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I guess most people that are reading this will agree that to increase basic static strength the standard ‘big’ lifts are best i.e. squats, rows, presses and pulls. Here at PFP we sometimes add some ‘tweaks’ to these same lifts to increase carry over to performance / movement / timing and over all balance.

Squat: From an athletic point of view it seems to me that we are missing a trick by not fully extending and accelerating on to our toes at the top of the squat. The last point of contact when we run or jump is to roll into planter flexion at our ankle. The force that we generate from our powerful glutes / hamstrings / quads must be transferred into the ground via calf extension for any real dynamic movement to happen. This ‘last bit’ of power transfer can be trained as part of the movement pattern by including extension at the ankle.

If we are only as strong as our weakest link then we should ensure the calf is not that weakness. So why not increase the range / complexity and athletic carry over of the movement by full extending on to our tip toes as we accelerate at the top of the squat. I suspect in addition to specific ankle joint training this addition will go some way to reduce calf / achilles tendon injuries in sport. Initially this will throw things off kilter as the core has to fire additionally to achieve balance. But you will suss it out quickly and be rewarded with possibly a better movement that will carry over to sport. Avoid ‘falling forward’ on to your toes during the lift, keep driving through flat feet initially as usual.

Other lifts that this ‘accelerate on to tiptoes’ extension lends themselves to are sub maximal dead lifts, good mornings and kettle bell swings. Most people that train here are encouraged to add this ‘tweak’ to their lifts. The power lifters generally ignore me though!

Dips: Try to forcefully depress the shoulders down and away from the ears at the top of the dip. This makes it a more difficult movement, creates more time under tension and further activates the serratus anterior which helps keep the shoulder blades (scapula) flat against your posterior rib cage. It also fires up the much under appreciated lower trapezius (trap 3). These muscles are important for structural balance and continued shoulder health. They will also help you press more, happy days! Try to squeeze down hard for 2-4 seconds, imagine you are trying to undo an imaginary bra buckle with your shoulder blades.

Press ups also benefit from this exaggerated tweak. As you straighten the elbows also forcefully protract (round) the shoulders and press the hands hard into the ground / handle. Of course increasing the range by elevating the hands is a basic and excellent tweak.

Pull ups / chins: By only just pulling to get the chin to the bar we miss out on the full range of movement that pulling to get the mid / lower chest to physically touch the bar allow. Not only does this activate more muscle making it a more difficult movement but is also starts the process of progressing to a muscle up. If you can do a muscle up you are guaranteed more sex! Also we do not use bands to assist progression here at PFP to the chin / pull up. Eccentric lowering seems to be more effective than the bands which don’t really give much assistance at the top where it is usually most needed or if they do then generally they give too much assistance at the bottom as you start the pull. Bands seem better suited to extension movements than flexion.

Hand stand press ups (HSPU): If we only do the press with our hand on the floor then again we are missing out on the full range of movement that we should aspire to do to increase strength. Therefore put your hands on 2 boxes or parallets so that when you lower your head towards the floor you have more range. Initially this is hard so try and elevate your hands a little every time even if only by an inch. Another option is to lower eccentrically over the full range of movement for a given time, 5-10-15seconds and so on. Both methods have worked well for people here at PFP including myself. As with muscle ups if you can do strict full range HSPUs you will defo get laid more!

Walking lunges: Rather than just simply rolling through from one lunge to the other in a steady tempo try and incorporate more dynamism. Drive hard with the lead leg while at the same time the rear leg snaps through and forward into a high knee ‘A skip’. Also fully extend on the tip toes of the now supporting leg. For added control and coordination pause in this high knee ‘A skip’ position still on tip toes for 1-2 seconds. Of course you will have to reduce the weight initially. Progression is initially achieved by skipping higher.

There are a few more tweaks that may help you depending on what you are trying to achieve i.e front levers v leg raises, zottman curls v standard curls, landmines v wood chops, snoopy pressups v normal pressups, prisoner squats v air squats, leg drop outs v leg raises…There is always different training methods to try and experiment with. So long as you avoid Mickey Mouse bullshit bosu ball bollox (ok a bit harsh)stuff and you are able to adhere to the basic principles of overload and full range of movement and of course they works towards your requirements then why not give them a go. If you want hypertrophy then struggling along with handstand pressups for 1-2 reps is probably a waste of your time!

A tip I got from my mate Jaime Webb at crossfit Exe is, to help weak pressups to progress, hang a band from over head and looping it round the chest of the trainee. As the person gets stronger use a thinner band etc. Far better than knee pressups etc. I can not believe I didn’t suss that out before!