, leaning forward or backwards, consistency etc. Feels more natural too. I asked if changing the form is ok, quote: "as long as your back is straight, you go down below parallel and move the bar in a straight line, anything is fine really, the squat is not supposed to place such isolated stress on your calves anyway, it just means your body mechanics and my body mechanics are different and what worked for me doesn't work for you"

B. You guys were right about the weight progressions, was a bit too tough. We don't have smaller increments than 2.5 pounds, and 5 pound increase is way too much on the bench, on the squat it was getting inconsistent, sometimes I'd get it and sometimes not. So I did as suggested here. I'm repeating the same weight 3 workouts in a row on the bench, simply adding more volume, I add a set each session, which lets me progress 5 pounds every 4th session with confidence. On the squat I repeat the weight 2 sessions in a row, adding a set on the second session which also helped in hitting my goals each session. I think my problem is form breakdown and recovery when I make a sudden jump and putting in the volume seems to alleviate that. Getting comfortable with the weight as mentioned.

C. My deadlifts are progressing like a charm though, I'm adding 10 pounds each session and I'm not running into any problems so far in terms of progress. Almost passed out from bracing though, so I now reset every rep and give myself 10-20 seconds to breath. Had a Rocky Balboa moment couple weeks back with getting back up from almost passing out, I swear I even heard the music.
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
"as long as your back is straight, you go down below parallel and move the bar in a straight line,

Straight Back

In a Low Bar Squat the back isn't going to remain straight, in a vertical position; if that is what you mean.

If by straight, you mean you are going to maintain a neutral spine position in the Squat, then yes.

Moving The Bar In A Straight Line

Yes, the bar needs to be maintained in a straight line in the Squat. That ensures you keep the weight directly over you Center of Gravity, COG.

Any shifting of the weight out of your Center of Gravity increase torque. An increase in torque means the bar weight is magnified beyond it true load.

...leaning forward or backwards

Low Bar Forward Lean In The Squat

In a Low Bar Squat there will and should be some forward lean.

The key is to make sure your back remains in a neutral position and remains directly over your
Center of Graviity. This ensures that you are in the your strongest biomechanical position.

The Determinate Factor Of Lean

The amount of lean in your Low Bar Squat is determined by how you are built.

1) Long Torso Individuals will need to maintain more of a forward lean when sitting back into a Low Bar Squat.

This forward lean counter balances the bar you push/sit back with the in the Squat.

2) Short Torso Individuals will have more of an upright, vertical back position in a Low Bar Squat.

Squats Part 1: Fold-Ability and Proportions

Tom Purvis', Physical Therapist, video demonstrates why and how individual are going to Squat, based on their body structures (Anthropometry).

You femur and torso length are two of the determinate factors in forward lean.

Squats Part 2: Fold-Ability and Proportions (Examples and Adjustments)

Purvis demonstrates another in "Squatting right for you body type" is you Squat Stance.
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I'll agree with a few things in @kennycro@@aol.com 's post above, and disagree with a few things.

I agree with neutral spine position, and ensuring the bar moves in a straight line to stay in the strongest bio-mechanical position.

I agree there will always be some forward lean, and the amount of lean will vary based on the anthropometry of the lifter, and agree that femur and torso length are the main two determinate factors.

But I would restate to say that you want to maintain your center of mass (you + the bar/weight) over mid-foot all the way through the squat. Any shift from that position will make the lift less efficient, therefore you can move less weight, therefore you get less training effect on your targeted muscle groups from your lifting.

And I would say long-torso individuals will generally be more vertical (leaned over less) than short torso individuals. However this also depends on femur length and the degree to which the knees are shoved out at the bottom of the squat.
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
And I would say long-torso individuals will generally be more vertical (leaned over less) than short torso individuals.

Long Torso, Low Bar Squatters

In a Low Bar, Powerlifting Squat, the majority of Long Torso individuals are going to have a forward lean; more so than Short Torso Squatters.

To reiterate, as Long Torso individual pushes/back into the Squat, leaning forward to counter balances the weight.

The Sofa Test

Have a Long Torso and Short Torso Individual sit on a sofa, side by side.

Then have them get up off the sofa at the same time.

See which one has the greater amount of forward lean.
 
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Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
The reason a long-torso’ed lifter will lean over less is that he doesn’t have to “reach” his torso as far forward to keep the Combined Center Of Mass over the mid-foot base of support. Every degree of forward tilt of a long torso’ed person moves the bar fore/aft further than that of a short torso’ed person - given the same femur length.

If you REALLY wanna Geek Out on back angle, try to think through what happens to the CCOM and the resultant back angle as the lifter procedes through increasingly heavy warmup sets to his final heavy work sets.
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
The reason a long-torso’ed lifter will lean over less is that he doesn’t have to “reach” his torso as far forward to keep the Combined Center Of Mass over the mid-foot base of support.

High Bar Squats

That is true for a High Bar Long Torso Squatters who employ an upright Olympic Squat Movement rather sitting back, as in a Box Squat.

Due to the High Bar Rack, any forward lean increase the torque; as you noted; the bar moving farther away from the Center of Gravity.

Low Bar Squatters

In a Low Bar Long Powerlifing Squat, the Center of Gravity shifts. Pushing your butt back rather, changes the Center of Gravity.

In a Powerlifting Low Bar Squat, you want to push you butt back as far as you can. Doing so engages, larger posterior chain muscle.

