3 Safer Ways to Lift HEAVY

     In the fitness world some exercises get labeled as “king”.  These are normally your compound lifts you try to lift heavy such as squats, deadlifts, and the bench press.

Which is why “how much you bench?” or “how much you squat?” are pretty frequent questions by any meathead, or info put into a personal bio or video post on social media to brag or set yourself up for ridicule .

These are the lifts most people want to get stronger in and show off the most.

Most people won’t ooh and aaah over your dumbbell lateral raise.

Unless you’re this guy. Because a second trip is a walk of shame.

They are also more complicated lifts and can be intimidating for newbies or lifters with chronic injuries.

The worst tragedy is that someone misses out on the benefits that exercises like these can give them due to questioning or having an inability to perform them.

HAVE NO FEAR, I SAY!

Even if you can not perform the basic lifts I offer you solutions that can be easier and building blocks to get you to or back to performing the basic lifts again.

Heck, you could even just stick with these lifts and continue to get benefits for the rest of your lifting journey.

Landmine Front Squat instead of the Barbell Front Squat

The Barbell Front Squat is fantastic exercise that demands full body recruitment, scapular and core stability, leg strength, and mobility in the thoracic spine, shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

But lets face it, not too many people off the street are going to be able to rack a barbell properly for a front squat.  Many dedicated gym goers wouldn’t be able to either.

Including myself.

I always had trouble with Front Squats.

Not the squatting part, but the holding the bar part.  It wasn’t until I joined my local Crossfit Box for a few months, to work with a coach on the  Olympic lifts did I really get into performing Front Squats on a regular basis.

My mobility sucked and was really the limiting factor on how strong I could get at them.

By mobility, I mean getting my elbows up (and keeping them up as my coach kept yelling me too as I squatted into a puddle of my own tears as the weight of the bar was pushing my immobile wrists back so far I was just waiting for them both to pop)

Ok it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was a problem.

Some mobility work did the trick and it got better.

What mobility work I did and the details that lead to a functional Front Squat are for another blog post.

Today I present an alternative to get you front squatting today…. The Landmine Front Squat.

 

The limitations with the Barbell Front Squat that the Landmine Front Squat will eliminate are the shoulder, elbow, and wrist mobility.

By being able to hold the barbell with both hands and keeping stabilized on the chest will take the need for mobility through the shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

Now let me be clear, if you have mobility limitations, I suggest working on fixing them.  They may nip you in the butt sometime later in the future and prevent proper movement in other exercises.

Until then, the benefits you can reap from using the Landmine Front Squat are:

  • Strengthening the quads
  • Neutral grip is easier on the shoulders and wrists
  • Protects the lower back
  • Strengthens core stability
  • Arc of the bar path allows for a deeper squat
  • Lets you feel like a badass

Trap Bar Deadlift instead of the Barbell Deadlift

The benefits to using the Trap bar over the traditional straight bar for deadlifts and squats are:

1.  Less Stress on the Spine

When using the straight bar, the weight is loaded away from the the hips causing the lumbar spine to be used like a crow bar in order to move the weight.

This results on a lot of pressure put on the lower back and a potentially bad day.

The amount of weight you lift is determined by how much your spinal erectors can hold, (i.e. resisting rounding your back) rather than how much force your legs can produce.  Without proper form or use of weight belt, the lower back will pay for any mistakes.

By stepping inside the trap bar, the long lever is shortened and in line with the hips rather than out in front, reducing sheer force on the spine.

It’s science!

2. Good for beginners
By standing in the middle of the bar, it helps beginners correct their form, compared to the forward grip of using a straight bar, that requires a lot of upfront coaching and mobility work.

Especially with the majority of the population already having a forward, rounded posture. That’s where the trap bar comes in so handy. Its configuration leads to a much more upright torso position, allowing you to “sit” into the movement with far fewer technical requirements than a traditional straight bar deadlift.

It also allows the knees to move more forward and the hips to sit lower than normal, avoiding the bar scraping your shins at the bottom of the movement.

One benefit to using the straight bar is, at the end of the movement with hip lockout, the bar tells you when you are there because it comes up against the front of the legs, preventing any lumbar extension.

With a Trap bar, that does not happen, but can easily be coached, when getting to the sticking point.

Proper Execution

To setup for the trap bar deadlift, first step inside the perimeter of the bar, making sure your feet are positioned equidistant between the front and back of the bar.

Grip the handles tightly on either side so that your middle finger is in horizontal alignment with the front of your shin, while rotating the insides of your elbows forward. This will help to pick up any slack at the shoulder capsule.

Squat your hips down with an arch in your back.  Once in position, stand up by driving your feet into the ground, straightening your legs, and thrusting your hips forward. As you approach the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes together and brace your abdominals to finish the movement.

Landmine Press instead of the Bench Press or Overhead Press

Who doesn’t like to bench press and do overhead presses?

Those with cranky shoulders don’t.

Ironically, doing a lot of bench pressing and overhead pressing can cause you a whole lot of issues.

The landmine allows your shoulder to travel in a much better pathway (in between the two paths) that will keep your shoulder happy.

 

The Landmine Press can also be used as an assistance exercise for those able to bench and press without issues.

Benefits: 

  • Neutral grip is easier on the shoulders and wrists
  • Strengthens the chest, shoulders, and triceps really well
  • Does not compress the spine compared to the Overhead Press
  • Allows for upward scapula movement, compared to bench press where the shoulder blades are pinned down
  • Builds core strength
  • Numerous variations can be used

Again, these are great variations to use if injury, immobility, and skill level are an issue.  I personally love and use these variations, probably more than the originals.

Keep your training safe for yourself so you can continue to train for many years to come.

 

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About The Author

Kevin Fulton

Kevin Fulton is personal trainer in Pittsburgh, PA. His goal is to help his clients look, feel, and move better. In his spare time you can find him under a barbell or practicing jiu jitsu.

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