Thoracic Mobility: Chest Up When You Squat
Chest up when you squat is one of the most common problems among athletes. Many people think that chest up when they squat means not using your arms at all, but it’s actually quite different from that. In fact, many people have no idea what I’m talking about!
When you do a regular deadlift or any other traditional barbell exercise, your body naturally tries to stabilize itself. Your arms are used to keep your torso upright while lifting weights. If you don’t use them, then they won’t work properly and will become weaker.
So if you want to lift heavier weight, then you need to train your arms first before training your legs or core muscles.
But there are some cases where you might need to use your arms during a deadlift. For example, if you’re doing a power clean, then your arms aren’t going to be able to support the load. So you’ll probably have to use them for balance.
But if you’re just trying to build strength and muscle mass, then it doesn’t matter what kind of arm position you take because your goal is still the same – building bigger muscles!
The best way to train for this is to lift very heavy weights. You can also try doing a power clean, but you may not be able to lift that much weight. Dips are also a good exercise, but some people will find it difficult to keep their body in proper form.
Using accommodating resistance can also help you get the right form. For example, you can stand on a weight rack to take the strain off your arms when lifting heavier weight.
If you’re doing squats, then the same rules apply except you should try not to hunch over too much. If you have a history of back problems or unstable posture, then this may be even more important to you. Make sure that your legs and core are strong enough so your upper body doesn’t do all the work.
For most people, this isn’t going to be a problem at all. Especially if your program involves a lot of heavy lifting. But if you’re just starting out and you’re still worried about this, then you can always get one of those powerlifting belts that helps take some of the strain off your core.
How to improve your thoracic mobility to get the bar lower
This is another common problem, but it’s mainly for powerlifters who want to bench press as much as they can. The first thing you need to do is learn how to retract your shoulders.
If you have no idea what that means, then all you have to do is make sure your shoulders are pulled all the way back at the top of the lift.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a squat, deadlift or bench press. Retracting your shoulders can help get the bar lower. This can help you in two different ways.
The first thing it does is it takes some of the strain off your core and arms. This allows you to lift heavier weight without your arms giving out before your core muscles do.
The second thing it does is it shifts more of the load onto your quads and hips. So if you’re a bodybuilder, then this means more weight on your legs and glutes.
Most people don’t even realize that their shoulders are in the wrong position. They stick way out which causes your upper-body to have to work harder. So your goal is to pull your shoulders all the way back and keep them there while you’re lifting weights.
If you try this and you still can’t get the bar lower without rounding your back, then you may need to stretch and foam roll your thoracic spine. You can read more about that here:
How to fix limited ankle mobility
For some people, ankle flexibility is going to be an issue when trying to get deeper into a squat. If you have “basketball player legs” then this isn’t going to be much of an issue for you. But if you have bigger legs, thicker ankles or flat feet, then this can cause problems with getting into a deep squat.
The main limitation here is going to be your feet. If you can’t get your feet to go far enough away from the squat rack, then you’re going to have a hard time getting low enough. Other than stretching your calves (which can help), the best way to improve this is to lay down a thick rug or towel and slowly work on your ankle mobility.
You can try placing some heavy books on your ankles and slowly rolling them off. Hold and squeeze each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds per foot. You may also want to try placing your toes against a wall and gently “pushing” the wall away with your feet.
This can help your tendons and muscles lengthen.
If this is something you struggle with, then you really should get a squat rack that goes low enough for you to perform squats effectively. You can get RML-3C rack from REP Sport . It’s what I use in the “off season” and it works pretty well.
The RML-3C rack from REP Sport.
How to fix limited hip mobility
If you have a hard time going down low in a squat, then you may need to improve your hip mobility. Before we get into the stretches and exercises you can do, I want to show you an example of what not to do.
The hip thrust is a great exercise for improving hip mobility, but most people do it wrong. They tend to put their feet way too close to their body which doesn’t allow for the movement to come from the hips. If you have tight hips, then this is not the exercise for you.
So if the hip thrust isn’t going to help me, what will?
In general, you’re going to want to stick with open chain exercises. Closed chain exercises are ones in which your foot is fixed and you’re moving your hip (like in a squat). Open chain exercises are ones in which your foot is free to move and you’re moving something else (like your knee or elbow).
Here are some of the best open chain exercises for improving hip mobility:
The clams exercise is great for improving the mobility of your hips. All you need is a yoga mat and you’re ready to go.
You start on your hands and knees, and then you raise one leg up while keeping the other one on the ground. Keep your foot straight and ensure that the knee doesn’t go past the toes. From this position, you want to work on taking your hips as far away from the floor as you can.
Do not push up with your arms.
The goal is to get your hip as high as you can without letting your knee go over your toe. Hold this for a second and then do the other side.
You can also perform this exercise walking your hands towards your foot. Here you’re working on taking your hip as close to the ground as you can without letting your knee touch.
2. Frog pumps
The frog pump is a closed chain exercise that will improve your hip mobility. It’s very simple and you all should be familiar with it.
Sources & references used in this article:
Thoracic Mobility For Climbers by M DeStefano – theclimbingdoctor.com
Dissecting the Squat by Z LONG – CrossFit Journal, 2015 – library.crossfit.com
The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance by GD Myer, AM Kushner, JL Brent… – Strength and …, 2014 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Deep Squat by BC November – bretcontreras.com