Category Archives for "Athletic Performance"

Navigating Research by Matt Shiver

Navigating through research can be intimidating and confusing. Especially if you don’t have a science background. There is a lot that goes into the writing of research that makes it hard to read. There are p values for statistical significance, there are charts and graphs that seem to be in a different language, there are plus and minus values, and LOTS of text.

I want to present some easy places you can find the most up to date research in the field of strength and conditioning and nutrition as well as teach you how to read the complex ones.

Before we begin, it is important to discuss the different types of research. The pyramid below covers the hierarchy of evidence.

Case Studies

Case reports or case studies are the lowest on the pyramid. They are typically a report on one individual and their response to an intervention. The problem with case reports, are they have a small sample size, have higher amount of bias, and don’t control variables as well as the higher forms of research on the pyramid. These are often the studies that you will find when someone reports an adverse reaction to an intervention or supplement when there are no other participants that were involved in the study.

The rest of the red and orange types of studies are good at identifying new variables that we should further research. They can show correlation between variables but lack the scientific rigor for coaches to take information from them and implement them into their training programs.

Randomized Controlled Trials

Randomized controlled trials (RCT) involve control groups and test groups that have been randomly put into their specific group. Most of the time the subjects don’t know what group they are in. RCTs are the meat and potatoes of the research world. This is where the work is being done to determine if an intervention is better than the current standard or placebo.

The problem with RCTs is that there is conflicting evidence in many studies. Some studies that share similar methods may have completely different results. That is why it is important to look up other research on the same topic after reading an RCT to see how it compares to past research. WE NEED MORE THAN ONE STUDY TO PROPOSE THAT SOMETHING WORKS.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the next step. These are papers that combine findings from multiple RCTs to give you the most well-rounded picture of a topic is that has been researched. Here is where we can really take research and apply it to our coaching. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are used to create practice guidelines that are used in all professions.

When looking at research, I typically suggest focusing most of your attention to systematic review, meta-analyses, and RCTs.

Resources I Use For My Research

Now on to the sites that I have found to be the most helpful for me to get my research. I’m going to start with the easiest ones to read first.

Stronger by Science:

Greg Nuckols and his team do an amazing job of synthesizing the most current research for anyone to read into about a paragraph. There may be some charts included as well. This is an easy go to! They include strength training, hypertrophy, nutrition, and supplementation.

Examine – Nutrition:

Examine allows you to search by supplement to find the outcomes from multiple studies. Here is an example below on beta-alanine. You see that the outcome that eight different studies tracked was muscular endurance. They found a very high correlation that there was a minor improvement in muscular endurance. The level of evidence bar is on the left which shows how much research has been done on the supplement. The higher the level of evidence, the more research that has bene done.

NSCA – Journal of Strength and Conditioning:

Here is where I go every month to search through abstracts for research to read. Abstracts give you a quick snapshot of what the article is about. It gives you the key findings, but not the whole story.

To get published in the NSCA’s Journal, the article has to be good quality. There are plenty of research that has been done but never gets published by journals because the research was not good. If the journal does not like how the research was conducted, they do not publish it.

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.

I use the NSCA but there are plenty of other sports medicine and strength and conditioning journal sites. If you are interested in subscribing, there is a monthly or annual fee that is associated with it. If you live close to a college campus sometimes you can get the articles for free by logging on through their library website or campus WI-FI.

PubMed

Here is going to be your gold standard. With that, it is hard to read! You are going to have to read a lot to really understand what you are reading.

While searching for articles, make sure to search for systematic reviews or RCTs. You have the ability to filter by article type. It will narrow your search by quite a lot. Also look for articles that are recent (past 5-10 years).

If you are reading an RCT, it is important to really assess the methods section. Do the methods make sense? Is it reproducible? Are there too many factors that are at play here that could have contributed to the outcome? Be critical of the articles you read. Then read the results. From there, you can start to piece together your own conclusion. See if your conclusion matches the authors.

The systematic reviews are nice because the authors of the review have already been critical of all the RCTs. If in doubt read reviews. You can skip about how they found the RCTs for their paper.

