T Nation

Fixing Technique?

I see a lot of people asking for advice on how to fix their technique and there seems to be a few different schools of thought on what to do. Some people would say to use less weight, but the problem with that is you don’t get any practice with maximal or near-maximal weights. For an absolute beginner this is good advice, but unless you are doing massive amounts of volume like in a Sheiko program it probably won’t help you with max singles. However, for most people you are better off doing most of your work with lighter weights, around 70-85%.

Another approach is to use special exercises. This works to some extent, but the exercises have to be chosen for a specific purpose. If you are weak out of the hole you don’t need reverse bands, for example. The other thing is that changing too many variables makes it have less carryover to the competition lift. Board presses are good, bench with chains is good, floor presses are good. But a 2 board floor press with chains doesn’t make any sense. You can only target one weak point at a time, trying to fix everything with one movement doesn’t work.

Finally, there is the idea of using heavy weights and/or max singles to perfect technique. Ivan Abadjiev, the Bulgarian weightlifting coach, used little other than the competition lifts for max singles and down sets of no more than 2-3 reps to train his athletes. This has become popular recently through John Broz. As he says, the singles give you practice and the down sets make you stronger. This approach works because you can’t lift a maximal weight with bad technique or you will fail. Also, if your goal is to lift heavy weights for a single rep then it only makes sesnse to do that in training, even if only on occasion. The downside to this is that there can be more potential for injury if you don’t know how to safely fail a rep.

So what do you guys think? What do you do to improve your technique?

Well, here’s what I know and have experienced first hand in my 25 years of ligfting. Nearly all the guys at Elite FTS, wanna be big, Super training, the guys at Brute Strength Gym in Norfolk where I trained for years, etc when prepping for a Meet work up to about 90ish% of their maxes in training. This will generally be their openers. They hammer technique like a motherfucker in training with “light” weights. Then come meet time the take their openers. Attempts 2 and 3 they go fucking nuts and take real max efforts. All ME work is a battle to maintain form and grunt out a competiton max by whatever means possible. Most people who train seriously and are beyond all that “beginner” stuff, only take real 1 RMS occasionally. Doubles, triples are far more effective in a TRAINING cycle.

I am not advocationg the OP take 135 for a ride to learn form. That’s ridiculous. Most folks do well to trian in the 80-90% range. Form is maintained and they get some good work in. You are right, there are many trains of thought on this matter. This works for me at my level of ability and time under the bar. I know few people that can dial in technique with weights closing in on true 1 rms and even if form is 100% text book, there comes a point when a guy is only as strong as he’s gonna be. As always “YMMV” and folks need to learn what training style works for them so that they can get it done.

I still have a long way to go in perfecting technique but I’ve made my biggest improvement by learning how the lift is supposed to feel. As beginners, people (including myself) watch the top lifters and try to mimic technique but don’t realize all these athletes lift to maximize his/her own leverages while trying to recruit as much muscle as possible. This could look different for everyone. When technique is dialed in, it probably doesn’t matter if you tend to lift at lower percentages or higher percentages because every single rep is efficient in building your strength, whereas poor technique has poor carryover to building strength.

When relearning how to lift correctly, the weight needs to be heavy enough to force the lifter to actively use the correct form until it becomes automatic. Too heavy and they will no longer be in control throughout the movement. Most often before advice is given, the lifter should be assessed whether they’re utilizing all the muscles correctly in the posterior and anterior chain. Otherwise it’ll be an endless cycle of figuring out what is wrong. Once all of the muscles are used correctly, it is straight forward bringing up a weakness by focusing on it.

From my own experience and observation of others, it seems that people having the most difficulty with technique are the ones who have a hard time producing a rigid torso. If everyone had a steel plate for a torso, the only topics on technique that I could imagine seeing here would be on hand/feet placement, head position and whether posterior or anterior dominance is better. With that said, pause reps provide immediate feedback so I think it’s one of the best training tools (but you can still get away with poor technique). Once in awhile, training close to failure is a good thing regardless of outcome because you either learn what your weaknesses are when you fail or you make adjustments and find a stronger position. There is still no substitute for learning what a lift should feel like.