I like it. No real down side in my mind, forces your chest up even farther. Any way you can get your chest up is a good way in my book. Coaching cues are a very individual thing–there is very limited memory space in a guy who’s about to start to push heavy weight on his back and avoid being crushed–there is a lot of carryover of individual cues (sort of like a big venn diagram). Trick is to find the 1 or 2 cues that make you fix the most problems.
For instance, someone says, “head up” to the guy squatting and he looks at the ceiling but his chest is still down–he bends at the neck. Someone else says, “elbows down!” and the guy cranks the elbows, elevates his chest, and brings his head up. Chances are you should probably use “elbows down!” as your cue even though “head up” is supposed to get the same result–maybe somebody else gets better with “head up” than the guy currently squatting in our example.
You can’t remember a list of 10 different things to keep in mind, as Dan John has said in an earlier article. The Elite have 1-2 (maaaybe 3) cues to remember that help them internalize the greatest number of coaching points. They tend to rotate cues in phases, depending on what they’re working on the hardest or what their weakest technical link is. “Packing the neck” is just another way to remember to do a lot of the same certain things other cues do.
As a bonus, if you’re already doing these other things, “packing the neck” cue can get a guy with tight technique an extra tweak/reminder that might help him get tighter than he already is–sort of analogous to, in the “powerlifting gear” usage, tweaking a bench shirt on somebody already really experienced in using the shirt. tweaking a bench shirt on a newb to equipped lifting won’t get you much if anything…but once he’s dialed in, you add a tweak (or in our example, the cue “pack the neck”), and can get even more results out of your current set-up. Big difference with the coaching cue is it won’t have a downside even if it isn’t the most effective cue to use :).[/quote]
Thank you for the detailed response, I understand what you mean
Do you think the coaching cue to “sit back” into a squat has less value for raw lifters? I’ve seen a lot of debate about this recently.
Oh hell no! Most people are so fucking poor at technique if you try to tell them to sit straight down between their legs they’ll slide the knees so far forward they can’t even get to parallel. It’s a fucking nightmare.
I have no bloody clue why there is so much debate about this point. It doesn’t even matter in one sense whether you’re wide or narrow stance, low bar or high bar, or whatever. Even if you squat like an olympic lifter the initiation involves, in some way, the hips and hamstrings before you sink low.
There are always two variables to consider when coaching–1) what is actually happening and 2) what the lifter perceives is happening. #2 is almost more important than #1 in many cases, because what the lifter perceives is where they start from mentally in trying to understand what your coaching cue is (related to my last post). Perception is Reality. It filters whatever you try to say to them. If you use the wrong language, even if you are describing perfectly accurately what is happening (“sitting between the legs” on a narrow stance squat), they sometimes won’t understand you. Conversely if you use the right language for their mental filter or perception (“feel your hamstrings” or “sit back on your heels”, or anything similar to “sit back”), even if that describes a “wrong” reality, they fix the problem anyway.
Case in point is a 64 year old gentleman that I am coaching. I taught him to squat shoulder width or slightly narrower stance. When he started he couldn’t even front squat 95 lbs anywhere close to depth. Hell he couldn’t even squat the bar properly. Last week after about 5 weeks we back squatted 5 singles with 225 to depth. Now, this is a narrow stance squat and it involves plenty of healthy knee glide forward because he is actually sitting DOWN instead of back. At parallel and below parallel the knees are out, the back upright, and the weight on the heels, but the shin angle is forward. Reality being the exact opposite of a true sit back box or wide squat.
BUT–in addition to using the wall squat and goblet squat as technique teachers in intensive warm-ups, the primary cue I used with him was “sit back” or a variation of that–usually something like “hips backwards!” or “hamstrings!” or “hamstrings and heels”. I did it because it mentally addressed what he needed to hear, not what was happening. This is why sometimes I will say things on here that people disagree with because it doesn’t reflect the objective truth of the matter (I remember one thread a while back regarding front squat and knee glide). In one sense as far as they’re concerned you have just spoken gibberish even though you are “right”. So instead of spending a lot of time banging your head against the wall wondering why the lifter isn’t responding to the correct cue (and I see this with “chest up” a lot in DL instruction from trainers–when they move the chest up the knees slide forward and you lose hamstring tightness, it’s a mental disconnect. And hamstring tension is much more important than a high chest when learning to DL), change your language or imagery. And equally important get them to feel the muscle group you want or action you want to instruct.
Another case in point–I remember a Nick Tumminnello blog talking about the fallacy of “squat like a baby”. Great read btw, recommended. And he’s right on point. However, most people don’t use the analogy because it’s scientifically valid–it doesn’t hold up-- or because it represents an ideal that every person can achieve–they can’t. They use it because it mentally creates a picture of what you want to use as your goal, and provides a handy framework if you just think about it casually. It is used because it resonates with many people’s “filters”, and addresses the fact that we do unlearn a lot of things through watching bad examples of others and daily life.
Point #1 is self-evident–if you’re teaching a wider stance squat you probably want the hips back anyway :). If the reality of the situation is what you are fighting, then obviously the “hips back” cue was appropriate in the first place. And yeah–I like “hips back” for wider raw stance because again even though it might not be as FAR back as an equipped squat is pushed, you absolutely need to take advantage of those hamstrings and glutes as much as you can anyways and statistically speaking the vast majority suck ass at doing this, so it makes sense to pound on it in coaching.
So, in a very long winded and pompous round-a-bout way all this is to say that “hips back” is a good cue regardless of squat type in my opinion–the rub is how you apply it and to whom. Some people won’t need it (again, related to my last post on coaching cues being individual), so I suppose in one sense it might have “less value” in the absolute sense of the word for some people. But often times it doesn’t matter whether the person actually needs to sit back or not to execute properly, because what is actually “hips down” in life feels like “hips back” to them. When you address perception you address the weakness.
(This is also one reason I try not to confuse a lot of beginners with detailed things like intermittent fasting as a diet or anything, the perception of advising them to only eat 1x a day–even though thats not what we say–gets them in trouble when they already only eat 1-2 meals a day, reinforces a bad habit even though it is sound methodology for a lot of more experienced people. Fundamentals first, respond to their perception and mental game/habits.)
I hope this makes sense? I felt like I started strong but faded out on the finish lol.