Shari Duncan

Tag: Squats


by on Oct.03, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Before incorporating “The Big 3” into your workout routine, first be assessed and monitored by a trained professional to ensure proper technique for safety and proficiency. Improper technique can cause an injury and will affect performance.

In regards to strength training, there are two basic ways to train. One is training with compound movements and the other is training with isolation exercises. Isolation exercises work single muscle groups as when using machines. Compound movements are bench pressing, dead lifting, squatting and using free weights where several muscles are involved and working together. If you want to improve your athletic condition, you need to perform compound movements by working more than one joint at a time during training.

The Bench

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

The primary muscles used in the bench press are the pectorals (major and minor), triceps, and deltoids. It will build upper body strength like no other, but if done with improper technique, can also result in injuries – especially shoulder injuries. For safety, be sure to have a spotter at all times.
Bench Press Setup. You need a strong base to press the weight from. Tighten your upper-back. Grip the bar hard: try to break it apart like breaking spaghetti. Squeeze your shoulder-blades before getting on the bench. Keep your shoulder-blades back & down at all times . This gives your body a solid base to press the bar from.  Keep chest up at all times; do not allow shoulders to roll forward.  Use a wide foot stance to increase stability on the bench. Feet flat on the floor, weight on the heels, lower leg perpendicular to the floor. This prevents extreme arching of your lower back.

EXECUTION: Keep the tight position during the Bench Press from start to finish. Squeeze the bar, keep your upper-back tight & your chest up. Unrack the weight with straight arms. Bench.

The Squat

Considered by many to be the most important athletic core lift, every muscle works when you Squat: your legs move the weight, your abs & lower back stabilize it, your arms squeeze the bar, etc. The Squat is NOT just a leg exercise, it’s a full body exercise. It is also a great tool for increasing lower body power which translates to increased speed and a higher vertical leap.

To avoid injury always Squat in a power rack. Set the safety pins so they can catch the bar would anything go wrong. The rest is technique – start light, add weight gradually, and remember form always comes before weight.

  1. Set the bar in a power rack at about mid-chest level.

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and  a spotter for safety

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and a spotter for safety

  2. Position your feet directly under the bar.
  3. Squat under the bar and put it on your back.
  4. Tighten everything and Squat up to unrack the bar.
  5. One step back with one leg, one step back with the other leg.

EXECUTION: Keep a low bar position, a tight upper-back, elbows back & wrists straight. Heels about shoulder width, point your toes out at about 30 degrees. Your toes must always follow your knees or you’ll get knee injuries. Practice and focus on technique.  The key to the Squatting correctly are your hips: you must have tension in your hamstrings at the bottom. Push your knees out as you squat down. Hit Parallel. Your hip joint must come lower than your knee joint. Ask someone to judge your depth or tape yourself. No Partial Squats

How to Squat Up. Your hip muscles will be stretched when in the bottom  position if you Squat correctly. Use that stretch to bounce out of the hole. If you Squat this way, you’ll be lift a lot more weight while keeping your knees safe.

  • Hips Up. Drive out of the hole by leading with your hips, not your chest. Don’t let your knees travel forward at the bottom or you’ll lose power.
  • Squeeze Your Glutes. Power comes from the glutes. Squeeze them hard as you lockout the weight. It will also keep your lower back safe.
  • Grab The Floor. Grab the floor with your feet; it will help activate your glutes. Do NOT let your heels come off the floor.
  • Knees Out. Same as for the way down: don’t let your knees buckle in. Push your knees out as you Squat up.

*Always use free weights for Squats. Machines are not only less effective for muscle and strength gains because they balance the weight for you, they also force you into fixed/unnatural movement patterns

The Deadlift

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

The dead lift is a full body lift that focuses on improving strength for the back and lower extremity (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts etc.), as well as forearm and grip strength.  Keeping

your back straight is critical to avoid injuries when lifting heavy objects from the floor. Deadlift by pushing from the heels, and bringing your hips forward. Not by pulling with your lower back.

Deadlifts start with the bar at mid shin level. Walk to the bar and position your feet under the bar with shoulder width stance, toes slightly pointed out. Chest up, shoulders back, look forward – Keep this position and your back will not be able to round. Keep arms straight, tighten triceps.

EXECUTION: If you Deadlift correctly, you’ll feel most stress in your upper-back, glutes & hams. Shoulder blades over bar, bar against shins.  Bring hips forward and PUSH FROM THE HEELS, squeezing the glutes hard. Keep the bar close to you, rolling over shins and thighs.  The movement is complete when knees and hips are locked.

To bring weight down, unlock hips first, then the knees. Chest remains up, shoulders forward and head up as you bring the weight down.

*There is no need to arch or shrug at the top of the movement.  Rolling the shoulders or hyper extending the back are dangerous and inefficient.  Extend your knees and hips and stop.


This video was taken  at the Battle of Honor in Pelion S.C.  250lb DL / 111lb Bodyweight.

This was my first meet.

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The PERFECT Squat: How low should you go?

by on May.10, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding

Squatting below parallel is not bad for your knees….should I say again?

Okay…. squatting below parallel is not bad for your knees. This is a myth you probably have heard a lot. Some will advise you to do Partial Squats, staying above parallel, to avoid knee injury. This is wrong information. Wrong. If your knees hurt when you squat, it is more likely due to poor form… read on.

Among various sports (Power lifting, bodybuilding etc) and among online forums and across gyms, there are vast differences of opinion over this question.  Those with the loudest voices are often those at opposite ends of the spectrum: from the” ass-to-grass activist” to the squatting-below-parallel-is-bad-for-your-knees believer. In reality, most people will be able to reach a squat depth somewhere between the two extremes.

The simplest lesson to bear in mind is that you should squat as low as you can with good form. This means your back is flat or slightly arched, heels are on the floor, knees are above toes and not collapsing inwards, chest is up and not tipping too far forwards.

Again… Squatting below parallel is NOT bad for your knees. Squatting with improper form is.

A proper squat is to go as low as you can... while maintaining GOOD form throughout the movement

Aim to go as low as you can... while maintaining GOOD form throughout the movement

Your knee joint is strongest in a fully flexed or full extended position, not the positions in-between. Partial Squats (above parallel) only strengthen your knees & quads, not your glutes & hamstrings. This causes muscle imbalances & consequently injuries. The deeper movement balances and engages muscles on either side of the knee and as a result, the forward/backward forces acting on the knee.

Deep squatting is not only difficult and demanding; it is also humbling because much less weight can be moved than in partial squats. A great deal of force (and mental focus and  physical stamina) is required to push up from “the hole” (the bottom of the squat).

So even if you are not there yet, the goal should be to squat below parallel. Keep practicing form, form, form.  Over time, balance, flexibility and technique will improve.  If you find that you have balance issues with a tendency to fall forward, there are many other exercises and training tools that you should consider incorporating into your leg training sessions. One of the best is a variation of the squat known as the GOBLET SQUAT.


This exercise trains your body to remain more upright as you squat down, allowing you to avoid tipping forwards.  goblet squats were invented by Dan John a couple of years ago to teach his student athletes how to squat well and to teach them to squat between the legs, rather than with the upper body stiff at the hip.

Use a moderately heavy dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it in front of you like a goblet. This will force you to keep your chest raised as you squat down.  Lower your body between your legs, with a relatively wide stance. In order to increase your range of motion you will need a weight that is heavy but not too heavy – say, a weight that you can squat 6-10 times without technical failure. If the weight is too light it won’t push your body that little bit further into the stretch. Keep the goblet object close to your chest.  Your elbows should be between your knees at the bottom, not on top or to the side of your knees.

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