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Weightlifting may look easy compared to sports like golf, soccer, or gymnastics, but it’s far more technical than most people realize.
For example, properly performing a barbell back squat requires balance, coordination, and strength in a variety of muscle groups. Even the humdrum bench press and deadlift demand meticulous timing and muscular control.
Your weightlifting technique also has a major impact on your long-term fitness results.
In a way, learning proper weightlifting technique is like mastering the fundamentals of personal finance.
“Invest” early by taking the time to hone good weightlifting technique, and that time and effort will pay dividends for the rest of your weightlifting journey.
So, what’s the best way to learn weightlifting technique?
Well, it’s not what most people do, which is aping others in the gym. The fact is that most people who lift weights don’t use good technique, and if you try to mimic what they’re doing, you’ll end up making the same mistakes.
Instead, a better approach is to use what are known as weightlifting cues to learn and improve your technique.
Essentially, a weightlifting cue is just a simple reminder that helps you focus on a particular aspect of your weightlifting technique. For example, the cue “spread the floor with your feet,” is a helpful cue for remembering to keep your knees from caving in while squatting (you’ll learn more about this cue in a moment).
Cues like this may seem obvious, trivial, or boring, but when used properly they can immediately boost your strength, fix seemingly intractable problems with your technique, and significantly reduce your risk of injury.
The bottom line is weightlifting cues are one of the “hacks” you can use to quickly master new exercises and maintain proper technique on ones you’ve already learned.
So, if you want to learn new exercises quickly, get stronger, and reduce your risk of injury, keep listening.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at a weightlifting cue actually is.
6:36 – What is a weightlifting cue?
13:49 – What are effective cues for the bench press?
20:15 – What are effective cues for the squat?
28:02 – What are effective cues for the deadlift?
Mentioned on The Show:
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I’m Mike Matthews and thank you for taking some time outta your day to let me teach you another component, another facet of the art and science of getting more jacked. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking about weight lifting. Cues. What are weightlifting cues?
These are just simple reminders, usually in the form of phrases that direct your attention to a certain aspect of your technique On an exercise, and I know that sounds vague, but as we get into. Everything I have to share with you, I think you’re going to really enjoy the discussion and find it very practical because while weightlifting may look easy compared to sports that look difficult and that are difficult, like baseball, like hitting a fastball, for example, extremely difficult.
Golf, the golf swing, very hard to learn soccer, gymnastics, and so forth. Weightlifting though is more technical than most people realize. For example, the barbell back squat requires quite a bit of balance, coordination and strength in several large muscle groups in the body. And it requires that they all work together, especially when the loads get heavy.
And as you get deeper into sets and fatigue starts to set in, even something like the bench press actually does demand. Timing and muscular control at a pretty athletic level, if you’re going to get strong on the bench, if you’re gonna get good at it. And so your ability to execute these movements, your technique and your ability to maintain proper technique, especially when the weights get heavy and when you get deeper into sets, it really matters and it matters, especially.
As you become an intermediate and then eventually an advanced weightlifter in the beginning when your body’s hyperresponsive to training, your technique can be pretty sloppy and you can still do quite well. You can gain quite a bit of strength, quite a bit of muscle without risking injury because the weights aren’t very heavy yet.
But once your knee gains are behind you, it gets a lot harder to gain muscle and strength and you have to start working a lot harder for it. And one of the big components of that is intensity. So the weights are gonna be going up. Your one rep max is gonna be going up. And so if you’re gonna be using adequately heavy weights, then you’re gonna start putting some real weight on the bar.
And volume needs to go up. You need to be doing more high quality work in the gym. And so when that’s the case, Again, your technique and your ability to continue executing properly in each set and coming down to each rep of each set compounded over time really can make the difference between good progress as an intermediate to advanced weightlifter and not so good progress and weightlifting cues.
Are going to help you do that. They’re going to help you maintain good form by giving you simple reminders that you can focus on when you’re doing exercises. For example, the cue to spread the floor with your feet is very helpful when you’re squatting to prevent your knees from caving in, which we’ve all experienced, especially when you get deep into a.