Review Articles

There are some websites that will post review articles of recent research. These are also a great place to start. They are typically simplified and easier to read. Like “strengthandconditioningresearch.com

Follow Researchers You Like On Social Media

One of the easiest ways to get the most up to date research is following researchers like Dr. Andy Galpin and Dr. Bret Contreras on social media. They post about their most recent publications and the results from them on Twitter and IG. If you find a research article that you really enjoy, look at the name of the Authors. From there you can search the names of the authors on Pubmed to find more of their research. Most researchers specialize in a specific field.

Listen to “151 – Andy Galpin on Advances in the Science of Strength” on Spreaker.

A closing thought, be critical the next time someone tells you that “research shows ____ works better than ____.” You will be surprised of the limitations that research has. There are plenty of research articles that do not get published. For every article that supports something works, there will always be another article that says it does not work. You have to be critical and actually dig into the research to make your own opinions.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Mash Mafia Youth – The Barbell Life 210

I’ve trained all manner of athletes from average Joes to NFL athletes to champion powerlifters and weightlifters. But my favorite athletes to train are the youth.

And right now the Mash Mafia is blessed to be working with some amazing young athletes – from 9 year old girls to our 14 year old stud who just took the gold medal at the Youth Pan Ams.

I get a little frustrated… no, I get plain angry when I see how many people train youth. They get it all wrong. They think they’re being helpful, but they’re not. So on this podcast we get into the right way to train youth.

And we also talk a lot about how we prepare our athletes – even the young ones – for competition. We get into everything on this podcast from our taper process to backroom strategies.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

 

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

  • How I almost fought a terrorist on a plane?
  • Our taper process for youth and adults
  • Changing weight classes at the last minute
  • Horrible parents
  • The chess match of declaring attempts in the back room – and how we won!
  • and more…

Programming To Avoid Imbalances By Matt Shiver

When I program for my athletes I categorize my movement patterns into the following 6 main categories.

  1. Squatting
  2. Hinging
  3. Upper Body Pushing
  4. Upper Body Pulling
  5. Carries
  6. Trunk/core

Note: The weightlifting movements, deadlifts, and other complex movements are combinations of the movement categories. These six basic movement patterns can be combined to create more advanced movements.

I categorize these movement patterns so that I can make sure I am evenly working the entire body. I don’t want to create any imbalances or weak points. I want to make sure to have a balance between the squatting and hinging categories as well as the upper body pushing and pulling categories. That does not mean that I necessarily want a 1:1 ratio between all the categories. If someone has an imbalance, I may want the ratio to be 2:1 or even 3:1 to work out the imbalance. We may do less squatting and more posterior chain work to even out their leg strength. But if someone is very well balanced I do tend to stay around a 1:1 ratio.

For every set of squatting, I want to incorporate some sort of hinging to balance that out. I want to create well rounded athlete that will stay healthy. It is important to look at the training volume over the entire week. You can have one day be squat day and have another day being your hinging/posterior chain day where all the exercises performed that day are from that movement category. Or you can break it up evenly and have an equal amount of hinging and squatting exercises throughout each session of the week. It really depends on your personal preference. The most important thing is overall weekly balance.

I note this to be especially important in the upper body. For those of us who lived on the bench press growing up, we may have some limited shoulder mobility with an overdeveloped chest and a weak back. We need full shoulder range of motion! It is important to equal out your pushing and pulling of the upper body. Plus, big upper backs are way more impressive than big chests. Look at Dorian Yates and Ed Coan. If you have a big back, I know you are strong!

Protocols for Aches and Pains, Muscular Imbalances & Recovery

Work Harder. Train Longer. Prevent Injury.

Prevent injury, reduce pain and maintain joint health with Travis's specific corrections for your individual muscular imbalances.

