Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Strongman Training with Mike Westerling – The Barbell Life 283

I’m a huge fan of strongman movements – not only for the awesome competitions but also how the movements can be used as incredible accessories for all things strength.

So on today’s podcast we talk all about that with strongman coach Mike Westerling.

We get into how he trains his strongman athletes, how he keeps them healthy, and the incredible crossover between strongman events and all other strength sports. This one is a great listen for anyone who simply loves strength.

Westerling

A World Class Coach's Guide to Building Muscle

Hypertrophy for Strength, Performance, and Aesthetics.

World champion and world-class coach Travis Mash has combined the latest research with his decades of practical experience to bring you an amazing resource on muscle hypertrophy.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Training to avoid biceps tears in strongman
  • How strongman is like CrossFit and how it’s different
  • Thoughts on Brian Shaw and the other greats
  • The exercises he does NOT recommend as accessories
  • How heavy deadlifts lead to torn pecs in the bench
  • and more…

Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism with Brianna Battles – The Barbell Life 282

More and more, females are getting into the strength game. They’re active in CrossFit and are falling in love with lifting.

Many of these females at some point are going to get pregnant – which is, let’s face it, a huge change for their body.

What does that mean for lifting? What does that mean for their fitness? What is the best way for a woman to train while she’s pregnant and after she’s given birth/

We’ve got Brianna Battles of Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism today to fill us in.

If you are a female athlete or a coach of female athletes, this is one you’ll want to listen to.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

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* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • The practitioners you need on your team to maximize fitness
  • Should pregnant women squat below parallel?
  • Differences between the first, second, and third trimester
  • A reality check on pregnancy – and how to manage it
  • Dealing with back pain in pregnancy
  • and more…

Take a Step Back with Youth Athletes

Coaching youth athletes is the most rewarding job that one can have if your motives are in the right place.

We get to help mold young men and women not only as athletes but also as humans. We get to help them avoid the mistakes that we made (or at least make fewer mistakes). We have the opportunity to make sure they enjoy the process, so they can look back at their time as an athlete and smile.

My goal is to make sure they walk away from their chosen sport as healthy as possible and to make sure then end up enjoying the process of health and fitness. I want my athletes to work out for the rest of their lives, and I want them to teach their children and spouses the joy of strength and fitness.

Some of you might remember Hannah Black. I was her strength and conditioning coach for volleyball and softball, while she was in high school. She also became one of my first national medalist weightlifters. Now she is becoming a high level CrossFitter, and more importantly she is in love with fitness. Several of my former athletes have gone on to enjoy weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, CrossFit, and general fitness. When I see that, I know I have done my job. I taught them to love strength and fitness, making it a part of their lifestyle.

Once in a while I get the chance to work with very high level athletes. Some are team sport athletes like football players or soccer players – and of course some are weightlifters or powerlifters who are amazing. What I’m saying in this article applies to all athletes.

Sometimes as a coach, you have to get your athlete to take a few steps backwards to go forwards.

Technique

It’s easy to let your high level athletes move forward with less than perfect technique.

If you work with gifted athletes, then you already know they’re going to figure out some way to complete a task if you tell them to perform it. Even with horrible technique, they might lift more weight than the other athletes. Heck, they might lift more weight than any other athlete in the country – but that doesn’t make the way that they are lifting automatically a good thing. If you’re letting them persist with bad technique just because they’re putting up numbers, it makes you a lazy coach – or worse, an incompetent one.

When I am referring to perfect technique, I am well aware that none of us are going to 100% agree on technique. However there are a few nonnegotiable items like a vertical bar path, close to neutral spine, and knees tracking with the toes. I’ll give you a few suggestions for the six main lifts:

  • Jerk- Feet straight in the catch, neutral/stacked spine (no excessive lumbar extension), back knee bent in catch, and arms locked aggressively overhead above or slightly behind the ears.
  • Snatch- Long legs during the first pull, staying over the bar for as long as possible, vertical bar path with no horizontal displacement, whole foot through the floor for as long as possible, vertical and stable spine during the catch phase, and aggressively locked out arms in the catch above or slightly behind the ears.
  • Clean- Long legs during the first pull, staying over the bar for as long as possible, vertical bar path with no horizontal displacement, whole foot through the floor for as long as possible, vertical and stable spine during the catch phase, and continuing the pull until the bar meets the shoulders with minimal to no crashing.
  • Squat- Neutral and stable spine during all phases of contraction, knees tracking with toes without any valgus or varus, and proper bracing techniques utilized at all times.
  • Bench- Shoulders tucked together and down (retracted and suppressed), stacked bar/wrist/forearms/elbows, and drive the bar back toward the head off of the chest.
  • Deadlift- Neutral and stable stacked spine, some thoracic flexion is acceptable for elite powerlifters only, and vertical bar path with no horizontal displacement.

