Today, I’m sharing tips for maintaining proper form in the deadlift, squat and split squat—three of the most popular exercises. If you’re struggling or experiencing pain during any of these exercises, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your form.



Deadlifts are a very good exercise for developing lower body and total body strength. Whether you’re performing traditional deadlifts, sumo deadlifts or deadlifts with a trap bar, there’s a few key components to maintaining proper form throughout the lift.


First, when gripping the bar try to engage the latissimus dorsi (lats) before lifting the bar. By engaging the Lats we are helping to keep the integrity of a neutral spine throughout the lift.  Rounding the back is NOT something we want to occur during any variation of the deadlift. Furthermore, when performing a Sumo Deadlift make sure to have the feet wider than shoulder width apart with feet point slightly out. The smooth notches on an Olympic Bar can be used as a marker to help with setting the feet. Allow your arms to hang down naturally towards the bar and that is your grip width in a Sumo Deadlift.


To help with the deadlift, you’ll need to strengthen your posterior core. Don’t hammer out 200 crunches a night and expect it to help with the deadlift. Deadlifts are a very posterior lift in relation to the muscles being used. Therefore, the back is at risk for injury. Try to focus on strengthening the posterior muscles of the core, that way when under the bar on a deadlift, the body has the strength to better prevent injury. The erector spinae, glutes, latissimus dorsi and trapezius are a few core muscles that can be worked on to help maintain a neutral spine in the deadlift.


Lastly, if you’re someone who struggles with a traditional deadlift, try the sumo deadlift or trap bar deadlift. If you think about picking up something heavy from the floor, spread your feet out wide to lift the object. This same movement occurs with a Sumo Deadlift. This exercise is a great way to lift heavy in a safer and more relatable way.



Squats are another exercise where maintaining proper form is incredibly important. One of the biggest aspects of the squat that we need to watch are the knees. While performing the squat, we want to make sure our knees are apart, in line with our toes and not caving inward. If the knees are caving inward it’s a sign of weak glutes and weak hip strength.


Outside of working on the hip and glute strength, next time you go to squat place a band above your knees. The band is going to try and pull the knees inward throughout the squat pattern; don’t allow it to do so. By placing the band above the knees, it is giving us a cue to activate our glutes while we squat. This will allow you to move through the squat pattern and actually use and engage the glutes.


The band above the knees can also be used if you ever feel pain in the knees while squatting.  The band, like mentioned above, will force us into external rotation of the hip by engaging the glutes, which should help alleviate the pain in the knees.


Lastly, during a squat, try to keep your core tight and push through the heel of the foot. Keeping the core tight will help to maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift. Our strength comes through our heel, not our toes, when pushing through the ground to stand up.


Split Squat/Static Lunge

Similar to the squat, many individuals may feel some pain in the lead knee while performing a split squat or static lunge. Just like placing the band above the knees on the squat, we can perform this same cue to turn on the glutes and relieve the pain in the lunge. If you feel pain in the lead knee, place a band above that knee only and either attach the opposite end to a bar or rack, or have partner slightly pull the knee inward. The slight pull will make the glute activate and externally rotate at the hip to help relieve the pain in the knee. Remember the band should only be tight enough to feel tension. Also, don’t forget to push through the heel of the lead foot.


Everyone has heard the phrase, “no pain no gain”.  Well that pain may be your body’s way of saying, “there’s something wrong” or “there is a weakness and we need to work on it”.  Listen to your body and make sure you are maintaining proper form through every exercise to maximize the benefits you are working hard to achieve. At FAST, we offer one-on-one personal training sessions to help our clients safely achieve their goals. Contact us today to set up a free fitness assessment.

The warmer temps are here, which means tank tops and pool parties. If you’re wanting strong, toned arms for summertime, add these exercises to your routine.


TRX Tricep Press

If you want to tone the back of the arms (triceps) give these a shot. They will not only work the core by stabilizing yourself, but they will, without a doubt, isolate the triceps. You’ll feel it!

– Brandon Wood, FAST Litchfield Park



A great way to train arms and get them ready for summer time is to choose a bicep exercise and triceps exercise and complete them together as a superset. Working both sides of the arms back-to-back, with minimal rest can really ramp up that toning effect we all like. Add in a few extra sets for more volume and take your arms to the next level this summer!

– Greg Stein, FAST North Scottsdale


Zotomon Curl

Choosing an exercise that hits multiple areas at once is a great way to help make yourself look great in a tank top. A great one for the biceps is the Zotomon curl.  You start by curling the dumbbells up and then at the top pronate your hands so that your palms are facing down towards the ground.

– Wade Haras, FAST Old Town Scottsdale


Train for Hypertrophy

Make sure you’re using a weight that you can maintain good form with but pushes you to complete 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps. Be sure to stay balanced with both push and pull exercises.

