T Nation

Newb Questions Vol.1


got some questions i hope someone can answer (:

  1. what does it mean when your legs cave inwards while doing squats (i,e when coming back up from the squat) if i remember correctly, its some weakness of some muscle but i can't remember what.

  2. what does it mean too when your elbows flare out when benching (youre supposed to tuck in elbows but sometimes my elbows will flare out while trying to push the weight up. tricep weakness?)

  3. is there any benefit to doing horizontal push-pull and vertical push-pull on the same days? i.e overhead press with pull downs/ups and bench with rows. or it doesnt really matter at all?

  4. is it better to do vertical pulls and horizontal pulls on seperate days or you mix them up. (since vertical - width, horizontal - thickness supposedly)


  1. could be that you have the ability to do it - but you aren't. most people need to consciously cue 'knees out'. some people find a benefit to putting a small band around their knees so they can feel what it is like to push their knees out against it if they are having trouble with the cue.

  2. could similarly be that you have the ability to do it - but you aren't. cue yourself 'elbows in'.

in both cases do you have that problem with just the bar? the above are components of good form. only lift as much weight as you can lift with good form. that way you will train up your weakest link even if what your weakest link is changes over time.

sometimes people do benefit from assistance exercises to bring up weakest links. if you are a noob, though, then it is probably more about training your body to do the movement.

3 / 4. i used to train an upper / lower body split where the only exercises i did for upper body was horizontal / vertical push / pull. other people might do things differently, though e.g., putting push with chest and pull with back or whatever.

do you need a program?


1 and 2) As alexus said. I used to have that problem with squats very bad, now just a little, and it helped a lot to just go through with very light weights, or body weight squats in a gobblet squat style to use my elbows to make sure my knees were out. Just work on it more to get the form down. I've heard the band idea helps a lot, but I would only do it for the warmups.

  1. probably just that you need to think about forcing your knees out while you squat, these things are only a muscle weakness in experienced lifters generally eg. "Johnny can't lock out his 435 bench even though he's used every form cue possible and knows how to grind out slow 1rms since he's been doing this shit for years, Johnny should should probably use board press as ME work and see if that helps" most people don't need to worry about those specific things and just need more practice on the lift and/or need to tweak their technique/stance.

  2. watch dave tate's "6 week bench press cure" on youtube

  3. personal preference

  4. personal preference

hope that helps


  1. as long as you do them all at some point in your cycle you aren't going to cause any imbalances, if that's why you're asking (don't have to be on the same day, though they could be)

  2. exercises just work muscles, and depending on what muscles get developed, it will have a different effect on the appearance. just saying, don't get too caught up in the direction or width/thickness part, just make sure you are hitting all of the muscles. (in the process, you will probably end up using all the directions anyway) for example, it is definitely possible to do some horizontal rows in a way that work the lats as a 'width' exercise, and not hit the upper back much


Hmmm,thanks for the responses guys. For questions 1 snd. 2 I think I did not exain myself well enough. I DO make sure I remind myself to have my 'knees out' and elbows tucked in, but sometimes with the heavier weights or higher reps, 1 and 2 haappens. A video example would be 2:49 on the video 'strength feat compilation (s) on youtube. (I'm on my blackberry, caant get the linl :/) but ill try again next week and make sure I cue myself again! (: and to que 3 n 4, I guess yea, it doesn't matter much. But thanks for the info!


Knees in on squats usually points to glutes being weak and/or inactive in the squat. If you are squatting wide-stance, add 'push the floor apart' to your list of cues. Also, do some glute work for assistance.

Elbows out on bench points to setup first (most lifters can add weight to their bench instantly by adjusting their setup for their specific leverages). Get your setup and form nailed down FIRST. Then, I'd take a look at shoulder strength. You're likely flaring the elbows because the pecs are taking over for the delts. Heavy triceps work will always improve your bench, but most don't know how to do it right for bench assistance. Heavy front-delt work will help tremendously, as well.

As for 3 + 4? Meh. Hard work + lots of good food trumps magic program. I've seen guys with "horrible programming" make great gains just by eating and going all-out every time they hit the gym.


To add to this, if glute activation is an issue you should be doing activation exercises before your workouts. It only takes a couple of minutes to do and can help immensely. Bird-dogs and clam-shells are two that come to mind. I think Bret Contreras has an article with descriptions a bunch of these moves.


if you are having trouble only with heavier weights, then you are probably going too heavy.


alright ill try some glute work first. well, im doing 5/3/1 and this usually occurs on the last set where you try to hit as many reps as you can. i generally can hit 8-10 reps? so i dont think its too heavy. but i was wondering whether it was a pec/tricep weakness or smth.


don't let yourself cheat it up. e.g., don't let your knees cave in order to make the rep (unless it is a comp or something and you are prepared to suffer potential injury). if you can't get it while forcing your knees out then you can't get it. you will get it as you get stronger.


i'll be interested to hear what others have to say about this...

but i've been wondering for myself about assistance exercises to bring up weak links.

i mean... in one sense i see the sense in them. more work for the weakest link = the weakest link becoming stronger so it isn't the weakest link anymore. but in another sense i don't see the sense in them. more work for the part that fatigues first = the part being too tired to perform when it is supposed to on the work sets.

guess the work to bring up weak links needs to be done a couple days out from when you are using it for work sets.

another problem with snatching most days. sigh.


Do it at the end of the session.

If you are doing assistance work for snatches, and then snatching again on the next day, just do a couple assistance sets at the end of the workout (i.e. not enough to get sore), and don't do assistance work every day (to ensure max performance on snatches). It's better than not doing any assistance exercises at all.