Powerlifting Form Check with My Coach Dylan Smith

This is my 10th week being a part of the True Fitness & Nutrition family. My strength coach Dylan Smith is a fellow JMU alumni where he graduated with a BS in Kinesiology. Dylan is a well-known strength coach and powerlifting competitor in the Northern Virginia area holding many certifications. Dylan is a USAPL Club Coach and NPTI Certified Trainer in addition to being a former instructor for the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI).


(Dylan making 600 lbs. look easy)

From my personal experience working with Dylan so far he has superior attention to detail, strong emphasis on achieving optimal form in all lifting movements and is very responsive and attentive to client questions.

I met up with Dylan at his awesome gym, True Fitness & Nutrition in McLean, Virginia, where we went over my fitness goals, nutrition, and proper form for all 3 powerlifting movements: bench, deadlift and squat. He was so helpful and helped me improve all of my lifts significantly with just a single two and a half hour session. Below I will be sharing some of the great advice I have gained about powerlifting technique and form from working with Dylan so far.

General Powerlifting Tips:

  • The lifts to use wrist wraps on are bench, squat and military press. There is no need to use wrist wraps on pull ups, rows or deadlifting.
  • We discussed breathing & bracing and how they are essential when performing basically any exercise. If you combine both every time it will help you maintain proper form and increase your powerlifting total.

Breathing & Bracing are two different things that you must do together:

  • Breath deep into your belly (360 degree expansion and pressurization of your core with air)
  • Brace (360 degree expansion of entire core with muscular contraction)

*A neutral spine allows for optimal function of the diaphragm leading to proper belly breathing

  • It is also important to be consistent on every single rep for every single lift. Habits are hard to break so let’s make sure we are making the correct form choices and forming the right habits.


*Before you lift make sure you are wearing Olympic lifting shoes if you can. (Like these http://www.reebok.com/us/lifter). Unless you are one of the few lifters that feels strongest in flats, Dylan recommends squat shoes for optimal squatting. Wrist wraps are very useful in the squat so make sure to wrap up tightly with wraps completely covering the wrist joint for best support. Additionally, a quality powerlifting belt will improve your ability to squat due to enhanced bracing especially on heavy lifts.

Focus on This when Squatting:

  • Set your grip evenly on the bar outside of shoulder width. Typically, the best grip for an individual is the most narrow grip possible that allows the lifter to retain a depressed and retracted shoulder position along with an extended upper back. Many lifters cannot take a narrow grip due to range of motion issues so use the grip you find allows for the strongest squatting positon.
  • Step under the barbell and “break the bar over your back”, the bar positon should be somewhere close to resting across the rear delts or top of shoulder blades although some lifters will feel stronger with a slightly higher or lower bar position. Again, find what works best for you.
  • Get both feet under the barbell and make sure that you are loaded directly over the middle of your feet with about a hip width stance. Un-rack the bar by locking knees and hips.
  • Use a 3 Step Walkout: One foot straight back approximately one foot-length, second foot step back and out to the side, first foot step to the side. This should allow for a repeatable and consistent walk-out which will set you up for long term squatting success.
  • One you are in a proper squat stance take a deep breath into the belly (maintain a proper brace throughout!)
  • To descend, simultaneously break at the hips and knees and squat until the crease of the hip is directly below the level of the knees.
  • Hit depth and then immediately come back up in a controlled manor while exhaling forcefully into the lockout.
  • Make sure to remain tight the entire lift

Video of Squat Form


*Before you lift make sure you are wearing Olympic lifting shoes if you can. (Like these http://www.reebok.com/us/lifter). If desired, wear wrist wraps with them wrapped tightly and completely covering the wrist.

