While seemingly simple on the surface, there’s quite a lot that goes into lifting weights effectively and strongly. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the mountains of information out there (not all of it good, unfortunately). Unfortunately, a lot of this information is very nuanced and tool-specific and people are left confused. Hell, I just spent an hour talking about deadlifts with Eric on the podcast and we didn’t even scratch the surface. However, here’s a simple 3-step process to help you lift safely, maximize your gains and stay as safe as you can.
- The breath is everything. The more I learn from my coaches and mentors, the more I realize that breath control is critical to all physical tasks. While breathing obviously keeps our bodies alive by supplying us oxygen, it also helps us maximize our performance during lifting. If you watch elite lifters, the very first thing they do before starting the lift is breathing. Now, for the sake of keeping things simple, in this first step simply breathe in. Think about filling the tank 80% with air. This prepares you for the next step.
- Now that you’ve got air, the next step is to brace. My clients will all roll their eyes when they hear this, because I repeat it often. Bracing does NOT mean sucking in your stomach. This move was popularized by bodybuilders and has a separate purpose. When I say “brace,” yes I want you to use your core. To keep things simple, tighten-up your midsection as if Mike Tyson was about to punch you in the gut. Try this activity with a friend that you trust. Have them pretend to strike your stomach and notice how you naturally tighten-up there, bracing for a hit. Boom, it’s that simple.
- Lift that weight! Now that you’ve breathed and braced, it’s time to do the thing. When lifting the weight, aim to perform the movement at a steady yet deliberate pace.
There are of course many variables to consider when looking at each individual movement pattern and the tool being used (unless it’s a body-weight movement). I can tell you that in my 9-years as a coach and 19-years as a lifter, this simple 3-step process has helped me make progress and stay healthy. Make no mistake, this method does not apply to one tool such as the deadlift. I utilize this sequence for movements such as pull-ups, push-ups, kettlebell swings, bench press, dumbbell overhead press and many others. Practice this, and stronger you shall become. Also, we need to program autocorrect to recognize Yoda speech!
Train your body. Feed your mind.