Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Whether you are an elite athlete or a beginner here are the must use cues to stimulate your brain before your body. Here are 5 cues we use at Lift Lab all the time!
Fill the balloon – Your diaphragm is built like a balloon. Think about what happens when you blow up a balloon. Does one side fill with air while the other side stays flat? Of course it doesn’t work that way. When you fill that balloon, it gets longer and wider at the same time while the air is spread evenly throughout. Likewise, when you go to inhale and brace your diaphragm, you should think about filling your entire midsection from both sides to top and bottom. This will help ensure that your core remains stable as opposed to simply trying to tighten your abdominals. By doing this, your natural “weight belt” (your strong core) remains rigid while transferring movements.
Push the floor away - while pressing from a lying position, I commonly hear the cue to push INTO the floor. This is not an incorrect cue but I find that a better way to phrase this is to push the floor AWAY from you or out from under you. Think about your feet being on a towel and trying to slide that towel away from you. The reason for this is trying to correctly transfer force from the ground to the barbell. If you focus on pushing your feet directly DOWN into the floor, your hips could come off of the bench causing unwanted spine extension. If you push AWAY from the floor, it will help keep you anchored to the bench and transfer that force to the barbell.
Bend the bar – this cue can also be applied to bench press variations. While lying on a bench, a common mistake I see is people reaching too far up at the top of the movement causing the shoulder girdle to protract. This could be troublesome because your upper back is the anchor to the bench. If your anchor (shoulder blades) is protracting and retracting, your stability is compromised. By trying to bend the barbell, this will keep your shoulders in external rotation and shoulder girdle retracted and thus, creates a stable surface to press from.
Shave the thighs – this cue is mainly for the ECCENTRIC portions of deadlift variations. While lowering the barbell back down to the floor or knees, the best bar placement to maintain quality back position is to have the bar in contact with the thighs while maintaining balance over the mid-foot. If the bar swings out away from the body, tension usually shifts to the low back. That’s a big no-no. By using the visual cue of having the bar act as a razor to shave the thighs, most people can easily get into the right position.
Press on the gas pedal – for exercises that require the athlete to maintain balance over the mid-foot, I like them to focus on two things; keep your big toe and your heel on the ground (similar to pressing your foot on the gas pedal). While squatting, I often hear a coach cue to stay on your heels or keep the heels on the floor. Although that is not wrong in instances where the athlete is shifting forward onto the toes, it can be counterproductive to only focus on shifting back into the heels. Being taught to squat by setting back into the heels can lead to athletes shifting too far back and being off-balance. In order to keep the midline where we want it, keep the heel AND big toe on the ground.
Remember cues are just a form of communication to get an athlete into the right position. There are no right or wrong answers. These are just the cues that we have found to be the most successful. If you have any questions please email Cody Here!