Today I’m going to introduce neurological training to improve your squat/deadlift. I’m also going to detail how to attack these issues. Ultimately, I hope these strategies help you move from the hips better and improve your performance in the weight room and on the mat.
It sounds like a major disorder, or a computer problem- “you don’t have the neurological program.”
But it is hardly anything serious.
In fact, this is commonly referred to in layman’s terms as “muscle memory.”
You’ve heard that before, right?
Think about it…
Did you have the “muscle memory” for shooting a double leg when you first started wrestling?
Do you remember how that went?
This isn’t because you were not athletic or because you’re slow to learn movements. It’s simply because your body didn’t know how to do it.
Without getting too scientific, let me quickly introduce the nervous system.
The nervous system, and more specifically the neuromuscular system (the specific nerves that fire muscles), controls your body.
The nervous system is in control of exactly how you position your body during each and every activity you do.
Anytime you do something unfamiliar your nervous system has to figure out how to coordinate your body to produce the movement.
This may sound weird but think about it in terms of a double leg. Over the number of reps you’ve performed has it gotten better or worse?
It’s gotten better.
This is because your nervous system has “learned” how to perform the movement efficiently.
Now, back to the squat. Could you bring your knees to your chest while keeping your back flat as I described in this video?
Then you should be able to reproduce this movement with your feet on the ground. However, what I’ve found is many, if not most, wrestlers are unable to do this initially.
What do I do to fix this and program their body properly?
Well, as you may know my system comprises of bits and pieces of many different modalities.
I also pull information from other “arts.”
This lead me to the #1 exercise for teaching wrestlers to move from their hips- the Stripper Squat!
Here is a progression of pictures on how to perform a Stripper Squat.
In a nutshell, I use the Stripper Squat to familiarize wrestlers with the bottom position of a deep squat.
If you can get into a deep squat with a neutral back, then you can certainly get into any deadlifting position with the same posture.
Want to know the best part of the Stripper Squat?
There’s no wrong way to perform it!
All you’re looking to do is use something (in this case a power rack) to help you with your balance as you lower into a deep squat position.
As you get more comfortable, start to remove your hands, one at a time, from the support.
If you can’t maintain your balance when your hands are behind your head, simply hold your arms straight out in front of you.
Ultimately you want to be able to reach the position in the final picture- deep squat, flat back, and feet flat while maintaining your balance.
Once you are able to consistently perform full bodyweight squats without the use of a balance aid, you’re ready to progress.
Here’s a video of me performing a Kettlebell Squat. I’ve found holding a weight in front of you is slightly more difficult than performing a bodyweight free squat, but easier than placing a bar behind your head. It makes for a nice “bridge” between the bodyweight squat and the barbell free squat.
Once you are comfortable and consistent with a weight in your hands, you can then look to progress to the same squat with a barbell on your back.
In this video I’m using a Safety Squat Bar, which is my preferred bar for wrestlers. It pulls you forward which simulates an opponent sprawling on you. Ultimately this forces you to stay a lot tighter throughout your core.
Additionally, the SSB doesn’t produce any unnecessary stress on your shoulders. If you find yourself experiencing a lot of shoulder pain when squatting read this post.
Finally, one way to ensure you’re consistently achieving a full range of motion is to add a pause at the bottom. Click here to read a post on Pause Squats and why I think this variation is great for building the specific leg strength wrestlers need.
If you’re finding it difficult to achieve a full range of motion using the stripper squat, consider Box Squats. Simply lower the box over time as you become more comfortable to squatting to it. Click here to read the post on Box Squats.
Finally, if you have a few minutes, check out this great video by Bret Contreras: