Back Squat Set Up : Adding Stability, Strength, & Depth

The first thing that comes into most of our minds when attempting to squatting heavy weight.
But should it be?
More squats have been lost when coming out of the rack, from small little details, that have nothing to do with the legs than anything else.
The resolve…fixing your set up.
Think of building a house, you start with a nice solid foundation.  But if you build the house with no actual support structure what will happen?
It’s simply going to collapse…just like a squat will.
We focus so much on what’s going on with the lower body, we forget to dial in the set up of the upper body.
It’s seems almost like a “Duh” moment, but if you watch most people squat they forget these small little details.
These are absolutes of squatting that have to be done, without question.
  • Pulling the bar down onto our back
  • Locking our shoulder blades back and down
  • Maintain a healthy and stable core
  • Natural Spine
How many are you checking off? 1 or 2?
Little things, like making sure to un-racking the weight using both legs to drive the weight out of the rack.
Pulling the weight into our shoulder blades locking them into place, deep breath through the belly, and bracing like someone is about to punch you in the stomach.
All these little details will set you up for success with your squats.
Allowing you to maximize your squat stability, strength, and overall depth.


Should You Do Push Ups?

Anyone ever told you….

“You liked that movie?”

“Your taste in food is bad!”


Just because your opinions doesn’t line up with others, doesn’t make you wrong, it’s simply your opinion

It’s a very common myth, that the only way someone can get stronger is by lifting weights.

Bro science strikes again!

When I hear someone regurgitate bro science and tell someone “you need to lifts weights to get stronger,” I feel obligated to better serve that person.

The truth is, you HAVE to learn fundamental bodyweight mechanics before ever picking up a barbell.

If your mechanics are off on a push up, chances are that will have carry over to your bench press.

If your body weight squat mechanics are off, that will have bad carry over to back squat (and a whole list of other movements)

You can literally watch someone pick something off the floor and tell what their deadlift is going to look like.

That’s why its not only important but NESSASSRY to start athletes of with an assessment of their body weight movements.

So the gym bro who told you to lift weights, while he isn’t wrong, they are putting the cart before the horse.

In fact my training in gymnastic has added more stability, mobility, and appreciate for body weight exercises than any weighted exercise.

My favorite exercise for body weight strength is the Narrow Grip Push Up.

I find it a more stable way to teach athletes to correctly complete a push up.

It allows me to develop their overall push strength, while overloading the tricep and focus on their stability through the movement.

The push up is such a universal exercise, can be found in almost every sport.  Each of which will have their own twist to the exercise.

For the athletes I focus on push strength, I ensure to make it functional carry over for their overall push strength in their respected sport.


My Full Body Warm Up : Everything I Do Before Working Out

You need to warm up before working out!

Right now you’re probably saying “well duh”

Seems trivial right?

I’m not talking about pulling my arm across my chest, touching my toes, or walking around for a few minutes while talking to “gym bros”

But really taking the time to warm up.

Proper priming, stretching, and activation of the muscle groups you’re about to use. That’s the goal!

My main lifts are the Snatch and Clean & Jerk.

Very explosive, all inclusive, full body lifts.  They can be exhausting, and very frustrating.

Full body lifts, can call for full body warm ups.  Some areas may even need more work than others depending on the training volume that’s taken place previously.

That frustration can drasticly be increased if lifts are being missed due to abnormal movement patterns.

I’m often ask what my warm up consist of before lifting each day, its probably more extensive than you might think.

I can tell you there is a major difference on days I don’t have the time to do a proper warm up, against days I MAKE time to ensure I’m ready.

But I promise, if you take the time to look through these, you’ll find some gems that WILL help you!

As always, I’m here to help, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Talk to you soon!

– Joe



Derby City Strength & Conditioning Facebook Group

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Whats The Best Way To Get Ready For A Workout?

You need to warm up before working out!

Right now you’re probably saying “well duh”

Seems trivial right?

But I’m not talking about pulling my arm across my chest, touching my toes, or walking around for a few minutes.

