T Nation

Big Compound Lifts?


Hey guys,

I've been reading T-Nation for months now and I figured its time to finally register.

My situation is this.

I'm 6'2", about 230lbs, and way too much of that is fat. I've lost about 25lbs and put on some noticable muscle over the last six months through jogging, improved diet, and a decent but pretty basic weight room routine.

My primary goal here is fat loss, but since I'm still very much a newbie to lifting, I would hope that I can still make strength gains while dropping pounds.

I currently do a pretty straightforward Push/Pull/Legs split workout 3-4 times a week. It's basically:

Bench Press
DB Incline Press
DB Flys
DB Shoulder Press
Lat. DB Raises
Rope-Tri extension
(Assisted) Dips -- can't really do unassisted dips too well.

High Row (using the hammer strength machine.. I know, I know, machines bad.)
DB Row
Lat Pulldown/Assisted Pullups
Post. Delt Raises
Alt Dumbbell Curl

Leg Press
DB Lunges
Hamstring Curl
One-leg DB calf raises

So, here's my questions. I've read alot on this site, and I have a pretty good idea what people might suggest I change about the routine -- that I should add the other two big compound exercises (Squats and Deads) to it.

My problem is this. Unlike the above exercises, I really don't have an idea how to safely squat. My knees always pop like rice crispies and sometimes hurt for a while whenever I try. This makes me really nervous about loading up any real amount of weight unless I know my form is good. Same for deadlifts or anything else that involves back movement -- heard so many horror stories that I'm kind of psyched out about involving the back too much unless I know my technique is good.

My gym is 24hr fitness, and not a particularily good one of theirs either. There's only 1 bench press in the whole place available for example, for the love of god! I think I see someone actually squatting maybe only a few times a month while I'm there -- so learning the form from others isn't really in the cards too much.

What do you guys recommend? Any particular techniques from people who have been in my boat that might help?

For that matter, any other comments/critiques/whatever about all this?


well, short of getting a personal trainer, nobody can really teach you how to squat correctly. You really just have to go build your own squat. It does help to have someone watch your form occasionally, but if you dont have that luxury,like most people who either train at home or in gyms where, like you said, nobody squats, oh well. Use a light weight, dont be afraid to 'only' add 5lb plates each side when your adding wieght. google squat technique/search this site. If your new to this game, and in it for the long haul, progress slowly and evenly with squats. dont just throw plates on and quarter squat, go deep, but with light weight at first. It took me a year of squatting regularly before i felt like I had a real squat...


I'd give a few "how to" articles a read.

6 Tricks For A Sexy Squat:

Squatting Head to Toe:

Do you have any pre-existing knee issues? That whole snap-crackle-pop thing isn't "supposed" to happen. Can you perform a knee bend (squat, deadlift, call it whatever) with no weight at all, without the pain?

Also, what kind of sets/reps are you working with right now?

There's really no reason to stress over deadlifting. Not to freak you out, but I'm sure just as many people get injured benching or from poorly performed lateral raises. So...you can pick your poison. :wink: (kidding, pretty much). Seriously, it's just another exercise. Learn the technique, start low and slow, and progress when you can.


I?ll give it a try to tell you how to squat. Go buy a 50 lb to 80 lb bag of sand at Home Depot. Grab the bag by the bottom and rest the top on your chest under your chin, stand with feet approx. shoulder width and toes pointed out slightly. Keeping your head straight up and your spine straight, lower the bag between your knees and stop before you lose your form. I hope that helps. Don?t be surprised if you can?t go all the way down, it takes time. I got my instruction from Dan John; I was one of those people that did squats wrong for 30 years. Good Luck.


Note: Don't lower the bag with your arms, lower it with your entire upper body in a slow controlled sinking motion.

Key is to keep your lower back neutral and your head up and shoulders pulled back.



Cut and paste if you must


Just wanted to say "thanks" for all the advice so far!

My leg&core day is today, I think I'm gonna give them a try starting pretty light. I think my problem before might have been trying to go too heavy too soon.. damn ego.

Re: how many sets/reps of each exercise, I usually do 3 sets, with varying load and rep numbers. Usually something like 12reps with moderate weight, 8 reps moderate-heavy, and 4-5 reps heavy. When I started doing different weight ranges like this for each set it seemed to me like I started making bigger gains.


I skimmed through everything on here and really didn't see something I was thinking. Something my dad always told me to do to make sure my back was straight and head/chin was up is to pick something about eye level on the wall and continue looking at it. Look at it at eye level and don't take your eyes off of it all the way down into your squat. It is something that helped me a lot.


clean and press clean pull deadlift squat cut rest periods to max 90 secs keep heart rate up


A really good way to learn good squat form and not feel "bad" about going light is doing some overhead squating. Just use an empty bar, or even a broomstick. Having the weight overhead requires you to use good form and balance, while also improving hip flexibility.

By the way, my knees always crack and pop when I squat, it's not going to hurt you any more than popping your fingers.


I have the same problem with my knees. I've been taking a daily glucosamine supplement, and also an Omega 3 (try Flame Out) which really seem help. Not sure where you live, but in the winter months my gym can get a little cold, especially since the corner with the squat racks is drafty as hell. If that's the case, make sure you thoroughly warm up before using any substantial weight.


Being an old guy with bad knees, I would advise against ignoring cracking knees. You may be able to shorten your range of motion or improve your form and avoid any knee cracking.


As far as deads go - I've found that I (tall guy) feel really much more comfortable when I do sumo deads.

Whenever I do regular deadlifts - I keep grinding the bar against my legs and I also feel like it might be tipping me forward.

In a sumo stance, however, you need less focus on your legs and balance and you can focus more on the lower back and the lift itself.

But then again, this might only be due to me being tall.


stick your arse out more and keep your head up


...Now. Wait a few years. Cracking and popping joints are bad signs for future joint problems, including loss of ROM and increased likelihood of arthritis and osteoperosis (in women). Read up on the subject before you tell someone to ignore pain.


Ya I'm fairly tall (5'11''..but I have a short torso and long lanky legs)...Ive been doin conventional deads seriously for about 3 months (formerly working sumos) and I'm NOW just gettin the form right because in the beginning it was just lower back pain and shoulder pain after completing sets...

Now its a total body drained feeling..like "you dont know what muscles were worked the hardest because they were ALL worked at the same time" kinda feeling, but with no pain and somewhat euphoric...lol..ya that was a mess I just typed.

So learning the big lifts overnight is outta the question. Put the time in to learn the proper form of the lifts to save you time away from the hospital in the future.


Just wanted to post an update..

for the last 3 weeks (time frame since when I first made this post), I've been easing myself into squats. I had to start embarassingly light to let myself feel comfortable and make sure I was getting my form as good as I can.

But I'm feeling more and more solid every time I squat now, and have been able to steadily add weight each week and feel comfortable under it.

My knees don't feel any worse now than when I leg press or otherwise do some decent lower-body worse. I think I just had some hideous form before..

I think at some point before I start putting up serious poundage numbers I should find someone else who squats well and get an in-person critique, but for a good while at least I think I'm good to go.

So thanks again. I haven't really started doing deads in earnest yet, they're next up on my list.