LEARN HOW TO FIT A PROGRAM TO THE ATHLETE

Principles and Real-Life Case Studies on How a Master Programmer Customizes a Program to the Individual

Peek inside Travis's brain... and learn how to individualize your own programs to fit an athlete's strengths, weaknesses, age, gender, sport demands, and unique response to training.

Now some of these are absolutes in regards to lifting maximal amounts. However most of them are absolutes for avoiding injuries. For example, if you continually catch a jerk with an externally rotated femur, you are going to get injured. In my experience, an athlete who jerks like that can expect a knee injury. If an athlete squats over and over with a flexed spine or hyperextended spine, that athlete can expect a back injury in short order.

How the Mash Mafia Has Taken a Step Back

Lately I have taken a few steps back with several of my athletes, and now they are starting to reap the rewards of their labor. Their strength is skyrocketing – and more importantly, I know they are safer with solid technique. I am going to give you a few of those instances and explain how we are trying to fix the issue. Let’s start with Ryan Grimsland.

Ryan Grimsland

Ryan came to me from CrossFit with a hairline-fractured hip. I am not going to explain the details of the injury, but just know it was from some CrossFit programming that wasn’t well thought out. Over time this caused Ryan to experience back pain and to twist during most of his heavier lifts and even some lighter ones.

We took a team approach on this one. I referred him to my lifelong chiropractor, Dr. Gray. Dr. Gray started him on the “All Core 360” machine, which is an amazing tool designed to stabilize the entire spine. I also took advice from Kelly Starrett about using some unilateral work paused in the lunge positions with a focus on a neutral spine. The isometric contraction with the hip in extension really helped to balance out the constant flexion that weightlifters are in. We also used a lot of slow eccentrics and long paused isometric contractions to stabilize the body in the proper positions. The result has been way less twisting, almost zero back pain, and now lots of PRs.

I want to make a quick point before I move on. The moment one of my youth athletes mentions pain is the moment we stop what we’re doing. I have an amazing group of practitioners who I trust to get results. Dr. Gray is one of those, and he is amazing. I am not sure why so many strength and conditioning coaches try to step out of their lanes nowadays, but it’s a sign of immaturity and arrogance. If you’re not a physical therapist, don’t pretend you are. Your athletes deserve better. Look, if that’s what you want to do, go back to school.

Morgan McCullough

Morgan McCullough is my 16-year-old phenom. We have now taken steps backward twice in his career. The first one was with his jerk. His positioning was all off. His split was so shallow that he couldn’t get under weights that he could push press. When he did get under the weight, his positioning was all off. His leg sometimes was externally rotated, his back foot was flat and pointing out, and his overhead position looked downright painful. Here are a few things that we did to fix his jerk:

  • Press from Split- We had to teach him exactly where he should be in the split. We also had to stabilize that position, so he would feel comfortable getting into the proper position at the high speeds of a jerk.
  • Jerk Step Balance- This is very similar to a press from split, but you start in a shallow split. Then you dip, drive, and push off the back foot into the correct position. This teaches the athlete to drive the back foot down, stabilize, and end in a secure split position.
  • Jerk Dip Squats- Let’s face it! If the weight feels light, you are more comfortable driving that weight overhead.
  • Pauses in the Dip and Pauses in the Catch- Slowing a movement down allows the athlete to perfect positions during certain portions of the movement.

I am most proud of Morgan’s jerk improvement, as it now is just as beautiful as his clean. The last few months have been spent on the snatch. One thing I find funny is the wannabe coaches on the Internet. Morgan ran into a slight plateau with his snatch earlier this year, and all the armchair coaches were screaming that we needed to work on his snatch (like I needed the peanut gallery to inform me). Then we took the time to step back and fix his movement. During that time we did a competition where he clean and jerked 190 kilograms for an American record. His snatch was only 131 kilograms because we were in the middle of fixing his movement. All they wanted to point out was the snatch to clean and jerk ratio. Laughable really!

