You hear us coaches giving cues left and right on everything you do in the gym. Heck, it’s what you pay us for, right? Most of the time we put the focus on the big things: flat back position, weight on the heels, engaging the appropriate muscles for the lift. Sometimes, the details fall to the wayside. Today we’re going to look at two potentially ‘minor’ details that can have a major impact on your overall fitness. These little mistakes pave the way for bigger injuries in the future.
Chicken Necking (see photo):
Otherwise known as cervical hyperextension, this is most common during deadlifts, low bar back squats, and push ups. According to Eric Cressey, improper spinal posture in the long run can lead to major back problems, including slipped discs and numb and non functioning muscles in your arms. Keeping your head in a neutral position is extremely important to maintain a good spinal position throughout the lift. Think about holding a tennis ball under your chin at all times to find that posture.
Often times, when we sit in a chair and/or slouch, it’s easy for the head to tilt back, chin to stick up, and end up in the chicken neck position. In fact, if you find yourself in that position while reading this, get up and knock out some burpees!
Bracing with lower black instead of midline:
This one is much harder to catch, but the biggest tell is if you find it difficult to touch your chest and upper thighs to the ground during a push up (and by chest I mean the pectoral muscles and NOT the lower ribs). The reason it is difficult to do is you may be using your lower back muscles to brace your body in a plank instead of your abdominal muscles. You may feel just as stable, but in reality, you are setting yourself up for serious back injuries, especially if you gain strength and start lifting heavier weights.
When your body braces with the lower back, you end up in an hyperextended position as the back muscles contract. Moreover, your abdominal muscles have been weakened by lack of use and can’t exert the proper force needed to neutralize the spine. Very bad juju.
This habit is harder to break and an athlete would have to make time to do homework (that pesky word again) and concentrate on the following: hip wall stretch, strict crunches, proper planks, and eventually adding proper push ups into the mix once the body has been retrained to brace correctly. Sounds like a lot of work, but 10 minutes a day is more than enough. Take 10 minutes during your favorite TV show, your Cal OSHA break, or come to class early/stay late to get it done.
Back Squat 3×5