In my 20 years of experience in the field of strength and conditioning, having completed a masters degree and a doctorate degree and coached hundreds of clients and athletes; I believed I had gained enough knowledge on coaching the squat, bench press and deadlift.
However, my perception changed after I volunteered to undergo a coaching session with Strength & Conditioning and technical lifting coach Shannon Green; I was informed that Shannon had developed his own unique coaching system.
I left that session feeling like the industry and all the education I had received up until that point had let me down. It let me down because little did I know that all these years there seemed to be a very relaxed approach to coaching these core lifts: as long as a few very basic postural and alignment positions were maintained, clients and athletes alike were encouraged to perform these lifts, with a focus on lifting as much weight as possible.
I never realised until then that every repetition could be causing cumulative damage to the load-bearing joints. It dawned on me that all too often, I witnessed many of my long-term clients and athletes becoming sore, and sometimes injured, after a heavy training session at the gym. At no stage did I ever consider that their sub-optimal technique may have been the one to blame.
The ACE Technical Lifting course focuses on the technical aspects of the squat, bench press and deadlift. The course was developed to address a gap in the provision of fitness and strength and conditioning courses.
This strong focus on coaching the finer details of each lift is where technical lifting differs from many other courses; participants who attend will leave with a much-improved appreciation for the skill required to execute the perfect squat, bench press or deadlift.
Given the widespread use of these exercises in the fitness industry and sports, it is crucial that coaches and trainers are confident in their ability to safely instruct these exercises safely and effectively while having a good ability to observe, instruct and provide feedback on their execution.
It is highly likely at some point that most trainers & coaches will be faced with the requirement to teach their clients these lifts.
Technical lifting takes an approach of preferring to work through a series of exercise progressions that build the clients up to the point that they can safely maintain stability under load. This means that the clients no longer directly focus on getting the weight from point A to point B, nor simply lifting as much weight as possible, with little consideration to the stability and skill requirements of the lift.
The principle of specificity, which simply states exercising a muscle or muscle group, in a particular movement pattern, primarily develops the activation of that muscle in the exact movement pattern. The stabilisers must remain active throughout the full range of motion to improve stability under load. Training our stabilisers in isolation, will not satisfy the stability demands of loaded barbell squats, bench presses or deadlifts. Stabilisation training, like other forms of training, MUST BE SPECIFIC. I recall it was Paul Chek, who many years ago championed the phrase “if you are going to isolate, you must then integrate”. Stability gained on the floor, or in an isolated movement pattern will not transfer to the complex stabilisation requirements of these lifts.
Using the technical lifting approach means each lift is performed with perfect execution, which leads to better joint alignment, reduced risk of injury and optimal lifting performance.
The key takeaways for trainers and coaches considering attending this course are:
- The squat, bench press and deadlift are technically demanding lifts, which require careful attention to detail.
- Progressing to loaded variants of these lifts requires specific movement competency that is often overlooked and not often identified even in many of the functional movement assessments.
- Having the confidence to teach the squat, bench press, deadlift & variants correctly and safely sets an excellent foundation to learn other more advanced lifts. However, similar to the problem of building a house on unstable foundations, learning a large number of barbell and other free weight exercises without understanding the principles of stability under load can lead to unsafe exercise execution.
Written By Dr Luke Del Vecchio Head of Sports Science