The chest up squat cue is not a one-size-fits-all solution

Plant your feet. engage your core. Look straight. Get your ass out. Keep your chest up.

These are just a few of the more common squat cues I tried to watch out for as a novice weightlifter, and yet despite following them all religiously, my barbell squat always felt a little…off. While I was able to leg press 450 pounds without breaking a sweat, I could barely squat with the barbell on its own. My lower back would cramp up after just one rep, and my hips ached on the ascent.

It wasn’t until I started working with a lifting coach and started filming my workouts that I discovered the root of my squat problems: I was keeping my chest up. too much. That’s right, in my effort to get “perfect” squat form, I was actually hyperextending my spine, causing what is known in the lifting community as a “butt wink” or pelvic drop in my lower back. squat.

As it turns out, proper form actually varies a lot from person to person, and according to Joe Miller, USA Powerlifting competitor, powerlifting coach, and co-owner of North Dallas Strength gym, cues like “keep your chest up” aren’t exactly rules of thumb. to lift by This is why.

Why the “keep your chest up” squat cue isn’t right for every body

When we hold our chest too upright during the lowering of a squat, we tend to arch our back and create a “C” shape in our spine to compensate for the unnaturally upright posture. This places an immense amount of pressure on our lower back, shifting the weight load from our legs to our lower back.

@ericrobertsfitness Everything they told you was a lie… #squats #legday #legworkout #legdayworkout ♬ Morning Sky – Tundra Beats

According to Miller, this overcorrection actually sets the bar behind our center of gravity and can lead to the aforementioned dreaded “butt wink” on the descent, and can eventually lead to a nasty lower back injury.

“In fact, most of the time I think it’s counterproductive,” Miller says of the chest-up sign. very upright torso. A lot of his problems could be solved just by thinking less about it and putting his body in a position that it will naturally want to be in, to stay balanced.”

Just as our fitness goals are totally unique to us, so are our anatomies. While some people are comfortable squatting with their feet pointed forward, some of us have to angle our feet out to “open” our hips, depending on how our femurs connect in the hip sockets.

“If the femur bones face to the outside of the hips, that’s where the head of the hip socket is, and you’re not going to squat comfortably with your legs stretched out in front of you at shoulder height, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” adds Miller. (Psst: If you need help figuring out which standing position is best for you, try this simple physical exam.)

Instead of focusing on keeping your chest up during squats, try these tips below.

4 Squat Rules to Try Instead of “Keep Your Chest Up”

1. Do a full body squat to find your posture

Before loading up your barbell, do a few body squats in front of a mirror, says Miller. Place your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, clench your hands into fists, and place them next to your shoulders as if you were performing a barbell squat. Adjust your posture as you squat until you can comfortably reach a point where your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.

“Your body is more likely to end up in the correct position than someone telling you what to do,” says Miller. “Practice bodyweight squats and see what feels good. If you can get to parallel without anything crazy happening during a bodyweight squat, that’s usually a good starting point.”

2. Keep your head up, not your chest

Keeping your head up and looking straight ahead will help fuel your upward movement during the ascent without compromising weight distribution on the lower half. If you’re squatting in front of a mirror, avoid looking at your body while performing the squat. Keeping your eyes fixed forward, contract your abs, back, and legs as you squat.

Those with longer torsos and shorter femurs may end up in a mostly upright squat, but those with longer legs and shorter torsos may have to lean their torso forward slightly to keep the bar on its vertical path.

“It’s a matter of bone structure,” says Miller. “Different people have to squat differently.”

3. Imagine that the rod can only travel in a straight vertical path

Instead of contorting your stance to keep your torso straight up and down, imagine that the bar can only move in a vertical path that’s perpendicular to the floor. Adjust your foot width, angle, and torso as needed to maintain balance and keep the bar on this vertical path.

@deltabolic :x: STOP squatting with a diagonal/curve bar! This can increase the risk of lower back injury and decrease the power of the squat. :white_check_mark: Vertically Straight Path Squat For a full workout schedule with tips and meal plan, visit the link in my bio. #squat #squattips #squattutorial #squatform #workouttips ♬ Babel – Gustavo Bravetti

4. Push through the ground

Instead of concentrating on getting your chest up during the ascent, focus on pushing off with your feet, as if you’re trying to push the ground away from you. This will help you keep the tension focused on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, rather than your chest and back.

If you’re still having trouble shifting your weight during squats, consider asking a professional trainer or lifting coach to watch you squat. Remember: Proper form can vary from person to person, and if you feel too much pressure on your lower back, you may need to adjust your posture to redirect the weight load onto your legs.

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