Check out this post on defending yourself from a bear attack (italics mine):
Act aggressively. Look it straight in the eyes and let it know you will fight if attacked. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet and take a step or two toward the bear. Threaten the bear with whatever is handy (stick, pole, bear spray). The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.
What is the natural reaction to fear? Get small: pull the arms in, lean forward into yourself, look down, and curl the legs in. What about the natural reaction to success? Get big: arms outstretched, head held high, chest open, standing tall. A confident pose takes up space. It’s a way to put yourself out there and be exposed. It is associated in our minds with competence and we use these body mannerisms to both express ourselves and gage the confidence of others. When we are confident we aren’t afraid to take up space, but when we are insecure we try to minimize the amount of space we take up.
When facing down an aggressive bear, big and exposed = confidence, curling up or running = easy target. It’s no coincidence, then, that good weightlifting form is characterized by confident positions and poor form is characterized by minimizing yourself.
Consider the squat
- good form = a lot of space = knees out
- bad form = small space = knees in
- good form = a lot of space = chest up
- bad form = small space = rounded back
Grey shirt guy is minimizing his space out of fear or insecurity and that is negatively affecting his squat form.
Where does fear come from? It could come from our fear of how others perceive us. The gym can be very intimidating, especially for those who are new. When we are shy our goal is to not make a big splash. We tell ourselves, “Don’t do anything to get yourself noticed.” This is just fine as we build confidence in the gym, but once we get under the barbell we need to focus on confidence. Just imagine its you and the barbell and you are in control.
The same goes for those who fear that the weight is too heavy. You need to remember that you are in control of the barbell, and the more confident you are the more power your neurological system will allow you to take for both form and lifting capacity.
Here are examples of shrinking into yourself causing poor form.
- Bad: shoulders hunch, pulling them toward the neck in order to defend the neck from attack
- Good: shoulders down and away from the neck
Strict pull up
- Bad: shoulders hunch and elbows pull in to protect the torso from attack
- Good: shoulders down and back and elbows out and back pulling to the back pockets
- Bad: rounded back and shoulders to protect abdomen
- Good: long and engaged back with long draw on the handle
- Bad: leaning forward and short steps which place too much pressure on the toes
- Good: upright torso and confident strides
And so on
Learn from the Master
I saw this on a nature documentary. This mantis is only a few minutes old and he is being hunted by a spider. He can’t escape so he turns around and faces his aggressor by making himself as big as he can. His confidence is rewarded and the spider backs down. Be confident under the barbell in the same way.