Knee wraps done tightly enough can definitely offer some assistance in a heavy lift. The added stability makes it easier to squat weight. Some bodybuilders will put them on only a minute or two before their heavy lifts because the wraps are so tight they can limit circulation. However, they do offer some support that can be beneficial for people who have suffered an injury or have chronic knee pain. Therefore, it is okay to use them when doing heavy squats. Just do not start using them until you are moving serious weight.
I like to train heavy, but I really see only competitive lifters using chalk. Can it benefit me as a bodybuilder? And, if so, on which lifts?
Chalk has the same basic advantage as straps: A better grip. Serious powerlifters use it all the time, but it does not offer the same benefit as the straps – it does not “lighten the load” in the same way, but it does make your grip less of a limiting factor. The difference is that the chalk’s main function is to simple to keep your hands dry. If you have ever had a serious deadlifting day, you know you can work up a mean sweat and the last thing you want is the barbell slipping from your hands at a crucial part of the lift. This can result in injury. If you are at a gym that allows chalk, use it. If not, then straps may be a better alternative. Best alternative? Wipe your hands dry and pull the weight raw.
It is not always wise to try and get a longer range of motion.
Keep you back flat for spinal safety.
There is really only one exercise that would allow you to round your lower back in a bent-over position, and that is during the stiff-legged deadlift (SDL), but that is primarily a lower-back, not a hamstring or a glute exercise. The trouble is that the SDL and the romanian Deadlifts (RDL) are closely related at first glance. Knowing how the two exercises differ and when to attempt them is critical. Our focus is to correct the romanian-style deadlift, for which there is never any rounding of the lower back, period. The RDL is a glutes and hams specialty move done with a flat back. If you round your back, you not only remove emphasis from the hamstrings and glutes, but you could also risk injury.
The best way to correct an improper RDL is to go through a series of steps as you get into position. First, begin the RDL from a standing position. You can adjust your knees (unlocked to slightly bent), low back (flat and tight) and chest (up/big) all at once. Then as you bend over, you need to keep thinking “chest up, back flat, knees bent”. Along with a flat back and bent knees, the path of the bar is different during the RDL and the SDL. During the RDL, you need to keep the bar very close to your legs throughout the move. Conversely during the SDL, you actually allow the bar to drift away from your body. So as you can see, even though both are bent-over barbell moves, ther are dramatically different in technique and target muscles.
Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with a pronated (overhand) grip. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees, with your chest up, abs tight and the natural arch locked in your lower back.
Keeping your back flat, lean forward from your hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. As you lean forward, keep your arms straight and slide the bar down your thighs towards the floor until the bar reaches your shins. At the bottom, keep your back flat, head neutral with the bar very close to your legs. Flex your hamstrings and glutes to raise back up while pushing your hips forward until you bring the bar back to the start position.
Leg Remedy: Romanian Deadlift
There are very few exercises that have as much going on as the romanain deadlift, which is why going through a mental checklist is your best bet to secure good habits. Besides form, many athletes try and take the bar so far down to the ground in an effort to increase the range of motion (ROM) that they are either forced to round their backs, or if they do keep their backs straight, they actually touch the floor with the plates. (In fact, some people do a hybrid of an SDL and an RDL, in which they try and bounce the bar off the floor at the bottom, which can wreak havoc on your joints and is not recommended.) If you are doing an SDL, allow the weight to settle on the ground, hence the “dead” part (but that move is not specifically for legs, so we will not discuss it here). Second, during a correct RDL, the bar never touches the ground. So, go through your checklist, stay strict and smooth for the best RDL possible.
Keep tension on the hamstrings by keeping your hips down as you lift the weight up.
If there is one exercise you are strong on, chances are it is the leg curl. Lie down on any leg-curl machine and for some reason, you can just pull the heck out of it, right? Well, that is good, but it can also be bad if you allow yourself to get sloppy. Hamstrings in general are pretty powerful. You can pull a lot with your hamstrings, but when it comes to the leg curl, you have to remember that it is an isolation exercise. Many athletes/bodybuilders try to turn it into a compound, multi-joint exercise, by raising their hips off the bench as they curl the weight even though it is only supposed to be an isolation move. Even though you might be able to curl more weight or do a few extra reps with that kind of hip action, you are actually making the exercise easier because you are removing the work form the hamstrings.
The key is to imagine that you have glued your hips to the bench throughout the set. Although you may need to lower the weight in order to achieve proper form, your hamstrings will still bear most of the burden, which is what you really want anyway. In fact, if you want another way to burn the hams and glutes without cheating the lift, then after you have curled the weight up and your heels nearly touch your glutes, try raising your quads an inch or so off the bench. That small movement will help burn your upper hams and glutes even more without sacrificing form.
Lie facedown on a leg-curl machine and position your Achilles¬ tendons below the padded leverwith your knees just off the edge of the bench. Grasp the bench or the handles for stability. Make sure your knees are slightly bent to protect them from over-extension.
Contract your hamstrings to raise your feet towards your glutes in a strong but deliberate motion, squeezing the muscles at the top, and then lowering under control back to the start position. Do not allow the weight stack to touch down between reps. S
Leg Remedy: Lying Leg Curl Corrected
As mentioned previously with the hack squat exercise you can also turn your toes in and out for a different stimulus on the leg curl (an open-chain move). Turn your toes in to target the inner hamstrings, and out for the outer hamstrings. Squeezing your hamstrings at the top when your hips are pressed into the bench will further ignite the muscle fibres or the back of the leg. But be careful not to raise your hips, or you will lose much of that tension.
Keep your knees behind the plane going straight up from your toes for knee safety.
Behind the Blunder
If you have healthy knees, this blunder might not apply now, but if you ignore this today, one day it might hit a nerve. Lunges, which used to be thought of as a female-driven exercise, are so popular and beneficial that they have been embraced by most males, and for good reason. Despite popular belief, the lunge is not just for the glutes, but it also blasts the quads and hamstrings, making it a great move for the entire lower leg. Whether you use just your bodyweight, dumbbells or a barbell across your back, the message is clear: Keep your front knee back and do not let it travel beyond the vertical plane of your toes. The sheering forces caused by the lunging motion can be fatal to the knees in the long run.
If you find you let your knee travel too forward, try the split lunge for a few sets. Unlike the standard lunge in which you step forward and then press yourself back up to the starting position, with a split lunge, once you get into a lunge position you stay there. Practise the up-and-down motion of the lunge concentrating on keeping your front leg bent at 90° in the bottom position. This will help you remember that the entire leg is working in concert to perform the lunge. Although some trainers would disagree, the back leg is also hard at work because you have to press through the back leg to raise your body. After some split lunge practise, try the standard lunge, remembering to use both legs to control the entire sequence.
Stand erect with a dumbbell in each hand, arms out to your sides. Keep your head straight, chest up and abs tight.
Take a long step forward with one foot. Bend both knees to lower yourself, making sure your front knee does not pass your toes. Stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor and reverse direction, driving though the heel of your forward foot and the balls of the trailing foot to return to the start.
Leg Remedy: Dumbbell Lunges Corrected
Think “straight up and down” as opposed to “forward£. Once you have re-trained yourself to keep your forward knee back and you have realised that both legs help in raising the body, the last element is to imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you straight up to the ceiling on each rep. The up-and-down motion will provide an additional level of safety for the front knee while also helping you target the quads, hams and glutes. Finally, to help solve the problem, take a good, long stride. Many people suffer from knee problems during this move because they are not steeping our far enough.