It’s my opinion that good teachers, regardless of subject matter, share a few commonalities. Being good communicators, generating enthusiasm for content, and having the ability to be flexible would all fall into that list. What I found helped me best while teaching was being a good thief. I watched who I thought were good teachers, asked them questions, tried their little tricks, and eventually put my own spin on their magic – making it my own. As I have learned the lifts and been coached through them I have taken what I like best, what I have seen work best, and what I can remember best and put it to practice. When I tell my athletes to CONTROL, SQUEEZE, and FINISH I’m really giving my best effort to sum up the best practice taught to me regarding how to navigate one’s body and the barbell through time and space most efficiently.
A few posts back I discussed the cue Control and how I believe an athlete should break the barbell off the ground if they intend to go overhead with it. In this post I want to take the barbell from right below the knee and get it as deep as possible into the hip. In order for that to happen I believe the cue SQUEEZE gets the job done.
What’s a good squeeze look like? In these clips you’ll notice yours truly working from just below the knee. Working from the hang gives a lifter two opportunities to practice the Squeeze; once as they pick the barbell up and second as they execute the lift.
First and foremost you must have controlled the bar well off the floor and have placed it just below the knee. With the bar positioned just below the knee there are a few body awareness/positioning cues to be aware of. From the ground up; I look for the athlete’s entire foot to be connected to the platform with feet still in the pulling position (hip width-ish), shins vertical, knees out, tension in the hamstrings and back (which at this point should be at about the same angle as it was as the bar was broken off the floor), arms straight, elbows out, and shoulders forward of the bar. Coach Pendlay over at Muscle Driver would call this position 2 (me too). Some would simply call it the hang below the knee. I know it’s a mouth full but all valuable. Pay attention here, put some time in and it begins to just happen.
With position 2 dialed in it is now time to SQUEEZE the barbell into the hip.
Step 1, clear the knee. We don’t need to hit ourselves with the bar as we bring it up. In fact, it’s my opinion that we don’t want the bar touching our body until it’s at about the bottom of our pockets. I have heard coaches cue athletes to drag the bar up the thigh. Why? Dragging to me creates friction and a down force that will only slow the bar down. We drag sleds, children and those we wish to marry – not barbells. I often find myself telling my athlete, “close – not creepy (please click this link for many examples of creepiness)!” So as you clear the knee keep the bar close but don’t knock yourself with it or drag it up the thigh.
Step 2, engage the latsdrawling the bar in toward the hip. Again, the focus is to keep the bar close to the body. We are not looking to pull or row the bar upward.
Step 3 drive the knees forward maintaining flexion. Steps 2 and 3 should be performed in an almost synchronized manner. If completed successfully the bar should be placed into an almost fully extended hip, with flexion (power) still in the knee.
Squeezing the bar correctly requires the necessary mixture of patients and aggression. If done correctly you will have placed the bar in the optimal position to deliver an obscene amount of power to the bar via the platform you are completely connected too. However, not engaging the lats early and aggressively while thrusting the hips forward with too much aggression will result in smashing the bar against your poor and exposed public bone and that is a No Bueno. Fact is you’re going to go through growing pains here and end up needing to pack an extra sock in your gym bag. However, here and there you’ll hit a nice SQUEEZE, feel the bar at the base of your hips and thrust upward to a beautiful FINISH and not feel the bar at all. It’s like hitting a home run, a 300 yard drive or a bratty child with a phone book. It just feels great. But more on that latter.
Until then – practice the SQUEEZE, master CONTROL, and brace yourself for the FINISH!!!