Observations from Last Week's Starting Strength Training Camp


Last weekend we held another full Training Camp. This one was at Sully's gym, Greysteel in Farmington Hills, MI. The focus was on the squat.

We started off by giving a brief overview and explaining why the squat is the most important lift in the Starting Strength program. Then one volunteer was taken through the teaching method with and without the bar. Once the volunteer was taken through each step we broke into two groups and everyone else was taken through the method.

After everyone has been taken through the steps we start lifting. That is when the real fun begins. Coaching is such an individual thing that it is hard to explain how the process works. Each individual lifter brings their own unique set of circumstances to the bar and we try to help them improve.

After doing several of these squat camps I have noticed a few reoccuring things that I would like to address in an effort to help a few people out.

1. The most common thing we see as coaches from individuals who have not been coached in the squat is that they tend to execute the lift with too vertical of a back angle. A lot of people who seem to have a good understanding of the method still refuse to lean forward when they squat. Don't worry your back will not break in half. In fact it will get stronger when you start training it correctly. Seriously, lean forward and sit back. It helps A LOT.

2. Knees out is a cue that seems to fix a lot of things. The book explains it pretty well. In order to create an active hip you want to shove your knees out of the way, so that your adductor muscles contribute to the movement and so that you are able to get below parallel without having an impingement issues. Get your knees out of the way, sit back, and lean forward.

3. Equipment. Plenty of the novice lifters at the camp had weight lifting shoes. That is good. Shoes are essential. However, what always surprises me is how many lifters are trying to run linear progression without a belt. There were many lifters this past weekend who had never tried a belt on and were unaware of the benefits of wearing a belt when squatting. This amazes me. Rip has been pretty clear on the matter in many articles and in all of his books. Get a belt today and start learning how to use it. If you decide to make the investment, contact Dean Best here, he is once again taking orders on his custom made belts.

4. In order to squat safely and correctly you need to take in a very big, deep breath and get tight. You don't get strong under the bar by breathing in on the way down and exhaling on the way up like so many people have been taught. You get strong by taking a huge breath and holding it super tight while squatting heavy, heavy weights. Many people miss this part. Start practicing it early on in your training and it will pay off.

5. A set of five is a marathon, not a sprint. Take a second between each individual rep to exhale and reset. Get refocused so that you can execute another good rep. Do this for all FIVE reps.

There are other things that could be addressed, but let's stick with the whole set of five type thinking. Enough good reps to force an adaptation, not too many to get sloppy.

Sure, all of these ideas are clearly stated in the book, some of them several times, but it has been my experience that most of us can benefit from a reminder every now and then.

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