T Nation

Squat and Bench Press Critique


Hi Everyone,

Did my first 5/3/1 workout yesterday in the hopes of gaining some needed strength. Was hoping to get some feedback from the community on my squat and bench form. Any criticism is appreciated!




I would say on your bench to put some plates under your feet and start focusing on some leg drive. Also, I would stop raising your head every rep. A lot of guys do this in competitions because the shirt pulls their head forward some on the bar descent. Instead, focus on your arch and retracting your scapula (pull your shoulders blades back and tight). Get your core tight and solid and drive with your feet.


On your squat, depending if you are lifting in the USAPL or not, I would take them deeper. other than that from the angle you posted, it looks like your knees are coming over your toes a little. Sit back more on your heels when you squat and that will fix that and put you in a great position. Great lower back arch and upper back tightness.... on the bench you need to keep your head down, there is no reason for you to be picking it up, you are not in a bench shirt, you are doing nothing but setting yourself up for possible injury. Learn how to incorporate leg drive, and arch that back some more. your set up is barely that. Get down a set up routine to really arch that back and force your scapula into the bench. good elbow tuck and you are pressing in a strait line. By the way, i like the EFS strong(er) shirt. That's my favorite thing they make. try these out next training session and send me a personal message if you dont mind. Id like to know how it works out for you and if you like it. Keep training hard.


Yeah, like the previous posters have said, you should sit back farther in the squat, not lift your head on bench press, and use more leg drive.

You're doing a solid job of not letting your knees cave in on the squat, which is nice.


@jsmiley07- Thank you for the tips. I just though lifting the head was proper form as I've seen a lot of the Westside and Elitefts guys do it. Didn't figure that geared and raw would be different. Stupid error on my part. I will try pulling my shoulders down and back to help with my bench. Any good cues or resources to help me figure out how to use leg drive? Thanks again.

@Lurchman76- I'm not lifting in a federation at all but I will definitely work more on sitting back and set up a different camera angle to make sure I am hitting depth. Same question for you as jsmiley07, any good cues or resources for helping me learn leg drive? It's never seemed to make sense to me. I love the strong(er) line as well. Wear the wrist band too. Also, really like the articles Dave has written regarding his feelings on what strong(er) means. I will update you when I bench and squat again next Monday. Thanks for your help.


On the subject of benching raw, you should check out Thibaudeau's video on setup:



Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.


I think your SQ form actually looks really good, at least on the 230x10 video as that's the only one I looked at. A small amount of forward knee travel is fine for a raw SQ provided you aren't shifting your weight on to your toes or letting everything dump forward. You look in good balance in the hole and in good position throughout the lift. If you are comfortable squatting that way, I wouldn't change anything.
For the bench, I would echo what others have said. Get tighter set-up, try to arch a bit more, and don't lift your head.


Honestly man, leg drive is the most difficult thing to learn when benching, at least for me and a lot of the people I have spoken to on that subject. It's not something you can really practice and get tips on through reading. It's really something you learn by watching those who have learned it, and then incorporating it into your muscle memory. I am to the point where my legs will automatically engage when I press, where before It had to be a conscious effort and took verbal commands from my training praters. I would go to EFS and to the Q&A section and post the question there, one of those guys may have a solid way of coaching you on how to get the leg drive. good luck, looking forward to the updated videos.


As far as leg drive is concerned, get your knees below your hips and on your setup push your hips into pull extension with your butt on the bench so that your hips can't move up anymore if you try. When your drive with your legs, you're making yourself ultra tight and more the bar weight is transferred to ground I believe. By the time I'm in the proper position to unrack the bar, I feel like I'm in a really tight uncomfortable yoga pose. I use a belt to help keep my lower back from cramping up.


Your first move on the squat is down. You need to practice moving your hips back and then down. Like others have said you come forward a little on your squats. Other than that your squats look pretty good. I know people mentioned going a little deeper. I think that if your shins are more upright that won't be a problem. The more upright your shins are the easier it will be to get your hip joint below your knee.

Things that may help:
1) move your stance slightly wider (experiment with your stance)
2) Practice on loading your hips, glutes, and hamstrings first. In other words move your hips back

I think your squat technique looks good aside from the slight forward drift of your shins. Fix that and the weight will start going up quickly.

Keep your head down on the bench. Work on tightness and leg drive.