Exercises for Squatting

Squatting involves any exercise that requires a bend in the knee and requires the body to “push” weight away from the body. The most common exercises of this category include all the variations of:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg press
  • Plyometrics
  • Step ups

Exercises for Hinging

Hinging involves any exercises that requires a bend (flexion) in the hips. Most of the time the bending (flexing) is followed by hip extension (squeezing the glutes and bringing the trunk back up to neutral). We tend to refer to these as “pulling” exercises. The most common exercises of this category include:

  • RDLs
  • Good mornings
  • KB swings
  • Back extensions
  • Reverse hypers

Exercises for Upper Body Pushing

Upper body pushing can further be broken down into horizontal pushing and vertical pushing. Horizontal pushing includes:

  • Bench press
  • Floor press,
  • Push-ups,

Vertical pushing includes:

  • Strict press
  • Push press
  • Military press
  • Dips

Exercises for Upper Body Pulling

Upper body pulling can also be broken down into horizontal pulling and vertical pulling. Horizontal pulling includes:

  • Any variation of rowing

Vertical pulling includes:

  • Pull-ups
  • Lat pull downs
  • Straight arm pull downs

Exercises for Carries

Carries are exactly what they sound like. Pick up a heavy object and move it. There is no easier way to get strong and increase your work capacity than just pick something up and move it for 30-45 seconds. Then take a rest and do it again. I really like to do these unilaterally to work out any imbalance an athlete may have.

Exercises for Trunk and Core

Trunk and Core movement patterns can be broken down into front, side, and low back exercises. Front exercises include:

  • Planks
  • Leg raises
  • Dead bugs
  • Front rack holds

Side includes:

  • Side planks
  • Unilateral carries can even fit here
  • Side to side leg raises

Low back exercises include:

  • Reverse planks
  • Back extensions
  • Reverse hypers

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

Breaking into the Strength and Conditioning Industry

The Strength and Conditioning world is a tough nut to crack. Most of the exercise science majors that I know are working in unrelated industries. It’s sad to see because it’s an industry with the potential to deliver an individual a life filled with purpose and excitement. My life is like a storybook for a guy that grew up in the deep mountains of North Carolina. I never would have dreamed that I would be traveling to three different countries and three different states all within six weeks.

This industry allows me to work with some of the best athletes in the world. I have written books that are being read and applied all throughout the world. I get to help people achieve their dreams. I have the chance to impact lives in a positive way.

So how did I get here? What choices did I make that led me to this point? One of my biggest passions is helping other people in this industry with becoming successful too. That’s what this article is about. If you want to succeed in the strength and conditioning world, this article is for you.

Step 1 – Narrow Down Your Options

The first step is narrowing down your options. Yes, there are options in the exercise science world. Here are a few:

  • High School Strength Coach
  • College Strength Coach
  • Professional Sports Strength Coach
  • Personal Trainer
  • CrossFit Coach
  • Weightlifting Coach
  • Powerlifting Coach
  • Cardiac Rehab
  • Corporate Wellness
  • Professor
  • Research
  • Online Instruction
  • Fitness Writer

There are more, but this gives you some ideas. A big key is narrowing down the focus as soon as possible. Once you find your area, then it is time to narrow things down even more. If you want to become successful in this industry, you have to become the expert in one specific niche in your field. Let me give you some examples.

Step 2 – Become A Niche Expert

The next step is becoming an expert in a niche within your field. Here are some examples:

  • My favorite is Dr. Bret Contreras also known as the Glute Guy. He makes a great living as a glute expert. He trains some of the best fitness women in the world on how to get the perfect glutes.
  • Greg Nuckols is the go to guy at breaking down the research on various topics and making it simple for the rest of us to understand. He also explains which research is trustworthy, and calls out the research not up to standards.
  • Alex Viada is the expert on concurrent training.
  • Mike Bledsoe focused on media and bringing the brightest among us to the world.

I have spent my whole life trying to understand the barbell. I got lucky to be honest. I had no idea that CrossFit would bring the barbell to the rest of the world. However, the fact that I followed my passion wasn’t luck. If you find an aspect of fitness that you love, I suggest following that love. I know this sounds kind of cliché, but it’s the truth. If you love something, you won’t stop until you perfect it.

I love weightlifting and powerlifting. I started out wanting to make myself the best strength athlete in the world, but now I want to make my athletes the best in the world. I am one of the go to guys in the weightlifting and powerlifting world because I have spent and continue to spend my life perfecting my craft. If you become the expert, you will in turn become valuable.

Step 3 – Network

The next step is getting to know the successful people in your chosen field and niche. I am a friend with all of the top weightlifting coaches in America. We help each other, and we are all talented in our own areas. Coach Kevin Doherty is the expert on handling athletes at weightlifting meets. Coach Sean Waxman is the expert in biomechanics. Coach Kevin Simons has programming down to a near perfect science. We help each other in the areas that we have perfected. That’s one of the biggest ways that we continue to learn.