Focus on This when Benching:

  • Keeping shoulder blades pulled down and back together like you’re trying to squeeze a pencil between your shoulder blades.
  • Driving your feet through the floor to anchor your upper traps into the bench and reinforce good upper back position. (retracted and depressed shoulders)
  • Sustain a quality back arch while benching making sure to keep your feel fully on the ground and your shoulder blades down as previously stated.
  • Keep strong wrist (knuckles up).
  • When benching, keep elbows beneath the barbell throughout the movement. This will create a bar path that arcs down and forward onto the body and then up and back as you press.
  • Remember, if you can reset your upper back tightness at the top of the repetition, this means you lost it along the way during the previous rep. Strive to maintain position and tightness for optimal benching.

*Make sure that when you un-rack the bar that you take bar out of rack by just locking out your elbows

*Keep your shoulders retracted (pulled back together like squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades) during the entire set, from un-racking to mid benching.

Video of Bench Form


*Before you lift make sure you are wearing completely flat shoes such as converse and are wearing a proper powerlifting belt

*A powerlifting belt should made of thick leather and be of one width and thickness all around in either prong or lever design. Good companies to purchase from are Inzer, Best Belts, and SBD which are all high quality as well as IPF Approved. Do yourself (and your spine!) a favor and get a quality lifting belt. The brands listed above will last a lifetime (Inzer “Forever” Belts even come with a lifetime warranty)

Dylan’s Tips on Proper Deadlift Form:


  • Step to bar with mid-foot beneath barbell
  • Hinge to grab bar with arms locked in straightened position
  • Set back flat as you take the slack out of the bar (pull tightly against the bar by pressing your feet through the floor). *You can drive your hips up and back while doing this
  • Big air into belly after you have taken the slack out of the bar (you can feel and hear the “click” when using metal plates)
  • Pull chest up while keeping shoulder blades above barbell, and allow shins forward into the bar as you wedge into the start position
  • Pull!

*Shoulder blades must be aligned over the bar in order to initiate the lift off the floor. If you rock behind the bar when setting up you will “tip” forward until shoulder blades are above the bar.

Video of Conventional Deadlift Form

Video of Sumo Deadlift Form

Overall make sure to maintain proper form and be consistent on all your lifts. Make you have the proper gear when you’re lifting and that with every lift you are conscious of your body and how it is moving. In order to get the most out of your workouts, record your lifts and review your form with your coach or compare yourself to the videos I provided above.

(Inside True Fitness & Nutrition)

Make sure to check out True Fitness & Nutrition across all social media platforms and to consider any of their amazing certified strength coaches. Follow Dylan on IG @Dylan_C_Smith


Fitness Mistakes You’re Making Right Now

1. Neglecting to train compound movements first thing when you get to the gym:

  • Compound movements are exercises that activate more than one muscle group as opposed to isolation exercises that only work one muscle group.
  • Some examples of compound exercises include squats, bench and deadlift and these should be trained right when you get to the gym as they will require more attention and energy. You do not want to be exhausted from isolation exercises and not be able to perform optimally on your squats or deadlift because you’re too tired.


2. Upping the weight on any exercise before you have perfect form down:

  • Treat the light weights as heavy and the heavy weights as light.
  • Every lift should look the same no matter what the weight you’re lifting is.
  • Consistency is key when avoiding injury and progressing linearly on your lifts. (This point was brought up by my USAPL coach Dylan Smith)

Image result for deadlift bar path

3. Not taking enough rest days if any at all:

  • It is so important to have rest days to let your muscles your muscles, bones and nerves rebuild and repair. It allows your body time to rebuild body tissue insuring it grows back even stronger.
  • Resting can prevent injury and over use. That is especially important for me to remember as I get into powerlifting which consist of heavy weight and low repetition compound movement training.


4. Not getting enough sleep:

  • Often times if you’re overtraining it can be more difficult to get a good night’s sleep as your body can become on high alert mode.
  • When your body is asleep your muscles go through recovery allowing them to repair and rebuild which is necessary for optimal progress.
  • Your body needs generally 7-9 hours of sleep to be well rested.

