The single most common cue you will hear from any lifting coach is "chest up"
I'm surprised that no enterprising DJ has created a gym training playlist with samples of various well known coaches shouting those two words at intervals through the list.
Yesterday as I was training in the Dungannon Leisure Centre Gym,
I even took a mirror selfie to prove it:
There were a couple of lads using the rack next mine.
They were back squatting.
They were doing their best, but it just wasn't good enough. If they'd have tried to put anymore weight on the bar they'd be pulling the tigers tail and letting the chest drop and lifting with a round spine.
This google images image that I googled shows a fair likeness:
This is as common as could be.
And while I am delighted that public gyms now have barbells and squat racks, and that people are understanding the benefits of the squat and deadlift.
We also need to understand that no lift is sacred and that there's a time and a place for every exercise.
For the average deconditioned adult new to lifting, the time is not yet.
When I'd cued the lads next to to put more weight in their heels things improved.
When I cued chest up, we started to struggle.
He said to me, "I always struggle keeping the chest up, even on the bench press"
Now in a bench press, you can get away with it, for a time.
But a squat or a deadlift, they'll bite you and bite you hard.
So what should we do about it?
First, we need to feel the position and feel the muscles that help us gain and maintain the position.
This is our back and the entirety of the abdominal/core region.
Check out this picture the guys from Hookgrip.com took of me showing the back in action during a squat (yeah, ok, it's not me, it's a Chinese Olympic lifter)
Now, those muscles can't operate optimally unless we can get the bones in the right place, and that means moving those joints around.
When you move a joint, the muscles are stimulated whether you like it or not.
And the single greatest exercise for achieving this and learning to move all the joints in the torso comes from my teacher Gary Ward and his Anatomy in Motion thinking.
We call this (saggital) cogs:
Here's an alternative version:
Notice that in both versions we concentrate on turning the hands and simply allow all other motion to happen/not happen. It's not uncommon for people in my gym to do the prone version for weeks before the upper back starts to allow the scaps to move, and then for them to lift! If this is the case, the standing version is often better to get the prestretch of the internal rotation (chest sunk) that "springs" the scaps backwards
This will take the spine and Scapula through a near full range of motion in the saggital or front to back plane.
Doing this will help wake up the muscles you need to get the chest up and help you feel the joint positions we are looking for.
Then we train to strengthen those positions.
- Horizontal Rows
- Goblet Squats - Push Ups
- half get ups
- Kettlebell Deadlift /Swing
all build the elements that will allow you get under a bar safely.
I suppose deadbugs and hanging should also get an honourable mention here.
All this leads me to a lovely wee sales pitch for a program that is designed specifically around developing the foundation for bigger things.
It's the 12 Week Kettlebell Sport Program, of which he first six weeks are built around the exercises I've just listed, the second 12 weeks transfers you towards Kettlebell Jerk and Snatch training if that is what you wish, or you can jump into a barbell program instead. Either way, you will have built a solid foundation with which to springboard you into any training plan of your choice:
Even if you don't follow the above program, you now have the tools at your disposal to train in a safer manner that will see you make long term progress. Poor lifting technique, either through lack of knowledge/experience or poor exercise choice for your individual set up is a fast track to injury.
Build the foundation. And if you are struggling, if you aren't sure. Ask someone who has the knowledge and experience to help you.
And if you're a true Wild Geese, you know we hove our own signature cue that we use for "chest up" If you know it, say it in the comments......