Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position

Bret’s Introduction

Ben Bruno is kind of a big deal. He’s known as one of the most innovative trainers in the fitness industry, and he’s provided useful information that is being put to use in gyms around the world. You may recall that he wrote THIS guest blog for my site 6 months ago which provided 12 tips for better hip thrusts. You also might remember Ben from the Evolution of the Hip Thrust blogpost, where Ben’s videos were featured numerous times. I’m going to give today’s article from Ben a thorough introduction as I believe that the advice contained within is very important.

For quite some time, I’ve been noticing that my best clients in terms of glute capacity tend to flex their necks during hip thrusts. I do it, Diana does it (see picture below…this picture was taken around a month ago during a set of hip thrusts), and several of my clients do it as well. Now, some of you who have been reading my blog for many years will recall that several years ago, I noticed that my best clients tended to round their upper backs during back extensions. However, it still took me time to realize that I should actually coach and cue the rounded thoracic spine approach when teaching back extensions (see HERE) for greater glute activation.

Diana hip thrusting - note the head/neck position which prevents overarching of the spine and encourages slight posterior pelvic tilt.

Diana hip thrusting – note the head/neck position which prevents overarching of the spine and encourages slight posterior pelvic tilt.

Along the same lines, before last week, I hadn’t yet thought of coaching and cueing a flexed head and neck position during hip thrusts. When Ben called me last week to discuss the epiphany he had for this article, I immediately began utilizing it more with my clients with great success. I should mention that I have found that I’m even more lenient than Ben in terms of the amount of neck flexion I’m okay with – Ben prefers slight flexion, but I prefer moderate flexion.

This flies in the face of how many coaches teach the hip thrust – with neutral spine and neutral head/neck, but I think we modeled this off of squats and deadlifts, where high erector spinae activation is vital, and which likely doesn’t apply to hip thrusts. Please give it a try, as I’ve found that it works very well with the majority clients. That said, some folks who experience neck pain when moving into flexion or those with individuals with pronounced kyphosis are better off sticking to neutral. 

Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position
By: Ben Bruno

I love hip thrusts and use them with just about all of my clients, men and women alike.

For men it’s generally more of a secondary exercise that I use later in the workout after squats, deadlifts, and single leg work, or on days where I want to give the spine a break from heavy loading but still want to achieve a training effect for the posterior chain. The being said, we still focus on progressive overload.

For many of the women I train though, it’s actually my primary lower body exercise. Most of the girls I train want to improve their glutes without building up their thighs, and for that goal I think the hip thrust fits the bill better than any other lower body exercise. As such, I treat it as a primary exercise and do it first in the workout and then follow them up with squats, deadlifts, and single leg work as secondary exercises.

What I like most about hip thrusts is how “user-friendly” they are.

I define user-friendly by several criteria:

  1. Safe: I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone getting hurt from hip thrusts.
  2. Quick learning curve: Most clients pick up hip thrusts very quickly and there’s generally a very steep learning curve, meaning they can pick up the movement quickly and start to get a training effect right away.
  3. Fits many different body types: A lot of clients just aren’t built to squat well and find a continual uphill battle to do so with good form. The same goes for deadlifting, as a lot of folks have an extremely hard time deadlifting from the floor with a neutral spine despite lots of practice and mobility work. Hip thrusts on the other hand seem to work for just about any body type with slight form and setup manipulations.

That being said, while people generally pick up hip thrusts very quickly, there’s one issue/mistake that I see a lot of people make both when they’re first starting out and as they get stronger and strive to use heavier weights, and that’s arching the lower back too much and going into anterior pelvic tilt as they thrust up. (See related post: Quit Going So Darn Heavy on Hip Thrusts: Train Your Glutes, Not Your Ego)

This is usually well-intentioned as it comes from trying to get full hip extension and a complete range of motion, but overarching is both potentially dangerous to the lower back and also ineffective for training the glutes, as you want the stress on the glutes and off the lower back as much as possible. To work the glutes optimally in the hip thrust, I think you want to maintain a neutral spine or even a slight posterior pelvic tilt.

That being said, I don’t like to instruct my clients to posteriorly tilt the pelvis as they end up doing it excessively, which I also don’t think it optimal.

So the challenge then becomes: how to achieve the ideal spine position in the simplest way possible?

I’ve found that while the problem is occurring in the lower back and pelvis, the answer actually lies in the head positioning, and more specifically, the eyes.

