Written by Chad Wesley Smith
The Internet has been great for lifting from the standpoint of ability to access and share information, but it has also led to overanalyzing the minutiae of training and overvaluing the unimportant.
“Is that high bar or low bar?” is a very common question that I receive on my squat training videos and see on other people’s videos. Every time I see it, I wonder: “Why do you care?” Now of course, I want people to critically think about their training and their technique, but this question is particularly troubling to me because the answer is useless. Bar position isn’t a black and white issue. Just because the bar is in X location on my back doesn’t mean I must squat with Y technique.
Now with that being said, finding your optimal bar position is important to your success. Additionally, training bar positions away from that optimal position will also be useful to you. What is not useful to powerlifters, though, is debating which bar position is better or trying to create artificial distinctions between these technique. Find your technique and master it.
Of course this is sort of a joke, but I swear if I read something like “I bet that beard adds 50 pounds to his total,” I’m going to lose my shit. Growing a beard is not an accomplishment and it doesn’t make you strong, so please stop pretending that it does.
Are some shoes better than others to lift in? Yes. Are shoes the difference in an average to good, good to great, or great to elite lifter? Hell no.
I did my first powerlifting meet wearing Nike Frees, squishy, unstable, Nike Frees. There were lots of comments about me being a “noob” and not knowing what I was doing, mind you I squatted 800 and totaled 1962 at this meet. So yes, maybe I was unaware of which shoes were best to compete in, but I did know about other important things like how to create an effective program, properly peak, and compete to the maximum of my abilities. I’d be willing to bet that the people who were so fixated on my shoes would have been well-served to spend more of their time learning about aspects of training that really matter, instead of deciding if they should wear their Chucks, Power Shoes, Romaleos, or Adipowers that day.
For a long time, flexibility was seen as a key to performance and injury prevention and now that idea has morphed into mobility. The ability to get into the necessary positions to squat, bench, and deadlift is important, but if you’re trying to achieve these positions through lengthy pre-training routines of stretching, rolling, and band distracting, chances are you’re doing it wrong.
The most valuable thing I’ve learned for my own lifting in the last 2 years has been how to properly breathe, position, and brace my torso. This has improved my movement in my squat and performance across the board, while also helping alleviate back pain and symptoms from two herniated discs in June 2013. Spending 5-10 minutes doing some breathing drills before my training has had a far greater impact on my performance and made my movement better than anything I’ve done. Additionally, it is certainly a more economical use of time than a 45 minute routine of rolling, mashing, and band distracting. These two videos from Dr. Quinn Henoch should give you some great insight into these concepts:
What Is Tightness
Why Stretching Isn’t The Answer
Now you may read that one and be thinking, pump the brakes, Chad – but hear me out. GPP isn’t unimportant, but GPP is misunderstood. Much of what people do for GPP is having very little impact on their powerlifting performance.
The most specific exercises that any powerlifter can do are the competitive lifts in competitive equipment for 1 rep; any variation from this is some degree more general. So while pushing the prowler or pulling a sled (with correct work/rest intervals) may improve your aerobic capacity – which can increase your general work capacity and can potentially promote recovery between training sessions – it’s impact on sporting performance is minimal. Still, many people put great emphasis on its importance.
Squatting for multiple sets of 8-12 reps is general physical preparedness work for competitive powerlifters and will have a much higher transfer to your sporting performance than sleds, Strongman circuits or anything else. Also, consider that you have finite time for training and you need to spend it wisely.