Image result for sleeping puppyy

5. Neglecting to stretch:

  • Stretching is often the most neglected practice among fitness enthusiasts. I am often guilty of this. I am now making a point to stretch more often.
  • Stretching lengthens your muscles, allows for more flexibility of movement, prevents injury and is considered an anti-ageing investment.
  • Dynamic stretching should be used before a workout and static stretching after your workouts and on rest days.



Anderson, Sally. “Stretching Is Most Neglected Component of Fitness.” The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times, 08 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

By Diana Rini. “Compound Exercises Bring Compounded Results: Get More In Less Time!” Bodybuilding.com. Bodybuilding.com, 08 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

KARNAZES, DEAN. “Designer.” Fitbit Blog. Fitbit, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Schletter, Michael. “The Fit Five: Sleep Your Way to More Muscle.” Men’s Fitness. Men’s Fitness, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

JackedPack Subscription Review

I absolutely love JackedPack. They are a goal focused and personalized subscription box for weightlifters. They personalize your samples to you by asking your supplement flavor preferences as well as if your goals are to burn fat or build muscle. They also get your information as far as gender, height, age and weight. They are also very affordable and the longer you get a subscription for the better the deal.

So far I have received two boxes from JackedPack.



Each of my boxes had 7-8 separate samples in them. Each box had lots of sample variety ranging from protein bars, BCAAS, fat burn pills, whey protein powder, beef protein powder, pre-workouts as well as even an awesome pain relieving patch. The best part is that almost all the samples had two servings inside so the average servings you get per box is around 9-11 servings of supplements.

These boxes would make a great holiday gift in fact JackedPack normal deal is as follows:
-JackedPack is $15 per pack with free shipping.
-If you sign up for six months, every sixth box is free. This works out to $12.50 per pack.
-The best offer is to sign up for a year. Three boxes are free. This works out to $11.25 per pack.

BUT if you get one before December 18th, you will get double samples in your pack as well as a free shaker cup & you can get $25 off a 12-month sign up which comes out to only $9.17 a box! Use the code HOLIDAY if it’s a gift for you or GIFT to give the gift of gains to someone else! Sign up here!

Make sure you are following JackedPack across all social media platforms for giveaways, news and coupons:

Best Snacks to Cure a Sweet Tooth

Hey love bugs! I decided to compile a list of my go to snacks that I have when I’m craving something sweet but don’t want to back track my progress. Here goes nothing! Also all snacks are under 200 calories so dig in!

1.) Fiber One Brownie


Calories: 90
3g F/ 17g C/ 1g P

PROS: Very chocolaty, only 41 cents per serving

CONS: Not filling but great when heated for 10 seconds and topped with low calorie ice cream

2.) Fiber One Lemon Bar


3g F/ 18g c/ 0g P

PROS: Amazing taste, very low price of 41 cents per serving

CONS: These are not very filling at all

3.) Light & Fit  Greek Crunch Strawberry Cheesecake Yogurt


3g F/ 16g c/ 11g P

PROS: Amazing taste, love the texture, filling because of the high protein content, best yogurt I’ve had

CONS: High Price of about $1.50 for a serving


4) Halo Top Vanilla Bean Protein Ice Cream


Calories: 60
2g F/ 14g C/ 6g P

PROS: As creamy as regular ice cream, can eat the whole pint for under 250 calories, real vanilla bean bits, delicious

CONS: High price of  about $5.99 a pint, not many stores carry it

*See if Halo Top is sold near you by clicking here.*

5) 1 Fuji apple with 1 tbsp almond butter drizzle

apple with almond.jpg

Calories: 171
9g F/ 22g C/ 2g P

PROS: Delicious, fresh, easy

CONS: Easy to go overboard with nut butters

6.) Dole Pear Fruit Cups in 100% Fruit Juice


Calories: 80
0g F/ 21g C/ 0g P

PROS: Great taste, amazing if cold, 63 cents per serving

CONS: High carb but natural

Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie Review

You all know that I love cookies! I have been a Lenny and Larry’s ambassador since they began their program this May. I have loved working with the company through tasting and supporting their fresh baked protein cookies.


