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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

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

A squat performed with the bar racked across your shoulders and in front of your body rather than behind your neck.

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

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.

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, stand up about halfway, return to the bottom, then stand all the way back up

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

Substitutions 

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

Close Grip

A moderately (1-4″ per hand) narrower grip than your competition style grip

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

Bench angled upwards, bench press with dumbbells

Substitutions 

Pushup, flye, and cable crossover variations

Board Press

Like a bench press, lower the barbell to the board (held in place by a partner) and press up

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

Pause the bar before it makes contact with your chest

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

Set up with the bar above shoelaces, and pull the bar from the floor to the hips with straight arms and lockout hips at the top

Substitutions 

Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, sumo, trap bar)

Good Mornings

With a bar loaded on your back, unlock the knees slightly and hinge forward at the hip (reaching the hips back) until the chest is parallel with the floor

Substitutions 

Barbell loaded, banded, back extensions, reverse hyperextensions

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

With straight legs (but not locked), hinge from the hip and keep legs straight throughout movement. Can be loaded with barbell, DB, KB.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlifts, good mornings

Sumo

Set up with legs wide, feet pointed out, and shins vertical. Place hands in line with the shoulders on the bar and drive through the feet and posterior chain to lockout the bar

Substitutions 

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

RDL

Unlock knees to power position, and hinge from the hip maintianing power position legs throughout movement

Substitutions 

Trap bar deadlift, sumo KB deadlift

Deficit Pulls

Standing on a slightly elevated plate/board, perform deadlift with 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

In an upright seated position, with one dumbbell in each hand, raise to either side of your head and press above your head until both elbows lock out

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

In a bent positon with back parallel to the floor and knees slightly bent, with one dumbbell in each arm, row the dumbbells to the lower chest in a controlled manner

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 fly the arms away from one another. 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 light barbell overhead in the bench position. Slowly and controlled lower the bar behind the head with the arms over the ears. Keep the torso on the bench and sqeeze to return the bar back to over your chest.

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.

Substitutions 

EZ bar curls, hammer curls, cable curl

OH Tricep Extension

Holding a weight above your head with your arms extended, lower the weight with control behind your head without moving your upper arms, and then 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 and squeeze glutes and abdominals. Maintain that position

Substitutions 

Side plank, L-sit

Suitcase walk

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell) on one side of the body and walk. Switch hands with the weight and walk the same distance back.

Substitutions 

Heavy carry variation

Ab Rollouts

Supported on knees or in plank position, align shoulders over rollout wheel and roll forward past the head. Maintain position (don’t fall to the ground) and roll the wheel back into under the shoulders.

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-Dogs

Substitutions 

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

KB Windmills

In a wide stance, press kettlebell overhead in one hand. Keeping the elbow overhead locked out at all times, push the butt in the direction of the locked out kettlebell. Hinge from the hips and slowly touch the floor with your free hand. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times.

Substitutions 

DB Windmill, turkish getup, half getup

Bird Dogs

On hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips, 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

Substitutions 

Deadbugs, plants

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. Perform exercise by lowering one arm back behind your head and the opposite leg down towards the floor. 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