Last week I discussed the first four coaching cues that you can use to not only take your athleticism and lifting game to new heights, but to also remain healthy and durable to tackle the things that everyday life throws at you. Here is part 2 of that same series, looking at cues 5-7.
5. Bend/Break the Bar
This cue is one of my all-time favourites because a) it has helped improve my strength numbers drastically, b) it provides an “aha!” moment to my members and athletes that they can feel instantly, c) it applies to a variety of movements, and d) it saves the shoulders and low back. A lot of individuals try to rely on the strength of their lower body solely when performing various exercises. Back-loaded exercises, deadlifts, reverse sled drags etc. In order to remain healthy and get stronger month in and month out, it’s important to understand the concept of full-body tension. Anytime a barbell is in your hand, think about trying to “bend the bar” in order to engage your lats and disperse the weight appropriately. The same cue can be used for a variety of sled exercises, including reverse sled drags. Think about bending the handle in order to prevent your shoulder from flying out of it’s socket or to prevent your back from bending like a mini-stick over the stove.
Picture: Relaxing and resting your arms across the bar during any back loaded movements is a) lazy, b) a fast-track to injury, and c) doesn’t provide full body tension or disperse the weight across your lats. Think about ‘bending/breaking the bar’ over your upper traps.
Picture: You might be able to get away with poor technique with lighter weights, but incorporating exercises like heavy deadlifts or pause deadlifts will crumple you if you don’t utilize your grip and lat strength. Think about ‘bending/breaking the bar’ over your shins.
6. Balance a glass of water on your head
This is another universal cue that can be used for literally a million different exercises. Any carrying variation, lunge variation, upper body push/pull, beach Friday workouts etc. The last thing you want with any of these is for the weight to control you. The goal with any exercise (in my personal opinion) is for the movement to occur about a stable torso. That means that with a lunge variation, the hip/knee/ankle are moving about a stable pelvis and tall torso. With a pressing variation, the scapula/humerus/elbow are moving about a stable pelvis and tall torso. With Suns Out Guns Out curls and tricep extensions, the elbow is flexing and extending about a stable pelvis and tall torso. In cue #4 of last week’s introduction series, I discussed chest up, then exhale (for perfect posture). This position is the end goal of every single exercise you perform in the gym. Think about staying tall and balancing a glass of water on your head.
7. Follow your hand/elbow with your eyes
I’ve come to the realization that when it comes to mobility and activation work, a lot of people are just down right lazy. They either breeze through it (or skip it all together), or perform the drills with minimal effort. Specifically with thoracic extension and rotation drills that occur while lying on the ground or resting on your hands and knees, people use it as an opportunity to get a few extra minutes of shut-eye. If you truly want to remain healthy (and get stronger) put some honest effort into your mobility work. Instead of cranking your shoulder back, think of ‘following your hand with your eyes’ as you try to extend or rotate your upper back. This allows us to achieve true thoracic mobility without sacrificing (or encouraging) poor cervical movement patterns.
Picture: Breezing through the motions (left) vs. honest effort mobility work (right).
Stay tuned for part 3 of the series, which will look at cues 8-10.
As always, Train Smart and Hard.