Anyways just this past Friday he smoked 140 kilograms for an all-time PR with much better technique. Of course none of the Internet coaches had anything nice to say about him improving his weaknesses. It has really become an ongoing joke at our gym. The moral of the story is that it was nice to see his hard work pay off. Now it’s going to be fun to watch him run with his new movement to all new heights.

Morgan’s main issues with the snatch were:

  1. The bar was moving horizontal to go around the knees. He’s 6’0” tall with a long tibia, which is a challenge.
  2. He was getting impatient and moving behind the bar too soon. The goal is to stay over the bar for as long as possible, driving with the legs to take advantage of his strong legs and to ensure a straighter bar path and more consistency.

Here are a few things that we did to improve this movement flaws:

  • Slow Eccentric pulls and Hang Snatches- This is to get him stronger and encourage more hypertrophy in the areas needed to stay over the bar as long as possible.
  • Lasha Pulls- Pyrros Dimas brought my attention to the way that Lasha does pulls, which is basically an exaggerated first pull never moving behind the bar at all for a second pull. This movement will strengthen the position (especially if you throw in some isometric contractions and slow eccentrics), and it teaches the athlete the movement.
  • Lift Offs with a Pause at the Knee- This movement is great for practicing the initial lift off with bringing the bar in and “clearing the road” by moving the knees out of the way. If you focus on driving your feet through the floor, this will happen naturally.

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The Responsibility of Coaching

I am not just talking about weightlifting. This goes for coaching youth in powerlifting, CrossFit, strength and conditioning, or any sport. The goal is long-term development and safety. What good is it for a running back to kill it in high school only to get injured as a freshman at his new D1 school because you didn’t take the time to teach him squats properly? What good is it for a 16-year-old to deadlift 700 pounds only to hurt his back when he’s 17?

I have some news for all of you coaches that is probably going to hurt some feelings. Just because you find a Michael Jordan at some basketball hoop in America who goes on to the NBA, that in no way makes you a good coach. That makes you a good recruiter. However if you find that Michael Jordan and teach him better ball handling skills, proper jump shot mechanics, and strength training that keeps him from injury, now you are working toward being a great coach.

Coaches need to coach! It sounds simple, but I see quite the opposite almost everyday of my life. Writing a program and cheering for somebody as they lift big weights doesn’t make you a good coach. Great coaches:

  • Teach proper mechanics
  • Continue sharpening those mechanics everyday of the athlete’s life
  • Individualize programming that works and continues to evolve
  • Work on communication.
  • Get buy-in
  • Motivate
  • Teach their athletes about life
  • Teach athletes how to have fun – so they will learn to love strength, fitness, and sport for the rest of their life.

These are just a few of the things a great coach does every dang day of their life. Are we always 100% killing it? Nope. I just came out of a funk that I had been in for several months. I recognized that funk, I made some changes, and now I feel like I am on my way to being a better coach because of it.

Coaches, we have to continue sharpening our saw until the day we die or the day we retire. You will never perfect this craft. The moment you feel like you have perfected coaching is the day you need to retire or find something new.

I hope this article has given all of you something to think about. We are in a profession that happens to be a very important influence on many young people in the world. My high school coach literally changed the course of my life. He had such on impact on me that I wanted to pass those lessons on to other youth in my community and around the world. I hope all of you will take your position as a coach as seriously as I do. It has absolutely nothing to do with your ego and everything to do with those young people who you are working with. I hope all of you will change at least one life for the better. Then you too will be able to look yourself in the mirror with a heart full of joy. I thank God for my ability to coach my young men and women.

All or Nothing Approach

Man I get tired of coaches trying to push their agenda onto folks with nothing more than their preference to back up their statements. It’s the absolute statements that literally drive me crazy.

Yesterday, I almost got caught up in an article which was bashing unilateral squatting and exalting bilateral squatting. I almost shared the article, and then I realized I would be doing the very thing I hate. Plus the article was using half-truths like most all-or-nothing articles will use.

Knowing the Pros and Cons

The article (I am going to leave the author unnamed because I appreciate his work for the most part) used Dr. Stuart McGill as a reference. Yes, Dr. McGill has written articles and has spoken on the dangers of rear leg elevated split squats performed incorrectly. He has also written and has spoken on the benefits of RLESSs, but the article left that part out. If I were a new coach, I would have bought right into the article. I probably would have never used single-leg movements at all from that point forward, which would be a major mistake.

