I’m a cheater. If you don’t believe me, just go to any of my videos on youtube and read the comments. I cheat on pretty much all my lifts. When I bench I use one of those cheating arches. When I deadlift I cheat by using a wide stance and a narrow grip, and when I squat I cheat by putting the bar low on my back. Don’t get me started on the depths that I will stoop to when using wraps and sleeves while still calling myself a RAW lifter. I don’t know how I sleep at night.
The sad truth is that a lot of the internet warriors out there on the Interwebz wouldn’t even know that I was being sarcastic.
Is it cheating if you are performing within the rules of your given federation? Is it cheating if you are performing the lift in the most efficient way possible while involving as many muscle groups as possible?
Is it cheating if I’m using safety equipment that is deemed legal by my particular federation while still remaining RAW? Is it cheating if I’ve discovered ways to limit the range of motion of a particular lift while still following the criteria set forth by the governing rules of the federation in which I compete?
The way I look at it, you can choose to not be a cheater and continue struggling to bench the pink dumbbells at your gym while simultaneously bashing real lifters under some anonymous screen name, or you can embrace your darkside. If, like me, you want to become the target of all those internet lifting experts out there… read on.
The goal of powerlifting is to lift as much weight possible through a full range of motion that has been determined by one’s particular federation. Each powerlifting federation has their own idea of what full range of motion is. In addition, each federation has rules governing how the lift must be performed. Taking these facts into account, you as the lifter can then adjust your lifting style to lift the most weight possible.
Obviously the best way to improve your lifts is to get stronger at them. That can take some time though. I know for me, adding five pounds to a lift can take many months to achieve. In this article I’m going to give you some tips that I’ve discovered to add pounds to your lifts immediately without having to get any stronger. Some may call it cheating, I’ll leave that for you to decide.
One of the best ways to add pounds to your lift is to find ways to shorten the distance that you have to lift the weight. Let’s start with the deadlift. One of the easiest ways to shorten your ROM is to look at your shoes. I see a lot of people pulling in shoes that have a sole that’s at least an inch thick. That’s an extra inch that you will have to pull that bar. Some may think that’s not much but often the difference between completing a lift and not, is the difference of inches. I personally pull in a pair of wrestling shoes. The sole on them can’t be more than an eight of an inch thick. Even better are a pair of deadlifting slippers. It’s like lifting barefoot but with the added advantage of
being legal in competition since all lifters must have some sort of shoe when competing.Without even walking up to a bar, I’ve already shortened your ROM by at least an inch. Let’s see if we can do better.
I’m a short, fat, stubby armed guy. This comes in handy when I’m squatting or benching, but it makes pulling a real chore. I’ve experimented with pulling conventional ( narrow stance with arms on the outside of my legs), but I end up doing some weird Good Morning style of lift. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty and definitely not conducive to pulling maximum weights. I needed to find something that worked for me. I started experimenting with Sumo deadlifting. When pulling Sumo, the lifter takes a wide stance and grips the bar inside the legs. Sumo deadlifting is a great way to decrease one’s range of motion. The farther out you place your feet, the shorter the distance you have to lift the bar. I’m constantly working to get my feet farther and farther out. The process can take some time though. In this instance, you will need to develop strength in the hips and groin to achieve success.
Let’s now talk about hand position. If one is looking to decrease ROM, logic would dictate that the closer your hands are placed on the bar, the shorter the distance the bar has to move. As a rule of thumb, your arms should be as close to perpendicular to the bar as you can get them. This will decrease your ROM as well as protect the shoulders from injury. A wide grip, one where the hands are outside shoulder width, places stress on the shoulders when pulling. I take it a step farther and am constantly working to get my grip just inside shoulder width. This decreases my ROM an extra couple of inches. If you haven’t noticed, the inches are adding up.
So far we’ve decreased the ROM by changing shoes, widening our stance, and taking our grip in. Here’s another little tidbit. As you initiate your pull off the floor and the bar reaches your knees, force your hips forward. In basic terms, instead of pulling the bar towards you, you push your body towards the bar. This will dramatically decrease the ROM.
Those are a few simple things to do with your deadlift, now lets move on to the squat. Bar placement during a squat can seriously increase or decrease the distance a bar has to travel. A low bar placement on the traps will limit the ROM while also placing the bar right over your hips. Having the bar over the hips is the most efficient way to move maximum weight. This is easier said than done. Placing the bar low on the traps requires the lifter to make some adjustments to their form. Firstly, you will have to move your hands in and have your forearms
perpendicular to the bar. Your arms are basically supporting the weight behind you. It’s very similar to a behind the neck press. There is a price to pay for the added pounds that you will get from the low bar placement- it puts a lot of stress on the forearms and biceps. I’ve found that wearing elbow sleeves relieves much of the stress. Also, the federation that I compete in allows them to be worn during competition.
Let’s now move on to foot position. Much like the Sumo deadlift, the farther out you place your feet, the shorter the distance the bar has to travel. I take a stance that is just outside shoulder width. I also turn my feet out. This allows me to force my knees out as I descend into my squat. The wider than shoulder width stance accompanied by pushing my knees outward shortens the distance that I need to travel to get to the parallel squatting position.
Another technique that is used for the deadlift to shorten the ROM can also be used during the squat, pushing the hips through. As you ascend from the squat position, force the hips forward. The typical gym rat will usually try to finish their squat or deadlift by leaning back. This puts a ton of stress on the lower back as well as increase the distance the bar has to travel.
Now lets move on to my favorite lift, the bench press. I pride myself on the fact that I only have to move the bar a short distance when performing a competition bench press. The easiest way to decrease your ROM for the bench press is to build what I like to call the Buddha belly. Eat everything and anything that happens to cross your path and it will appear. Now for those of you that prefer to be able to see your feet, I have some other tips for you.
The arch is one of the best ways to decrease the ROM on a bench. I’m constantly working to get my arch bigger and bigger. My goal is to make my bench look as much like a decline bench press as I can. The way I achieve this is by moving my feet farther and farther back under my body. My goal is to get my feet as close to my head as possible. When benching, the only parts of my body that I want touching the bench are my traps and butt.
In my federation, my feet have to be in contact with the floor at all times but they do not have to be flat on the floor. Therefore I push my feet back as far as I can get them and balance myself way up on my toes. It’s a very very uncomfortable position but pushing big weight is not about comfort. If it’s comfortable, you aren’t tight enough.
Hand position, again, can either increase or decrease ROM. As it pertains to the bench, a wider grip is preferred. In my federation the widest grip that can be taken is 81 centimeters. You can bet that I’m going to take my grip all the way out to the legal limit. Using a wide grip can be difficult to get used to. I’ve found that as you take your liftoff, rolling the elbows in slightly will make the lift more comfortable. It will also make it easier to tuck the elbows on the way down. Speaking of liftoffs- when taking a liftoff, hold the bar at arm’s length for a moment or so. The weight will compress the shoulder joint thus decreasing the distance the bar will have to travel.
So, there you have it. Just a few strategies to help you cheat your way to some heavier weights on the bar. With any luck, you may find yourself reading some idiot’s comment on one of your videos accusing you of being a cheater too.