Everyone’s bodies and minds are slightly different – the cues and tips that make sense and work for one person might not make sense to another, and sometimes a new way of saying the same thing can set off the most stubborn of lightlbulbs when it comes to safe and efficient positioning.
Once of the most effective cues for me in recent years, both for efficiency (in terms of making a rigid, functional lever out of my torso) and safety (in terms of protecting my spine and especially those pesky oh so important shoulders) has been the cue to tuck the shoulder blades into the back pockets.
I first came across it while researching cues to prop up my mysteriously (at the time) slumping deadlift, although it is common advice for the bench press – but I’d never made the connection to focus on it when not lying on my back. Where advice to stay “tight” or “rigid” had never quite triggered all of the necessary points of performance in me, thinking of a tuck to the rear quickly and easily reminded me to do what I already knew I ought to be – engage my lats and stabilize my thoracic spine – but had lost sight of in the midst of focusing on the weight and reps. Once I realized how much it helped, and how effectively it seemed to prevent me from getting careless, I realized that the deadlift was by far not the only place I’d let myself get a little loose and distracted. A simple pause to set my upper back by thinking about tucking those blades into my back pocket and suddenly my clean and snatch were going up far more smoothly too.
Then one afternoon I noticed a tiny ache in my shoulder during some toes to bar – and a second later noticed that apparently I’d forgotten every good thing my coaches back in New York had ever taught me about active shoulder. The next rep I thought about tucking those blades in – and again, not only did my shoulders feel better – I got far more power for less work. Laziness never pays, I suppose! My pullups have been much better lately – and I am certain a large part of that is due to a recent increase in strength, but I can tell that I am also benefitting from taking a simple easy second or two to remember some of the most basic fundamentals.