Just Arch Harder? – Why “arch your back” Might be the WRONG Coaching Cue | Community Video

arch your back?

Hey Supple Hoard,

Today's episode is homage to the simple but oft misunderstood movement cue; "Arch". Turns out arching is quite a useful skill to acquire when handling heavy weights. So is being able to open your car door all the way. But you wouldn't regularly open that same door to the limits of it's hinges every time would you? Of course not. Think of your spine in the same way. The structures of your spine are designed to keep you from breaking in half. They don't exist so that you can rest on them while squatting. Think of this cue as expressed in other parts of your body. Do you hyper-extend your knees when you stand? No, of course not. How about your elbows? Yeah of course you jam them into end range and hang on the joint when at the end of bench pressing (not). Heck, even the crazy Chinese acrobat hand balancers don't hang on their elbow joints at end range.

Talk to any "back extension" heavy athlete in their 30's and 40's and they will talk their herniations, stenosis, fractures, spondys, and generally crazy loose spines. As an example, I was being instructed in correct free fall positioning by one of the best instructors in the world. His cue? "Arch hard, like when you squat. Dump your pelvis over until it's tight and throw your head back." He then asked me if we could talk after the jump because he was scheduled for back surgery for his stenosis. Weird right?

Oh we know you can get away with the "arch and forget it" for awhile, but remember that for a technique to be valid, you need to come out unharmed at one rep or a million.

Arching is a very valid cue, but as always, strive to understand the reason behind the cue. Oh, and be sure to arch hard in your next set.


Coaches! Are your athletes hypermobile? Check out this video on programming for the hypermobile athlete. (must be an m|wod pro subscriber)

In this video: lumbar spine hypermobility, overextension &  back arch in the squat, deadlift and olympic lifts

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29 thoughts on “Just Arch Harder? – Why “arch your back” Might be the WRONG Coaching Cue | Community Video

  1. R Sandika Mendis de Zoysa says:

    I dunno if you read my mind? but i’ve been thinking about that cue a lot the past few days! and bam there’s a mwod video on it!

    Much Thanks, it cleared a lot of it up

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  3. Tyler Satnick says:

    Terrible cue and terrible concept. Arch implies changing the spines shape, unless this is benching and its braced extension or the OHP for mechanical advantage, its not productive. Arching during the deadlift and squat reduces structural integrity of the spine as the spine is BEST able to handle load in it natural shape. Once in neutral, Multiple muscular forces must stiffen the spine all 360 degrees around the trunk and arching biases certain stabilizing efforts more then others creating an unbalanced system.

  4. Jeanette Marcotte says:

    There is a lack of awareness of what over-extension looks like. I have had so many people tell me that ‘neutral’ is way more arch than I am comfortable with. When I asked if I was in over-extended…nope, nope, looks good. Then I saw a picture of myself setting up for deadlift…not okay. Waaaay overextended. Makes me wonder what the heck everyone else was looking at?!

    Lesson: Video and photo evidence. Know your own body, because even professionals screw up.

  5. Brian Bochette says:

    This absolutely needed to be said. People often misuse the “arch” cue when trying to manage butt winking (recently addressed in pro episode 27 http://www.mobilitywod.com/2013/07/pro-episode-27-butt-winking-is-not-ok-ever-so-dont-you-even-think-it/ ). This usually results in overextension at the top of the lift and doesn’t fix the spinal flexion occuring in the bottom position. Every lifter (i.e. every human being since we all lift things in our daily lives) should learn what a neutral spine looks and feels like.

  6. Sam Perrin says:

    Free Mobilitywod rules! I purchased the voodoo floss and my elbows are rocking! Thank you! And thank you for the overarching video. It cleared a lot up! 500/500 deadlift/squat here we come!

  7. Tony Chen says:

    awesome stuff here. all cues have a context – every cue has someone it can help & someone else it can hurt.

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  14. mv83p12 says:

    Any thoughts on the differences between thoracic (and even cervical to an extent) extension vs when you’re just overextending from the low back/lumbar?

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