Most people tend to crank their head and neck back as the thrust, presumably to help gain momentum to lift more weight. What’s more, a lot of people keep their heads cranked back even as they lower their hips, so their butts are on the floor while their necks are overly extended and their eyes are focused on the ceiling or even the wall behind them.

2-Hyperextension

Hyperextension: Bad

This position clearly puts a lot of undue strain on the neck, but it also sets you up to go into excessive lumbar extension and anterior pelvic tilt.

As a coach I think it’s a good idea to keeping your cueing as simple as possible, so I’ve found that rather than explain the spinal biomechanics of the hip thrust to clients, which will just confuse them and cause them to overcompensate the other way, I just tell them where to look, and the head position ends up cleaning the positioning of the pelvis and lower back on its own. (Bret’s Note: Don’t bust THIS detailed explanation out on lumbopelvic hip complex biomechanics during hip thrusting when training a client, just tell them where to look like Ben says).

The instructions are simple. At the bottom position of the hip thrust when your butt on or just above the floor, you should be looking at the wall directly in front of you, which makes for a neutral neck position. And you should return this position on each rep.

Starting Position

Starting and Ending Position

At the top position, focus on where the wall meets the ceiling. Doing so will again create a neutral neck position, or even very slightly flexed. As long as the neck isn’t flexed excessively you should be fine.

3-Neutralish

Slight Flexion: Good

Moderate Flexion: Good

Moderate Flexion: Good

It’s important to note that while some neck flexion is fine at the top, you don’t want to overdo. A little moderation goes a long way. Here is an example of what you don’t want to do.

Hyperflexion: Bad

Hyperflexion: Bad

It’s really that simple. I’ve noticed that altering the line of sight and the head position cleans up the movement pretty much instantaneously and gets clients into the right positioning without the need for confusing and complicated cueing.

Also, I used to instruct clients to strive for a straight line from the head to the knees at the top position of the hip thrust to encourage a full range of motion and complete hip extension, but I think the cue can be confusing to some folks and lead to excessive arching and anterior pelvic tilt. So now I made a slight adjustment and cue a straight line from the shoulders to the knees (while focusing the eyes where the wall meets the ceiling), and that’s helped tremendously as well.

I think these slight modifications will really help and lead to better and safer hip thrusts for you and/or your clients.

Bio

Ben is a personal trainer in Los Angeles and publishes a blog and free newsletter at http://www.benbruno.com.

You can connect with him on social media as well.

Instagram: https://instagram.com/brb082985

Twitter: https://twitter.com/benbruno1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ben-Bruno/282118145176459

You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/bruno082985

Ben-Bruno

A Typical Day in the Life of Ben

Bret’s Conclusion

Something interesting that I noticed when viewing the pics embedded in this article. I wasn’t focused on my trunk position, just my head/neck position. But you can see in the pictures that spinal posture follows head/neck posture. In the hyperextended neck picture, the spine is hyperextended, and the more flexed the neck gets, the less extension you see in the spine…in fact the last picture you see spinal flexion with ample posterior pelvic tilt.

In the future, I need to conduct a study to examine the effects on head/neck position on 1) spine posture, 2) pelvic posture, 3) gluteus maximus activation, 4) erector spinae activation, and 5) hamstring activation. In the meantime, simply use the tips Ben provided and cue/think of eye gaze direction, as that solves the problem most of the time. So simple!

I’ll end this blogpost with screenshots of my clients doing hip thrusts and some pics I found off of the Internet. Note the natural tendency for neck flexion along with the lack of spinal extension, which is what we want. This way the glutes push the hip up instead of a global extension from shoulders to knees. In fact, when reviewing videos, I noticed that the only time my head goes back into extension (along with that of my client Ciji and some others who are prone to hyperextending their spines) is on the last rep of a challenging set when I can no longer maintain proper lumbopelvic position. That is very important to note!

