A few weekends back, I was part of a great seminar here in western Kentucky—the first ever Calloway County High School Under the Bar Strength seminar put on by Sam Luker, a strength coach and good friend of mine. Inspired by the elitefts™ Learn to Train seminars, the set up was similar and all proceeds went to a local food pantry.

We coached the squat, bench press, deadlift, and strongman events and had some open Q&A and discussion time. The attendance was great, with attendees ranging from complete beginners to guys who could bench over 400, squat over 500, and pull over 600. We also had quite a few female lifters, which is always great to see.

Thinking back over the weekend, there are a few things that seemed to be common occurrences. These are things I saw among my group, which was made up of intermediate to the strongest and most advanced lifters. While all these issues may not apply to you, there’s a good chance at least one of them does.

1. Quad dominance/squat depth:

From my experience, most people aren’t quad dominant. Rather they have weak hamstrings. Regardless of how you look at it though, many lifters are really lacking in the hamstring department.

This was holding back many lifters at the seminar. As we got closer to their maxes, I noticed something—their squat depths kept getting shallower and shallower. They had the quad strength to move the weight, but they were lacking the hamstring strength to allow them to hit depth and explode out of the hole.

You should always squat to the same depth, whether it’s a warm up with 135 pounds or a single at 90 percent or more of your 1RM. The squat technically should look the same in both instances. (It won’t look exactly the same as your near max weights, but the depth should remain constant.) Bringing up the hamstrings will do a lot for your squat (and deadlift). I’ve found that it isn't that hard to do. You just have to put in the work and be patient. It takes longer than you’d like and doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time.

You can’t beat the elitefts™ glute ham raise for bringing up those lacking hamstrings. I swear by this piece of equipment, as it helped me take a stalled 500-pound deadlift to over 600 pounds in a fairly short time frame. By far, this is one of the best pieces of equipment I’ve every purchased. My other favorites movements are good mornings and Romanian deadlifts.

2. Touch and go deadlifts:

While observing everyone warm up on deadlifts, I noticed that probably 80 percent or more of the lifters were doing touch and go reps. As we worked up in weight, I noticed that this same 80 percent had the same weak points—off the floor. I asked quite a few of them who were pulling all touch and go reps if they always did touch and go reps on the deadlift and where they missed it when they missed a deadlift. Almost all of them said that yes they did always do touch and go reps and they missed off the floor.

I’m not against touch and go deadlifts, as there is a time and place for them, but when your weak point is off the floor on a deadlift, why would you use momentum, a slight bounce, and a stretch reflex when training the deadlift? If you’re using bumper plates, that’s a whole different story that I won’t even get into, but if your weak point is off the floor on deadlifts, try doing them with a dead stop on each rep. You’ll have to leave your ego at the door because you won’t be able to hit as many reps, but you will increase your max deadlift with time. The choice is yours.

If your weak point on the deadlift is closer to the knees or lockout, I think touch and go deadlifts are a better choice. One thing to consider—don’t ever completely rule one out. Looking back through my training journal, I’ve used both at different times to keep my deadlift progressing.

3. Knee valgus on deadlift set up:

It hurts me to watch this. A guy walks up to the bar and puts his feet in place. Then he drops, grips the bar, drops his hips, and is ready to pull, but his knees are angled in toward each other. First, this is a less than ideal position mechanically, and second, this puts a ton of unnecessary stress on the knees that could result in injury. The fix for this is pretty simple. Either the knees should be forced out so that the knee joint is in line over the ankle joint when being viewed from the front or the stance should be brought in some so that the knee and ankle joint line up. This will vary from individual to individual, but with time, the proper set up will allow for more pounds on the bar and healthier knees.

4. Raw squatters squatting like geared squatters:

This isn't in any way a bash on geared squatting, but personally, I think too many raw lifters try to squat more like geared squatters. When they do this, they minimize the use of one of the best weapons a raw squatter has out of the equation—their quads. For example, one kid in our group was using a super wide stance, wearing Chucks, arching hard, and really sitting back with vertical shins. If he’d been in a squat suit, it would’ve looked almost perfect. This guy had jacked quads, and my immediate thought was that if we could get him to use those quads by bringing in his stance a little bit, bracing instead of arching so hard, and letting his knees travel a bit forward, he could definitely put up some bigger numbers. If he had some Olympic shoes, it would be even better.

I asked him if he had any Olympic shoes and sure enough he had some in his bag. He laced those up, and we brought his stance in. I moved the bar position up on his back slightly, and I had him brace with circumferential expansion instead of arching. I told him to unlock at the hips by sitting back slightly and pushing his knees out. He ended up hitting a 20-pound all-time squat PR of 405 pounds in just a matter of minutes. He had the strength already; he just wasn’t utilizing it.

5. Basic anatomy and kinesiology:

One thing that I think makes me a good coach/trainer is my ability to explain things in layman’s terms to clients and athletes. I don’t try to sound smart and use big scientific words, and my clients and athletes have the luxury of me watching them to coach and cue them when performing lifts or analyzing videos of their lifts.

If you train without having a coach, I highly recommend learning some basic anatomy and kinesiology. When talking with attendees and using just basic anatomical or kinesiological terms, I got looks like I was speaking a foreign language. And this was with me trying to water things down a bit.

If you’re a serious strength athlete, you need to know what major muscles produce what movements, what joint angles should look like, what a neutral spine is, and what looks correct and what doesn’t. By having a basic knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology, you’ll be able to get stronger because you'll be able to identify weak points and why they're weak, know when your form is breaking down and why, and know how to minimize your risk of injury. This will allow you to train longer, smarter, and harder.