Luckily I know Dr. McGill personally, and we have talked about unilateral versus bilateral movements in detail. The key is keeping the pelvis locked in to neutral as much as possible. Dr. McGill is clear about the following statement, “There is a biological tipping point for every exercise on planet Earth.” Once you cross that threshold, you are in dangerous waters. For example, the goodmorning was a great accessory movement for me. When I could perform sets of 5 with 405 pounds, I could easily squat over 700 pounds without any equipment. However, when I kept pushing the movement to the 600s, it probably contributed to a lumbar injury. Boy did I ever need a good coach! Sometimes I will cut someone off with his or her heavy squats or pulls, and I will secretly laugh to myself knowing I would have kept going as an athlete. Thank God I can use my brain as a coach much better than when I was an athlete.

The article isn’t about unilateral versus bilateral. No, I didn’t flip my stance on that issue. This article is aimed directly at coaches both young and old. As coaches we have a responsibility to properly enlighten the coaches who will come after us. You never know when a young coach is reading your work. You never know when one of your athletes will become the next great coach. We have to be responsible for our words.

Differences in Coaching Systems

Listen – there are several ways to prepare athletes, just like there are several ways to get folks off the couch and in shape. Your program will be developed based on your belief system, equipment available, time allotted to coach each person, the number of people getting coached at a time, and the number of coaches available for the athletes/clients.

For example, Mike Boyle loves unilateral squats, trap bar deadlifts, and hang cleans. Is he wrong in choosing these movements to prepare his athletes? Absolutely not, which shows with the results he is putting out. However, there is one aspect on which we will always disagree. He’s had a lot of bad results with coaching the bilateral back squat at his facility. He’s had a lot of injuries occur in his facility teaching the bilateral back squat. Therefore, he chooses not to use that movement in his coaching. I get it. I have to assume the injuries from back squatting are due to the sheer volume of athletes running through his facility each and every day. His facility is one of the busiest private athletic performance operations in America. I am coaching 7-10 at a time, and he’s coaching 50-100 at a time. That’s a big difference. I have never had an injury from a back squat occur in my facility, but it’s easy for me to coach and manage my athletes.

McGill has shown injury can occur with the rear leg elevated split squat as well, but it is a bit easier to coach – and with a safety squat bar the athletes can spot themselves. So I totally understand using unilateral squats, but I don’t understand demonizing bilateral squats. Both unilateral and bilateral squats can produce amazing results pertaining to increases in speed, vertical leap, and muscle mass. There is a lot of evidence to support both movements. If you heard the debates between Coach Boyle and me, then you heard a lot of evidence to support both sides. Each have their pros and cons, and it is up to the coach to decide which one fits their system the best. Obviously with my athletes the bilateral squat is a necessity, but we use unilateral work as well.

Absolutes and Non-Absolutes

Maybe I am sounding a bit wishy-washy, so let me make my point. I started this article criticizing an article that was totally pro-bilateral squatting and was bashing unilateral work. Then I went on to say Boyle was wrong in bashing bilateral squats in support of his unilateral system. My only point is to stop bashing a movement because you don’t like it, especially when the science doesn’t support your conclusions. There are a few absolutes in the industry – such as knee valgus is dangerous (most of the time), knee varus is dangerous (most of the time), and spinal flexion while squatting is a bad idea. Other than these, there aren’t very many more. Sorry to tell you!

FORGET OPINIONS ON THE SQUAT. HERE'S THE SCIENCE.

TRAVIS MASH'S SQUAT SCIENCE

After combing through the research and interviewing the experts, the result is a guide that will refine your technique and boost your squat in a safe and effective manner.

Here are some “absolute” statements which are absolutely not absolute:

  • High bar squats are superior to low bar squats (or vice versa) – There are advantages and disadvantages of each. Normally the low bar will build the hips a bit more due to slightly more range of motion in the hips. The high bar will build the quads a bit more due to a greater range of motion in the quads.
  • Olympic weightlifting movements are superior to powerlifting movements for preparing field athletes (or vice versa) – There are advantages and disadvantages of each. Weightlifting is great for demonstrating power, rate of force development, and force absorption. Powerlifting is great for hypertrophy, increasing the potential for power development, and of course absolute strength. In a perfect world, the combination of disciplines is the best.
  • Unilateral squats are superior to bilateral squats (or vice versa) – see above

Question Everything

These are just a few to get you guys thinking. The next time you hear someone make an absolute statement, even if the person making the statement is someone you look up to and admire, I want you take that absolute statement and ask the following questions:

  1. Is there any scientific data to support this claim?
  2. Is there any scientific data that disputes this claim?
  3. Has anyone achieved good results training the way the expert is telling you not to?
  4. Does the expert have an agenda by making the claim (for example a new book or digital product)?
  5. What reasons would the expert have to be irrationally biased?