Lenny and Larry’s is committed to providing athletes with performance based snacks that taste great and pack on the protein. Currently Lenny and Larry’s has 8 flavors of protein cookies: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Pumpkin Spice, Oatmeal Raisin, Lemon Poppy, Double Chocolate, Snickerdoodle and White Chocolate Macadamia.

Below is a definitive ranking of my favorite complete cookie flavors:

  1. Double Chocolate
  2. Lemon Poppy
  3. Pumpkin Spice
  4. Chocolate Chip
  5. Snickerdoodle
  6. Peanut Butter
  7. Oatmeal Raisin
  8. White Chocolate Macadamia

1) Double Chocolate Complete Cookie

The Double Chocolate Complete Cookie tastes as if there is no way it could be good for you. It is super rich and delicious. My favorite way to enjoy this cookie is heated in the microwave for 12 seconds so that the chocolate chips melt into the cookie.


2) Lemon Poppy Complete Cookie

The Lemon Poppy flavor tastes just like an amazing lemon poppy seed muffin. It tastes just like the description, no weird protein flavor and is a rare flavor find as far as packaged protein cookies go!


3) Pumpkin Spice Complete Cookie

The Pumpkin Spice cookie can be found at lennylarry.com for purchase any season. I love the comfort that this cookie brings. Eating this cookie is like taking a bite of a crisp fall afternoon.


4) Chocolate Chip Complete Cookie

The Chocolate Chip cookie was my first Lenny and Larry’s cookie I ever had. It is so delicious and everything you would ever want a chocolate chip cookie to be. I’ll never be able to make my homemade protein cookies taste as good as this.


5) Snickerdoodle Complete Cookie

The Snickerdoodle protein cookie is also a rarity in protein cookies. This cookie is truly a treat. It is soft and moist.


6) Peanut Butter Complete Cookie

The Peanut Butter cookies are really good I just wish that they had chocolate chips. This cookie would also be better if it was a little harder and less soft like the rest of the cookies.


7) Oatmeal Raisin Complete Cookie

I really like that this cookie can be eaten at both breakfast and dessert! My only problem with it was that it was a bit too sweet for my liking. The texture however was on point.


8) White Chocolate Macadamia

The White Chocolate Macadamia cookie did not have enough white chocolate chunks in it which would have made this cookie so much better!


I would recommend these cookies to anyone looking for a convenient healthy snack/dessert. As they are all natural, vegan and delicious. You can buy Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookies here.

Make sure to follow Lenny and Larry’s on Social Media:





Caramel Banana Protein Pancakes

caramelpancakes caramelpancakes2

So happy Bodybuilding Warehouse let me try their Caramel Banana Protein Pancake Mix. The mix was delicious and has a over 20g of protein per serving as still makes fluffy pancakes! I’m loving the caramel drizzle on top of this stack as well. Get your protein pancakes, protein cookies and any protein supplements you may need at www.bodybuildingwarehouse.co.uk.

-50g Bodybuilding Warehouse caramel banana pancake mix
-1 tbsp coconut flour
-2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
-1/2 tbsp Truvia baking sweetener
-1 tbsp nonfat Greek plain yogurt
-1 egg white

Topping Ingredients:
-1 Trader Joe’s Caramel
-1/2 a Small banana

-Spray a fry pan and put on medium heat
-Spray pan with coconut oil spray
-Cook pancakes for approximately 2 minutes on each side
-Melt caramel in the microwave for 7 seconds
-Cut 1/2 of the banana into coins

Macros Fat: Carb: Protein: Calories:
Pancakes with Topping 5 g 42 g  29 g 329

*Makes 6 Pancakes with Topping*