The World’s Strongest Man 2023 helps athletes adjust their squat depth to their height.
Reigning Worlds Strongest Man (WSM) Champion Mitchell Hooper went to Louisville High School to help football players master three movements of strength. According to Hooper, any athlete would do well using three exercises for their strength goals: the deadlift, overhead press and squat, all of which are safe for any age group.
On November 11, 2023, Hooper posted his guide to strength training with student athletes on his YouTube channel. Check out his breakdown of the aforementioned moves below:
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Hooper began his deadlift breakdown by explaining core engagement, which stabilizes the lower back while pulling the weight, helping to protect against injury. There are three levels of protection for the lower back:
- Intra-abdominal pressure squeezing the stomach over the breath
- Spinal erectors
- Soft tissues of the back
By using the intra-abdominal pressure created by holding their breath, they can save their lower back tissue from additional stress, which makes them more susceptible to injury.
Other tips from Hooper include not breathing during the deadlift until you reach the top. The shoulders should remain rounded in contrast to the power clean. This means that the chest does not necessarily have to be upright during the pull; it depends on the length of the lifter’s femur. Hooper had the student-athletes spot each other to see if they changed positions before deadlifting. If they switched positions, Hooper recommended starting in that position because it’s probably a more natural setup.
Using one of the student-athletes, Hooper demonstrated how to influence an opposing player in soccer. While it may seem like a chest press would develop the necessary strength against an opponent, the mechanics of the human body in sports dictate that the body be more parallel to the ground. Therefore, the standing shoulder press is a superior exercise in this context.
Hooper told the student-athletes not to bend over backwards when performing the stand. Squeeze your butt, keep your shoulders over your hips, watch this bar all the way through, Hooper said. Looking at the bar throughout the movement keeps the chest upright. Hooper asked his trainees to squeeze their shoulders up to their ears instead of rotating their scapula back and down. Hooper’s positioning creates more stability for the shoulders during the concentric portion of the lift.
There are three significant areas of mobility in the ankles, knees and hips that affect the squat. For those with flexible ankles, squatting with ideal form to the floor is easier. For those with less flexible ankles, knees bending forward and hips bending backward can help. For contact team sports, building a stronger hip joint is the most important aspect for maximum leg drive.
Those with longer femurs should not hope to squat as well as those with shorter femurs. Hooper demonstrates this by comparing two high school students of different heights; the student with shorter legs was able to lower his glutes to the ground, while the student with longer glutes was only halfway into the squat. For those with longer legs, Hooper suggests rotating the feet and rotating the knees to reduce the distance to the floor and hints at the idea of sinking between the knees.
Hooper acknowledged the butt wink, where the hips sink into the pelvis and the glutes drop during the squat, often rounding the lower back. Hooper acknowledged that it’s okay to squat through the butt wink during the off-season, but that students should conserve energy and squat more without sinking their hips during the season. The latter can help maintain energy levels while developing strength through the range of motion necessary for soccer.
The coaching session ended with the student-athletes receiving AIRVAAV mouthpieces to help them improve their training.
Featured Image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram
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