Staying Tight

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Staying Tight

Post by KenDowns » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:49 pm

Now that I'm trying a lot of new accessories, with a focus on achieving better balance to remain injury free, I may be back to asking a lot of those questions that may seem painfully obvious to experienced lifters.

One hazard of being internet-taught is you don't know something if nobody has discussed it. One day Oscar mentions "Push like a powerlifter and pull like a bodybuilder" and I say "Huh? Does everybody know that except me?"

So today's question is about staying tight. This is one of those things I didn't know about until I saw it discussed. So I'm wondering how far you go with it, including some specific examples.

Deadlift: here I think I'm on solid ground, in that as far as I know I want every muscle in my body as tight as I can make it before the bar leaves the ground. but....

Curls? What is supposed to be tight? I've always liked this variation (" onclick=";return false;), but only recently did I realize my back is loose, my abs are loose, I'm not thinking about legs, etc. So I tried something new, I tightened up like I was doing a deadlift, and something amazing happened. I hit more reps, felt the "mind-muscle connection" like never before, and had walloping horrible DOMS in my biceps for two days. This got me thinking, what other moves am I loose in?

Bench. I'm so busy trying to figure out leg drive and arching my back that I'm pretty sure I'm not keeping shoulders, tris and chest tight. Crazy but true. Question: If you can't concentrate on everything, you should be concentrating on at least keeping the targets tight, no? Maybe forget about leg drive until I'm sure I can feel chest and legs staying tight from rack-off to re-rack?

Face-pulls? Not even sure what tight means for this. Like the curls? Everything? Shoulder blades pinched together for this one?

External Rotations, specifically this variation ( ... ation.html" onclick=";return false;). Perhaps I need another thread for this exercise, because I could not figure out if I was doing this right. As my forearm approached parallel to the floor I was ok right up until the last 5 degrees or so, when an entire collection of very uncomfortable stretches sprang up all over my shoulder and upper arm (both left and right). Does tightening up have anything to do with this or do I just need to practice it more and work it out? And again: Shoulder blades pinched for this? (By the way, the seated variation with an band had no such issues).
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Re: Staying Tight

Post by NickAbe57 » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:37 pm

I feel, perhaps like yourself, I'm half internet taught, half just go in and figure things out on my own taught. So take what I say with a grain of salt, I make no claims as being as experienced as others on this site.

That being said, there's alot of prep to keep in mind when setting up for a lift like the deadlift or bench. On the Q&A on EliteFTS I once read Matt Rhodes suggest to try and work on 1 or 2 facets of setup at a time. For example, for a couple weeks when benching, really focus on maintaining a big arch. In 2-3 weeks after you feel you're (somewhat) comfortable with your arch, focus on leg drive for a couple weeks after that. Then spread the bar. For people who are not as experienced as us, its difficult to master all those things right away. I think this line of thinking parallels what you hear many experienced lifters say when they tell you, more or less, this is a marathon not a sprint. If you plan on sticking with lifting as a hobby for the next 5-10 years (or more) what's really a couple months to figure out setup one thing at a time?

Also, I think I can offer some advice on facepulls, as i really enjoy doing that exercise. This isn't necessarily an exercise you need to apply progressive overload principles to. Sure, if it gets easy, up the weight. But you want to keep the work on the rear delts, if you up the weight too quickly you'll feel your torso jerking the weight. When performing, pinch back your shoulder blades and hold for a second or so. Try and make the mind-muscle connection and feel your rear delts. Try and keep your core/abs tight too. Again, this is an assistance exercise, no ones going to ask you how much you can facepull, so dont worry about it too much. Just try and stay consistent and keep the work on your rear delts and you'll feel it.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Staying Tight

Post by robertscott » Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:45 pm

for curls, stand up straight, keep your shoulders back and tight, and brace your abs. That should do it.

bench, I find once you get your set up right the tight shoulders and leg drive'll just kinda fall into place. At least it did for me.

Face pulls - let your shoulders come forward at the start, and pull your whole shoulder back, pinching the shoulder blades together at the top.

As for the rotations, I think you're overthinking them, it's prey much impossible to do them wrong unless you're using a load of body english. Keep the weights light, and the tempo slow. That should sort that.

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Re: Staying Tight

Post by Jungledoc » Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:48 am

On things like bench, develop an order for your set-up. For bench, mine is:
Position under the bar
Plant feet
Use hands on bar to push down the bench a little to set arch (I use a pretty small arch)
Set scaps
Tension on legs, feet into floor, knees apart
Abs tight, leg drive
Push against bar, squeeze it to be ready for hand off
Signal spotter for hand-off

That way I do indeed think about everything, but if I just got under the bar and tried to make everything ready at once, I'd leave things out.

About arch, decide how much arch you want to use (read the thousands of articles and forum posts arguing for various approaches), but set your arch and hold it tightly. Don't try to arch as you lift.
Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.--Francis Chan

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Re: Staying Tight

Post by KPj » Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:03 am

Dr Stuart McGill sums it up quite well - match the intensity of the contraction to the stability demand of the task.

Extreme examples...

1RM DL Attempt - As you can imagine, tense EVERYTHING. Get a big belly of air and hold it until you pass the sticking point (at least). Proceed to see stars, feel faint, etc.

The above would be maximum stiffness/tightness.

Then, think of a 1-arm concentration curl, 15 reps. You wouldn't do the above, as entertaining as it would look. In fact the very nature of a concentration curl reduces the need to stabilise, since you "fix" your elbow on something (knee, bench, etc). By fixing the elbow, you create the stability that you would otherwise need to if you were, say, just standing doing them freely.

Even doing a standing curl, you wouldn't go at it like the 1RM DL attempt. You just need enough stiffness/tightness to prevent excessive body english and allow the targeted muscles to do their job.

Also, you wouldn't do the "maximum stiffness" approach with a high rep set, either - it's just not practical. But you want to create enough stiffness/tightness to allow the whole set to be performed safely. In this respect think of being "loose" and trying a heavy-ish DL, your back will round, hips and shoulders move at different times and different speeds, etc. So, enough tightness to avoid this, but no need for much more than that.

In short, it depends on the movement and load.

Thanks TimD

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