Finding a mentor is even better. A good mentor can lead you down a path of success. I have had several mentors that have helped me immensely. Coach Sean Waxman continues to mentor me in this crazy sport of Olympic weightlifting. Guys like Mike Bledsoe and Coach Joe Kenn helped me find my way in the business side of strength and conditioning. Sooner or later no matter which route you take, you will need to sharpen your business skills. In today’s world, you will need to learn about social media, marketing, websites, networking, and product development.

My suggestion is find a mentor that cares about you. You should find someone that is doing something similar to what you want to do. Whatever you do, don’t just take and take from this person. You need to find a way to give back and be of value to your mentor. Lastly, I suggest that you never forget and always give credit where credit is due. This little piece of advice will go a lot further than you can imagine. Remember these mentors are human. They are helping you because they care about you. When you give them credit, you are affirming that you care for them right back.

Step 4 – Never Stop Learning

Step 4 is never stopping learning. People used to get away with learning a few things and then spending the rest of their lives passing on that information. That will not happen in today’s world. The internet allows us to have all the information of the world at our fingertips. The internet also allows your customers, bosses, and colleagues compare you to the rest of your peers. If you start getting passed up, you can guarantee that your customers and bosses will start looking elsewhere.

There are so many ways to learn nowadays that you really don’t have an excuse. There are audiobooks that you can listen to as you drive. There are eBooks you can download with one click. There are podcasts, articles, and videos that are free, so you have no excuse. If you aren’t continuing to learn, you are one thing, lazy. If you fail due to laziness, that’s your fault and no one else’s.

Listen to “Barbell Life” on Spreaker.

However, you can’t just say that I am going to read a book or listen to a podcast. You have to schedule it just like anything else. You have to plan. You can listen to your audiobook on the way into work. You can listen to your favorite podcast every Friday by getting up a bit earlier. You can do whatever you want as long as you plan it.

Step 5 – Educate Others

Step 5 is to educate the world. No matter what field or niche, in today’s world, you have the ability to share what you are learning. There are several avenues to share your thoughts like blogging, podcasts, videos/vlogs, and social media. Whether you are a college professor or a personal trainer, you can increase your value by growing your following. Andy Galpin is a professor, but now he’s even more valuable because the whole world knows how brilliant he is. That’s valuable to the school because he attracts more potential students to apply. If you are a personal trainer, it’s a way of getting new clients.

I give free information because I love to teach people about the things that I am passionate about. Meanwhile the people reading my free articles and listening to my free podcasts are learning to trust me as an expert. That makes them more willing to buy my books and join my online team. I have found that the more quality free information that I put out is directly proportionate to the number of items that are purchased on my site. It’s weird how the universe works.

READ TODAY. LIFT MORE TOMORROW.

World champion powerlifter and world-class weightlifting coach Travis Mash shares his powerful neural activation technique - proven to instantly increase your strength as well as lead to more long-term gains.

This industry is amazing. I spend my days thinking on new and better ways to educate my readers and listeners. I get emails all the time thanking me for helping them reach one goal or another. Sometimes people email me thanking me for making them want to be better parents or husbands, and admittedly those emails are my favorite. I love fitness, but nothing is more important than family and God. This industry is beautiful in the way that we get to help people. If you focus on helping others in as many ways as possible, you won’t fail. I won’t lie though, it’s hard work. If you want to work 40-hours per week, this is probably not the industry for you. You don’t punch out with this industry. You are always on the clock. But you know what? I don’t want to be off the clock.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

How Louie Simmons Influenced My Approach to Training and Rehab by Eric Bowman

If you’ve spent any amount of time in strength sports or in strength and conditioning, Louie Simmons, the strength coach and owner of the famed powerlifting gym Westside Barbell, is a familiar name – and with good reason. Louie’s athletes have broken over 140 world records and Louie has worked with numerous international, collegiate, and professional athletes and sports teams to make them bigger and stronger beyond their wildest dreams. His (and Travis’s) protégé Dave Hoff just broke the all-time total record in multiply yesterday (as of the day I am finishing writing this).

