Tag Archives: weight lifting form

Understanding Body Position

24 Jan

When we throw around words like ‘form’ and ‘technique’ what we’re really talking about is body position. If you can first teach someone the basic body positions required during exercise, you can then apply those body positions pretty easily while performing any specific lift. Trying to coach someone in the reverse order is like teaching someone multiplication before you teach them how to count. Yeah, you probably could do it but it would take way longer and there would be a ton more mistakes along the way.

“…maximum external force developed by the muscles corresponds to a specific joint angle in each case (Verkhoshansky).”

What does this mean? It means that certain body positions are universally more efficient when it comes to stability and being able to produce force, no matter who you are. That’s why we have “technique”. That’s why there is a “right” and “wrong” way to execute a lift. The “right” way is simply a combination of the most efficient body positions you can achieve in order to elicit the most force production.

‘What are these universal body positions,’ you ask? Good question..

1) Neutral, stable spine. I’ve been to 2 very good seminars the past 2 weekends and one of the biggest points of emphasis was always maintaining a braced core and a neutral spine. This DOESN’T just mean ‘lower back’. It means not overextending at the thoracic spine and letting our ribcage fly open, and also maintaining a neutral HEAD position instead of cranking your chin up towards the ceiling on squats, deadlifts, pull ups, etc. Kelley Starrett says that ANY spinal movement under a load is leaking power. Stabilize the entire spine.

2) Scapula retracted, depressed. If you’ve ever been taught to bench press correctly, you were told to squeeze your shoulders BACK and DOWN. Locking into this position and maintaining it throughout the movement gives us the most solid base to press off of.

Try teaching someone to deadlift without cueing them to pull their shoulders back and down. What happens?? Chest caves in, back rounds out, and we’re in a broken position. NOW, cue them to pull their shoulders back and down and BOOM! Gorilla chest, neutral spine, strong and stable position.

The same thing happens in the squat. The same thing happens in the pull up. Starting to get it?

3) Arms externally rotated. Think about any pressing movement: push ups, bench press, overhead press, etc. The most efficient arm position is found in keeping the elbows ‘tucked’ rather than ‘flared’ out to the side. We reach the ‘tucked’ elbow position by externally rotating the humerus (upper arm) at the shoulder joint.

Think about squatting. When you grab the bar, your arms are in a position of external rotation. The further you drive your elbows forward (externally rotate) the tighter your scapula become, and the more solid your base is.

Solid = strong.

Whether the bar is on your back, above your head, on your chest, or on the floor certain body positions will allow us to pick that shit up and put it back down. That’s the reason we’re all here, right? Practice your body position kids, and the ‘technique’ will be there when you need it.

Train hard, train smart.


I know I got a little wordy on this one. If your brain hurts, just watch this to soothe your inner meathead.



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