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How to Squat

Common Mistakes in the Squat

Squat Variations

How to Bench

Common Mistakes in the Bench

Bench Press Variations

How to Deadlift

Common Mistakes in the Deadlift

Deadlift Variations

Bracing + Breathing

1RM Test Guide

Self Talk

Squat

Your competition (or strongest) style squat. Can be either high bar or low bar, so follow the squat you feel most comfortable with. For full squat tutorial, see our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

High-Bar Squat

A squat where the bar is placed higher on your traps compared to a traditional low bar squat, where the bar is placed above your rear-delts

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

Front Squat

Unrack the bar across your shoulders, placing it as close to your throat as possible. Barbell should rest behind the delts, and hands and fingers help balance the bar outside of the delts.

Bend at the knee and the hip, placing an emphasis on knee flexion as it will travel farther in front of the knee than your back squat variation. Keep the torso as upright as possible and continue to keep the elbows high.

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (high-bar squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

Goblet Squat

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso.

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat; Belt Squats

Belt Squat

Straddle two blocks and hang the weight of a weight-loaded belt between your legs. Perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat

Hip Thrusts

Roll the bar so it is over your hips. Support your mid back perpendicular to a bench. Drive through the feet to extend the hips in line with the torso.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.)

Band Abducted Squats

With a band on your legs above your knees, perform squats while maintaining tension in the band. Press into the band by pushing the knees out in the squat.

Substitutions 

Clamshells + Squat variation performed back-to-back

Pause Squats

Pause at the bottom of the squat, maintaining tension in the legs and lower back and keeping position throughout the pause. Press back up by pushing your feet into the floor and your shoulders back into the bar.

Substitutions 

Paused barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

1.25 Squats

Perform the eccentric portion of the squat, after getting out of the hole of the squat on the way up, change directions and return to the bottom, then stand all the way back up to complete the rep.

Substitutions 

One and a quarter barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

Bulgarian Split Squat

In a lunge position with back leg supported on a bench and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position on front leg and squeeze quadriceps to stand back up.

Substitutions 

Walking lunge, DBbox step-ups

Single-Leg Leg Press

On the leg press machine, load weight appropriately. Place one foot in the center of the sled. Push upward, unlock the safeties, and lower the sled and push back up to perform a repetition

Substitutions 

Cossack squat, walking lunges

DB Box Step Ups

With one dumbbell in each hand, step one leg onto a box and use that leg to drive your body to standing on top of the box. Lower down and switch legs.

Substitutions 

Bulgarian split squat, walking lunges

Bench

Your competition (or strongest) style bench press. Check out our Video Library and resources on your Dashboard for a full tutorial on this more technical movement.

Substitutions 

Barbell bench variations (competition-style, close grip, wide grip, incline, decline, etc.)

Close Grip Bench Press

A moderately (1-4″ per hand) narrower grip than your competition style grip. Perform the bench press, making accommodations for the adjusted grip width.

Substitutions 

Swiss/football bar bench, Neutral grip DB press

DB Bench

Flat bench press with dumbbells

Substitutions 

Pushup, flye, and cable crossover variations

DB Incline Bench

Use an incline bench, or angle a flat bench with plates or blocks. Bench press with dumbbells, maintaining form through each rep.

Substitutions 

Pushup, flye, and cable crossover variations

Board Press

Use a bench block or board to limit the range of motion of the bench press. Lower the barbell with control, complete a pause when the block or board makes contact with your chest. Can also be done with a partner holding the board on your chest.

Substitutions 

Pin press, Spoto press

T-Shirt Press

Lower the bar slowly and touch your shirt as lightly as possible

Substitutions 

Spoto press, pin press

Spoto Press

Unless noted otherwise, set up in a competition style bench press. Control the descent of the bar path, and pause the bar before it makes contact, about 1 inch away from your chest. Maintain tension during the pause, and explode back up to complete the rep.

Substitutions 

Board press, t-shirt press

Bench (3s pause)

Pause for 3 seconds at the bottom of the bench press

Substitutions 

Pin press, t-shirt press, DB bench press

Kroc Rows

With one hand and one knee on a flat bench, row a dumbbell in the opposite hand from the bottom of your range of motion to the lower rib cage

Substitutions 

DB Row, cable row, chest supported row

Deadlift

Competition style deadlift. This can either be conventional, or sumo position. Refer to our Video Library and written resources for more information on this more technical lift.

Set up with the bar above shoelaces, and get into the start position by reaching down with your arms straight down while hinging at the hip and slightly at the knee. Shins should be perpendicular to the floor at the start of the pull. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible.

Substitutions 

Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, sumo, trap bar)

Good Mornings

Unrack the bar with it in a low bar position. Walkout, and hinge at the hip by pushing them back while the bar and shoulders travel down to reach the chest so that your upper body is parallel to the ground. Control the descent and speed. Bending at the knee is ok to reach proper hip hinge.

