posted on December 16, 2021
When it comes to trying to be the most efficient we can be with our lifts, there are so many cues and words being thrown around that it can become overwhelming at times. Every “coach” has a list of cues that they use when working with their clients. The fact is that we only need to focus on and perfect a couple cues in order to make great technical progress with each lift. Listed below are three cues that I use with every individual that I work with in order to become proficient with the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
1)Twist into the floor: Your feet are one of the most crucial aspects of a quality squat. I like to think about it from the floor up. Spread your toes and plant them into the floor while focusing on three points of contact. The ball under the big toe, the ball under the pinky toe, and the heel. Twist outward (without rolling on the outside of your foot) in order to engage your hips. Keep that pressure & tension the entire squat.
2)Push into your belt: Bracing is absolutely crucial for a big strong squat. Flexing your abs IS NOT the same as bracing and pushing into your belt. When you take a big breath before you lift, it should go deep into your diaphragm and down & out into your obliques, abs, and even lower back when done correctly. A simple and effective way to practice this technique is to use a small micro mini band around your mid section to push into in order to provide feedback.
3)Pull the bar into your back: Pulling your shoulder blades together as tightly as possible while having your hands as close as possible to your shoulders certainly helps to keep the back rigid, but it provides little engagement and structure of the big lat muscles which connect down at the waist and keep the entire back erect. This will also help to keep your sternum tall. When you squat, think about doing a behind the neck lat pulldown. That is the same tension and concept that you want to feel when you are pulling the bar down into your back during the squat.
1)Set your lats: Just as we start the squat with the feet, It’s good to start the bench with the upper back. When laying down on the bench, think about pulling your shoulder blades down towards your back pockets as hard as possible. This will pull your sternum up towards the ceiling and provide a very strong base and foundation for a solid bench, as your lats are one of the biggest and strongest muscles in our body.
2)Bend the bar: When you grab the bar, think about putting all of the pressure on the outside pad of your palm underneath of your pinky finger. Squeeze that area as hard as possible while thinking about “bending” the bar in your hands just as you would if you were trying to break a stick. This will build a tremendous amount of tension in your back along with stability as you pull the bar down and press it.
3)Push yourself into the bench: A lot of times we think about pressing the bar off of us as hard as possible. It’s our natural instinct. This usually leads to losing that tension that we’ve previously created in our back. When you bring the bar down to your chest, focus on driving your head, neck, and upper back down into the bench as hard as possible as soon as you go to press the bar. This will keep you much more stable and give you more power.
1)Lats in back pockets: As with the squat and bench press, our lats are a huge benefactor for a strong and stable deadlift. As you’re setting up to grab the bar, pull those lats down into your back pockets and pull your sternum up so it’s facing the floor out in front of you. This will keep you in a strong & safe position while providing a ton of tension and rigidity throughout the lift.
2)Pull the bar through your body: One of the biggest things that will cause a difficult lift is letting the bar drift out away from your shins and your body. To correct this, focus on using those lats to pull the bar as close as possible to your body, almost as if someone had a band attached to it and was trying to pull it away from you. This will keep those lats tight and give you your best chance of staying in a strong position.
3)Leg press through the floor: Although we think of the deadlift as a “pull” the truth is, a majority of it is initiated by a “push”. Just as you drive a leg press away from you or press yourself away from the floor during a squat, you want to do the same with the beginning of a deadlift. Combining this cue while simultaneously focusing on your lats will give you the tension and position needed to perform a perfect lift.
As always, stop by and ask for any help related to these cues or any other aspect of your training program. We are more than happy to help.
– Curtis Miller