To ensure the posterior chain in maximally engaged and the weight remains counter balanced and maintained over the Center of Gravity requires Long Torso Lifts to lean forward more so than Short Torso Lifters.

As with all things, there is a sweet spot in how far a lifter can/should lean. The forward lean should not turn into a Good Morning or a "Squat Morning".

Westside Box Squats

One of the reason that the Westside Powerlifting Box Squat is that you learn to push/sit back as far as possible on the box.

Arched Back Good Mornings

This is a staple exercise in the Westside Squat program that simulate the Low Bar Forward Lean in the Powerlifting Squat; used to increase erectors in the Powerlifting Squat.

How To Low Bar Squat: Torso Angle / Butt Wink / Reaching Depth

Allen Thrall reinforce my suggested...

Sofa Test in this video at 3:36 minutes.

"Similar to how someone stands up from a chair, you lean forward to find balance and get up."

Torso Angle 3:58 minutes

Let's take another look at my torso angle at the bottom of the Squat. It's not vertical. There is an obvious body lean.
 

Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
Alan Thrall makes my point nicely, thanks.

In a high bar squat, the torso will be more vertical than in a low bar squat because that’s what’s required to keep the Combined Center of Mass of the lifter/barbell system centered over the mid foot base of support.

For exactly the same reason - the need to keep the CCOM over the mid foot - the long torso’ed lifter -like the high bar lifter - will not have to lean forward as far to do so.

When one stands unloaded your Center of Mass is about 3” below your naval and a bit below the surface. When you squat unloaded, it’s difficult to lean over far enough to keep that COM over your mid foot. So the natural tendency is to raise your arms out front. This moves the COM out of your body to the front, allowing a reasonable squat posture. This is demonstrated even more effectively by holding a kettlebell in the Goblet Squat rack position. This position is famous for its ability to manipulate your COM to accommodate a very vertical back angle simply by holding the bell out further from your body. Progressing to the barbell, a front squat also allows/requires a pretty vertical vack angle. From now on, the bar REQUIRES a certain back angle because moving the load in or out like a Goblet is no longer possible.

Now is a good time to explain Combined Center Of Mass (CCOM). As the load increases or as the load is carried in a different location - front, high bar back, low bar back - the CCOM changes from the one described earlier. It moves in the direction of the bar. Yet, the CCOM must ALWAYS track vertically over the mid foot as Thrall describes. So, a Front Squat will he more vertical than a High Bar Back Squat, which will in turn be more vertical than a Low Bar Back Squat. FOR A GIVEN LIFTER. The effect becomes more and more pronounced as the load increases.

With that in mind, we can examine two 6-foot lifters performing the SAME squat variant with the same load. One guy has a long torso, one a short torso. In the long torso lifter, every degree he leans forward at the initiation of the descent moves the bar and his CCOM further, because his back is longer and cuz geometry. Ergo, the short torso lifter will be obliged to lean forward more in order to move the bar/CCOM adequately to keep it over the mid foot. Again, cuz geometry.

Finally, in either guy, as the load increases the CCOM migrates further and further toward the bar itself. Applying the above geometry, we can see that EITHER lifter has to lean forward less and less to move the CCOM over the mid foot as the descent begins. Because the CCOM gets further from the hips and small back angle changes move it further.
 

mjikia

Level 1 Valued Member
Man, I had to do research just to get the terminology right. Sorry, I'm translating the things I hear from another language, caused a whole debate over it.

Under straight back, I meant neutral position.

Better descriptor would've been "I'm falling forwards or backwards". The tension in my calves would throw me off focus, bailing out on the tension (raising my hips) would result in falling forward and bearing with the tension would result in falling backwards. So basically under leaning forward I meant that the weight would force my upper back down and my hips upward and I'd end up doing a good morning mid-rep. Under leaning backwards, my calves would give out first and then my posterior chain would turn off and I'd set the bar on the safety bars against my will. Worst case scenario, I'd fall forward, do a good morning, then my calves would give out and the safety bars would save me.

In terms of leaning, I don't recall getting a specific cue on that, but I wasn't trying to stay upright, I just tried to keep the bar over mid-foot and whatever lean resulted was the final result. I have a good awareness of the bar position, and if my calves could still keep swinging, had no issues with form, mostly I'd break down on the 4th or 5th rep once the tension became the main focus for my brain.

Didn't know torso and femur length was such a big factor. I'd say my lean after the adjustment is about 45 degrees, a bit more upright than it used to be. Same with standing up, I also noticed that I do let my knees track a bit forward while standing up, so maybe I was just going against something I have been doing my entire life.
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
Squat Mechanics: A Deep Analysis | T Nation

Use Your Hips. Really.

When you squat, use your hips. This means that you'll have to use a more horizontal back angle than the one in the picture in your head.

Figure1.jpg


Figure2.jpg



Your Back Angle in the Squat | Mark Rippetoe

The most common problem in videos submitted for technical critique is a back angle in the squat that is not nearly horizontal enough to be efficient. For various reasons, most people think the back should be as vertical as possible in the squat, and nothing could be further from the truth.

20190305-squat-back-angle-sm.jpg


Question

In this picture, what do you see?

1) Is the bar/weight positioned over the Center of Gravity?

2) Is the bar/weight positioned over the mid foot?
 
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