Bret - neck flexion

Bret – neck flexion

Booty Queen Amanda Kuclo (Latona) - neck flexion

Booty Queen Amanda Kuclo (Latona) – neck flexion

Gaby

Gaby – neck flexion

Sohee

Sohee – neck flexion

Mary

Mary – neck flexion

Camille

Camille – neck flexion

BJ

BJ Gaddour – neck flexion

Random Internet woman - neck flexion

Random Internet woman – neck flexion

 

First Powerlifting Meet: 20 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Several years ago, I decided to delve more into the sport of powerlifting. Since then, I’ve competed in 3 competitions, I’ve prepared clients and training partners for competitions, I’ve attended around a dozen meets, I made friends with a bunch of powerlifters and started training at a powerlifting gym, and I started following many of the powerlifting experts and reading/watching all of their material. I don’t consider myself to be a world expert in powerlifting, as there are coaches and lifters who have been submerged in the sport for most of their lives, but nevertheless I try to pay very close attention at the meets. And although my strength as a powerlifter is mediocre at best, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the training process and attempting to set PRs on the platform.

As a writer, I’ve made it a goal to encourage others to bite the bullet and commit to a powerlifting competition. Unfortunately, too many lifters attend their first meet unprepared, and they end up making mistakes that are easily avoidable. Here are the 20 most common mistakes I see first-time powerlifting competitors commit:

1. Not Hitting Parallel When Squatting in Training

A few months ago, I was watching a very strong female powerlifter train at Revolution Training System. She was squatting with 315 lbs and was very proud of her strength gains. Only problem was, she wasn’t hitting parallel…not even close. She was half squatting. I have no doubt that this lady would have went into her meet thinking that she would smoke 315 lbs, only to be disappointed when she was red lighted for not hitting depth.

I filmed her from the side view to show her femur angle at her lowest point, then helped her figure out the appropriate load to use for her squats. It turns out that she could only use 245 lbs for 3 reps when actually reaching a thigh parallel position, which is still great, but it’s 70 lbs less than what she was using.

Bret’s Tip: Squat slightly deeper in training so you’re not tempted to cut depth short on the platform. 

2. Not Pausing Long Enough When Bench Pressing in Training

One of my Get Glutes members recently trained for a powerlifting competition at a powerlifting gym. Astonishingly, the coach never had her pause during her bench presses. She had to learn how to pause at her first meet.

Up until a few years ago, all of my bench press repetitions were performed touch-and-go. When I learned to pause, I had to reduce my normal loads by 10% in order to match the same set and rep schemes. Now I’m stronger at pauses and there’s not as big of a gap, but nevertheless, you must pause at the chest when bench pressing for powerlifting.

Bret’s Tip: Pause extra long at the chest so you’re not tempted to jump the command at the meet. 

3. Not Being Sufficiently Familiar With Commands

You absolutely need to know this if you plan on competing. You can’t just go to the powerlifting meet and lift like you normally do at the gym. The referees give you commands during your lifts, and failing to obey the commands will result in failed attempts.

Squats have two commands – start and rack. You unrack the bar, walk out, wait for the start command, squat to parallel, wait for the rack command, then rack the bar.

Bench press has three commands – start, press, and rack. You unrack the bar with the help of a spotter, wait for the start command, lower the bar to the chest, wait for the press command, lock the bar out, wait for the rack command, then rack the bar.

Deadlifts have one command – down. You set up and pick the weight off the ground to lockout, wait for the down command, then lower the bar to the floor in a controlled manner.

There are three referees judging your lifts, and for every lift, you need to get at least two white lights for the lift to pass.

Bret’s Tip: If you get any red lights during any lift, ask the judge or judges why you got red-lighted. Many times they’ll inform you about something you weren’t aware of and you can pay extra attention during the following lift so you don’t commit the same violation. 

4. Not Knowing the Federation’s Rules

Each federation has slightly different rules. Some have you squat deeper than others. Some make you keep your feet and head down during the bench; others let you pick your head up or rise up onto your toes. Many of the powerlifting federations have their rules posted on their website, so make sure you’re properly versed prior to the competition.

5. Not Choosing Good Openers

For each lift (squat/bench/dead), you get 3 attempts, the first attempt is called your “opener.” It never ceases to amaze me when lifters fail to hit their openers. An opener is supposed to be easy. This is especially true for the first time competitor. With the newbie, you want a confidence builder for the opener to put their mind at ease and let them focus on the exercise. They’re already out of their element due to being in a foreign environment, lifting in front of a bunch of strangers with spotters and judges all around. Failing to hit an opener can be devastating psychologically, which can impact the rest of the meet, so don’t be overzealous when selecting opener loads.

I usually go with a 3-5RM for an opener with first-timers. Sometimes they still get red-lighted for missing a command, but not for missing depth. The second lift is usually close to or equal to the heaviest lift they hit in training, and the third is usually a new PR weight, but of course adjustments need to be made depending on how the lifter feels. Over time, as the powerlifter gains experience and confidence, he or she can go with heavier openers if desired.