Whether you love him or hate him, or whether you agree or disagree with him, you can’t take away from Louie’s contributions to the strength and conditioning field or from the amount of information, guidance, and help he’s put out there for free.

In this piece, I discuss ways in which Louie influenced my approach to training and rehabilitation.

Emphasize Training The Muscles You Can’t See In The Mirror

Anyone’s who’s read or listened to anything that Louie has put out there knows that he puts a premium on training the glutes and hamstrings to build the squat and deadlift as well as training the upper back (scapular muscles, rotator cuff) and lats to build the bench press.

In many of the weight training clientele that I see, both as patients and for fitness and educational consults, these muscles are horrendously neglected. There’s a reason you don’t see too many people knocking out strict GHRs or chin-ups for sets of 10 at your regular gym. Most gym-goers overemphasize the muscles on the front of the body (i.e. pecs, quads, biceps, abs).

From both a performance and a clinical perspective that’s a huge mistake.

Training the glutes and hamstrings can have many benefits including

  • Aesthetics: improved butt and thigh muscular development
  • Performance: improved hip extension strength, hypertrophy, power, and speed with running and hip hinging movements
  • Injury prevention and rehab: research suggests decreased hamstring strength relative to quadricep strength is a risk factor for initial and subsequent ACL injuries and glute centric exercises are well supported in the research for helping with patellofemoral pain

Also training the upper back and lat muscles can provide many similar benefits including

  • Aesthetics: improved chest size and a “3D look” (to quote Joe DeFranco)
  • Performance: improved tightness and stability as well as shorter range of motion during the bench press.
  • Injury prevention: some research, although this is conflicting, suggests scapular movement deficits are a risk factor for shoulder pain. Either way these exercises can be helpful for shoulder pain and are often the ones most (but not all) of my patients tolerate best in the early stages of rehab

As such, Louie has motivated me to emphasize training of these muscles in the clinical and fitness populations I work with.

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.

Properly Building GPP And Overall Work Capacity

One of the biggest issues in youth athletic development, particularly in the US, is that of early sports specialization. Young, underdeveloped athletes are specializing in one sport far too soon and paying for it. By contrast Louie, with both his younger and older athletes, is a big fan of building a general base of fitness through various exercises and athletic endeavours. I preach this concept to patients, parents, students, and other professionals.

In addition, Louie is a big fan of building work capacity. Despite the negative connotation associated with high training volumes in sports, high training volumes can actually be very beneficial for both performance and injury prevention as long as the workload is not progressed too fast too soon. The optimal rate of workload progression in most people ranges from 10-20% per week although some may need a slower progression and some need a faster progression. Louie is a big fan of building training volume in his athletes through his special exercises but doing it slowly.

Having An Appropriate Atmosphere

One trait that most people think of when they think of Westside is its intense, ultra-competitive atmosphere. Some powerlifters and coaches have claimed that the atmosphere is the biggest reason behind the success of the gym. While that statement is debatable – one can’t deny the importance of having the right atmosphere in a clinic or gym in maximizing results.

In a clinic, the atmosphere should be warm, calm, friendly, caring and also relaxed and not rushed.

In a strength and conditioning facility, the atmosphere should be energetic and motivational with coaches and athletes pushing each other.

If you’re a clinician, trainer, gym owner, or clinic owner, is your atmosphere holding you back from getting results?

Learning From People Outside of Your “Box”

Louie has spent decades of time, effort, and money learning from and networking with various strength coaches, sport scientists, nutritionists, sprint coaches, physics experts, and many other people from outside of his domain of strict powerlifting.

In today’s health and fitness world, there is certainly more interaction between these different experts, but as Louie rose to popularity in the 80s and 90s that wasn’t so popular and everyone stayed in their own “box.” Louie helped to break down those barriers and is one of the greatest strength coaches of all time because of that.

In my line of work – being involved with both orthopedic physiotherapy, exercise for people with chronic diseases, and a bit of strength conditioning – I can’t do it all. Part of my job involves learning from and referring/recommending clients to strength coaches, trainers, dietitians, MDs, psychiatrists, sleep doctors, and other professionals. Given all the different facets of optimizing rehab and performance it’d be criminal to think you know everything or can do everything. Louie learns from and refers to lots of other experts for stuff outside of his domain – and you should too.

