Have you ever failed a heavy squat or deadlift and noticed a significant rounding of your back as you did? You are not alone.

Most people will run into this issue with their squat and deadlift. What many of us don't realise is that we have began the sequence of events that will lead to this before we even get to the bar. In standing and everyday unloaded activities, many of us display a spine that we don't use to its fullest capabilities of flexion (bending forward) and extension (bending backward). We have portions of our spines that we move more than others. Some people have left areas of their spines practically unmoved for years.

It is common knowledge that rounding under load is due to weak extensor muscles (spinal erectors, rhomboids, etc). I am here to give you an alternative to that knowledge.

It is not your muscle strength that limits your ability to extend your spine into the neutral position or beyond in these lifts. It is the balance of muscular activity you produce unconsciously that will dictate your ability to put your spine in a good position. Strength will then help you maintain the position you have achieved.

The more you can move your spine with full ranges in a well distributed manner, the easier you will achieve the best postures with which to lift. In the cases of the squat and deadlift's bottom positions, you are actively extending your thoracic and lumbar spine against load and anteriorly tilting your pelvis.

Rounding your back before you've started in the deadlift is a recipe for poor performance and disaster

Rounding your back before you've started in the deadlift is a recipe for poor performance and disaster

How can you get moving better and address the balance of muscular activity around your spine and everything else to deadlift and squat better? (Note, doing the following will not just get you better at these lifts – it will improve your ability to do everything associated with these lifts) Below I have linked to a video that shares one simple and ingenious method of improving quickly that to my knowledge was pioneered by a friend of mine, Robert Kavanagh (@TheReHaBoLoGisT). I will fill you in on a few more methods in part two of this article.

Happy lifting and more importantly, happy spinal mobility!