CSCS Chapter 15: Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training
CSCS Study Guide Chapter 15

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Chapter Goals:

  • Learn general techniques that have to do with performing resistance training techniques properly.
  • Give guidelines for breathing.
  • Know the times to wear a weight belt.
  • Give spotting recommendations for free weight exercises.
  • Explain the proper resistance training and spotting techniques.

Exercise Technique Fundamentals

Handgrips

Pronated Grip: Palms face down, knuckles face up.

Supinated Grip: Palms face up, knuckles face down.

Neutral Grip: Knuckles face to the sides, like when you shake hands.

Alternated Grip: One hand is pronated and the other is supinated.

Hook Grip: Like pronated, but the thumb stays under the index and middle finger.

Closed Grip: The thumb wraps over the bar.

False Grip: The thumb doesn’t wrap over the bar.

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Stable Body and Limb Positioning

Stable positions allow athletes to stay in proper body alignment while exercising. This places stress in the right places.

Free and machine weight exercise requires this sable position. 

Five point body contact position.

  • The head is firm on the bench.
  • The shoulder/upper back is firm and even on the bench.
  • The butt is even on the bench/seat.
  • The right foot is in contact with the ground.
  • The left foot is in contact with the ground.

Standing exercises require the feet to be more than hip width. The heels and balls of the feet maintain contact on the floor. Seated and supine exercises also require the 5 point position.

Before machine exercises, the seat and pads must be adjusted so the joint can be aligned with the machine.

Range of Motion and Speed

Full ROM gives max value to an exercise and improves your flexibility.

Controlled and slow movements make it easier for full range of motion, but quick movements are better for power exercises.

Breathing Considerations

The most strenuous portion of a movement is the sticking point. This happens when you transition from eccentric to concentric.

Tell athletes to exhale at the sticking point and inhale when the move is less stressful.

The Valsalva Maneuver

This is used by experienced and well trained resistance athletes during structural exercises.

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This assists in keeping good vertebral alignment.

To perform this, we expire against a closed glottis while also having the abdomen contracted along with the rib cage muscles. This creates rigid compartments full of fluid in the lower part of the torso and with air in the upper parts of the torso.

This maneuver can help to keep the normal lordotic position of the spine and an erect upper torso.

Weight Belts

Athletes usually wear belts when doing exercises that use the lower back and with sets of near to full max load.

If the move doesn’t load the lower back, you shouldn’t use it.

Spotting Free Weight Exercises

Spotters assist in executing exercises to stop injuries from occurring.

Spotters also help by motivating athletes in forced reps. 

Spotting Overhead Exercises and Exercises with Bar on the Back or Front Shoulders

This will promote safety for the lifter, the spotter, and anyone nearby. Overhead exercises and ones with the bar on the back or shoulders must be done within a power rack with crossbars at the right height.

When exercising out of the rack with these exercises, you can get seriously injured.

Skilled and well-trained athletes should only perform these, as spotted by pros.

Spotting Over the Face Exercises

When potting these, you should grab the bar with an alternated grip narrower than the athletes. Some moves with a curved trajectory should have the supinated grip used to spot the bar.

Dumbbell exercise spotting.

  • Spot as close as possible to the dumbbells.
  • Spotting on the arms can lead to more injury.
  • Some exercises require hands to be placed on the dumbbell themselves.
  • Never Spot Power Exercises

Number of Spotters

Depends on the load, experience, and ability of both the spotters and the athlete.

Once one spotter cannot spot due to the weight, another spotter must come in.

One spotter is the preference if they can easily take the weight.

Two or more spotters need to coordinate with the athlete and themselves.

Communication Between Athlete and Spotter

Use a liftoff

Moving the bar from the uprights puts the athlete in a ready position.

The spotter and athlete need an agreed upon verbal signal.

Amount and Timing of Spotting Assistance

Many athletes need enough help to complete the rep, but some may have to have the spotter take the whole load.

The athlete needs to stay with the bar until it is racked.

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CSCS Chapter 15: Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training 1
CSCS Chapter 15: Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training 2
CSCS Chapter 15: Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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