Since the 1960’s Louie has been a force to be reckoned with in the strength and conditioning world and he will continue to be that until the day he dies. I hope you can take a few tips from this that you can apply to your work. Thank you, Louie.

Here's the key to unlocking even more gains in 2018...

Become a member of the Mash Mafia.

* Fully Customized Programming

* Unlimited Technique Analysis

* The Best Coaching in the World

About The Author
Eric graduated with a B.Sc. in Honours Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo in 2013 where he studied under world famous back expert Stuart McGill and was a Research Apprentice in the Spine Biomechanics laboratory. During his time at the University he worked at the Waterloo Regional Cardiac Rehabilitation Foundation.

After completing his B.Sc. he researched exercise and osteoporosis under Lora Giangregorio at the UW Bone Health lab before completing his Masters of Physical Therapy at Western University in 2015. Eric’s areas of interest are musculoskeletal rehabilitation, strength training, and exercise for special populations.

Outside of his clinical work Eric also contributes to course development in the Kinesiology program at the University of Waterloo and has contributed to course development and review in the Western University Physiotherapy program. Eric also competes in powerlifting and became Canadian Powerlifting Union Coaching Workshop Certified in 2018. Eric can be reached via email at bigericbowman@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Fixing Butt Wink in the Squat

I have learned so much about the squat in the last several months as I researched for Squat Science. It’s hard to imagine still learning more about a movement I once held the world record in. Most people would believe holding a world record would make someone an expert. They would absolutely be wrong. Some people are born great at certain movements and sports, and that certainly doesn’t make them experts.

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.

 

You become an expert by spending your life learning all there is to learn about a topic. In this article, I want to look into the squat by addressing a common mistake: The Dreaded Butt Wink.
 

What Is Butt Wink?

If you’re curious about what butt wink is – or if it’s a problem – here one of our YouTube videos that should fill you in before we dive deeper.

So if you or one of your athletes do have an undesirable amount of butt wink, here’s how I would go about diagnosing and addressing the situation.
 

Assessing the Problem

Let’s look at the butt wink. The first thing to do is find out if the problem is:

  1. Are you starting with the lumbar spine hyperextended?
  2. Is the problem just motor control?
  3. Is it mobility?
  4. Or is it a combination?

A lot of weightlifters and powerlifters have been told their whole lives to keep a tight back. Some coaches will cue their lifters to arch their backs. Personally, I never use the word arch your back. I prefer the words “pack your lats,” which means to simply take the shoulders down towards your hips. This will keep the back tight in a more neutral position.

Here are a few cues that promote core stiffness without over-arching:

  1. Eyes forwards – looking up tends to cause excessive over-arching, so maintaining a neutral focal point is first.
  2. Shoulders back and down – this movement will engage the rhomboids and hold the scapula in place, but emphasize the engagement of the lats with taking the shoulders down towards the hips.
  3. Bend the bar – with your elbows directly underneath the barbell, I want you to pull down on the barbell. This will ensure that your lats are engaged in a way that keeps the spine neutral.

There is one more thing I would do to make sure you aren’t starting in a hyperextended position, and that’s use a mirror. I know that using a mirror is taboo in a lot of gyms, but that’s silly. A lot of Asian weightlifters are known to use mirrors for the instant visual feedback. Some people simply can’t feel what you’re trying to tell them, but they can see it. A mirror can sometimes be the only thing you need to fix the problem.

Once you’ve figured out if you’re starting hyperextended or not, the next thing to do is figure out if you’re struggling with motor control or from a mobility issue. Most of the time it’s motor control, but not always. However as you will find out, the best way to fix mobility issues is with frequency and motor control exercises.

First, let’s figure out what the problem really is. My friend Dr. Zach Long made this cool video that shows you an exercise you can use to determine if you have a motor control issue or a mobility issue. Check it out:

If you can perform this movement without a butt wink, then you have a motor control problem. If you have the mobility to perform this quadruped rock, you are essentially performing a squat without any load. I love the fact that Zach is adding a PVC pipe because it begins the teaching process and allows the athlete to start gaining control of the pelvis. I use a PVC pipe in this manner a lot to teach my athletes where their glutes are in relation to their shoulders and back.
 

