To lift heavy weights safely you need good exercise technique. But sometimes, even if you know how to correctly perform an exercise, a weak point in your body prevents you from achieving optimal form. This is what's called a lifting leak.
A lifting leak is an area that is weak and that may fatigue more than other areas when you lift weights. Spotting and addressing leaks sooner than later will lead to better strength gains and reduce your chance of injury. Most lifting leaks occur in four common areas: grip, back, glutes and core.
Grip strength comes into play any time you pick up a weight. To lift heavy you have to have a strong grip. Gripping the weight tightly tells the body to stimulate more motor units and results in bigger lifts. If you have a weak grip, how are you supposed to lift a weight you can't even hold? Also, a weak grip recruits fewer motor units and often causes poor technique—especially a forward rounding of the shoulders.
How to spot: If you find yourself unable to grip the bar or dumbbells tightly while doing lifts such as the Deadlift, Barbell RDL and Dumbbell Lunge, your grip needs work.
A good baseline test for grip strength is if you can perform a Farmer's Walk for 50 yards with dumbbells that equal your body weight.
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The Fix: Don't use wrist straps or gloves. And don't switch to an alternating grip if you fail the Farmer's Walk test. Performing exercises with thick bars or Fat Gripz is a great start. You can also directly improve your grip strength with the following exercises.
Sets/Duration: 2-3x20-40 sec.
A strong upper back promotes a bigger Deadlift, Bench Press and better results during pulling exercises. If your upper back is weak, your shoulders will round forward, putting stress on your lower back.
How to spot: If you can't keep your back tight throughout a Deadlift, Bench and pulling exercises, you need to work on your back strength.
The Fix: Perform the following two exercises.
Sets/Duration: 3-4x15-30 sec.
This is a great exercise to strengthen your back isometrically and to help you keep your shoulders tight when Deadlifting, Squatting and Benching.
Barbell Bent-Over Rows with Iso Hold
Sets/Reps: 4-5x5-8 with 3-5 sec. hold
By adding a hold at the top of the movement, you build pulling strength and improve your posture for heavy lifts.
Glutes are the power source for any athlete. If you do not know how to activate them or have a weak backside, you will not lift to your fullest potential.
How to spot: If you are unstable or your weight shifts when in the bottom of a Squat, you have weak glutes. Also, if you shift your weight onto your toes when Deadlifting, you need more glute work.
The Fix: Try the following exercises.
Sets/Reps: 3-6x2-5 with a 3-6 sec. pause
These will help you stabilize in the bottom position of the Squat and help you with the starting pull of a Deadlift.
Glute Bridges isolate the glutes and help with the lockout.
Side-Lying Banded Clams
These strengthen the external rotators of the hip, which will help you stabilize. You want to keep both your knees and hips at 90 degrees so you don't get to much hip flexor activation.
Without knowing how to brace and properly use your core, you will have a hard time developing power throughout your body, and you will not be able to lift heavy weights without damaging your back.
How to spot: When squatting, do you find yourself pitching forward when coming out of the hole, or do your hips sag when you do Push-Ups? A good baseline test is to hold a Front Plank. If you can hold a Front Plank for 1:30 to 2 minutes, then you have a good base of core strength.
The Fix: Do the following exercises.
Core Engaged Deadbugs
This a great exercise to teach you to lock down your core. Imagine bringing your belly button to your spine as you perform the exercise.
This exercise teaches you to stay stable and tight when hinging at your hips. Make sure you don't bend to one side and that you sit straight back.
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