And maybe you’re getting down to your last rep or two and you’re really just trying to stand up. You’re not able now to focus on much more than, I just don’t want to have to sit this weight down on the bar and then you feel your knees start to cave. And if you don’t have a quick fix, you can go to, It can be hard to correct that on the fly.
While you’re also trying to make sure that your hips and your shoulders are rising at the same rate, and you’re also trying to make sure that your spine stays in a neutral position and so forth. And so I guess you could say weightlifting cues are like little hacks. Actually, I’m reluctant to use that term because I make fun of it fairly often, like biohacking for example.
That entire space is mostly. Just a joke, but weightlifting cues are basically weightlifting hacks because they are simple little changes you can make to your workouts that can have appreciable results, that really can make a difference in the quality of your training. And the more you improve the quality of each rep, of each set of each workout, the better your results.
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We are getting fitter, leaner, and stronger. Paint by numbers simply by carefully managing every aspect of your training and your diet for you. Basically, we take out all of the guesswork, so all you have to do is follow the plan and watch your body change day after day, week after week and month after month.
What’s more, we’ve. That people are often missing just one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle, and I’d bet a shiny shackle, it’s the same with you. You’re probably doing a lot of things right, but dollars to donuts, there’s something you’re not doing correctly or at all that’s giving you the most grief.
Maybe it’s your calories or your macros. Maybe it’s your exercise. Select. Maybe it’s your food choices. Maybe you’re not progressively overloading your muscles, or maybe it’s something else, and whatever it is, here’s what’s important. Once you identify those one or two things you’re missing, once you figure it out, that’s when everything finally clicks.
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All right, here we go. Let’s start with a quick recap of what a weightlifting queue is. I mentioned this in the intro, but you might not have listened to the intro. And so a weightlifting queue is just a simple reminder. It’s usually a phrase that directs your attention to a particular
of your technique on an exercise that you’re doing an important aspect, and cues are most helpful when you’ve already learned.
The fundamentals of an exercise and you’ve practiced it a bit and you understand in your mind what you’re supposed to do, and you have done it correctly many times and you just need some help further ingraining proper technique. And again, especially when the weights are heavy and when you’re deeper into sets, when your form is most likely to.
Down. So cues are best for correcting little mistakes or just improving specific aspects of your technique. They’re not the place to start, though. For somebody who is brand new to weightlifting and who’s about to squat for the first time and has no idea what to do, that person needs a lot more in the way of.
Detail and pictures and videos or best in person guidance from a coach to show them how everything is supposed to work together to execute the squad or the bench press or deadlift press or whatever correctly. So just keep that in mind if you’re brand new to lifting. The cues I’m gonna be sharing in this podcast may not be helpful if you.
Just starting out and have no idea how to do some of these exercises that I’m gonna be talking about. For those of you who are experienced at least have a little bit of experience under your belt, then I think you’re gonna find these very helpful. For example, just to give you another example, I shared an example of a queue in the intro, but you might not have listened to it.
So another example. Let’s talk about the bench press, right? So in the bench press, if you have a tendency to relax your upper back halfway through your sets, many people do that. That’s not ideal. You wanna maintain muscle tension and a good cue for correcting that would be to break the bar in half, and that’s what you are envisioning.
If only we could do that, right? So you are trying to bend the bar as if you can break it in half and even pull it apart a little bit. And if you do that, it helps maintain tension in your upper back. It helps fix that form flaw or just improve your form a little bit. Maybe you don’t slack your upper back noticeably, but you’re not also maintaining enough tension to get maximal performance.
That queue might be able to help you and. Some cues even improve multiple aspects of your technique at the same time, and that’s great. A good example of that is when you are squatting to keep your chest up. That’s the cue. Keep your chest up because if you can do that, It’ll help you keep your lower back from rounding.