Fixing a Motor Control Problem

So what do you do if it’s a motor control issue? I like to start at the very beginning, an air squat. This is where I start everyone. If you or your athlete can’t perform an air squat, there is no point in loading. When you load dysfunction, you are simply adding more dysfunction.

STEP 1
I would start with an air squat in the mirror. Sometimes an athlete can fix things by simply getting a visual. If they can’t, then use a bench or ball going as low as you can without the butt wink. I would then squat 3-5 times per week in this manner slowly working to a lower position.

STEP 2
Then load by holding a plate or dumbbell at arms length straight out in front of the body. One thing you will find is that it is easier to brace while anteriorly loaded. When Dr. McGill visited my gym a few months ago, he showed me this movement. I was squatting on a Westside Barbell Athletic Training Platform, explaining to him that the machine alleviates my hip pain. When he had me hold a plate in front of my body, I instantly found that I had much better motor control over my pelvis. I have all the mobility issues with a hip that needs to be replaced – but when holding that plate, I was able to squat with a perfectly neutral spine.

The same progressions are true for this movement. If you can’t squat with a full range of motion without using a butt wink, then set up a box or ball to a height that you can maintain a good posture. I suggest a frequency of 3-5 times per week while slowly lowering the height over time. When you can squat to a full range of motion without a butt wink, you can progress to the next step.

STEP 3
Next, progress to the kettlebell goblet squat. Once again, you can use a box or ball to progress your depth. Once you’re able to squat with a full range of motion, the next step is to increase the load until you physically can’t hold the kettlebell. At that point, it should be safe to move on to front squat, which is also easier to brace since it is still anteriorly loaded. Then you can move into a high bar back squat, and then a low bar back squat (if you low bar back squat).

Here’s a great way to use the Goblet Squat:

Here are a couple of more tips to master the squat and to get rid of the butt wink.

  1. Perform the McGill 3 (Bird Dogs, Side Planks, and Curl-Ups) – it’s amazing the amount of postural control you will notice after performing this three movements. You will notice that bracing becomes easier than ever.
  2. Frequency is the answer to just about anything movement related. You will notice that a slight increase in frequency will lead to better motor control and mobility. It’s simple if you think about it. Your body becomes more efficient with movements that you practice more often.
  3. Westside Barbell Athletic Training Platform – I realize that a lot of you don’t have one, but if you do, it’s the best warm up in the world. The belt holds your pelvis at neutral while forcing your glutes to activate. This prepares your body for perfect motor control and bracing. If you don’t have one and are looking for a new piece of equipment, I would suggest an ATP over anything.

 

Fixing A Mobility Issue

The first thing to do is decide what part or parts of the body are immobile. You will need to check out the following joints:

• Hips (Internal Rotation, External Rotation, and flexion)
• Ankles
• Hamstrings

Dr. Zach Long has written a great article with some ways to assess your mobility, and some ideas to fix it.

Here are my ideas to rid you of the dreaded butt wink:

  • Warm up with a 10 minute walk
  • McGill Big 3
  • Start with glute marches on the ATP 3 x 30 seconds
  • Then Squats on the ATP 3 x 10 with a light load on the machine and a plate held straight out in front
  • I take 2-3 mobility exercises specific to me that I superset with the ATP work. For me that is half kneeling psoas stretches and quadruped rocks with banded traction
  • All of this is followed by a proper barbell only warm up

In most cases, the butt wink is a hyperextended lumbar spine finding neutral, or a lack of motor control. The key is learning proper technique from the very beginning, and then practicing those mechanics often. The warm up above will encourage proper movement and stability. It will also lower the risk of injury, and it will keep all the muscles firing that stabilize the pelvis and spine promoting optimal core stability. I hope this article sheds a little light on the butt wink. The goal is that you walk away understanding:

  • What a butt wink is
  • How to assess to find out if the issue is mobility or motor control
  • And how to correct

Squatting is an exercise that allows a lot of us to lift the most weight possible. It’s fun, and it gets the results that we all want. Squats will help you run faster and jump higher. Not to mention squats make you jacked. I want you to be able to do it for a long time without injury. It’s not always about squatting heavy. The person that can squat the longest without injury is the person that normally ends up winning the squat race.
 

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