Getting Tight

Apr 7th, 2012

Category: Fitness

Getting Tight

Lifting

Scheduling Update: In honor of Easter Weekend and to make sure that there is plenty of time for celebrating at CrossFit Oakland, Strength Saturday will take place on Sunday, 8 April from 4:00 PM  to 6:30 PM. There will be no Strength Saturday class next weekend, April 14th.

Reminder 2: Come to the party on Saturday, 7 April at 4:00 PM at CFO. Yes, you. A good time will be had.

Today’s installment will be a short reminder on the importance of keeping the spine stable under a load. A frequent cue that is given when lifting weights is “Get Tight.” This is an important concept and one that is often sacrificed when fatigue sets in. When handling a heavy barbell, the musculature of the trunk and limbs needs to be held in contraction as much as is possible. Obviously, in order for joints to flex and extend, muscles must contract and relax, but the degree to which this occurs is important here.

Let’s consider the squat, which, in my opinion, should be nominated for the most important lift of all time. If a trainee allows themselves to fall freely into the bottom of the squat, chances are that the back will round, the knees will buckle, and other grievous sins against the gods of gravity will be committed. It is Easter weekend and upsetting the gods is probably not a good idea. Flexing, extending, or twisting the spine under a load is a good way to incur a back injury. The spine likes the relationships between the various vertebrae to be maintained when squatting 500 pounds. Instead, if the hypothetical trainee above controlled their descent and kept the musculature of the trunk and legs in contraction, good positioning could be obtained, the lift could go forward, and great glory be obtained.

How does one get tighter in a lift? The first thing to do is hold your breath, also known as the Valsalva maneuver. The second is to actively contract the musculature involved prior to moving. This will slow down the movement slightly, but will allow for a better lift. As a trainee’s skill increases, the squat, or whatever lift is being performed, can be done at higher speeds while still staying tight. Therein lies one of the paradoxes of lifting, contract the muscles, but move quickly. So, cease dive bombing into the bottom of the squat and save your back at the same time. Sounds like the highly coveted win-win situation to me.