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What you might need to fix to lift better

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 24, 2015 7:43:00 AM


What you might need to fix to lift better

This is an article based on my own shortcomings to help you to better your best on your lifts. I am lifting now for roughly a year starting with the Stronglift 5x5 program, then switched to a 10x3 program for six weeks and doing a German Volume training template at the time of writing in May 2015. Any comments and recommendations, please let me know. To follow my self-assessment, visit Marathon Crossfit on YouTube and have a look through my videos.

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The squat, as I have already pointed out on my blog, is my weakest lift. I am happy that in my last one rep max test it finally surpassed my bench press in total weight lifted (which is a joke in itself, but never mind).


Heels coming off the ground

This is a flexibility issue connected to my hamstrings which I have since my childhood. Here you can clearly see the long term effects of not taking proper care wearing your insoles at the age from 8 – 12 even though it was recommended. I currently cannot reach the proper squat position in the hole (deepest point in the squat) without my heels coming off the ground. This is also being enhanced by the tightness of my calves from running. I have to incorporate considerable stretching to fix this.

Therefore I have consulted Greg Everett’s book Olympic weightlifting and followed the stretch and foam rolling recommendations in there.

My plan is to stretch after each session weekdays now and to foam roll extensively on my off day ( which is Friday) to make progress in this area.

Arm alignment and positioning

If I look at the pictures and videos of best practices there are two things which need fixing in my upper body.

First one being, that the arms are relatively far apart and could be closer to the shoulders to provide more stability through the entire lift.

Second one is that the right arm seems to be rotating outwards more than the left arm which creates misalignment and a slight imbalance of my squat to the left. This might be connected and starting in the heel coming off the ground on the right hand and sort out itself once fixed. Still it should be monitored.


This is something I recently fixed and I am still working on. In April 2015 I realized considerable pain in my lower abdomen whilst performing belted squats. I first thought the placement of the belt could be the cause of this and experimented with readjusting positioning of it. This did not lead to the result I wanted.

After watching instructional videos on YouTube (Yes…) I realized that changing my breathing will provide more stability to my core. So for the last two squatting session I tried a combination of a deep breath at the top of the squat, hardening my abs against the belt, go down into the hole (deepest position of the squat) and hissing when going up again.  

This fixed the lower abdominal pain while in the gym, but now I have the usual soreness which you feel after a workout, when the muscle has been worked. Here I recommend to you to not be ashamed in the gym of making some noise, it will benefit your lifting. If your gym does not allow for this, it is not the place to do heavy lifting. Change if necessary.

Core Strength

Another realisation was that my lower body is still too weak when compared to my upper body. The pains in the lower abdomen may also come from my abs and lower back muscles being underdeveloped compared to the rest of me. This is something where I did not find a fix yet and currently try to address through more sit ups and GHD raises in my programming. Still not satisfied in this area though.

Going below parallel

This is the major risk in developing bad form on the squat on the Stronglifts 5x5 program in my opinion, as you usually do it unsupervised. I have developed a string squat just to realize it was a half squat and had to rebuild the movement pattern, and I still am.

Easy to fix for you if you leave your ego at home. Just setup your mobile with a friend or ona bench at the side of your power rack. Adjust the pins in the power rack so that they are at the same height as your knees. Once set up check of your backside goes below the line of the pin when you squat. If yes, well done, if not adjust and redo. Always squat as low as you possibly can with proper form. If your flexibility limits you in doing this, stretch. See my example.


Bench Press

My bench press is something I am quite happy with and currently hold my local gym record in my weight class (81 – 90kg) at 135kg one rep max. So here there is less of fixing to do rather than improving the movement pattern in my opinion.


Forming a proper bridge

As I would like to compete in the IDFPA = Irish Drug free Powerlifting Association I have to fix my bridge so that my buttocks touches the bench at all times of the lift. Their rule book does not allow your backside to leave the bench at any given time of the lift.

Pausing on the chest

Also I have to practice the paused bench press. Currently I am lifting without pausing the bar on my chest to than press it out. This is a form fix I need to include moving forward in my training as I have not done this in the past. If I won’t do this, I will not comply with the rules of IDFPA.

Left arm weaker than the right

My left are is slightly lagging behind my right arm through the lift, which leads to imbalance and possible pounds lost for the overall lift. Here I have to come with a plan how to address this, without creating more of an imbalance.



My deadlift performance is also poor when compared against my squat and bench press. With the stats I currently have and looking at other lifters with similar stats my current max deadlift of 175kg should be more in the range of 190 / 200kg.

I base this assessment off the numbers provided by beyond the whiteboard. If I assumed the same lift level for my deadlift and squat as for my bench press (Top ten percent of beyond the whiteboard) I would have to deadlift 206.5kg and squat 172.5 kg (hey I just found myself new goals for this year).


Round back

Most of my deadlifts are currently performed with a round back. This is due to not lowering my buttocks down low enough to ensure that the spine stays straight. This can be attributed to limited flexibility in the legs, but also as I am currently more thinking about pulling the weight up rather than pushing myself more against the earth.

I have tried that already with the Trap bar deadlift with good results and should be more conscious in future sessions to create force through my legs to the ground, rather than creating more upward force out of my lower back.

Jerk on the deadlift

My current deadlift does not create enough tension before lift-off. Therefore I am jerking the bar, putting my arms at risk of being oulled out of their sockets by the movement. This is something I need to fix by thinking about getting really tight before starting the movement to adhere to best practise and also not wreck my ligaments and tendons in the process.


My current training does not address this in the lifting. On Saturdays I am attending a Strongman class which incorporates box jumps, pin squats, sled push and pulls and pull ups. Going through the new routines I have to think about ways on how to improve bar speed and the velocity of my movements in my training. I think that will be only a good idea once I have mastered the movement patterns , to speed them up and work with band and chains at a later stage.


This is the order in which I have to address my current shortcomings from my perspective:

  1. Flexibility of the Hamstrings
  2. Flexibility of lower back
  3. Foot positioning of the squat
  4. Lowering my back on the deadlift
  5. Jerking of deadlift
  6. Keeping my buttocks on the bench when bench pressing
  7. Paused bench press

The flexibility issues will be the hardest to fix in my opinion. I have been struggling with them for your years. Once this is done I will be time to attack the current bests at my local gym. Once I dominate the whiteboard there I will move on to the IDPFA. Stay tuned, subscribe and please comment.

Further reading

On the deadlift

On the squat

On the bench press

Topics: Can marathoners be good crossfitters?