Bret’s Tip: Choose a load you could lift for 3-5 reps for your opener, then choose a heavy load that you’ve already hit in training for your second attempt, then go for a PR for your final attempt.

6. Not Warming Up Optimally

Warming up is tricky during powerlifting meets. Sometimes the warm-up room is close by and you can hear the announcers over the intercom, while other times it’s in a completely different area and you have no way of knowing when exactly you’re turn is. I’ve seen people start warming up 45 minutes early, then something happens and the meet is stalled, and they end up finally hitting the platform an hour later. When the time comes for these folks to deadlift (last lift of the day), they’re fizzled out.

I’ve also seen guys doing idiotic things in the warm-up room, such as going for a 1RM before hitting the platform. I watched a guy grind out a 6-second deadlift in the warm-up room then proudly announce, “that’s a new PR.” I was like, “WTF?!” I don’t know what happened to this guy on the platform, but I can’t imagine that he lifted as much as he could have since he would have been mentally and physically fatigued.

When I deadlift, my opener is usually something like 565 lbs, but in the warm-up room, I’ll usually do some bodyweight back extensions, some light front squats with 135 lbs, then pull 135 x 3 reps, 225 x 3 reps, 315 x 3 reps, 405 x 1 rep, then 455 for 1 rep and be done. Takes me 10 minutes and I’m ready to go. Other guys have much more extensive warm-ups.

It’s up to you to anticipate based on the flow of the meet when you’ll be stepping onto the platform so you can determine when you should start warming up. Sometimes the announcers will inform you…they’ll say something like, “flight 3 should be warming up right now.” But this isn’t always the case.

My last meet was a nightmare. The warm up room was in a different building and we had no communication with anyone inside the competition room, so we had to keep running back and forth. I came out of the warm-up room to check on the meet, only to find that my name had been called and I had around 20 seconds left to hit my squat. I quickly secured my belt and got the lift. Luckily it was my opener or I might have been too thrown off mentally to get it. At this same meet during deadlifts, I started warming up 15 minutes prior to my anticipated time, but the meet got delayed due to loading errors, and we ended up having to wait an extra half-hour before we started pulling. I was already warmed-up, but I had to “re-warm up” since I cooled down after the delay. Be prepared for annoying things like this to happen.

Some of my male powerlifting friends require 45 minutes of warm-up to feel ideal for squatting, whereas many of my female clients only need 10 minutes to be ready to go. Therefore, the warm-up needs to be adjusted per the individual.

7. Not Experimenting Sufficiently With Training Gear

This mistake isn’t as egregious as the others, but it’s still important. No coach can just glance at you and know whether you’d squat best in Chuck Taylors or Olympic shoes. You have to figure this out in training. Some folks like flat shoes for squats while others prefer a large heel, and the same goes for benching. Most prefer flat soles for deadlifting. Some find that knee wraps help them, others not so much. Some wear a belt during deadlifts, others don’t. Some prefer thicker belts, others prefer thinner belts. Some guys don’t fare well wearing Inzer singlets as they feel like their nuts are getting smashed to smithereens. Some ladies feel much more confident and perform better if they like the way their singlet looks, so some shopping around is in order. You have to do some experimenting in training to find out what works best for you in the meet. Also, make sure the gear you plan on wearing is approved by the federation.

8. Being Greedy With Body Weight

I know plenty of male powerlifters who prefer to conduct all of their training 20 lbs heavier than what they weigh in at. They’ll weigh 220 lbs all throughout prep, then drastically cut weight starting a couple days out from the meet to make weigh-ins. They cut down to 198 through diuretics, starvation, and sauna/jacuzzi alternations, make the weigh-in, then immediately rehydrate and fuel up. The next day, they’re back to 220 while competing at 198. This strategy works wonders for many lifters and gives them a huge advantage on the platform.

However, it also screws plenty of lifters. Some of these guys get exhausted from the approach and end up bombing out on one or more of their lifts. I always tell people…there’s nothing wrong with just weighing 4-6 lbs over and doing a small cut during the morning before weigh-ins. You can make weight, rehydrate, pig out on sushi and pizza, and end up being 10-15 lbs heavier. It’s a more moderate approach.

