Know When To Hold Em…



I was reminded of a valuable lesson today during the heaviest squat session of my strength cycle.  There is a time and a place to persevere and push through hard training or a heavy set.  These sets are often what makes or breaks good lifters.  However, there are also times to put the weight on the rack (or the floor) and either lower the load or move on to the next exercise.

Quality of movement will ALWAYS trump quantity.  I found myself losing midline stability today while squatting and knew that I had one of a couple options.

  1. Persevere and finish my sets regardless of technique or form.
  2. Lower the weight or reps and finish the sets correctly
  3. Move on to the next exercise calling it a day for the squats.

What I was reminded of today was that my first option was in fact my worst option.  Everyone admires a lifter who sucks it up and finishes his work regardless of fatigue, form, or their own health.  These type of lifters are heralded as tough-skinned and hard to defeat.  However, the problem with lifters who press through sets and reps regardless of the technical value of their work is that they may in fact be making things worse.  The reality is that squats, snatches, cleans, or jerks that are not completed EXACTLY as they should will in fact create bad movement patterns AND expend energy on loading that will never transfer to bigger lifts.  If I had continued to squat despite the rounding in my back, I would have fed a bad habit and would have squatted in such a way that I could never use that strength in an actual lift.  It is more important for me to squat with perfect form as to mimic the snatch and clean such that my squats have perfect carryover to these lifts.  That is after all the reason I subject myself to heavy squats, to create bigger numbers in the lifts.  Literally, had I continued my squat session as it was written I would have wasted effort and energy on lifts that actually set me back instead of moving me forward.

My solution was to get the squats in but cut the doubles to singles to allow for spot on technique and quality reps.  Was I happy about it?  Absolutely not.  Will my lifts be better enforced by that decision.  Absolutely.

As a lifter you have to be smart and know when you technique is so poorly deteriorated that it is best to back off the gas pedal a little OR when it is still beneficial to push hard.

Happy Lifting!


6 responses to “Know When To Hold Em…

  1. ive figured this out too lol. the hard way. I used to stick out my triples and doubles to just get them done…but my single didnt go up..and neither did my lifts. Ive also found this to be the case with pulls in the sense that its not really beneficial to go over 110-115% and for me the best number seems to be around 105% for triples with a slow controlled descent.
    *Completely unrelated question:
    I recently bit the bullet and bought some 7mm rehbands. and theyre WELL worth the money IMO. Ive noticed though that there seems to be a crease forming straight down the front. Are they pulling apart? I dont think they are too small, I ordered them a size under my measurement as was suggested to me by a few people. I only seem to notice this at the end of my workout.


  2. Hey Spencer,

    Any ideas on how to correct torso angle in heavy squats (HBBS and front squat that is). I find that when I’m at 85%+ my chest is coming forward to a point that the lift becomes inefficient. I routinely work good mornings and deadlifts to maintain a strong midline, but it seems to be to no avail.

    If you are able, a post on really maintaining a vertical torso during max weight would be so helpful. I know you’ve discussed activating the glutes and working the bottom-to-bottom squats as well as the 1 1/4 squats but is there anything else to do? How to initiate the squat properly to ensure you stay vertical, tracking of the knees out over the toes in the bottom perhaps? It’s such a dumb problem to have I feel like but I can’t seem to correct it. Thanks in advance man, love the blog!

    • Hey man I know the struggle and to be honest you are going to have your lifts limited because of this. This is my greatest problem with beginning lifters is there mobility and flexibility and midline control. My suggestion is a couple different things:
      one do those bottom the bottom front squats and make sure you are activating the glutes.
      Second I would look up all of the mobility work you can find for ankles hips and upper back.
      Third I would do a great deal of weighted GHD back extensions where your back stays in extension for the entirety of the set.
      Outside of that practice makes perfect And you should test your max on front and back squat to the point at which your form breaks down. Your max front squat and your max back squat is not how much weight you can lift from the top to the bottom and back again your max is determined by how much you can lift with absolutely perfect technique. Especially in the squats. If you’re basing your numbers off a squat that was done with improper form then you’re going to find yourself lifting with improper form at the heavy weights. Make sure you base your percentages off a squat that was done with good technique as any squatting done with poor technique doesn’t have any carryover anyway. Therefore it has no use.

      • Thank you for the response! It never even occurred to me that upper back mobility could be a culprit among other things. My ankle/hip mobility is solid, but it makes sense that my thoracic spine would be rounding based on my own video analyses of my lifts. I will retest my maxes with perfect form and go back to basics, as well as incorporating the work you suggested. Thanks a ton man, I appreciate it.

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