Luckily it’s always been my nature to question everything. It’s just in my DNA. Plus I have been burned a time or two buying into what some so-called expert was saying, only to find out later there was a better way. We are in the information era. Pub Med is but a click away. If someone is claiming a certain technique is the only way to lift, go to YouTube, watch some slow motion clips, and see for yourself. There is only one Messiah. The rest of us are not all-knowing. Therefore, you should question everything until you find the truth.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2019...

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* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Penn State’s Cam Davidson – The Barbell Life 275

Cam Davidson has made an impression on me.

He’s worked with track and field as well as hockey – and he’s been able to get his athletes stronger and faster, in-season and out-of-season.

So we talk about great insight on contrast training, using velocity, hip thrusts, and so much more.

SQUAT GAINZ

THE SHORT & SWEET GUIDE TO INCREASING YOUR SQUAT

SUPPLEMENTARY PROGRAMS TO BOOST YOUR SQUAT

Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

LISTEN IN TO TODAY’S PODCAST AS WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Creative and effective uses of French Contrast Training
  • His recommendations for the strength training job market
  • Why is the hip thrust controversial?
  • Getting guys stronger while they’re IN-SEASON
  • Not programming a back squat for 2 years?
  • and more…

Two Fast Ways to PR Your Squat

The back squat may be the most popular barbell movement on Earth. Since the inception of CrossFit and the new box gym/garage gym movement, the squat has made up lots of ground on the pec-pumping bench press. Articles are written and videos are made almost weekly giving all of us content about this amazing exercise.

We discuss things like:

  • Hypertrophy
  • Technique
  • Programming
  • Targeting specific joints
  • Post Activation Potentiation

Yet there are two even simpler concepts that can equate to massive personal records and more weight used for hypertrophy repetitions. These two concepts can yield results right away versus training for 12 weeks in hopes the program might work. We get so caught up in all of the scientific data and trying to invent a program that is revolutionary, we forget two very basic yet powerful concepts:

  • Big squat-specific warm-up
  • Bracing

Big Squat-Specific Warm-Up

Too many of us get in a hurry, climb under a bar, and start pumping out the repetitions. This leads to inefficiency of the movement, fewer fibers recruited, and less proximal core stiffness as it relates to the lumbar spine.

A solid warm-up is key. Here are a few main points:

  1. Bike, Row, or Treadmill (2-5 minutes) – The goal is simply to raise the body’s core temperature a couple of degrees. This will make the rest of this warm-up much easier and more tolerable for all of you veterans like me.
  2. SQUAT GAINZ

    THE SHORT & SWEET GUIDE TO INCREASING YOUR SQUAT

    SUPPLEMENTARY PROGRAMS TO BOOST YOUR SQUAT

    Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

  3. Mobility – I front-squatted 250 kilograms / 550 pounds in 2017 at 44 years old. That’s the most weight I have front-squatted in my 40s. There was one big difference that day – I used Donnie Thompson’s body tempering. I made sure to hit the major joints used during big squats: back, hips, knees, and ankles. This allowed me to move in and out of necessary positions required for a massive squat, and I was able to move in and out of these positions without pain. If the body is experiencing pain, it’s not going to recruit the maximal fibers required for optimal performance. It’s perceiving a threat and is protecting you.

    Body tempering or foam rolling/lacrosse ball work will allow you to move into good positions without the aches and pains that come from aging and years of repetitions. In choosing a foam roller, density is key. A squishy foam roller isn’t going to produce much change in the tissue, so I recommend going with a firm/dense foam roller or even a PVC pipe. Lacrosse balls are great for targeting key points because they are dense with a small surface area.

    I am not a huge proponent of static stretching, but there are a couple of stretches which will go a long way regarding optimal movement in the squat. First the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch is a key for me – and if you are a powerlifter or weightlifter, it’s going to be key for you. As barbell athletes we stay in hip flexion. Over time this can cause our hip flexors to shorten, which causes an anterior pelvic tilt. This forward tilt of the pelvis makes squatting with good technique a lot harder than it has to be. Anterior pelvic tilt can also cause lower back issues – and trust me that’s one section of the body you want to be healthy. I love Squat University’s explanation of this stretch. Simply put, he recommends getting into a half-kneeling position and then performing the opposite of an anterior pelvic tilt. Here’s my explanation: with a vertical spine, flex the abdominals, flex the glute on the side of the kneeling knee causing a posterior pelvic tilt, hold the position for 10 seconds, and perform two repetitions of 10 seconds per side.