For newbies, I recommend just weighing the maximum amount for the individual’s weight class. For example, a woman competing in the 132 lb weight class should weigh 130-132 and just coast into weigh ins. The last thing she needs to be worrying about for her first competition is making weight. Don’t get too greedy in this regard, as it can go either way in terms of hurting or helping your performance.

9. Blowing Your WAD in Training

Preparation training for the meet should predominantly involve excellent technical form. In addition, you shouldn’t be grinding out your lifts in training – save the grinding and/or form degradation for the platform. A good training program has you increasing loads and gaining strength all the way up until the week prior to the meet, without making you feel completely destroyed or wiped out.

I’ve seen way too many instances where guys will pull a PR deadlift with a fully-rounded back that takes 6+ seconds to grind out two weeks prior to the meet. Then they step on the platform and can’t match it because their bodies were too beat up from blowing their WAD two weeks prior.

Bret’s Tip: In training, have stricter form and avoid grinders. At the meet, go crazy, especially on your 3rd attempts. 

10. Sabotaging Your Peaking Process

Several years ago while I was in New Zealand, my buddy was a shoe-in to win a marathon. He was the fastest runner in the country. The day after the race, I asked him how it went and he said, “not good.” Apparently he decided that he needed to “carb up” for the race, so he went to a local bar and ordered a giant plate of supreme nachos. Take my word for it, this “backfired” on him really badly when he was running. All he had to do was stick with his normal, everyday routine and he would have killed it, but he let his mind betray him.

Another buddy I have decided to load up on 30 grams of creatine the day before his powerlifting competition despite having not taken any creatine for the past year. I guess he got what he wanted – more explosiveness at the meet, but it was the wrong kind of explosiveness if you catch my drift.

When it comes time for a competition, our minds play tricks on us. We get greedy. We want an edge. We do things we wouldn’t normally do, hoping for a boost in performance, but the result is often the polar opposite.

Bret’s Tip: The week before the meet, take it easy in training, don’t lift for the several days prior to the meet, stick to your normal foods that you know you tolerate well, and don’t try anything out of the ordinary. 

11. Failing to Attend a Local Meet Beforehand

This may be the most important tip of all. People conjure up all sorts of misconceptions about powerlifting meets. They think it’s a bunch of ginormous behemoths who laugh at anyone who is weaker or less experienced than them. Although this tends to be the case on the Internet, it’s quite the opposite in real life. The big dudes and dudettes tend to be very helpful and supportive, and there are plenty of mediocre lifters competing who will put your mind at ease. People aren’t all staring at you on the platform with bated breath watching your every move; everyone is busy doing their own thing and there are usually a couple of platforms in use simultaneously. Attending a local meet will assuage any fears you have and get you psyched to sign up for a competition.

12. Failing to Film Your Lifts

The last meet I attended, there were three ladies competing who each bombed out on their squats. All three ladies failed on all three squat attempts, all for the same reason – not hitting depth. What was somewhat humorous is that they’d get pissed off at the referees upon seeing that they’d been red-lighted – they didn’t believe that they weren’t hitting depth (they weren’t even close). In their minds, they were descending well past parallel. Here’s the crazy part…they had a coach who was there with them!!! I can’t understand for the life of me how this even happened, but obviously their coach wasn’t well-versed in powerlifting rules, and obviously the ladies never filmed their lifts.

Bret’s Tip: Film your lifts. With squats, set the camera from the side view at knee level so you can ensure that you’re hitting depth. Watch your videos and pay attention to your form. Make sure you pause sufficiently during the bench and fully lock out the barbell during deadlifts. 

13. Committing Caffeine and Ammonia Overload

This might belong in mistake #13, but I felt it was important enough to include on its own. Last meet, my good buddy took three caffeine pills prior to the meet and felt woozy the entire day. He actually ended up slaughtering all of his PRs, but that’s besides the point. He probably could have done even better had he just taken one caffeine pill in the morning and maybe one in the afternoon. Or just relied on energy drinks.

This same dude also encountered another funny situation (well, it’s funny because he ended up making the lift; it wouldn’t have been funny otherwise) just prior to his second squat attempt. He saw a bottle of nose torque (ammonia) and assumed it was used and not fresh. He took a giant inhalation and almost passed the f*#% out. His eyes were all watery and he said to me, “I don’t know how in the hell I’m going to make this lift.” Luckily, something happened and the meet was stalled for a couple of minutes, providing him ample time to recover from the fiasco.