Substitutions 

Barbell loaded, banded, back extensions, reverse hyperextensions

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

Set up in a conventional deadlift position. Setup and execution of this movement will be very similar to the conventional deadlift, but should have a higher hip position, and less knee flexion. Do not completely lockout knees, but take note to keep legs more straight. Can be loaded with barbell, DB, KB.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlifts, good mornings

Sumo

Refer to our Video Library and written resources for more information on this more technical lift.

Set up with feet wide and hands inside of legs. Hinge at the hip and bend at the knee to get in a pulling position where shins are perpendicular to the floor. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible. Extend the knee and then open the hips in rapid concession.

Substitutions 

Sumo KB/DB deadlifts, other Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, trap bar)

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Set up with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward. Shins should be close to the bar, similar to the deadlift position. Pick the barb ell up by focusing in the hip hinge, and keeping the back neutral through the entire movement. Maintain a slight bend in the knee, and push the hips back so you feel a stretch in the hamstring and glute activation.

Substitutions 

Trap bar deadlift, sumo KB deadlift

Deficit Pulls

Stand on an elevated plate/board/block and perform your competition style deadlift with the additional range of motion.

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Low block pulls

Set up the barbell on low blocks so the bar is below the knees. Deadlift starting from that position

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Cable Pull-Throughs

Lower cable machine to lowest rung. Standing with your back to the cable, straddle the cable and pull the handles through your legs and lockout the hips

Substitutions 

Hip thrusts, glute kickback, back extensions (shoulders rounded)

Deadlift (3s Negative)

Standard deadlift with a tempo descent that takes 3 seconds from the top of the deadlift down to the floor

Substitutions 

Tempo deadlifts

Split Stance RDL

With weight standing predominantly on one leg with the back leg supporting like a kickstand, perform RDL by hinging from the hip to weight in front of you

Substitutions 

Single leg RDL

DB RDLs

Perform a romanian deadlift using DBs in each hand rather than a barbell. Try to maintain constant tension throughout the set, not resting the DBs until all reps are completed.

Substitutions 

Barbell RDLs, split stance RDL

Single-leg DL

Standing on one leg with knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift, extending the free leg behind you for balance.

Substitutions 

Unilateral hip hinge, split stance DL

Lat Pull Downs

On cable pulldown machine, choose a long handle. Keeping chest tall, elbows pointed down, sqeeze the lats/armpits and lower the handle to below your chin

Substitutions 

Horizontal row (pullups, inverted row)

Seated DB OHP

Get in an upright seated position with a dumbbell in each hand. Elbows should be in a 90degree angle at the start position. Push DB and fists up to the ceiling, completing the rep when elbows are locked out overhead. Return to start position and repeat.

Can be completed with back support on an adjustable bench press or without. Back support may help form at higher intensities.

Substitutions 

Standing OHP, Barbell OHP, single arm DB OHP

Barbell Rows

In a bent position with back parallel to the floor and knees slightly bent, row the bar by pulling it to the lower chest. Control the bar throughout the movement

Substitutions 

DB Row, Hammer Strength Row, Inverted row, Landmine T-Bar row

Cable Pullover (straight bar)

Standing facing the cable machine, grab the bar with an overhand position in line with shoulders, pull the bar down sqeezing shoulder blades and keeping the core tight. When the bar reaches your hips, pause and control the movement back to the starting position

Substitutions 

Pullover with any cable attachment, DB pullover lying down on bench or on decline

DB Rows

Using a bench or box, place same side knee and hand on the surface. Extend free arm straight down with the dumbbell and bring dumbbell back to your hip.

Substitutions 

Single arm cable row, single arm lat pull down

Face Pulls

Facing a cable machine, set the pulley to the highest setting and use a rope or split handle attachment. Pull the weight directly towards your face while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Control the cable on the way back to the start position

Substitutions 

Band pullaparts, cable high row, ITWY

Cable/Chest-Supported Rows

With a straight back, pinch the shoulder blades together. Chest supported rows are leaning on a bolster and pulling the weight into your body. Cable rows are seated with your legs on a platform in front of you. Pull the weight into the lower chest/sternum

Substitutions 

DB row, inverted row, barbell row

Rear-Delt Flyes

With a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips so that the chest is parallel to the floor. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and raise each dumbbell out and up away from the torso. Control the weight on the way back to the bottom

Substitutions 

ITWY, band pull aparts, face pulls

Lat Pull Over

Laying on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell with arms extended over eye level. Lower the weight down to parallel to your head by isolating the lats, and return to the start position.

Substitutions 

DB Pullover lying down or on decline

Pendlay Rows

In a bent over position with back parallel to the floor, row the bar from the floor into the lower chest and return the bar back to the floor

Substitutions 

Barbell row, Kroc rows, chest supported rows, seated cable row

Skullcrushers

Laying on a bench, hold a weight (typically DBs or an EZ bar) above your body directly above your shoulders. Without moving your upper arm, hinge at the elbow and lower the weight in a controlled manner towards your skull, stopping 3-6″ above your face. Then reverse the movement and return the weight to the start position.

