Compound Movement Form

Learning the main compound lifts is a worthy goal. 


Though it may look simple enough, squatting, deadlifting, and pressing with proper technique is often easier said than done.


With that in mind, we’ve put together this post to outline the most crucial form tips to keep in mind as you do the four barbell lifts.


Let’s dive into it.




An essential squat tip to keep in mind is to squat as low as your mobility allows. Don’t fall for best practices or rules. Instead, listen to your body and only go as low as you can while being stable and secure. You can work on your depth by doing mobility and flexibility work. Squatting itself is about setting your ego aside and doing what you can safely.


The second squat tip is a helpful mental cue that can make it easier to squat with good technique. Specifically, as you squat, imagine that you’re trying to sit inside an invisible chair. This cue allows you to maintain consistent technique from rep to rep and reinforces heel stability. You might also place a box or actual chair behind you and tap it with your butt on each repetition.




Before lifting the barbell off the floor, pull the slack first. Meaning, as you’re setting yourself up for the pull, drive your shins into the barbell as you set your hips in the correct position. This will pull the slack off the barbell and put you in a solid and stable position for the deadlift.


The second tip to keep in mind as you deadlift is to use leg drive instead of just lifting with your back. A neat way to achieve this is to dig your heels into the floor. As you’re about to pull, imagine that you’re trying to push the floor away. Though a bit gimmicky, research shows that your quads play a role in the deadlift (1). This cue can help you better engage your strong quadriceps and glutes, resulting in a better and safer deadlift.


Bench Press


Using leg drive can make a huge difference in the bench press, so you should take advantage of it. As you lie down and grab the barbell, dig your feet into the floor. That way, as you press the balls of your feet into the floor, you will tense up your body and drive force into the barbell, allowing you to push more weight.


Another essential thing to keep in mind for the bench press is to keep your shoulders back and down. This will produce a natural arch in your lower back, keep your shoulders in a safe position, and place your chest in a better mechanical position to produce force.


Overhead Press


One of the most important things you need to keep in mind for the overhead press is to lift the barbell in a straight line. This makes sense, but far too many people make the mistake of pressing the barbell forward and up, which creates an arc pattern and makes the exercise unnecessarily more challenging.


A straight line is the shortest path between two points, so the weight needs to travel straight up and down. If you’re doing a barbell press, the best way to achieve this is to set up correctly:

  • Walk up to the barbell and grab it with an even overhand grip
  • Bring your shoulders back and chest out
  • Tuck your body under the bar
  • Engage your abs
  • Unrack the bar


Doing this will place you in a good position for pressing. Plus, keeping your elbows close to your body allows you to stay strong and efficient. From here, you only have to press the barbell up and bring your chin back to clear room. As the barbell travels above your head, bring your head forward, so it rests directly under the bar.