Simple Squat Fix: “Owning” Your Rib Position

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While squatting is considered a standard human movement pattern, and something that everyone does everyday of their lives, there are a million and one things that can go awry when you place a barbell on someone’s back.

In addition there’s no shortage of coaching cues which are tossed around, that it’s no wonder people are often overwhelmed when it comes to honing in on technique.

Get your air!

Spread the floor with your feet!

Keep your chin tucked!

Squeeze your shoulder blades together, find your shelf!

Push your knees out!

Don’t shit out your pancreas!

Sit back!

Pull down on the bar!

Get your hips through at the top!

Did you leave your stove on when you left the house?

One would think they’re solving some advanced algorithm for space travel than simply squatting up and down with a bar.

And so it goes.  The fact of the matter is:  when it comes to squatting big weight, you have to be LOCKED in with technique or else some bad things can happen.

However, even if squatting a house isn’t your goal, it still doesn’t mean you should have a nonchalant attitude when it comes to technique, because you “may” be causing irreparable harm in the long run.

One cue that we’ve been hammering at the facility as of late is the idea of “owning” rib position.

This is something that manifested itself after watching a video Bill Hartman released a little over a year ago on using a belt and how many powerlifting go about  “getting their air.”

To expound a bit more on Bill’s brilliance, after watching that video I started taking more notes on how people squatted and noticed one common pattern amongst the more serious weightlifters.  Not so much powerlifters (although they’re not off the hook), but more so those people who were past the “newbie” stage and had a bit of experience underneath their belts.

Many, to no fault of their own (it’s what they’ve read and have been coached to do) were OVER-arching and hinging more through their lower backs rather than their hips.

Arching the back isn’t bad or poor form.  But when done excessively, can lead to some nasty things like end-plate fractures, Spondylolisthesis, and a bad hair day.

Just kidding on that last one.

A perfect example of what I’m referring to is a video I received from a new distance coaching client, Sarah.

To the casual eye her squat is pretty legit.  She’s sitting back, keeping a more vertical shin angle, hitting decent depth, and using close to 1x bodyweight (for reps!). What, what!

But to the more keen observer, and to steal a line from one of my heros, Optimus Prime,  there’s a bit more than meets the eye.

And before someone has a conniption and starts spouting off about how much vertical videos suck, relax.  Deal with it.

If you pause the video at the nine second mark you’ll notice that her initial movement is to hinge through the lumbar spine rather than the hips.

Too, you’ll notice how her rib cage flares out simultaneously.

In going back and forth with her via email, Sarah has mentioned to me that her squat numbers have hit a stalemate as of late, and I have a hunch that part of the reason (if not the entire reason) is because she’s losing stability by not bracing and “owning” her rib position.

In essence, and what I pointed out to her, is that we need to work on keeping her rib cage DOWN and learning to brace more.

Taking it a step further, and something I discussed in a previous video on lunging (see below) is the idea of pretending there’s an imaginary line between her nipple line and her belly button. When she goes to un-rack the barbell she needs to ensure an abdominal brace and to make sure the line between her nipple line and belly button doesn’t get longer.

From there it’s just a matter of making some minor adjustments, getting her to groove the hip hinge through the HIPS and not her the lower back, and then it’s smooth sailing.

I find this is an issue that’s more common than people think, and it parlays into a lot of different exercises from deadlifts to lunges to overhead dwarf throwing.

And I have to imagine a few light-bulbs just turned on for a few people reading this post.

You’re welcome, and that will be $19.99.

This won’t apply to everyone, of course, but hopefully it gives some food for thought.  Enjoy the weekend!

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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