View Full Version : Converting to powerlifting form: Squat, Bench

09-02-2006, 09:42 PM
I have been seeking to convert my shoulder width squat and elbows flared benchpress to proper powerlifting forms. I have a few questions that I hope some of you may be able to answer.


1. From Dave Tate's article to squatting big, he says that the elbows should be pulled down, shoulder blades pulled together and chest puffed out. I can do the last two fine, though I feel a bad strain on my shoulders when I try to keep my elbows down. I setup in a standard powerrack, so my hands have to be inside the rack and cant be wide. This makes it essentially impossible to do lowbar squats, as I have to have my elbows pushed way back and up, not down and pulling the bar across my back. What do I do? Highbar squats work for now, though I would like to get the lowbar for so I can hold more weight later. (Which is more common or easier? Highbar or lowbar?).

2. I seem to be relying on my quads on the upwards movement, even though my feet are about 1/2 inch from the edge of the inside of the rack. Any sort of tips here? I can Good Morning 185 lbs for 10 reps, though my max squat is about 285 wide. I try spreading the floor, which works to an extent, though I still feel like I rely on the quads too much. Time to get to work on some serious box squats?

3. Any tips on learning technique? I work out at a university gym, where no one does squats right at all (even narrower olympic style squats).

I can widegrip, elbows flared, flat backed, shoulders unpinched, 245 lbs. Whenever I try to do a elbows in, arched, shoulders pinched press and stall, I flop back to the flat back/elbows flared etc. and push it through. To me, it feels like I'm lowering the bar too low towards my feet (even though its lower chest upper abs). I have been working hard on my triceps and have seen a good increase in size and some strength, but now I need to improve my form so I can push some big weight.

1. How do I improve the lat strength to help in my bench?

2. Do I grip wide enough so that my elbows and wrists are perpendicular while the bar is on my lower ribcage (90 degrees), or so that the wrists are closer to my head than my elbows (less than 90 degrees)?

3. How do you develop a good arch? I try to arch as best I can, keep my glutes flexed, feet (well, toes) planted, and shoulder blades pulled together. When it comes to pressing the weight though, I feel very awkward and can't push much at all. Any thoughts?

I have improved over the last few months, though I want to make sure that I can do these things right from the start. Any resources, videos or thoughts will be welcomed. I looked through the threads and found some good information, but I would really appreciate any fresh perspectives. Thanks.

Weight: 150 lbs
Height: 5'7"

09-03-2006, 12:21 AM

1. You want to focus on pulling your elbows forward, but they're not going to necessarily be straight down either. Try taking a wider grip on the bar and practice that way. As long as your shoulders are very tight together and you're pulling out on the bar, your elbows should be alright.

2. Once you get past about halfway, you're going to have more quad involvement, that's fine. Get to work on some low box squats and concentrate on sitting back. Try to feel your hips and hamstrings stretch back as you sit back. Make sure to push out to the sides of your feet, this will help with your hip-activation.

3. Try to videotape your technique, then compare it to video of some big-time squatters to see what they're doing differently. Also, post it here and we can take a look.

Bench: (I suck at bench :D )

1. Pullups are your best friend. If you suck at these, do them 4x a week. Also, find a lat movement you absolutely suck at, and do that as your first movement after you bench.

2. Grip as wide as you're comfortable. You should be able to pull your shoulders together and flare your lats. If you're having trouble, move your grip out. If you're using a bench shirt, move your grip out more. I bench at max width when I wear a shirt (thanks Wolfy!)

3. Get your upper back very tight and try to lock it onto the bench. Usually when I set up, I get my feet set under me, then pull myself up to the bar and push my shoulders down toward my feet to get an arch while also turning my hips down (balls to the bench). I plant my traps and push with my feet so that my ass rides back and locks my shoulders into place (you'll feel spring-loaded if you do it right) then I move one hand out at a time to my grip, pulling my shoulders in even more as I take my grip. If you get yourself locked into the bench this way, your arch should stay and your ass should stay on the bench.

Also, don't keep your elbows tucked on the way up. You should start flaring them around half to 3/4 of the way up to get more pressing power.

09-03-2006, 09:50 PM
Thanks drew, that's just what I wanted to hear. I'll incorporate your suggestions and practice some more.

09-03-2006, 10:09 PM
Thanks guys!

09-04-2006, 06:22 AM
A couple of things Drew didn't mention (my bench sucks too, but I've gotten advice from some great lifters):

*Like Drew said, widen your grip on squats and it should take some strain off your shoulders. Also, think the BFS cue "Chest Out" - it helps. You're basically doing a back double-biceps pose as you get the bar in proper position.

Doing some dislocates with a broom stick and the "doorway stretch" (see pic) should help loosen up your shoulders.


*In addition to pullups, do rows and bent over laterals to strengthen up your upper back. The bent-over laterals will help build up that shelf for low-bar squatting too.

*To maintain upper back tightness when benching, push your shoulders down towards your feet (this should tighten the lats and help you maintain your arch) and try to "bend the bar" like Hercules.

09-04-2006, 08:16 AM
whats a bent over lateral???.......

09-04-2006, 09:30 AM

09-04-2006, 03:39 PM