“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

How NOT to lift

by | Jan 21, 2013 | fitness, Uncategorized | 2 comments

As I’ve mentioned before, weightlifting is essential to the health and strength of every man. If you don’t lift weights, you bloody well should. That does NOT, however, mean that you should just go into the gym without having some idea of what you’re doing. Otherwise, you risk looking like an even bigger tool than you already do. In other words, you risk committing what Martin Berkhan calls “f***arounditis“. 

I happen to be a reasonably frequent poster on the StrongLifts Inner Circle, and one of the more heavily trafficked threads on that community over the last several weeks has been a post titled “StrongLifts: So We Don’t Become These Guys”. Various members have posted cringe-inducing yet utterly hilarious videos of guys who plainly have no clue what they’re doing, trying to lift way more than they really can. So, in the interests of teaching people good form and proper balance when lifting heavy, here is a brief rundown of how NOT to perform various exercises when you’re in the gym. (Seriously, don’t lift like these tools, or else guys like Bronan and I, who actually know what we’re doing, WILL come over and ask you to leave- and if you don’t take the hint, we will probably make you look stupid and/or kick your ass.)


Every time I see some jackass in the gym thinking that he can “squat” 300lbs and only goes down halfway through the motion- maybe less- I really do feel like walking over and smacking the guy upside the head with a 60lb dumbbell. When you squat, YOU GO DOWN TO PARALLEL AT LEAST. Otherwise, it ain’t a squat. By the way, I’m guilty of not hitting parallel on at least some of my heaviest sets, so let’s not be partisan about this. The difference is, I’m going down to parallel on a minimum of 315lbs on my work sets. This moron isn’t even squatting 300, and he’s doing it completely half-assed.

Also- and this is largely personal preference- I don’t recommend the high-bar wide grip that this character is using. “High-bar” means that the barbell is resting at the base of your neck. Placing the bar there just doesn’t feel right to me, so I don’t do it that way. That bar placement also allows your hands to spread wider across the bar- take a look at this guy, and you’ll see that he’s got his hands waaaaay out wide. I prefer a much narrower grip when lifting, with the bar nearly at my shoulder blades, because this grip and position make it much easier for me to get “tight”- i.e. my entire upper body immediately tightens up and gets stronger even before I begin the squat.


All hail the One-Sided Press!!! So much fail here, I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose we should start with the fact that this guy plainly has no idea what the hell he’s doing. Here is how you bench press properly:

  • The bar goes down to your chest and touches it. NO EXCEPTIONS. I used to fear doing this, due to an old soft-tissue shoulder injury that I picked up on a Smith machine. It’s never fully healed, and for years afterwards I used to do exactly what so many other tools at the gym do- the bar went down to a few inches above my chest and then back up. You do that, and you never engage your chest muscles- which are the muscles you’re actually trying to work. Nowadays I’m benching 170lbs with the bar touching my chest, and I know full well I can do a lot more.
  • Arch your back, get yourself tight and ready. There are two reasons for doing this. One, it minimises the distance that the bar needs to travel for a single rep. In powerlifting, a single inch can mean the difference between success and failure, so this is really important. Two, the arch works along the same principles for the human body as it does for mechanical engineering- an arch is a strong support that allows for heavy weight to be supported vertically.
  • The leg drive is completely missing here. Your legs should be supporting your arched back, and as you push the bar back up, your legs should be pushing, HARD, against the floor, to engage your entire body as you drive the bar.


I love deadlifting. It’s my single favourite exercise. There is no other exercise that builds strength and character half as fast as the good old DL. So it genuinely offends me when I see meatheads like this idiot trying to deadlift 400+lbs with lousy form. Where did he go wrong? Let me count the ways:

  • Lifting straps instead of chalk. Straps increase the diameter of the bar in your hand, making strong grip more difficult. They also make it easier to round your lower back- virtually guaranteeing that you’ll injure yourself.
  • Lifting with a round back. This moron didn’t even try to straighten his back. You do this, you’ll end up a writhing screaming ball of pain on the floor of your gym- and if I see you do this, I’ll just point and laugh. I’ve said repeatedly, on both the StrongLifts forums and this blog, that deadlifting with a rounded lower back is a guaranteed way to pick up a horribly painful injury. I know. I’ve done it twice. I still struggle with keeping my lower back straight on my heaviest sets. The difference between me and this guy is that I know where I’m going wrong.
  • Bar far away from the shins. The bar should be very close to your legs as it’s travelling upwards. This ensures proper form and good biomechanics. If the bar swings out from your legs, it will be much harder to control and much easier to injure yourself.
  • Starting by pulling using the biceps. You do this, you’re just asking to end up on a surgeon’s table getting your biceps tendons reattached. I finish up my deadlift days by holding the bar with 335lbs in a 30-second static hold with mixed grip; most guys can’t even deadlift this much weight. I know how painful a biceps tendon injury can potentially be. You tear that, you’re out of the gym, and most other activities, for the better part of 3 months.
  • Supporting the bar on the knees. What does he think this is, a clean-and-jerk? The bar should travel upwards from the floor to the legs in a single fluid motion. If you support the bar on your knees, you’ll have to round your lower back to do it. And you’ll greatly increase the probability of a horribly painful injury in the process.

If you want to learn how to lift weights properly, instead of going through the usual nonsensical chilli workouts that the average men’s magazine prescribes and that Zumba/CrossFit addicts keep doing, you are most welcome to learn from those who have gone down this path before. It worked for us. It built us into strong, lean, fit men. It can work for you too. A simple, three-workout-per-week regime is all you need. But be a man and DAMN WELL DO IT RIGHT.

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  1. Anonymous

    I feel the same way you do.

    I usually have little time at the gym to waste, if I was waiting for the bench press and I saw a guy doing that, I would be going ballistic in my head.

  2. Didact

    Yeah, it's depressing watching some of these guys at the gym. Makes for some hilarious FAILblog pics, though. I actively have to stop myself from going into coach mode and pointing out where they're going wrong; I figure, at some point, they'll learn the hard (and painful) way.


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