So it’s gonna help keep your lower back in a neutral position, and it’s gonna help keep the bar locked in its proper position on your shoulders. It’s gonna prevent it from shifting down or up, which you don’t want either of those things. You want it locked into that shelf that you create when you are squeezing.
Upper back muscles together. Another example is in the case of the bench press, if you screw your feet into the floor, that’s the cue. It will remind you to maintain tension in your lower body, which makes it easier to maintain tension in your upper body, and even lets you transfer a little bit of power from your lower body into your upper body and get a little bit more performance on the bench.
Let’s give another example. Let’s talk about the deadlift. A good cue for the deadlift is to put your shoulder blades in your back pockets and keep ’em there is the idea, right? Because what that does is it reminds you to keep your back in its straight neutral position as you stand up with. The bar and also as you’re lowering it, but it’s particularly effective for when you are ascending.
Now, as far as incorporating the queues I’m gonna be sharing with you in this podcast, I recommend that you just pick one at a time. Just pick one and focus on it. And I would say focus on it until it becomes ingrained, until it becomes automatic, until you build that muscle memory where you don’t have to consciously focus on it to do it right.
So for example, if you’re doing. Lower body workout, you could focus on spreading the floor with your feet on every rep of the back squat because that’s gonna help prevent your knees from folding inward when you’re standing up, especially when you’re getting deeper into a set and it’s getting pretty hard.
And then once that becomes second nature, it might take a couple of workouts there, might take some reps to build that muscle memory, but there will, you will reach a point where you now just naturally. Your knees out in line with your toes. Even when you’re deep into a set, even when it’s really hard, you’re grinding out your last rep, let’s say.
When I say grinding out, not that I want you to be taking sets to the point where you’re like barely finishing one rep. That would be one rep shy of absolute failure, right? So I would end one rep. Shy of technical failure is what I generally recommend. One to two reps shy of technical failure, which is the point where your form starts.
Down, and so you can hit some grinders, like your last rep may be a grinder, but you maintained proper form. Therefore, that’s in line with what I recommend because at that point, if you’re grinding out a rep and it’s with good form, then chances are your next rep is gonna be sloppy, right?
So that would be one rep shy of technical failure, but back to the queue. So if you get to that point where you’re training. And you are no longer bow your knees in whatsoever, then you can work on a new queue. Now you can focus on keeping your chest up if that is relevant to you. So if that’s something that you struggle with, for example, if you struggle with.
Keeping the bar in its position, or if you struggle with keeping your lower back in that neutral position, if it tends to round as you get deeper into set, then keep your chest up. Might be the next queue that you work on, and then you can just repeat this process until you really have your form dialed in.
And where it’s resilient, where your form doesn’t quickly crumble when the weights get heavy and the sets get hard, and there are many different cues out there for exercises. You can find many more than what I’m gonna share with you here online, and you can probably come up with some of your own, and that’s great.
I would encourage that if you like the cues that I’m gonna share with you here, and if you find them helpful, you certainly can go looking for others or come up with your own, because chances are some of the cues I’m gonna share with you are. For you, and some of them may not work well for you. You might find that another one actually accomplishes the intended effect better.
Now, the ones that I’m going to share also generally are the most popular ones that seem to generally work the best, but there certainly are people who have found that a common cue for correcting or improving a certain aspect of technique on an exercise. Didn’t really click for them. For them, something else was more effective.
Okay. Let’s get started. Let’s talk about the bench press first. Effective cues for the bench press. So let’s start with some points related to the technique of proper bench pressing. So in a good bench press, the shoulder blades are pulled back and down, and you never lose that tension during any part of the movement, whether it’s the descent or the ascent.
The elbows stay about a foot away from the torso or so, and they’re not too flared out to the sides or too close into the torso. The wrists are slightly flexed but not folded over backwards, like towards your head. You have a gentle arch in the lower back, nothing extreme, and you’d also don’t want your lower back to be flat on the bench.
The butt is to stay firmly on the bench during every rep if it’s your last. Rep in your last hard set. Okay, we’ll give it to you, but for the most part, your butt should be on the bench and the feet should be about shoulder width apart and remain firmly in place during every rep. You don’t wanna be wiggling your feet around rep to rep.
