The Five Point Set Up
Everyone’s goal in weightlifting should be to, first and foremost, get strong. A close second, would be to not get injured. By focusing on strength and performance goals, we take the pressure off of our bodies and mind to look a certain way, and instead focus on measurable goals and learning good technique. The fortunate thing is that there are some fundamental truths to good technique so no matter the movement, you will transfer the foundation of your technique into any exercise your do. This is why coaches tend to give the same cue over and over and over again.
One of the most essential aspects of good technique during lifting is a proper set up. In fact, the set up in general is one of the most important things. Is has two important jobs: firstly, it get you mentally prepared to execute a lift and great weight. It is that pause, a moment to gather yourself and talk to the bar, or yourself, or who ever you talk to right before a lift. Second, it gets you physically prepared for a lift. It aligns and activates all of the structural components of your body that will be responsible for carrying most of the weight.
The prep that I use with my athletes is what I call the “Five Point Set-Up” or 5PS:
Screw your feet into the floor
Stack your hips underneath your shoulders
Pull your rib cage down
Lengthen your collarbones/ shoulder back and down
Chin parallel to the floor
This will activate the external rotators of the hip, stack your hips, ribs and spine, activate your lats and keep you neck neutral. From this point, you step forward and tinder the bar for a squat, load your body, then perform the 5PS again. For a deadlift, do the 5PS, then hinge your hips backward and reach for the bar, maintaining the tension throughout the body - especially the posterior chain.
Its easy to remember when you work this way: feet, hips, ribs, shoulders & chin. Everything in on, everything is tense, and everything is ready to push weight.
Another aspect that is essential is the start point and end point of a lift. The good news is, with a typical barbell or dumbell lift, usually either the start point or end point of the lift will actually be your set up.
This is one of those secrets that separates the folks who know what they are doing from those don’t. Always take your time to set up for lifting. You mind has to as engaged as your body, otherwise much of our effort is futile. Those who get injured or never see much progress are those who overlook these small moments in the gym.