Bret’s Tip: Stick to similar amounts of caffeine that you’re used to so you don’t disrupt the system too much. It’s fine to up the ante a little bit, but don’t go overboard. There are few things worse than trying to squat when you feel like puking. If you intend on using ammonia capsules, don’t ever do it for the first time at a meet – make sure you experiment with it prior to the competition. 

14. Not Having a Training Partner/Coach That Keeps You Honest

You want a coach or training partner that calls it like it is, not someone who pussyfoots around and is afraid to put you in your place when you need it. If your form sucks, you should be called out on it. If you’re not hitting squat depth, not pausing long enough during bench, or not locking out your deads, you should be called out. If your spotter gives you assistance, he should not say, “all you bro!” On the flip side, you should welcome all of this advice and say thank you.

15. Not Understanding Kilo Conversions

After each lift, you must head immediately to the announcer’s table to inform them as to what load you intend on using for your next attempt. However, the loads aren’t in pounds, they’re in kilos. Click HERE to see an example kilo conversion table. It’s not rocket science, but if you’re not aware of this practice, it can catch you off-guard. Make sure you’re able to quickly determine the loads you want to use based off of this chart.

16. Not Bringing Your Own Supplies

Legend has it that a really strong powerlifter by the name of Chris Duffin had a legitimate chance of breaking the world deadlift record, but someone allegedly dumped baby powder into the chalk bowl, thus sabotaging his performance. Chalk is used to aid the lifter in holding onto more weight, whereas baby powder is used to coat the thighs so the barbell can glide along the legs smoothly and not get caught on anything. However, baby powder will cripple one’s grip strength, so it’s very important to not have any baby powder on the hands prior to deadlifting. Had this not happened, perhaps Chris would be credited with the world’s biggest deadlift for his weight class.

Bret’s Tip: Bring your own supplies to the meet. This is the only way to ensure that the substances are legit and the gear will fit properly. 

17. Not Having a Strategy

You should have in mind the precise loads you intend to use for all nine lifts prior to the competition. You should also have in mind what warm-up weights you’ll hit before you step onto the platform. Finally, you should have in mind how you’re going to adjust the loads if things aren’t going as planned. You may feel like shit and have to reduce anticipated loads, or you may feel incredible and have to increase loads.

18. Over-Relying on a Coach

If you have a coach, hopefully you have a competent one who can dedicate his sole attention to you at the meet. However, you’re a grown ass man (or woman), so make sure you’re familiar with the entire process and plan. You shouldn’t fully rely on anyone for your performance. You have a camera and can verify that you’re hitting depth or pausing sufficiently. You can attend a meet and witness how they’re run. You can memorize the loads you plan on hitting. Your coach might be preoccupied or might be helping other athletes, so you have to take ownership and be responsible for your own success.

19. Not Doing a Mock Meet Beforehand

My client Sohee Walsh is competing at the end of this month in her first competition as a 105 pounder. I had her do a mock meet at Revolution so she could gain experience and to better enable us to select her loads. She ended up squatting 155 lbs, benching 105 lbs, and pulling 175 lbs. The squat and bench went as predicted, but her pulls were very weak on this day. I think she’ll hit 165/105/215 at the meet, but we’ll see. Mock meets are great for managing expectations. Below is footage of Sohee. Notice that we practiced the commands, which is vital. Be forewarned, my voice was out so I sound like an idiot.

 

20. Not Bringing Food & Drink to the Meet

The first two meets I attended had vending machines and vendors, which enabled me to fuel up adequately between lifts. However, the last meet I attended didn’t have a vending machine, and the vendors were selling barbecued beef sandwiches and hotdogs – not exactly the best thing to wolf down prior to heavy lifting. I’ve been at meets that last 5 hours total and other meets that last 15 hours total (one ended at 1 am), so make sure you come prepared for worst case scenario.

Bret’s Tip: Bring with you energy drinks, Gatorade, granola bars, and any other food items that will fuel your performance and keep you hydrated, but make sure that these foods are easy on your stomach and well-tolerated.

Conclusion

If you’re on the fence about competing, I highly recommend that you do so. I’ve yet to meet anyone who regretted stepping onto the platform. You’ll meet wonderful and helpful people and will be proud of your accomplishments, plus you’ll learn a great deal in the process. I hope this article has been useful in letting you know what to expect at your first meet. Go the extra mile and take the necessary steps to ensure that you come prepared, it’ll make a big difference. If you feel that I’ve missed anything important or am in error, please share any advice in the comments section below.