Now the biggest bench press mistakes out there are basically the. Opposites of some of the things that I just mentioned. So letting your shoulder blades slide out of position, that’s a common mistake. Or flaring the elbows out to the side, especially on the way up. And when it’s deep into a set and it’s starting to get hard, right?
That’s very common. Or doing the opposite. Tucking the elbows in really tight against the torso, right up against where your biceps are, right up against your chest, letting the wrists bend. Too far. That’s a common mistake. Either not arching the lower back at all or arching it so much that your butt is now coming off the bench and you’re almost in like a bridge type of position, and then moving your feet or even rising up on your tippy toes.
Those would be considered. Improper form for the bench press. And the problem with that is it’s a lot to try to keep in mind, right? That’s five different points that you’re trying to remember when you are also trying to lift a bunch of weight and focus on just powering through. And this is where cues can come in because the cues I’m gonna share with you.
Can just help you keep those points and others in without having to try to run through a checklist in your head while you are benching. If you can do these cues correctly, then your form will mostly just fall into place. So let’s start with the first one, which is something I mentioned already. Break the bar in half.
So what you wanna do here is really just think about squeezing the bar as hard as you can, as if you are trying. Bend it in half. So it’s not just gripping it, of course you’re gripping it hard, but you’re trying to bend it in half. And the goal here, when you’re doing this correctly, when you have a lot of tension in your upper body, and when your shoulder blades remain pulled back and down, And because that then stabilizes your entire torso.
And if you don’t do that, if you let your shoulder blades slide out of position, you are going to lose a lot of power on the bench. And this queue works for all kinds of bench press variations, by the way. So it works For the close grip bench, press, the, obviously the regular. The wide grip if you do that variation as well as the reverse grip.
Okay, let’s move on to the next queue here, which is to screw your feet into the floor. So what you wanna do here is you wanna think about pushing your feet into the ground and then twisting them out to the side at the same time as if you’re trying to screw them into the ground. Now, the reason why this is helpful is it forces you to maintain lower.
Body tension. And of course your upper body is doing most of the work in the bench press, but your lower body is helping stabilize your upper body or not, depending on mostly on tension level. So if you can maintain. Lower body tightness, it’s gonna help stabilize your upper body, and that’s gonna help you maintain proper balance, and it’s going to help you better execute the rest of the exercise.
And ultimately, that means that you’re gonna be able to push more weight and probably get more reps per set, which of course, over time just means better progress. This queue is also great because it works whether you like to position your feet flat on the floor or stay up on your tippy toes, which I wouldn’t recommend, but some people.
Like it, and they do it anyway. I am a feet flat on the floor kind of dude, and so my feet are flat on the floor, and then as I’m pressing, I’m trying to drill them or screw them into the ground. I even like to focus on my toes in particular. I’m turning my knees out, I’m turning my toes out. Of course, my toes are not moving, but I’m trying to create that torque against the ground.
And when you do it right, what you’ll feel is. Thighs and your glutes and your lower back all get tight. That’s when you know you’re doing it correctly. Okay, here’s the next one. This one sounds funny. It is. Don’t crack the egg. So what you wanna do here is you want to imagine that there is an egg resting on your sternum when you’re bench pressing and on your breast bone, and you wanna think about lowering the bar.
Touches the egg without breaking it before you drive the bar upward. So the goal here is to remind yourself not to lower the bar too quickly and to not bounce it off your chest, which not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise, but can also increase the risk of injury, and especially when the weights get heavy.
Now you don’t have to try to be so gentle that you literally wouldn’t crack an egg if there were an. On your sternum, and just because maybe you would crack the egg, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing it wrong. If you are bouncing the bar off of your chest, yes, you’re doing it wrong. But if you are touching the bar to your chest and maybe that was hard enough to crack an egg, that’s fine.
