The Mechanics Of Training With Phil Learney

I talk a lot and do a LOT of mechanical work with my clients. A lot of the time it isn’t for me about trying to make someone directly stronger or focusing on the top end profit of strength, size or fat loss but making them more efficient with and to capitalise on what they already have.

I once presented a seminar at one of the big expos about profit and loss with respect to building muscle, again this is our obsessions human beings always with profit over efficiency and loss. More is always better as I outlined in my previous article. If I stop someone gaining as much fat over a course of time they’re ultimatelly leaner right? If I prevent someone losing muscle tissue over a given period they will be left with more. If I can train an athlete to use mechanics and the existing tissues capacity better or more efficiently they become faster, stronger and more powerful right? All with minimal cost or time.

For those auto enthusiasts it’s how you can plug a factory bought car or bike into a computer and make it exert more power and speed whilst adding no extra components, just some intelligent fine tuning. This is what this article is about, fine tuning some of your mechanics and some of your big lifts.

This as a note is hardly going to be a comprehensive guide as I could write an encyclopaedic guide about this subject. Merely a few main pointers as to how to ‘tune’ your body for better performance and perhaps take some of those weaker links out of the chains. I want some PB’s out of you all this weekend!

Not all of these will work and no promises. Each of you is a human being and I’ll be honest that without seeing you work I’m making a few assumptions based on my experience and what I ‘commonly’ see go wrong. If mechanically you’re perfect not a lot I can do (and if you believe you are you’re a chump and also why are you reading this article?). Also bear in mind that fixing mechanics needs assessment of you individually. Below are some things you can do that should give you some marked improvements right now.

Right, lets get down to the nitty gritty!

One thing I learned from a great coach Mike Robertson was about ‘tripod feet’ and this can be related to almost all lifts to improve them. With any lift that has some ground basing in it we need to think hard about this concept.

You have 3 points on your feet, 2 at the front and one through the heel.

When performing any deadlift or squat variation, good mornings, strict overhead press these three points need to be firmly in contact with the ground. If any of the points get more pressure through them we lose force production in the lift. Bench press we can go to the front two points or remain on all 3. Any Olympic derivative or push press we will transition hard through the front 2 points dropping quickly and firmly back onto all 3. Perhaps in some cases going beyond the front 2 points onto the toes or even off the floor if force production is adequate.

Bench Press

Do not start to move the bar until either 3 or 2 points are locked into the floor with both legs. In the same instance make sure the shoulders are locked back into the bench and you’re gripping it tight! Grip the bar tight, pull the hands apart to lock the triceps in. SET the bar at the top position. You shouldn’t tilt left or right if you’re truly set!


Address the bar, add a stupid amount of weight so you cant lift it. Pull against the bar so the 3 points in your feet lock HARD into the ground. Now retract your shoulders so the lats pull tight. Get a sensation of tightness throughout the body, squeeze the hamstring and pull down the hips now release and walk away.


If you’re in a monolift lock the position and 3 points of your feet before you take the weight. If you’re walking out the weight make sure you have all three points grounded before you move. At the point you have them pull down HARD on the bar and lift your chest to lock your lats in.

Overhead Press

As with the squat make sure you have all three points grounded before you think about driving the bar up. At the point you have the tripod grounded pull down HARD on the bar and lift your chest to lock your lats in. If it’s a push press you will be driving the front two points of the tripod into the ground HARD and dropping point 3 as the arms lock. Get it right you will feel it, I promise you!


Force is transferred through the earth. Wearing running shoes or soft soled shoes is stupid in any of these lifts as as soon as you go to exert force through the floor the shoe dissipates it all. Shoe manufacturers spend millions figuring out how to reduce impact on joints hitting the floor. If the foot is already grounded you lose all that force, make sense? Take off your shoes or put some vibrams, converse all stars or some Olympic lifting shoes on!

All of these lifts act like a crossbow, pull back the string and let it go. You need to create recoil in muscle tissue first though and tension.

Change your perception of lifting and tension.

You no longer lift weight, you create recoil and tension THEN you push the floor down!! get the picture. You take those 3 tripod legs and push the floor down as hard as you can. Imagine the bar is stationary. In the bench punch your body into the bench and the bench through the floor. The deadlift, overhead press and squat drive the floor 10 feet down!



Pull down hard on the bar with no intention to pull it off the floor, draw the hips down whilst keeping the back tight. As the the hamstring reach full tension, your lats are tight, upper back squeezed punch those hips at the wall infront of you as fast as possible!! Driving the 3 foot points and those floor springs down! KEEP the back tight!


Pull the bar down through the 3 tripod points as you lower into the squat. Keep the back tight, chest up and start to resist and create the same recoil through the hams and glutes. Once you hit depth BANG! Hit the wall infront of you with your hips!!

Bench Press

DO NOT let the bar fall, pull it down into you under control. Squeeze the lats and lift the chest. You want those pec muscles to tighten across the chest so all they want to do it slingshot the weight back up. When you get to the chest drive against the bar and push yourself and the bench down through the floor, glutes squeezing and feet driving HARD into the floor!

Overhead Press

Set the start position, stable, no wobbbling, 3 points sets, dip the hips back fast like you’re sitting on a HIGH bar stool that is about 2-3inches down. Explode the hips forward whilst driving against the bar and pushing that floor down!


These are your keys to improvements. Start all of these movements by first doing 5 sets of 5 of vertical bench jumps. Start on your 3 tripod points and land on the bench with both feet together and on all three points. Master this and get it consistent before you head off to your lifts. Once you’ve done this perform 5 explosive hip thrusts. Get used to the movement then increase the speed. At the top you should feel your glutes squeeze HARD!! Again all 3 tripod points on the floor. If you want to come onto your toes there is a high likelihood your posterior chain (calfs, hams, glutes etc) does very little in the lifts. Once it feels good and your glutes are popping go ahead and lift!

Click for VIDEO of Hip Thrusts.

Hip Thrusts

Use this following warm up regime, drill ALL of the techniques at EVERY lift and LIFT EVERYTHING FAST!!

Estimate what PB you intend to go for (Dont go crazy just use a weight slightly over it, if that goes, go again!)

50% x3 50%x3 FAST FAST FAST!! TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT!! 30-45secs rest

60%x2 70%x2 FAST FAST FAST!! TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT!! 60-90secs rest


75%x1 75%x1 75%x1 FAST FAST FAST!! TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT!! 90-120 secs rest.

85%x1 90%x1 95%x1 PBx1 FAST FAST FAST!! TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT!! 180secs rest!

2 minutes REST then…………

Strut around victorious….take in the applause…..

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