T Nation

Help w/ Dead and Squat


I need some help here guys. Its been about 3 years since I was pounding heavy weight, and even then I wasn't using powerlifting form (still able to squat 505, dead 550). So I am trying to get to some bone crushing poundages but am a little confused on technique. So if I sound ingnorant, that is because I am.

I don't know any real powerlifters that can help me out, though. So:

On the squat:
-When I read to "force my knees out to the sides" what does this mean? Should I be POINTING my knees outward?
-When I am down in the hole I read that my "shins should be perpendicular to the floor, or better yet PAST perpendicular". Past perpendicular in what way? Over my toes or behind my heals?

On the dead:
-For a conventional dead, how wide should my stance be? Dave Tate says that smaller guys will be more narrow than the big belly guys. Also, is your grip on the bar inside or outside your shins?

I have a lot of work to do on the squat more so than the dead. Working on box squating and sitting back with my hips on the decending phase and trying to not overpower the squat with my quads. Having to fight some long used habits. Thanks for any help. If you need any more info, let me know.


Hi Lattimus,

Didn't want you to get lost in the shuffle. Do you have a video of your technique for us to see? This is very helpful including asking any of your strength coaches. Best of luck with your goals!!


Thanks for the gesture. I don't have any video ... that would be helpful. It is a very frustrating situation when trying new form. Nothing feels comfortable, don't feel powerful, not loading anything. I guess I will have to track down some powerlifters that I used to know.


Dear Lattimus,

Breaks my heart to hear you talk like this. Have you done any of the auxillary work for the bench, deadlift, and squat? There are many variations and I've improved by adding them. In the meantime until you track down your friends, have you asked Eric Cressey or Mike Robertson yet? All their articles are geared towards helping powerlifters of all levels.
Please don't feel discouraged.


Ok, for box squatting: while in the hole, the shins should be vertical, or past vertical toward your heels, according the article. It's somewhat of an exaggeration, but it's meant for getting a huge stretch in the p-chain.

The knees are harder to explain, but I'll try. Stand up on your feet and pretend that your feet are bolted to the floor. Now, try to tear a hole in the floor by forcing your knees out to the sides (toward the outside edge of your shoes). It is similar to trying to rip the bar apart, or "spread the bar apart" when benching. It is hard to explain, but if viewed from the the front, the squat should happen without your legs collapsing in at all (ie-no "knock-kneed" stance). The "spreading the floor" phase has to do with activating your hips/glutes/p-chain by consciously putting the pressure on the outside edges of your shoes.

You should not necessarily physically POINT your knees outward by pointing your toes outward, unless you have flexibility problems.

As far as deadlift stance goes, I think that whatever is comfortable for you to do is optimal at first. Your hand position varies depending on how wide your stance is. Aim for a comfortable position first, and then if you feel the need start tweaking it. For me though, the DL position is easier to feel than to teach. You had a respectable pull before you stopped pounding the heavy weight, so you should be able to feel the right set-up. Don't sweat it. This particular problem will most likely resolve itself as you pay attention to the other basics (shoulders behind bar, etc).

Good luck.


Thank you for your help, Aragorn. Maybe Lattimus will have a better Christmas now.


I hope so. It would suck to have a Christmas without squatting and pulling.


I really do appreciate the help here guys. I guess I am a charity case, a sort of tiny-Tim who can't squat right. But I will put this new information into practice at the gym. Hopefully I can find a comfortable groove soon. And yes, christmas will be better with a bigger squat and dead. A sort of present to myself.


Dear lattimus,
I'm a lady and I adore tiny-Tim's. Please come back if you need more help, okay? We'd love to hear your progress. best wishes.