A Simple Tip for Olympic Weightlifting Training

A Simple Tip for Olympic Weightlifting Training
Robert A. Panariello MS, PT, ATC, CSCS
Professional Physical Therapy
Professional Athletic Performance Center
New York, New York

When instructing the non-Olympic Weightlifting athlete who has never performed Olympic Style Weightlifting (OSW) exercises or exercise alternatives (i.e. pulls), one error often observed occurs during the athlete’s upper extremity involvement during the exercise execution. Inexperienced athletes will often excessively pull the barbell with their arms instead of allowing a proper lower extremity contribution for vertical barbell velocity and successful exercise performance. This instructional exercise offered to me years ago by my good friend Al Vermeil will provide feedback to the athlete and assist in ensuring an appropriate lower extremity contribution for proper technical exercise performance.

The Exercise Starting Position

The athlete assumes a “hang” position exercise posture while holding a wooden dowel positioned against the popliteal fossa at the posterior aspect of the knee. A clean or snatch grip is incorporated upon the dowel depending upon the specific exercise of instruction (Figure 1).

The Exercise Execution

The athlete slowly extends their body vertically while allowing the wooden dowel to rise against the posterior aspect of their legs, concluding in a position of triple extension on the balls of their feet with their shoulders shrugged (Figure 2). The exercise is then repeated at faster tempos to generate a greater exercise velocity performance via the lower extremities.

Figure 1 The Starting Position                                             Figure 2 The Exercise Execution

Figure 1 The Starting Position                    Figure 2 The Exercise Execution

The position of the wooden dowel offers a “bar pathway” posterior to the body thus eliminating the upper extremities from the exercise equation. Since the arms are not a contributing factor to the exercise performance, the athlete is now provided with feedback as they sense the lower extremity involvement during the exercise performance. This is the same lower extremity sensation that should occur during the actual OSW exercise performance with a barbell positioned anterior to the body.

 

Neural Flossing for the Strength and Conditioning Professional

Neural Flossing for the Strength and Conditioning Professional
By Dr. Chris Leib
www.MovementProfessional.com

Neural flossing is physical therapy technique that uses specific exercises to improve mobility to different tracts of the nervous system. Recently, neural flossing has come into vogue in the strength and conditioning community1-4. The utility of such techniques in this sector, however, are questionable at best.

Examples of the lack of understanding and misapplication of neural flossing are far too easy to come by in the popular fitness media:

  • A post on Livestrong.com1 described flossing of the sciatic nerve as a “massage” for the nerve when it becomes compressed by muscles and/or bones.
  • The Wilmington Performance Lab site2 confidently claimed – without scientific reference – that scar tissue adhesions around the sciatic nerve are the most common cause of sciatic nerve-like symptoms. It went on to add, also without reference, that “fortunately, this compression and poor tissue quality surrounding the nerve can be alleviated in most individuals with neural/spinal flossing.”
The slump test: a common neurodynamic assessment

The slump test: a common neurodynamic assessment

The true value of neurodynamic techniques actually lies in the ongoing assessment process that focuses on an individual’s unique injury-specific symptoms, not so much in the techniques themselves. The trouble is, this process of assessing symptomatic response falls outside of the scope of practice of many of the strength and conditioning professionals promoting these exercises.

In the absence of pain, neurodynamic techniques can indeed be performed safely in a strength and conditioning environment. However, in a healthy individual, the nervous system is dynamic; it naturally moves in conjunction with muscle and joint action. Therefore, neural mobility is often already incorporated into good functional movement and mobility practices through dynamic warm-up, making specific neurodynamic techniques superfluous.

All this being said, with their recent proliferation into the broader fitness community, neurodynamic techniques have become needlessly mystified. I present the concepts below in an effort to erase misconceptions and allow for improved communication and referral networks between coaches and clinicians. I also demonstrate the proper application of the techniques into a dynamic warm-up in a strength and conditioning setting (video #3 below).

Criteria for Neurodynamic Treatment

The Maitland Australian Physiotherapy Seminars (MAPS) curriculum describes three major criteria when considering whether neurodynamic treatment would be relevant to a patient’s symptoms:

  1. Does the neurodynamic assessment technique reproduce the comparable sign (the patient’s chief complaint)?
  2. Is the response to the assessment technique different on the side of complaint versus the uninvolved side?
  3. Can the symptom be sensitized (i.e. changed by motion from a distant joint)? For example, is upper arm pain made better or worse with motion at the wrist?

