Table of Contents
When we learn weightlifting we learn one posture - hips back, chest forward and high, shoulders retracted, spine arched, the 'muscle beach' pose posture that's necessary to support heavy weights. When we learn gymnastics we learn the opposite posture, the hollow body in which the shoulders can be forward and hunched as long as the core is tight and hollowed. And when we learn kettlebells we learn a posture that's in between.
We should all be able to do all three and in this piece I'll share some drills to get there and some correctives for when you get stuck.
First posture is ‘Muscle beach’ posture
This exaggerated ‘muscle beach’ posture is vital to protect the spine against shearing forces when you’re picking something heavy up off the ground. At the top position of squats and deadlifts, you’ll find yourself in this posture.
If you have trouble getting into this position, it’s usually a result of weak thoracic extensors. You need to be able to find the base of your T-spine, where it meets the lumbar spine at the base of your rib cage, and ‘hinge up’ from there, lifting and expanding your whole chest and upper back.
To get there, try these drills:
1: Foam roller extensions
If you don’t have a foam roller, use a makeshift one like a rolled towel or firm bolster. Lie on your back, with the soles of your feet on the floor and your legs bent. Put the roller under the transition between your T-spine and L-spine – that’s just under your floating ribs. Then lie back, hinging over the roller. Some people will notice a slight increase in flexibility; others will hear a series of loud cracks as facet joints that have been snarled up for years come loose! Don’t try to force this, and do a few repetitions: the aim is to improve so make sure you don’t hurt yourself!
2: Front squats
Huh? Front squats are one of the best mobility and stability drills out there. You just can’t do a front squat with crummy spinal erectors and a collapsed chest, you’ll drop the bar. Put a weight you can feel on the bar, but no more – it’s just there to guide you, you’re not trying to beast your way through this. Concentrate on locking that arch in your back in all the way down, keeping your neck packed and elbows high. Do a couple of sets of 10-12, working on depth and quality, and feel that tightness in your T-spine as your erectors spinae pull you into shape!
Bridges are a bodyweight equivalent to front squats for our purposes. Do full bridges, let your head hang and use your spinal erectors like callipers. Expect to find out where your traps are too!
The second posture is one many of us never learn.