And if you are lowering the bar, slowly that it takes you, let’s say three, four seconds to reach your chest and you’re really trying to make sure you don’t crack that egg. That also would be wrong. You don’t wanna do super slow training, so just keep that in mind. This is a cue to remind you to control the speed at which you’re lowering the bar.
It reminds you to not lower it as slowly and gently as possible and to not just drop it to your chest. Okay, so that’s it for the bench press queues. Those are the ones that I have found most helpful. And let’s move on to the squat, which is one of the most difficult exercises to do correctly, and therefore, queues can be very helpful when squatting.
And before we get to the queues, let’s quickly summarize what good. Form sounds or let’s picture it in our minds what it looks like. So when you are squatting correctly, the bar is moving more or less straight up and down. That’s a key point. You don’t want it to be moving in front of you or behind you.
It should be on a straight line. Your spine should remain straight and your chest should remain up during the entire movement, even as you are leaning over when you’re squatting down. So you don’t wanna be bending forward, you don’t wanna be bending backward. Your spine should remain more or less straight and neutral.
Your knees should be moving. Out toward and over your toes. You don’t want your knees collapsing inward, and of course you don’t want to be forcing them unnaturally out past your toes, but at the bottom they should be in line with your toes, maybe a little bit in front of your toes, depending on your anatomy.
You also wanna make sure that your hip. Are rising at the same rate as your shoulders. That’s a key point. A common mistake people make is they get to the bottom of the squat and then they shoot their hips up. They raise their hips while keeping their shoulders more or less in place, and then use their back like a lever to raise the barbell.
Kind of like a good morning. You don’t want to do that. Because you’re gonna be using a lot of weight on the squat as you get stronger, and the good morning is good exercise, but you don’t use nearly as much weight, So that’s an easy way to get hurt. Another important point is maintaining a strong grip on the bar throughout the whole exercise.
And your feet should stay firmly planted on the ground. You don’t wanna be rising onto your toes or leaning back on your heels. You should have a very, Base. And so then as far as mistakes go, we are really just looking at the opposites again. For example, if you let the bar drift forward or backward as you are sitting down and standing up, that is no good if you are letting your back bend.
So if you’re letting it flex, you usually see that when someone’s at the bottom of. A rep and it’s deeper into a set, and now they’re starting to stand up and their back is starting to round. Sometimes you see people doing the opposite, hyper extending their back, like really putting an arch in their back.
You don’t wanna do that. You don’t wanna let your knees cave in toward one another. You don’t want your hips to shoot up faster than your shoulders. You don’t want to relax your grip on the bar, and you don’t want to move your feet around. So let’s now get to the cues that help you avoid the mistakes and ingrain.
Proper technique. So the first one is something I’ve already mentioned. Spread the floor with your feet. So the point here is, without moving your feet, what you wanna do is you wanna think about pushing the floor apart by driving your feet into the ground and away from each other when you’re squatting.
Now, this is usually when you are ascending because that’s when the knees tend to cave in, and the goal here is to prevent that you want your knees to stay in line with your toes during the entire movement. This queue works well with any type of squat. It works well with the barbell back squad, of course, but also the front squat, the safety bar, squat, the golet, squats, and really any type of squat is going to benefit from this queue.
All right, let’s move on to the next one, which I have also mentioned, and that is to keep your chest up. This is a great queue because if you think about pushing your chest muscles up, Out and keeping your shoulders back as if you were trying to maintain like a perfect military posture. When you are squatting, you will keep your upper body in the proper position.
So if you had a logo on your shirt, for example, that’d be facing forward the entire time. That’s another common cue, and that’s what you want show your logo is what people often say. It’s more or less the same cue it’s getting to. Same point. Do you wanna imagine that the logo on your front, on the front of your shirt is visible to someone standing in front of you when you’re squatting?
And this is gonna help you prevent the mistake of letting your upper back relax. And particularly when you’re standing up, that’s when people tend to do it because they start to focus so much on their lower body and generating power in their legs again, especially when the weights are heavy. And you get deeper into a set.