Proper priming, stretching, and activation of the muscle groups you’re about to use.

That’s the goal!

We’re currently into our first of our latest training cycle.  For the past two weeks, the warm up was lead by our instructors to teach our athletes the importance of a warm up, and how to do our recommended primer.

I told my athletes I’d do FULL videos on each individual warm up, with an explanation of each movement.

Our constent goal is not just tell you how to work out but teach you. 

Now these videos can range from 6-11 minutes, so it can be a little more lengthy than some of our others.

But I promise, if you take the time to look through these, you’ll find some gems that WILL help you!

Simply click the links to get started!

Olympic Primer 

Squat Primer

Push Primer

As always, I’m here to help, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

– Joe

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Should You Wear A Lifting Belt?


A defining moment in my fitness career happen when I was only 17.

It was one of the most profound and vivid memories of lifting I have to this day.

I was young (and dumb) working out at the local hometown gym.  My friend Sam and I had decided to work on back squats that day.

Now remember I was just 17, every lift is a ego lift then.  There was no program to follow, no true goal in mind, just to “get stronger”

Right as I begin to remove the weight and squat, one of the gym members walks over tosses a belt at my feet.

“Hey big guy you’re gonna need this.”  As he tosses a belt at my feet and walks away.

First off I’m 130lbs at the time soak and wet, I was just impressed someone thought I was a “big guy” huge flex to my ego…

Now he was a true big fella, and at that time, might made right in the gym.  He said I should use it, so I did.

If I want to look like this guy, I should lift like this guy right?

From then on, I was always wearing a belt, because bro science told me so.

Now nearly two decades later, I still see people slipping into the “I’m lifting so I need a belt” mode.

The very first thing you should ask yourself is “why do I need this belt”

A weightlifting belt is used as a tool in assistance of the lift, it is NOT a pre-requisite for the lift itself.



Pull Up Variations

“I want to be able to do a Pull-up!”

Outside of “I want to loose weight” and “I want to get stronger.”

I can’t think of a more common goal among someone starting in the gym.

Pull-ups are simple and effective, after all you’re just pulling your body weight up above a bar…

This is that easier said that done moment.

I’m not so gullible to believe everyone can do a pull-up.

I’m confident enough to believe we all have the capability to do so.

But if you can’t do one now, what progression should you be using?

Most Globo gyms will have assisted pull-up machines, which are a great tool to begin developing athletes toward that first pull up.

For those that lack that equipment, athletes can find themselves confused for progression.

So what pull up modifications need to be applied?

What pull up variations can be used?

In fitness, just like life, you’ll find there are many alternatives paths to achieve your goal.  You simply have to find the one that works for you.

In our gym, I like to give athletes options for their pull up progression.

Banded Assisted Pull-ups

Banded Assisted Pull-ups, Negative Tempo

Inverted Rows

Inverted Rows – Negative Tempo

This is just a few of the variations we can apply to help someone achieve their first pull-up.

Over time we can remove bands, increase intensity, and ultimately look at how many pull-ups you can string together, rather than simply getting 1.

Happy Lifting

– Joe

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When Is The Next Strength Cycle?

When’s the next strength cycle?

Everyone has been asking for weeks, what will it consist of, what should we expect.

Its fast approaching, the next strength cycle will start 7/29/19.

The program will focus on Power Cleans, Back Squat, and Strict press.

Movements are great not only for building overall strength, but also for increasing explosive power and athletic potential.

The back squat is one of the most functional movements out there, and one of the basis of building pure strength.

The power clean is a difficult movement to initially learn, but the benefits of the movement far outweigh the frustrations of the initial learning process.

The power clean is outstanding for building explosive power and improving full body coordination.  Improving in both areas will help us to preform better in the gym, on the mat, and in everyday life.

Now in order to make this strength cycle as effective as possible we are going to take the next week as a “prep” time.

We will take an entire class for each movement to go over how to properly preform the movement, you can think of it as a seminar over the back squat and power clean.

