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Re-evaluating Your Powerlifting Equipment
Powerlifting Bench Press Techniques
By: Carl Smith
I supply most of Austriaís lifters with their support gear and am therefore confronted with all different sizes, shapes lifting technique and performance levels. What works well for one may not work at all for another. Lifters must learn to use equipment properly for maximum results. A novice or lifter who squats 200 kg less than the world champs doesnít and shouldnít use double thick, spring loaded, mega super gear. Surprisingly, the champs donít use anything unusual either. In this game supportive gear should be given serious thought. Unfortunately, the majority of powerlifters have rather poor technique and donít really understand the sport as a specific discipline.
Weightlifting has itís own technique which has been agreed on for decades. Most strength athletes simply try to make a gym lift stronger. To get a good insight into the lifts I seriously recommend watching Louie Simmonís video tapes several times. To support these lifts there are several grooves and leverages to be taken into consideration. Many people think you should train without gear as much as possible to make your body strong. They put their tight suits, etc., on near the meet getting the feel of an external boost. There are two major misunderstandings with this thought line. One doesnít wear meet-tight gear at a training percentage of 70%. The muscles would be externally supported and not worked to their fullest. Not wearing anything leaves the muscles pushing into open space. ďA MUSCLE CAN PRODUCE MORE STRENGTH AND INTENSITY IF IT HAS RESISTANCE OR IS SUPPORTEDĒ. Reread that sentence. Passive support is the key. Most athletes that donít use gear are usually thrown by the sudden change of groove when they put it on. Looser suits will keep the groove, building a habit in the mind and support the muscles being used without too much rebound from the gear. Itís practical to use an old suit that has lost itís elasticity and stretched. Or just use a pair of groove/power briefs alone. Wraps are not used when box squatting. This should be the major part of your squat training as it works the squatting muscles directly and teaches proper form. Beware, though, to use proper technique when box squatting. For those that insist on free squatting with knees forward (shudder!) wraps should be imperative. Stress on the whole knee area is intense. Squatting 300 kg is easier using your glutes/hams than your knees/quads. Thatís a physiological fact.
The bench can be trickier. Using a shirt will get the weight off the chest. Once itís popped up itís the shoulders and triceps that will push the bar up. So train them. Usually this is done with various narrower grips. Here a shirt is not needed nor should be used. A narrower grip will work the pecs much better than a wider one. Conventional training peaks will need graduating sizes and strengths of shirts as you near the meet. Louie just puts one on at the meet. One shirt Ė one cost. A new fad has emerged with the shirts. Lifters are having special reinforced shirts made in the quest for that big bench. They are discovering the opposite. With these shirts a higher weight is needed just to get the bar down to the chest than what they can actually push. Once the bar pops off the chest they get the full weight all at once. Iíve seen several cases where the bar flies to the throat or face. Spotters, be aware of benchers needing a long time getting the bar to the chest. These shirts really havenít brought the big one like athletes thought. In fact, they can be dangerous if youíre not very careful.
The deadlift is probably the most difficult lift to support. The first and strongest force comes from the hips. Many people think a suit that is difficult to bend over with will help pull them back up. Tell that to the weight on the bar! Leverage plays a great deal in this discipline. A suit wonít support the lats but it will the hips. A tight upper body suit will prevent the big breath needed before the pull. An erector shirt will support a weak back but very few athletes use one at this time. The larger (and fatter) the lifter, the more difficulty he has with a suit. They wear a simple bench suit. Perhaps power briefs under it would give the hip support needed. Only wear knee wraps in the deadlift if your knee is bummed up. In that case you shouldnít be lifting in the meet anyway but rather having your knee treated or rested.
Hip squatters use flat shoes. These can be kept on for all three lifts. A pair of canvas Converse does the job perfect. Recently a flat soled leather squat shoe that provides ankle support as well, has become available from a supplier. Knee squatters need an elevated heel. Gymnastic slippers or wrestling shoes are best for the deadlift. All shoes should be as non-slip as possible. Many meet directors donít take this into consideration with their platforms. This could lead to very serious injury if you take a slide.
If youíre a contestant with a wide stance and you arrive at a meet with a slippery platform, be courageous enough to inform the meet director to either rectify it before the lifting starts or you wonít lift. Do yourself a favour. Simply wetting the surface wonít help.
Most equipment manufacturers will customise gear for you. It costs more but may be worth the investment. Not all gear is legal in every federation. Also take into consideration the size youíll be at meet time. If your suit fits great now but youíll be losing a few kilos to make weight the suit will probably be less than ideal on platform.
A lever belt is great for squatting. It takes less effort to secure and can fasten tighter than buckle belts with less effort. This is good for lumbar spine support. It may not allow for breathing in the bent-over position for deadlifting. A buckle belt may be better for that lift. Learn to use your equipment as a tool and you will make good progress. It should support you and your technique, not vice-versa. Don't sacrifice form because your gear won't let you stay in the groove. Ditch it and find gear that will enhance your lifts. No two athletes are built identical. Putting Coanís suit on will not make you squat 460 kg! (By the way, he uses a simple suit.) Be smart, train hard and good success.
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