Synergy3Training Deadlift & Squat Workshop Report!
Ruth Davies’ Review on Weightlifting Workshops at Dave’s Gym with synergy3training & Monica Torland –
The story so far
As you may have noticed, Dave’s Gym has teamed up with Richard Harris (synergy3training) and Monica Torland (Monica’s Strength & Rehab, and UKSCA Accredited Coach) to deliver a series of workshops focusing on the best lifts you should be doing. I attended the first two workshops, the deadlift and squat respectively, and have been asked to review these.
Deadlift Workshop – Saturday 28thApril 2012
The Team, L-R, Rogan, Danny, Monica, Ruth, Richard
With this kicking off at 9 on a Saturday morning, we were all raring to go (Danny complained within 5 minutes about his lack of caffeine intake)! Richard and Monica briefed us on the itinerary. We were warned that this would be an intense morning!
On to the warm up. Warming up properly is critical yet often ignored by many trainees. I know I’m guilty of rushing my warm up’s; a few lunges and bodyweight squats, yes that’ll do! Most certainly not. We were taken through a series of full body mobility drills to get..well, nicely warmed up. Use this circuit before your lifts and I guarantee you’ll notice benefits, especially if you’re male and have the flexibility of an ironing board.
Bodyweight warm up circuit -10 reps x 2 sets
1. Arms across chest- alternating
2. Half lunges
3. Hamstring walkouts – to reverse lunge
6. Touch toes, sit down in a squat, each hand up, stand up
7. Glute bridges
Operation warm up
Next we moved onto a weighted warm up using the Olympic bar:
Weighted Deadlift Warm Up Circuit x 10 reps x 2
2. Bent over rows
3. Front Squat
4. Back Squat
5. Overhead squat
A key theme of the workshop, we soon discovered, was lots of trap / mid back work by being constantly reminded to pull back our shoulder blades. This is a great habit to get into for all lifts, but especially when deadlifting to help maintain a neutral spine.
Getting truly down to business, isometric deadlifts were a novel exercise for all of us. The bar was loaded with a weight beyond lifting capacity, set up to deadlift as normal, but no attempt is made to heave the weight off the floor, just pure muscle contraction which is transferred to the bar for a maximum of six seconds. There are no words to describe the full body activation created by this movement. Try it and see stars.
Iso deadift pain.
Next we broke down the deadlift into its constituent movements, halted (from floor to knee height) and hanging (returning the bar to the floor). Mastering the individual movements were surprising difficult and really highlighted weakness any of us possessed. We squeezed our shoulder blades and used our glutes to pull harder than ever before.
Full conventional deadlift came next. Everyone loves deadlifts and we had a great practice at deadlifting with our newly updated techniques.
Monica forced me to ‘show some girl power’ for the camera, aka Spice Girls circa 1997.
A deadlifting day would not be complete without sampling the variations of the deadlift that may suit certain individuals. Personally, I had not tried sumo or trap bar deadlifting before. I don’t feel they suit my body type but it was definitely fun to have a go.
However, it’s not fun having my photo taken from behind while sumo deadlifting.
We finally were instructed on stiff leg deadlifts and why most people do them wrong. I know I did. Retract shoulder blades throughout the movement and don’t bend the knees excessively. Hamstrings should feel on fire during the eccentric portion particularly.
The morning was rounded off by a delightful session on the foam roller. We all wept in pain.
Squat Workshop – Saturday 12thMay
Despite suffering with a hip flexor strain ironically caused by squatting, I bravely turned up to the squat workshop willing to learn and improve my squats. Once again joined by Rogan / more commonly known as Ryan / Roger, Richard and Monica divulged the agenda for the morning.
We were swiftly launched onto foam rollers for a full body warm up to ease any muscle stiffness. The warm up and mobility work was similar to the deadlift workshop as so much of this is transferable to everything in training, except for some squat specific drills – firstly using a band wrapped just above the knees to cue ‘knees out’ and glute activation in the bodyweight squat, and secondly, ankle mobilisations using a wall.
I met my nemesis in first exercise taught, the overhead squat! My ego was crushed by having to downgrade to the training bar! However, this movement is far more complex than ‘normal’ squats and is generally difficult for everyone. I endeavour to master this one day, with a real bar and weight attached!
Next, we moved over to the squat rack for front squats. From a coaching perspective, Monica and Richard mentioned it is always a good idea to start to teach the squat in the front hold position as it (usually) allows for greater depth, less forward lean of the trunk and less strain on the lower back. However, this is entirely individual and it was apparent that Rogan and I both have issues with front squatting; his being the common poor shoulder and wrist flexibility to obtain ‘elbows up’ position, and myself generally hating the feeling of the bar ‘choking’ and suffering from elbow issues due to fractures in childhood. This shows that not everyone is suitable for every type of movement, and modifications must be made as appropriate.
Back squats! My favourite lift! So effective but so often butchered in the gym. We focused on keeping upper back tight (shoulder blades back!), sitting back onto heels, and driving upward with glutes. Unbeknown to me until recently, my particular problem lies in overdoing my depth and tucking my pelvis under at the bottom. This is not good for my lower back! I’m now trying to relearn to how achieve appropriate depth for my body type. This is difficult but it will definitely help me in the long term.
I soon returned to my comfort zone with single leg work. Bulgarian split squats (also known as rear foot elevated spilt squats) have featured in my programs for a long time and as such I am pretty damn good at them. We learned about the importance of utilising single leg work for strength development and ironing out imbalances between legs. If you’re not already including some sort of single leg movement in your program, consider this your warning.
By this point, my hip was starting to give me grief and I was wisely told to sit out the final stage of the workshop, the ascending pyramid squat session! So, it was up to Rogan alone to show our teachers what we were made of! He had a great go of this traditionally hypertrophy based workout that is also used to engrain good technique – back squat, 15 reps at 60kg, rest 1 minute, 12 reps at 62.5kg, rest 1 minute, 8 reps at 65kg. He kept his focus and concentrated on achieving excellent form throughout. Really good work!
I found both of the workshops to be incredibly informative, full of high quality coaching and with plenty of opportunity to practice all topics covered. I feel the courses were excellent value for money that will truly have an impact on my future in lifting. The key, take home message which was clear from every aspect is that good technique is vital to success in the gym; whatever goals one may have.
I’m really looking forward to the next workshops. They focus on the Clean & Jerk (Saturday 26th May) and Snatch (Saturday 9th June), two lifts I know I should work on more. Up your game and book on! If nothing else you’ll get a goody bag for your efforts.