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Perfect Form

I’ve talked a lot about individuality lately and how important it is to make sure you’re doing the best thing for YOU as opposed to just the “best thing”. Obviously this carries over into exercise form as well which is something the wider world of training has already figured out - two people with distinct limb lengths, leverages, amounts of flexibility etc etc are going to move differently and have different “optimal” positions for each lift in the gym.

So, if this is already widely accepted what is it that I’d like to teach you today? Good question! The idea I’d like to hit you with is that not only do different people have different optimal positions for each movement in the gym BUT the same person will also have different optimal positions for each movement as their body changes.

Neat, right?

During the course of my weight lifting career I’ve trained for a variety of goals and built myself a few, drastically different, bodies. I started out somewhere around 160 pounds, built myself up to 315 pounds and have since cut back down to (for me) a fairly slim 220-225. During this body weight roller coaster I’ve had to learn, re-learn and re-re-learn what positions and cues are best for me in all of the major lifts (things like squats, bench press, deadlift, overhead, etc…)

One easy example has been my deadlift. I started out with a pretty conventional, conventional deadlift (lol.) Being coached by one of the greatest lifters ever, Andy Bolton, I mimicked his deadlift and had some solid results - although not the 1000 + pounds he’d lifted! For reference, here’s a look at Andy’s deadlift:

And yes, that is 1008 pounds! (!!!)

Looking at Andy pull you’ll see that everything is textbook, his feet are around hip width apart, he keeps his knees above his ankles and his hips fairly high.

This worked great for me for a while… and then it didn’t. As I got bigger I found that I couldn’t get the same drive off the floor and it wasn’t until a conversation with Russian phenom Mikhail Koklyaev that I was introduced to the position that suited 315 pound Craig. I switched to the form used by Alexander Klushev and my deadlift progress took off again!

Here is Mr. Klushev lifting 880 for 3 reps:

The differences between his deadlift and Andy’s are fairly clear. His feet and hands are wider (relative to his size, being a smaller man than Andy) and he sits down much lower to start the lift.

Pulling this way lead to my best, and most comfortable, deadlifts.

Until I got skinny.

Skinny Craig (aka present day Craig) doesn’t pull well with either of these techniques. Hilariously I’ve had to go back to the drawing board again to figure out what works and have ended up with something fairly close to this:

So, again, things have changed. Now it’s a moderate hip height and a super narrow foot position but you know - whatever works!

Now, enough about my deadlift! Here’s what you need to know:

It’s important that you find the most effective, comfortable form for you for each exercise you do but it’s equally important that you keep testing and experimenting to make sure that whatever form you’ve settled on is STILL the best option for you.

Whether you’ve decided to gain 150 pounds and then drop 90 like me or whether your quads have finally developed some serious power or whether you’ve lost 6 inches off your waist - all of these things can lead to changes in what’s optimal for you and a little experimentation is well worth the extra results!

Craig Bongelli