Squat Cue: Let The “Chest Lean”
If you are an athlete I coach, there probably isn’t a cue you have heard more from me lately than let the “chest lean”. A very common error in many lifters is a disconnect between their chest/ribcage and the low back/pelvis. As can be seen above with Matt (CLICK HERE), his ribcage and pelvis act separate of each other. Much like the knees and hips struggle at times to act cohesively in their movement during the squat, the same happens with the ribcage and pelvis. While his hips and lower back wanted to hinge, his chest wanted to stay straight forward and upright. People often get stuck in this pattern due to a feeling of needing to stay upright, but in the end the result is the actually the opposite. Most of the time what happens is a compensation at the bottom once hip flexion has maxed out. The chest falls to match the lower back angle, then resulting in a chest fall pattern coming up. Matt is an anomaly in that he is able to fight against this pattern happening, but Matt is also a world class squatter who developed extreme strength in this position. But, this didn’t mean for Matt this was okay to let happen. The position on the left continually resulted in instability, with his right leg internally rotating and his hips shifting to the left at maximal weights.
So to fix this we first adjusted Matt’s bracing patterns, as I discussed in my squat setup video on YouTube (If you have not already watched that, I highly recommend doing so to make full sense of what I will discuss next). From there the two main cues for Matt were to drive the knees forward and let the “chest lean”. His previous pattern came from leading with his hips to create the hip hinge. But if we are properly braced, leading with “chest lean” will allow the torso and pelvis to act as one unit moving together. Unless you have the world’s shortest femurs, your torso isn’t staying upright, so there is not going to be a scenario where you can maintain position without that chest having to lean in some manner. I’ll get hesitancy from athletes with this at times as people feel like if they allow their chest to lean, their upper back is going to collapse forward. But what they come to find is their upper back actually feels more stable than ever when we are properly supporting that ribcage now from top to bottom. And notice Matt is a high bar squatter. Typically people have the misconception that on the high bar squat you should try to stay more upright, but watch any of the best high bar squatters in the world and you will see this “chest lean” pattern from the start. And with the low bar squat usually require more of a lean and hinge, “chest lean” is a required pattern in some manner within any squat variation. Lastly, notate the head position change for Matt. Typically the head and ribcage like to stay together, just like the lower back and pelvis tend to stay together. For Matt, we needed to slightly lower his head position to better help guide this “chest lean”. As I’ve said many times before, where the head goes the body follows. So if we want our chest to lean, the head is a large contributor in helping to guide the intended position.