I understand I’ve made this mistake myself, but the problem is once your upper body and once your back muscles start to relax, the rest of your technique is gonna fall apart. You are going to have a lot of trouble finishing that rep. But if you can maintain that tight upper body, you will perform better.
Especially as you get deeper into sets, you will be able to
probably a couple reps more without having to get any closer to technical failure just by maintaining that upper body tension. Because if you relax your upper back, then your shoulders are gonna relax and the bar’s gonna shift out of its proper position.
And then you’re gonna have to move your torso around a little bit to maintain your balance, and then your knees and your hips are out of position and it all just falls apart. So keep that chest up and you will avoid those problems. All right, here’s the next squat queue, and that is to explode out of the hole.
So what I want you to think about is driving the bar upward as quickly as you can and driving your feet into the floor as hard as you can at the same time, so exploding upward. Now, this is a little different than the other cues because this one doesn’t remind you to focus on a technical aspect of the exercise.
It’s just a good general recommendation of how to perform the exercise in an effective. Manner. And in case you are not familiar, the hole is the bottom most position of the squad. It’s the bottom of the squad. It’s when you have reached depth. It’s when your upper legs are parallel with the ground or even a little bit lower than that, and you’re about to stand up.
And the most difficult part of the squat is when your hips are about six to 12 inches higher than when they are in the hole. So that first six to 12 inches when you’re standing. Are the most difficult inches of the entire movement. That’s the sticking point, which is how most people are referring to the most difficult part of not just the squat, but any exercise.
And this is when form tends to break down because it is so hard. If you can get. Past that, half of a foot or so, chances are you’re gonna finish the rep. But if you slow down too much through that sticking point, you might miss it. For example, that sticking point, that range is where many people start to let their knees cave in because they’re trying to generate a little bit more power, trying to keep that bar moving, or they allow their upper body to relax because they’re.
Paying attention and it’s getting really hard. And again, they’re just focusing on their lower body or maybe the bar tilts to one side and so forth. And you can reduce the chances of any of those things happening by just getting out of the hole and standing up as quickly as you can. Generating as much force as you can, as quickly as you can.
To explode through that first six or 12 inches. The idea is to build momentum as you start standing up, which then gets you through that sticking point faster, which reduces the chances of your technique falling apart and you missing the rep.
If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible. And we can do the same for you.
Okay, let’s move on to deadlifting now. And if you had to pick just one exercise to do for the best of your life, it should probably be the deadlift. I’m just gonna start with that. Mark RTO said it best in an
he published [email protected] He said the deadlift works just about every muscle group you want to develop from your upper back muscles down.
Calves and it forces you to get strong the right way with the bar in your hands, balanced on your feet. You wanna look strong. You have to get strong and strong, You’ll get from the deadlift. Amen. I agree. And it looks pretty simple. You’re picking the bar up and you’re putting it down, but it is. A bit more technical than that, and it’s easy to leave gains on the table or even hurt yourself if you make one or two mistakes.
Even if you’re making the wrong mistakes and the weights start to get heavy, that’s when problems can strike and weightlifting cues. The right cues for deadlift are great for this because they help you learn and practice and ingrain proper technique and avoid the mistakes that you don’t want to be making.
So as far as proper form it, let’s just summarize it quickly. We have a bar that moves more or less in a straight line, perfectly straight line, up and down, right over the middle of your feet. We have a bar that slides up the shins and the thighs on the way up and on the way down. The bar is not drifting forward.
For example, your back stays straight. It stays neutral, not perfectly upright. Of course, at the bottom you’re gonna be bent, but it stays neutral. You don’t want the rounding is what you don’t want, especially not in the lower back. And the shoulder blades remain down and back. That remain tucked And you stay that way throughout every rep of the exercise.
Another key point is when you are lowering the bar, you lower it quickly. But you also are not just dropping it, it’s under control, but it doesn’t take more than maybe a second or so. And you also want to take a moment to reset after each rep. You don’t wanna be bouncing the bar off the ground. Every rep should be like the first rep in that regard.
