The squat, bench and deadlift are not scary! Do not be afraid of them, really I promise you will be ok if you do a squat, deadlift or bench! Sure there is risk of injury, but there is risk of injury by running outside, on a treadmill or just doing your normal exercise routine as well. They key to any workout program, is proper oversight, technique, and how the workout is programmed. I truly believe anyone can squat, bench or deadlift but some may need to start different than others.
First and foremost it is important to understand what a squat, bench and deadlift are.
The squat is a bio-mechanically closed chain movement, requiring the ankle, hip and knee flexion, in which can be performed in many ways. The squat when done correctly dominantly uses the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, vatus medial obliquus (VMO) and calf muscles. Where a lot people go wrong with the squat is typically in either the descent or the ascent of the movement (down or up). If most people are weak in their trunk, and or do understand the correct motion and pattern of the descent they will either fall forward or backward, causing them use their heels too much or toes too much or even lower back too much on the way up. Now if one is weak in their hamstrings and or quads they will like have issues with the ascent (up) typically when you squat and come back up you recruit the quads and hamstrings to do most of the work therefore if you are weak in those areas you will use the next strongest muscle (aka the back and or why you will see some people round their back and or tip forward and push up with their lower back too much and or just fail completely).
Another common issue we see in the squat is the lack of mobility and or strength in the lower body causing individuals to not fully hit depth and or lack full range of motion. Most squat depth and full rage of motion is 120-140 degrees or by observation of the thigh position which is below parallel to the floor. While partial rep squats (90-100 degrees knee flexion) have been found to have carry over to some sport specific movements and or some specific sports, like sports that require slight knee and hip flexion like a jump or sprint type movement (i.e. basketball players and Lebron James infamous quarter squats). There is still major carry over to full range of motion squats as it has shown to develop power, strength, vertical jump height and general conditioning and strength for sport as well as carry over to everyday activity.
Now the deadlift is one of the most beloved but perhaps hated exercises among people. Some people love it because they can lift a lot and look cool, some people hate it because they claim that the deadlift blew out their back when they were young adults and ruined their adult hood and the reason they have back problems. While the deadlift and squat are similar due to the starting position of a deadlift being almost near full depth of a squat and when you deadlift you squat down to the bar, grip the bar and use your hips, knees, and quads to pull the bar off the floor causing hip and knee flexion like a squat. But the deadlift incorporates and requires a little more trunk use, upper and lower back use, grip use on top of the lower body usage. The deadlift is loaded horizontally (in front) while the squat is loaded vertically (back/up & down).
The deadlift is a bang for your buck exercise due to the carry over it has to sports, everyday life and just general strength. If you can deadlift a lot you are usually a strong individual if you cant deadlift a lot you typically are not very strong in everyday activities (generally speaking). The deadlift has major carry over to one's jumping, sprinting and long jump results, along with the carrying of groceries, picking up boxes, moving furniture, picking up your children, your animals, picking up toys, etc. The deadlift has two techniques to it, (1) the leg lift (starting position) the leg lift is when you squat down to the bar and grip the bar, recruiting significant muscle groups at a high contraction rate the leg lift requires one to be able to quickly stand up while pulling the weight off the floor without major rounding of the back and incorporating too much back in the starting position. (2) The back lift, the position with the extension of the knee and hip aka lockout, requires more rapid rising and movement. The back uses more of the lumbar spine and upper back area the ability to lock out requires one to have the ability to use their back and lower body at the same time. The deadlift is a simultaneous movement between the legs and upper body working together to pull the weight off the floor.
Generally speaking, a conventional deadlift requires more of a hip hinge pattern (think about shutting car door with your butt only) while the sumo deadlift requires more hip flexion and rapid hip extension. The sumo deadlift puts a little more strain on your hips and less strain on the lower back usually due to the set up position. The sumo set up is a wider stance about 1-1.5 length shoulder width so think shoulder width plus a foot or a foot and half more width position on the floor with arms shoulder width. The rapid recruitment of the quads plus hip extension cause the bar to typically travel of the floor and the upper body/back helps hold the bar at the lockout position.
The Bench Press
The bench press is usually a favorite among athletes, everyday population people and body builders. A big bench is almost autonomous with a big chest and confident person. Usually the one puffing their chest out at the gym either has a huge ego and small bench or just a really big chest and they aren't puffing their chest out :O. The bench has MAJOR carry over to everyday lift and sport activity.
The bench has carry over to everyday life like pushing doors shut, pulling doors open, carrying groceries, carrying children, pushing/shoveling snow, the ability to do a respectable amount of push ups at your body weight, carrying laundry, you get the point. Plus it has carry over to sport, like a heavy slap shot or wrist shot, hard chest passes in basketball, ability to block or push in football, the ability to throw a fast ball in baseball (not just bench attributes to these things but a strong bench usually helps).
Where a lot people go wrong with the bench is set up and grip. A study found people who go 1.5x greater than bia-acromial width have found to have discomfort or pain in their pectorals, instability in their shoulder and atraumatic osteolytic of the distal clavicle (common shoulder pain when benching). So perhaps fix your grip before you start claiming bench is causing your shoulders to hurt and or drop the weight. As well many people set up poorly and just lay on the bench like they are laying in bed and getting ready to sleep. A simple cue for this is, grip the bench with your scapula/shoulder blades, make believe there are hooks on the bench and you need to match those hooks and your shoulder blades up to have them lock in together on the bench, secondly, maintain upper body tightness, thirdly, use some hip drive to help with the press, lastly, brace your core and press.
Doing the Squat, Bench, Deadlift without doing them...
Now when it comes down to actually doing the squat, bench or deadlift a lot of people hear the words and think "oh no injury!" "my back", "I can't". Ok, fine if you want to be dramatic then start slow. Try a front squat it does not load the spine as much as a squat and takes some pressure off the lower back and forces one to use their quads more. Try a goblet squat, just simply holding a dumbbell against their chest, right under their clavicle and squatting, try a lunge, try a Bulgarian split squat, one leg is on the floor, one leg is about knee height elevated on a bench or box or single leg squat stand. Try a pistol squat to a box. Try a squat to a box. At the end of the day, do a form of a squat until you are ready for the actual squat. The same goes for a deadlift (conv or sumo) do not feel comfortable doing a sumo or conventional deadlift, or scared you might "blow out" your back again, try a hex bar deadlift elevated on 6-8 inch blocks or plates, try a hex bar deadlift from the floor, try a kettlebell deadlift, try a rack pull, try a deadlift from blocks. The same goes for bench press, try a rack press (come down to spotter arms and press), try a close grip bench, try a flat dumbbell press, try a incline dumbbell press, try a floor press, try a military press. The point here is elicit similar results using different movements until you are ready for the full benefits of the actual movement. A squat, bench and deadlift are in my opinion the three must do exercises for every person, minus some athletic sports and depending on the season, but either way, a majority of people will benefit from getting stronger at the big three lifts.
To try a beginner program of the squat, bench and deadlift check out my new SBD or Die Program on Train Heroic. Download the Train Heroic app, sign up, buy the SBD or Die program for $24.50 using promo code "SBDORDIE" and let me know how awesome you feel and how much stronger you get!
Direct link for the program right here: https://marketplace.trainheroic.com/workout-plan/program/santagata-program-1608043998
Anything discussed in this article can be found here as well: https://medcraveonline.com/MOJYPT/the-health-and-performance-benefits-of-the-squat-deadlift-and-bench-press.html