Substitutions 

Tricep push-downs, OH tricep extension, dips

Hammer Curls

Perform curls using DBs or a neutral grip bar. Keep your palms facing together throughout the entire movement.

Substitutions 

Neutral grip curls, chin ups

Alt. DB Curls

Using DBs, perform curls alternating each arm. Keep bicep and elbow close to torso and control the weight through the entire movement.

Substitutions 

EZ bar curls, hammer curls, cable curl

Overhead Tricep Extension

Holding a weight above your head with your arms extended, bend at the elbow to lower the weight with control behind your head. Return the weight to an extended overhead position. This variation can be performed with DB, EZ Bar, Cables (rope or V-handle).

Substitutions 

Cable push downs, skullcrushers

Barbell Curls

Using a straight barbell, perform curls using an underhand grip.

Substitutions 

EZ bar curls, alt. DB curls, hammer curl

Inverted Rows

With a barbell fixed in a low position in a squat rack, hang underneath the bar with your feet on the floor and your hands spaced bench press-width apart. Starting with your arms extended and your body in a straight line (with an engaged core), pull your chest towards the bar maintaining the same straight body positioning and then lower back to an extended start position. To scale this movement, bring your feet closer (easier) or further away/elevated (harder).

Substitutions 

DB Row, cable row, chest supported row

Bench Dips

Facing away from a bench, place your palms on a bench behind your body and your feet flat on the floor, bending 90-degrees at the hip and knee. Lower your body until your elbow joint passes 90-degrees, and then press yourself back up to extension using your triceps.

Substitutions 

OH tricep extension, tricep push-downs, skullchrushers

Plank

In pushup position with forearms on the ground, maintain neutral spine by tucking the ribs and squeezing the glutes and abdominals. Maintain that position for prescribed amount of time. Scale by balancing on hands only, forearms only, or on an unstable surface like a Bosu ball or suspension system like TRX.

Substitutions 

Side plank, L-sit

Suitcase walk

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, etc) with one hand and walk. Switch hands with the weight and walk the same distance back. Carries are always counted by time, so do not rush. Control your pace and keep your body and shoulders even and balanced despite the resistance in one hand.

Substitutions 

Any unilateral heavy carry

Ab Rollouts

Set up a loaded barbell or use an ab-roller. Start in a kneeling position with enough room to extend forward. Initiate by pushing the bar/roller forward away from your thighs. Control the speed and distance the roller travels by engaging the core. You should feel a stretch in the abdominals. Keep ribs and glutes tucked, being sure not to get into a hyperextended spine position.

Substitutions 

Barbell rollout, hanging leg raises, L-sit

Band Pullaparts

With your arms out in front of you, holding a band on either end, squeeze the shoulder blades together and separate the band in a fly-motion

Substitutions 

Face pulls, cable high row, ITWY

McGill Big 3

A series of 3 core exercises performed in a row: the Curl-Up, Side-Plank, and Bird-Dog

Curl Up: Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other extended on the floor. Raise your head a few inches off the ground and hover the extended leg at the same time. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax and switch sides.

Side Plank: Get into a side plank position and hold for 8-10 seconds, and roll over on the opposite forearm to switch sides.

Bird-Dog: Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Switch opposite arm/opposite leg. Hold each position for 3 seconds.

Substitutions 

Any core series (deadbugs, bird-dogs, planks, l-sit, hanging leg raises)

KB Windmills

Take a wide stance, and angle feet. Press kettlebell or dumbbell overhead in one hand. Keep the elbow overhead locked out at all times, push the hips back and away from the direction of the toes. Hinge at the hips and reach towards the floor with your free hand. Ok to touch shoes or shin if you cannot reach the floor. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times.

Substitutions 

DB Windmill, turkish getup, half getup

Bird Dogs

Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Switch opposite arm/opposite leg. Hold each position for 3 seconds.

Substitutions 

Deadbugs, planks

Back Extensions

On a GHD machine or hyperextension machine, lock in the feet with the hip pad under the pelvis/lower trunk. Fold at the hip so you are perpendicular to the ground (with your head near the floor) and squeeze the erectors/lower back and glutes to pull the torso up above parallel from the floor.

Substitutions 

Good mornings, supermans

Deadbugs

Laying on your back, raise arms directly over shoulders and knees over hips, with shins parallel to the floor. You can opt to extend legs for a more difficult variation. Tuck ribs down and press lower back into the floor.

Lower one arm back behind your head and the opposite leg down towards the floor. Control the descent and do not make contact with the ground. Instead over arm and leg over the ground. Maintain contact with the lower back on the floor and squeeze the abdominals to hold the position. Switch sides and perform same exercise with opposite arm and opposite leg.

Substitutions 

V-situps, hollow body holds