Home Blog Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 52

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 52

Written on January 14, 2014 at 6:31 am, by Eric Cressey

It's been a while since we published an installment of Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better, but we're back at it today, thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, who has these five tips for you:

1. With deadlift technique, take tension out of the bar one hand at a time.

In my experience the single most difficult lesson to teach a newcomer to deadlifting is how to leverage their weight against the bar. This concept goes by many names, for example: taking the slack out, pulling the tension out, etc. Whatever your cue of choice, learning how to leverage is the “ah-ha” moment for many new lifters. In the following video, I demonstrate a drill that I find very helpful. It may just need to be done in the beginning stages of learning the lift, or it might be something you use for the rest of your life. Either way, it’s definitely worth a look:

2. Use this example to teach the difference between retraction and posterior tilting of the shoulder blades.

To piggy back off the video in point 1, check out this quick video on how to differentiate between retraction, and posterior tilting of the shoulder blades, and why it’s important to learn the latter when setting up for a deadlift.

3. Mimic a good standing posture with prone bridge variations.

The prone bridge, or “plank” exercise is probably the most popular core training exercise since the sit-up. It is an absolute go-to in our programming when teaching people how to resist extension and train the anterior core properly. Unfortunately, it’s also butchered more often than not.

A truly well done prone bridge is one that mimics correct alignment in a good standing posture. It is NOT just a position sans any low back extension. Let’s take a look at what I mean.

First, you need to position the shoulder blades correctly. Too often, people will excessively protract the scaps and embrace a more rounded over upper back position, seen here:

IMG_9444

Instead, slightly tilt the shoulder blades back, and place them in a position more like the one seen here:

IMG_9447

Next, do not allow excessive flexion of the spine from top to bottom:

IMG_9446

In this last picture, we are allowing the person to completely dominate the movement with the rectus abdominis and are not promoting proper recruitment from the internal and external obliques or the transverse abdominis.

To bring this all together, here is a picture of good standing posture with 90 degrees of shoulder flexion; note the similarities to a properly executed prone bridge.

IMG_9442

4. Try out this variation of the lower trap raise.

I like this variation for a few reasons:

  • It allows some of the more extended populations to stay in a better spinal positioning.
  • It promotes proper positioning of the shoulder blades in a back squat or overhead squat exercise.
  • It takes away some of the resistance gravity places on us in a prone positioning.
  • It helps develop a proper squat pattern and bottom position
  • It’s efficient, allowing people to train multiple aspects of good movement at the same time.
  • For more advanced populations you can get rid of the wall, and do it in a freestanding deep squat position.

5. Remember that not everything needs to be “difficult.”

Throughout a strength-training program, you will have exercises that are meant to be loaded up to their limit, and others that are there purely to practice a position or motor control pattern. As a client or athlete becomes more advanced, certain exercises will become less challenging. This doesn’t mean that you need to continually find ways to make a movement harder and harder. Too often, when we do so, we take away from the integrity of the movement.

Sure, you can load up your basic deadlift, squat, and lunge patterns until the cows come home, but exercises like the rollout, prone bridge, or side plank will eventually reach a limit in ways that you can productively make them “harder.” This by no means renders them useless, though. In fact, by loading them excessively, or adding an infinite amount of bells and whistles to them, you will mostly find ways to compensate and stray further from their intention. As they become easier to complete, it just changes their purpose from one of teaching the body, to one of reminding the body how to recruit properly.

Some exercises do have a ceiling, and once it’s reached, you don’t need to try and blast through it. Let them serve their purpose, and let the big movements account for your substantial progressions.

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  • Greg
    Really like the drills on the advantage of scapular tilting

    Your #5 really resonated with me–the advantages of keeping some of the drills for movement control vs making them harder and inviting less movement control

  • ed

    Nice way to start the new year guys.appreciate the work and knowledge.keep up the great work

  • AWESOME!I find these videos VERY useful. As much as I don’t train heavy lifters or super-duper athletes, this info is great for self and to expand my grey matter. I’m very visual, so seeing and reading what you’re talking about blows my hair back. Tx! 😉

  • Greg,

    Especially like the wall squat to overhead Y. Too many inexperienced athletes would compensate with lumbar hyperextention to get the perceived shoulder flexion, but the wall sit effectively locks in their pelvis and helps reduce this problem. Good stuff.

    -SG

  • Jake

    Real quick inquiry. As for point #2 – Aren’t the muscles responsible for retraction and posterior tilt of the scapula the same? Secondly, I thought posterior tilt doesn’t truly occur until full elevation of the humerus?

  • Jake,

    Not entirely….for instance, rhomboids don’t really posteriorly tilt the scap during retraction. They actually drive some downward rotation.

    Posterior tilt can occur independent of humeral elevation, especially if we’re talking about someone who is posteriorly tilting back to neutral from a position of anterior tilt.

  • Adam

    EC,

    In regards to the “plank”, I will cue my clients with “tuck your ribs in” when I see excessive lower back extension to correct this. After reading Step 3, I was wondering if this might be causing them to now have the rectus abdominis dominate the exercise. I’d like your feedback. Thanks.


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