In cases where all three specifications are met, the treatment techniques are actually fairly similar to those used for assessment. Variations are simply made to duration, frequency, and loading strategy (i.e. distal to proximal vs. proximal to distal) based on patient response.

It’s in these subtle adjustments that the techniques become so valuable. It’s also here, in the skilled adjustment process, where the scopes of practice between healthcare practitioners and strength and conditioning professionals diverge.

The Seven Major Neurodynamic Techniques

Below, I’ve put together video demonstrations of the seven major actively-performed neurodynamic techniques described by David Butler in his revolutionary text, A Sensitive Nervous System.

The techniques are as follows:

  1. Upper Limb Tension Test (ULTT) 1 biasing the median nerve
  2. ULTT 2a biasing the median nerve
  3. ULTT 2b biasing the radial nerve
  4. ULTT 3 biasing the ulnar nerve
A relationship between the nerve branches of the upper extremity:

A relationship between the nerve branches of the upper extremity:

The median nerve originates in the brachial plexus (network of nerves in the cervical, pectoral and axillary region) and travels down the front of the upper extremity crossing the anterior shoulder, elbow, and wrist (under the carpal tunnel) and ends in the hand.

The radial nerve comes out of the brachial plexus and travels into the posterior arm and then spirals to the anterior arm before spiraling back to the posterior forearm and wrist.

The ulnar nerve comes out of the brachial plexus and travels down the posteriormedial aspect of the arm, forearm and wrist. Compressing this nerve at the elbow creates “funny bone-like” symptoms.

See video #1 here for a demonstration of ULTT’s:

  1. The straight leg raise (SLR) biasing the sciatic nerve
  2. Slump test biasing the sciatic nerve

sciatic nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. It originates from nerve roots L4 through S3 in the sacral plexus and then crosses the posterior aspect of the hip, knee, ankle and foot (branches into tibial and common fibular nerves once crossing the knee).

  1. The prone knee bend biasing the femoral nerve

femoral nerve

The femoral nerve, the largest branch coming off of the lumbar plexus, originates from L2-4 and then passes the deep anterior structures of the abdomen (psaos and iliacus) and groin (inguinal ligament) and then travels into the anterior thigh

See video #2 here for a demonstration of lower limb tension tests:

Take note of the use of the word biasing when describing the nerves being assessed. Too often we learn movement assessments and techniques under the guise of isolating structures. In the case of neural motion, it’s both scientifically unproven and anatomically impossible to isolate motion to a specific nerve branch. Moreover, from a practical standpoint, it’s not necessary to isolate any structure in order to assess the need for a neurodynamic approach.

complex system pose

In this complex system of systems, is it really reasonable to think we can isolate a stretch to any one specific nerve?

Neurodynamics in Dynamic Warm-up

The third and final video below is a discussion and demonstration of dynamic mobility exercises that incorporate all of the above-mentioned neural mobility techniques. These movements can be used by both clinician and coach – in the absence of pain – as a dynamic warm-up and as corrective counterbalances for chronic positioning (i.e. sitting, standing, etc.).

See video #3 here:

Remember, the value of specific nerve flossing or neurodynamic techniques lies in the assessment process, which should be reserved for the hands of a licensed health care professional only. As a strength and conditioning professional, it’s wise to find a clinician you trust and can build a referral relationship with. This way, your clients can get out of pain faster, and you can get the most of out of their physical performance.

References

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/287430-sciatic-nerve-flossing-exercise/
  2. http://wilmingtonperformancelab.com/general/improving-hip-mobility-relieving-sciatic-nerve-pain/
  3. http://www.tacomastrength.com/news/post/neural-flossing-07252012
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoUqfOGuEOU

About the Author

Chris Leib of MovementProfessional.com is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with nearly a decade of experience in treating movement dysfunctions and enhancing human performance. He has written for StrengthCoach.com and FuBarbell.com and has a versatile movement background with a variety of certifications as both a physical therapist and fitness professional. Chris considers physical activity a vital process to being a complete human being and is passionate about helping others maximize their movement potential. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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Special thanks to Travis Pollen of www.fitnesspollenator.com for help turning this piece into something readable and hopefully valuable.