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

What are the general techniques used in resistance training during sessions? Chapter 15 of the Essentials of Strength training and conditioning answers this and other personal training questions for the CSCS exam.

Chapter 15 of the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning covers the fundamentals of exercise technique in resistance training. Lifting and spotting techniques are discussed to help athletes and clients remain injury free.

Exercise Technique for Free Weight and Machine Training

This chapter focuses on fundamentals of performing and teaching safe lifting and spotting techniques.

Things that will also be covered include:

  • Breathing during exercise.
  • Weight belt usage.
  • Communication between athletes and spotters.

Fundamentals of Exercise Technique

  • Most exercises share things in common. For example, knowing what optimal body positioning is. They also share things in common like gripping, movement range of motion and speed and breathing.
  • Pronated Grip - palms down.
  • Overhand Grip - another term for pronated grip.
  • Supinated Grip - palms up grip.
  • Underhand Grip - another term for supinated grip.
  • Neutral Grip - palms facing each other, like in a handshake.
  • Alternated Grip - one palm facing up, one facing down.
  • Hook Grip - like the overhand or pronated grip except, the index and middle finger wrap over the top of the thumb as opposed to around the bar.
  • Closed Grip - when the thumb is wrapped around the bar.
  • False Grip - when the thumb does not wrap around the bar.
  • Grip Width - how far apart the hands are on the bar from the center.
  • Clean Grip - a pronated closed hand grip, often a hook grip with slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Snatch Grip - a pronated closed hand grip, often a hook grip with a wide grip that can be determined by the fist-to-opposite-shoulder method and the elbow-to-elbow method.
  • Supine - lying face up.
  • Five-Point Body Contact Position - five firm points of contact between the bench and body. Head, shoulders and upper back evenly placed, buttocks, and the right and left foot placed flat on the floor.
  • Range of Motion (ROM) - the degree to which a joint can bend. Full ROM helps improve and maintain flexibility and typically help to ensure that the greatest benefits can occur.
  • Sticking Point - a difficult point in a movement between the eccentric and concentric phase.
  • Structural Exercises - exercises that load the vertebral column (spine).
  • Valsalva Maneuver - somewhat forcefully attempting to exhale against a closed airway. Can be helpful for maintaining proper spinal alignment and support in select exercises and circumstances.
  • The Valsalva maneuver should be used with care as it can cause dizziness, high blood pressure and blackouts. Breath holding should only last 1 or 2 seconds.
  • Neutral Spine - a normal lordotic lumbar spinal position.
  • Weight belts may help maintain proper intra-abdominal pressure. This can be helpful for exercises that place stress on the lower back near maximal loads. Wearing a weight belt too often reduces opportunities for the abdominal muscles to be trained.

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Spotting Free Weight Exercises

  • Spotter - someone who helps protect an athlete during exercise. Can also serve as a motivator.
  • Forced Repetitions - partner assistance in competition of reps past normal abilities.
  • Partner-Assisted Reps - another term for forced reps.
  • Free Weight Exercises - an exercise that uses a weight that is not attached to a machine apparatus. Free weights can include dumbbells, bars and medicine balls.
  • Power Exercises - exercises that are preferential for the expression of power or force over a short amount of time.
  • Out-of-the-Rack-Exercises - exercises performed outside of a power rack.
  • Over-the-Face Barbell Exercises - exercises performed where weights travel directly over the lifters face.
  • Do not spot power exercises. Teach athletes how to get away from the bar.
  • The number of spotters depends on the exercise, experience of the athlete and spotters and amount of weight that is being used. As long as the spotters can still provide assistance, the less spotters the better as it requires less communication.
  • Communication needs to take place between both the athlete and the spotters before the exercise.
  • Liftoff - moving the bar from the upright supports into a position where the athlete can lift it. A count or cue should be established when to lift off.
  • The amount and timing of a spot are important and are acquired by experience. A cue to assist in the lift should be agreed upon before beginning the exercise.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.