And yes, that’s harder, but it’s also more effective and it’s safer. So bad deadlifting technique. Then look something like this. The bar drifts forward over the toes on the way up or even on the way down the middle and the lower back start to round, and the shoulder blades are relaxing and there’s hyper extension in the back at the.
Top. So you have that like weird where you’re really arching your back at the top and leaning backward, Maybe even shrugging the weight up a little bit as well. And then the bar is just really dropped to the floor after each rep or the weight is bounced off of the floor without a reset. Okay, let’s now talk about the cues for.
Doing it right and avoiding the mistakes. So the first one is to crush oranges in your armpits. And for me, this has been the single most effective cue for improving my deadlift technique. So what you do is you just imagine there’s an orange wedged under each of your armpits and you’re trying to squeeze the shit.
Out of the oranges, you’re trying to juice those oranges. You’re gonna drink some orange juice after your set of deadlift. And what this queue does is it ensures that your shoulders are in the right starting position, which then just helps you lift more weight and maintain consistent form from one rep to the next.
And particularly it helps you get that weight off the ground when you have your shoulders in the right position. That beginning. The first, third or so of the ascent is going to be much more explosive. This queue also helps you prevent your upper back from rounding, which reduces the likelihood of your lower back rounding.
I understand that you can actually get away with some upper back rounding, and there are some guys out there who pull a lot of weight with a rounded. Upper back, but not around a lower back. That’s never a good idea. I don’t know anybody who I would listen to who argues that a rounded lower back is okay when you’re dead lifting, and I don’t even round my upper back and I don’t recommend it because I consider it a more advanced technique because it does encourage the middle and then the lower back to round as well.
And so this queue also helps you get your entire body into the proper position. Pull and a big part of that for me was forcing me to properly engage my lats at the bottom, which really made a difference once I started doing it correctly. So if you have never tried this cube before, and if it does help you correct any of the flaws I’ve discussed, you might be surprised at how much it helps.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case that you immediately can get another one or two reps, maybe even three reps with your normal working weight just by doing this one cue. Now, before I move on, I wanna share a quick point of clarification so you really understand what we’re going for here. I wanna make sure that your shoulders are down and back.
I don’t want your shoulders to be pinched together. I don’t want your shoulders to be shrugged. Those are two common mistakes that are going to throw off your balance, and they are going to force you to change. Posture mid rep. And that not just wastes energy, but it also can increase the risk of injury.
So if you start each rep with your shoulders in the correct position, and they will be, if you just think about crushing the oranges in your armpits, and also think about the shoulders staying down. This is another cue actually that wasn’t on my list, but I’m just gonna . I’m gonna share it quickly. Some people like think about packing their shoulders, like packing them down, right?
The opposite of shrugging them up. Then you will be in a good position. Your lats will be engaged and you should feel strong as you are lifting the bar off the ground. Okay, let’s move on to the next queue on my list, and that is to push your. Back now, after you have your feet in the right position, you’ve grabbed onto the bar, the first thing you wanna do is to think about pushing your butt out and back behind you.
Because what this does is it helps you keep it flat. It helps you maintain that neutral. Spine and that’s gonna reduce your risk of injury, That’s gonna help you lift more weight. And also it ensures that your hips are at the appropriate height when you begin each rep, which saves energy and helps you lift more weight.
So what you don’t want is you don’t want your hips to be too low. Because it just wastes energy. You also don’t want them to be too high because now you are putting yourself into a situation where you’re turning the exercise into kind of like a good morning, right? So then it really becomes like a spinal erector exercise and you’re taking your lower body out of it.
And that can increase the risk of injury if you are not doing that intentionally, if you’re not trying to do a good morning type of exercise. Then you don’t want to be doing it accidentally, right? So there’s a sweet spot where you want your hips, you want your hips to be as high as you comfortably can get them while still doing the deadlift, not doing something else.