This will ONLY be avialble to member of Derby City!

During these mini seminars you will learn and practice the basics of the movements under the watchful eyes of our coaching staff.

Whether you have been preforming squats and power cleans for years or if you have never tried either of these movements before, these classes will be extremely beneficial.

At the conclusion of the cycle, we will all establish new max effort lifts for both movements.

We have had a ton of success in the past with our strength cycles and we cannot wait to see the improvements you all have in the gym and on the mats after this upcoming cycle.

If you have any questions please see myself, Hussey, or any of our coaches and they will be more than happy to help you in any way.

– Joe

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Belt Squat Variations

Nothing should come more natural to us than squatting.

It’s a very natural motion we do countless times every day.

Anytime I mention squats, I like to remind athletes, there is not one way to squat.  There are countless ways to squat.

Our own ability to perform a squat, availability to equipment, all can be limiting factors in which we need a variation.

For some, just setting weight onto the back of the shoulders can cause anxiety and mental pressure can build before the lift takes place.

You could be experiencing some form lower back pain or shoulder issues which now causes you to lack the ability to do a loaded barbell squat.

For those who experience these fears and limitations, I always like to recommend a belt squat.

Belt squats are a little different, its going to be a different feel, but it will work.

Not every gym has a belt squat machine, so like any good lifter we adapt with variations.

When you load a barbell and step under a back squat, we load the weight onto our shoulders putting our torso under tension.

The belt squat provides us with a variation to increase leg and hip strength without loading or damaging your back. 

The weight pulling at the hip can also provide traction for the spine.

The greatest benefit for the belt squat is it will allow you to load the lower body without loading the spine. 

I will also use these as a primer before squats on some days, just to get everything tight before the barbell.


Finding Exercise Variations : That Work For You

You are unique!

Our shape, size, needs, and our basic wants all differ from person to person, day to day.

From the way we roll out of the bed in the morning, to laying back down at night, we are all unique.

We accept this, knowing we’re different, knowing we have our own system that works for us, and helps define our individuality.

In the gym, just like life, there is no one size fits all template, you have to find your own individuality.

Equipment will have to adjusted, exercises will have to modified and replaced.

If you think about it, with our individual movement patterns, goals, fitness level, and accessibility there are thousands of exercises modifications and variations.

Inability to perform a exercises, or lack of equipment are generally the two limiting factors someone may need exercises variations.

The focus when finding modifications, is ensuring we attack the same stimulus, moving us toward the end goal result.

If you were working hamstrings, and the equipment was taken you used, replace it with a exercises those hamstrings.  Don’t replace it with a quad exercises, or a bicep curl.

You’re not just burning calories, your training needs to be in line with your goals.

Finding the best variations for you, may take some trial and error.

But when you find what works best for you, it will improve the quality of your training.

– Joe


Fast, Simple, Effective – Banded Shoulder Warm-up

What’s your morning ritual?

Me, I wake up, use the bathroom, brush my teeth then check my email. It’s one of the most natural, mindless things of my day.

Now, what’s your warm up ritual? Do you have one? Or do you just plunge right into your training?

Recently for our Grappling Power Program Chewy (Chewjitsu) and I design, we program out some primers for our athletes. We want to teach the benefits of a proper activation of muscle groups prior to training.

Quickly, the athletes on the program fell in love with the warm up!

I’m not saying ours is the best in the world, it’s simply what we found works for us, and feel can benefit other athletes.

In one of our Live Q&A’s we do with the athletes on the program, one ask extra banded warm ups I prefer. While these stretches may not be in the primers, they are part of my daily warm up ritual.

Like waking up and brushing my teeth, it has become organic with my daily ritual stretches and warm up.

Each of these I’ve found have profound benefits in my activation before lifting.

I can’t think of a training day I’m not using my shoulders, lats, and tricep, of which these all target.

If you’re suffering from tight wrist, overhead positioning, or simply feel like learning some new banded stretches give these a try.

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See you in the gym!