Elite Trainer Chris Duffin Shares How You Can Fix Your Biggest Lifts to Build Strength

·3 min read

Chris Duffin: Mad Scientist of Strength. Or shall we call him Chris Duffin: 1,000-pound deadlifter and squatter? Either way, the cofounder of Kabuki Strength is here with Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. to break down some common heavy lifting myths—and how you can adjust your workouts to make more progress.

“The quest to build major muscle almost always leads to a handful of key exercises: Moves like the deadlift, the squat, and the bench press,” say Samuel. “But those core lifts don't really work for everyone.” For some people, problems like the fixed position of the barbell and arbitrary form issues make the exercises painful or less than mechanically ideal for their bodies.

Here, Duffin breaks down common problems most people face when they struggle with powerlifting's big three exercises and his signature fixes for supercharging your workouts and preserving your joints. Watch the video above, and review a quick run-through of the topics covered below.

Chris Duffin's Heavy Lift Adjustments for Strength

The Deadlift

Myth: The deadlift always has to be performed by lifting the bar off the floor.

Duffin Fix: Raise the load to a platform that works better for your range of motion. “The bar height is based on the plates, and plates are made that diameter so that if a weight was dropped for Olympic lifting ... the bar wouldn't hit the person if they were on the ground or crush them. They came up with 18 and ⅞ of an inch," Duffin notes.

Since the height is arbitrary, it's just as legitimate to build strength with the load higher off the floor.

The Barbell Back Squat

Myth: If you want to be strong, you have to barbell back squat.

Duffin Fix: “If the traditional back squat has you in a poor position, you could play around with a front squat. It actually allows for more spinal uprighting,” says Duffin. You can also do a goblet squat instead. Play around and see what works best for your body and spinal mechanics. If you can’t load enough, explore Kabuki Strength’s Transformer Bar, which can distributes the weight to a friendlier position for your particular mechanics.

The Bench Press

Myth: Everyone should bench press with a barbell.

Duffin Fix: “The straight bar is always trying to throw you into internal rotation, which is where, basically, all your injury risk comes from,” Duffin notes. If benching with a bar is causing you shoulder pain, switch to dumbbells to free up the movement and get in better position. Kabuki's Kadillac Bar is another great pressing bar option that reduces load on your wrists.

Bottom line? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to lifting heavy. As Samuel says: “Stop thinking of your workout as you have to be on the barbell, you have to do certain motions the way they are. There is no one way that you have to get a movement pattern done. Get the movement pattern to be strong, but you don't have to hit them just one way.”

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