  4. Purposeful stability, coordination, and further mobilization – I like to use specific weighted movements to begin coordinating the required muscles for squatting that also encourage optimal movement and stability. I watch too many people spend countless hours focusing on mobility. My favorite warm-up weighted movements are:
    • Westside ATP aka belt squat- 20 seconds marching, 20 seconds squatting with kettlebell, and 20 seconds hinging. Three sets of all this.
    • Potato sack kettlebell squats with 3 deep breaths at the bottom for 2-3 sets of 8 repetitions
    • Lying supine on a bench with a band around your feet unilateral knee to chest. Obviously one leg remains neutral in isometric contraction, while knee flexion is performed on the other side. This is a great way to warm up the hip flexor and the glutes. Do 1-2 sets of 8-10 slow and controlled repetitions per side.
  5. Create proximal stiffness with the McGill Big 3 – I recommend all of my athletes perform Dr. Stuart McGill’s recommended side planks, bird dogs, and curl-ups before squatting, deadlifting, or performing any of the Olympic movements. Those three movements help to create stiffness around the spine – and in the words of McGill, “proximal stiffness equals distal movement.” Basically if the muscles around the spine are stiff and stable, the body will allow the limbs to move freely throughout required ranges of motion.

Brace for PRs

Most strength coaches would agree the key to a big squat is a strong back. We have countless debates and discussions on the best ways to strengthen the back. We talk about good mornings, front squat carries, and other exercises designed to improve the strength of spinal extensors. However there is something much more critical for ensuring spinal extension during a massive squat, and that is proper bracing.

You would be surprised at the number of athletes who don’t understand how to brace. I was working with an Olympic hopeful weightlifter at a camp in 2017 for USA Weightlifting. He wasn’t one of mine, but I was surprised to find out he had never heard about bracing. This same young man had lived at the Olympic Training Center, and yet had never even heard of this simple concept. The lesson learned here was never assume the level of an athlete equates to them knowing the basics. I recommend never assuming anyone understands basics. Just like all the great coaches from all of our favorite sport, as coaches we should ensure our athletes perfect the basics.

Here are a few easy ways to ensure tightness around the spine:

  1. Hands as close as mobility will allow – This will create maximal stiffness in the upper back around the thoracic spine, which is where most of us fail during a squat. Close hands along with the Valsalva maneuver (we will discuss more in just a bit) will ensure optimal stiffness.
  2. Tuck elbows under the bar – Too many people let their elbows flare out, which also allows the scapula to flare out. In my experience, the muscles related to the scapula are the gateway to the spinal extensors. When the scapula flares, then the back especially in the thoracic spine area starts to flex or round. Every great squatter on the planet knows this leads to the death of any big squat.
  3. Root your feet in the ground – I like to think about the big toe, pinky toe, and heel as roots growing into the ground. I literally dig them in, and then perform a cork screw (external rotation) in the ground to activate the external rotators. This might not have any direct relationship to the spine, but I have found weak feet equals weak back.
  4. Learn to use a belt – The Valsalva maneuver is a pretty amazing tool to use. Simply put, you will breathe in as much air as possible into the belly, pressing out against your belt in the front, sides, and even in the back – while keeping the mouth shut and not letting any air escape. This technique causes massive amounts of tension around the lumbar spine, and any great strength athlete will tell you a stable spine is a stronger one.

SQUAT GAINZ

THE SHORT & SWEET GUIDE TO INCREASING YOUR SQUAT

SUPPLEMENTARY PROGRAMS TO BOOST YOUR SQUAT

Coach Travis Mash shows you how to simply and scientifically diagnose and fix your squat weaknesses. Squat Gainz also contains six supplementary squat-focused programs you can add to your current strength work to drive your squat through the roof.

I hope this article helps all of you achieve the squat of your dreams. Let this be a lesson in the barbell continuum – and by that I mean most of us start out on our barbell journey’s seeking to maximize the basics. Then somewhere along the way, we try to get super scientific and fancy, causing us to forget the basics. Then we get older and wiser, shifting back to realizing the basics are what gets us strong quickly and keeps us safe. For all of you young coaches and athletes, I recommend none of you ever quit trying to perfect the basics. The basics will lead to the personal records you are dreaming about, and the basics will keep you safe and healthy along your journey.

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