Okay? Moving on to the next deadlift cue, and that is to drag the bar up your legs. So you wanna think about here is you wanna drag the bar up your shins, you want. Over your knees and up your thighs until you are fully upright, until you’re standing up at the top of the rep. And that means that the barbell should remain in contact with the front of your legs or very close to them, depending on your anatomy, basically throughout the entire.
Rep and the usefulness here is it prevents the common mistake of letting the bar drift forward, even just a couple of inches. Many people do that when they start to pull the bar now is getting a little bit away from them, just a couple of inches away from their shins, which wastes energy. Cause you gotta bring it back and it increases the likelihood of rounding the lower back, which of course then increases the likelihood.
Injury. But if you keep the bar very close, really as close to the front of your legs as possible, you solve this problem because it reduces the distance the bar has to travel, which means no waste energy. We’re using our energy most efficiently, and it also makes it much easier to maintain a straight or a neutral back.
And if you have a disturbing morbid, Imagination like me. You can also pretend the bar is a giant vegetable peeler and you’re trying to shave skin off the front of your legs. I know it’s gross, but it’s also vivid, right? You’re not gonna forget that one. And this, by the way, is why I have for a long time now, either worn pants when I’m deadlift.
That’s what I used to do, used to wear pants. And the last several years, I’ve mostly worked out in shorts. But what I’ll do is I’ll bring my knee. That I use for squatting, which are just neoprene knee sleeves. I don’t use knee wraps. These are just flexible sleeves that keep my joints warm. They just feel nice, basically, but I’ll put them over my shins because if I don’t, I will get bloody shins.
That has happened too many times. I have scars on my shins, and then I finally started wearing. Pants when I was deadlifting, and then I switched to the knee sleeves because they work well. All right, dear listener, those are the weightlifting cues I wanted to share with you. And why don’t we just wrap up with a quick summary of them.
So let’s go with the bench press first. So we have break. The bar in half or bend the bar in half. And that reminds you to maintain that tension in your upper body. We have screw your feet into the floor, which reminds you to maintain the tension in your lower body. And we have, Don’t crack the egg, which reminds you to touch the bar to your chest, but don’t smash it into your chest squat.
We have spread the floor with your. Feet, and that reminds you to keep your knees from collapsing in toward one another and to keep your knees in line with your toes throughout the entire movement. We have keep your chest up, which reminds you to maintain your upper body tension and to maintain a neutral spine, and we have explode out of the hole, which reminds you to drive your feet into the ground as hard as you can right when you’re standing up, to hopefully get through that sticking point as quickly as possible and get to the top of the.
And then for the deadlift, we have crush oranges in your armpits, which reminds you to maintain tension in your upper back and your shoulders. We have push your butt back, which reminds you to maintain that flat back, that neutral spine, and to start each rep with your hips at the appropriate height, not too low because that wastes energy and not too high because that makes the exercise more of a good morning type of exercise that can get you hurt.
And we also have drag the bar up your legs and that reminds you to keep that. Over your midfoot and close to your legs throughout the entire ascent and descent, even though the descent fast, you’re not dropping the weight, but you’re getting it down to the ground pretty quickly. So I hope that you find these cues helpful.
Again, work on one at a time. So look at your form in your mind’s eye, or. Record yourself the next time you are bench pressing or squatting or deadlifting, and decide which aspect of your technique you would like to work on. And then pick a cue that addresses it. Work on it until it’s just second to nature, until you don’t really have to think about it anymore, until you achieve that muscle memory.
And then pick another one, work on that, and so forth. And once you have worked through all of these queues, you can go find others if you would like, or try to come up with some of your own. And again, so long as you are objectively measuring how your form. Responds, Are you getting better or is that queue actually just not working for you and it’s taking you away from proper form?
Then you wanna throw that one away. But if you’re like most people, I think you’ll find that you don’t need that many queues. You really only need a few for the major exercises, and you’ll be able to maintain picture perfect form with heavy weight, and that will work wonders for your progress and your health by making sure that you don’t get hurt by doing anything stupid.
All right. That’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility.
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