What not to do: Too many people want bigger chest and arms and focus only on utilizing the Bench Press/Chest Flies exercises. While this is great for building pectoral muscles, it causes forward rotation/slouch of the shoulders causing an illusion of being smaller. Make sure to work in pulling exercises (rows) to work the upper back and help draw the shoulder back. This will help give the look of a bigger chest and broader shoulders as you’ll stand up tall with proper posture.

– Kyle Schneider, FAST Ahwatukee


Tri’s for the Guys

The triceps muscle group makes up roughly 70% of your upper arm musculature, emphasizing this group will help make those arms pop. I like to incorporate “Monster Sets” of a heavy Bench Pressing motion of 5-8 reps, coupled with Rope Pressdowns for 15-20 reps, then drop and crank out as many push-ups as you can. Repeat for 3-4 rounds and feel those triceps burn!

– Jeff Placencia, FAST South Gilbert


Mix it Up

Focus on trying to get stronger with the compound upper body exercises such as bench press, shoulder press, push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups and all the rowing variations. If you have time after those exercises do some isolation work. Isolation work will be exercises such as bicep curls and tricep extensions. There are lots of variations of these exercises and it’s best to mix it up every 3-4 weeks. We’ll typically do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps of the compound exercises and 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of the isolation exercises.

– Travis Cummings, FAST South Chandler


There you have it—six tips from our FAST facility managers. And if you need a bit more inspiration or someone to hold you accountable, schedule a FREE fitness assessment today!

Wading through all the information on what workout is best for you, how many days of the week you should work out or even making a decision on the right shoes can be overwhelming. We get it, and often times, these decisions paralyze people from simply starting a workout routine.  Today, four of our FAST facility managers are sharing advice that they give to their clients that are starting out on their fitness journey.


Wade Haras, facility manager at FAST Old Town Scottsdale

Look for small wins at each session. Assess how you feel in the beginning instead of how your performance is. Small wins may include making it through a full hour or showing up for the next workout.


Kyle Schneider, facility manager at FAST Ahwatukee

Don’t focus on the number on the scale. There are much better indicators of fitness level than weight. Focus on how you feel, what your body fat percentage is, heart rate, or how many reps/how much weight you can lift.


Greg Stein, facility manager at FAST North Scottsdale

Consistency is key and king. You cannot make physiological adaptions in your body by being spotty and missing training sessions or eating unhealthy. Lay the foundation for your fitness journey by being consistent and commit to the process.


Brandon Wood, facility manager at FAST Litchfield Park

One piece of advice I give in addition to making the workouts a constant part of your daily or weekly habit is to keep clean eating habits and get enough sleep every night. A clean diet and getting good sleep will only increase the benefits they receive from working out.


Ready to start your fitness journey? Or team of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists are here to help you jumpstart your workout routine and create a one-on-one program that will help you reach your goals. Contact us today to set up a FREE fitness assessment.

The FAST Trainer of the Month is designed to help you get to know the trainers and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists at FAST. This month, we’re highlighting FAST Tempe facility manager, Jonathan Castillo. Read the Q&A to learn more about Jonathan and his passion for helping others.

What’s your background?

I graduated from Malone University in Canton, Ohio and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. My credentials include being a Performance Enhancement Specialist which allows me to work with athletes of various disciplines. Moreover, the following are certifications I have received throughout my experience as a fitness professional: USAW, CF-L1, ACSM-CPT.

Why inspired you to embark on the fitness journey with your career?

Similar to many athletes, my journey in fitness began by being involved in athletics all my life. I started playing football at a very young age of 8 years old, and my passion for being active and improving the body’s physical performance has never changed. My role allows me to tangibly put that passion in effect by helping others, and in turn, people see the value in their fitness and want to live a healthier, active lifestyle.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give anyone interested in becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist?

Being a strength coach is much more than just being a trainer. It’s relational, and if you love people and love inspiring them through hard work, then it’s the platform for you.

What’s your favorite workout style?

I’m a fan of many styles of training, but Olympic weightlifting is my favorite. It’s a beautiful combination of strength, power, flexibility, mobility and stability. Being good at weightlifting makes for a physically able and well-rounded human being. You’ll see me weightlifting well into my old age!
What’s your favorite song to listen to when working out?

I appreciate all genres of music, especially the ones that pump you up, but the right music for me is the kind that puts you in the right state of mind. Usually gospel or Island reggae does it for me.

What’s your favorite thing to eat after a workout?

SUSHI!  Although not always available, in a perfect world, sushi would be my post-workout meal every day. Second place would be good-ol’ chicken and rice, Romanian style.

What’s one food that you can’t live without?

Enchiladas. They’re just too good to pass up.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Happiness is temporary, but joy is everlasting. Do what truly brings you profound joy.

What motivates you?

Seeing people prosper on a daily basis and having a role in that.

Does training with Jonathan seem like something you’d enjoy? Contact the Tempe team today to book a session with him.

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).