I teach a handful of students who previously did Wushu in school and wish to explore Classical Martial Arts with combat applications. To their surprise, they have to carry weights. To my surprise, they can't hold a proper 2 minute horse stance and they cannot even do 10 push ups. I did not expect that contemporary wushu can be so lax in strength and conditioning. Many parents believe that sending their kids for wushu class means their kids will develop stronger and more robust bodies, without lifting iron weights like Western bodybuilders.
Anterior lumbar tilt is very common in wushu practitioners. We like to give it a nickname, the 'chicken backside'. You always see bikini models sticking their buttocks back and up while rolling their crotch downwards, yes this is the pose we never want in any form of fight capable martial art. If a person has anterior lumbar tilt, it means the person cannot fight as there is no awareness of stable hip position to generate power and suddenly spring into action.
Listen to another of my reason for why Wushu practitioners should do deadlifts. In nanquan, many people tend to lean forward when punching or delivering straight palm strikes. They may feel that leaning forward means they are more commited to the strike and look more powerful, they have longer reach and look more brave. If it is not completely voluntary, it can also mean they have a weak back and weak legs. This is why they should do deadlifts.
When they lean forward, much of the time the rear foot's heel is lifted off the ground, much unlike the stable Southern Fist stance that stands on both heels and both balls of feet. An MMA grappler will also welcome that forward lean as it will make it easier for them to pull you to the ground for a guillotine choke or sleeper choke. They have already done it to many boxers who think they can bob and weave and lean like Mike Tyson.
I also had this bad habit. Old fashioned wushu teachers are not good at clear instructions like pointing out mistakes on the students' bodies and introducing S&C exercises to correct these issues. It is not as bad for me as my wushu group did horse stance and push ups on every session when I was a budding martial artist. The problem of leaning forward is more prominent in old traditional Chinese martial arts groups who have converted over to nanquan.
To make the musculature of the lower torso and the legs more balanced, deadlifts are the best complimentary exercise. It involves extension of the hips, which pulls the upper body backwards. When the upper body is upright and the shoulders are stacked on top of the hips, weight of the upper body falls to the hips instead of the knees. This alignment is much more conducive for developing a proper Kung Fu stance.
Deadlifts trains your body to achieve a neutral spine position, which is not only a must for punching; it is a must for kicking too. You notice many martial arts novices can't perform many kicks gracefully, with the body upright. They lean towards the front whether they are doing a side kick, roundhouse kick or spinning wheel kick. Functionally, leaning to the front when kicking also makes you more easily taken down by grapplers.
The neutral spine position is key for generating power from stance turning and waist turning. Someone leaning forward will spin his punch downwards instead of forward. Only when the torso is upright will a person be able to spin his shoulders to send his arm forward to punch. Now that we know the importance of the upright neutral spine, let me introduce the main exercise that will improve your posture, the deadlift.
There are a few other exercises that are also very useful for building up the lower back. You can use the cable machine in our gym to do deadlifts too, we call it the cable deadlift. It is very beneficial for the Kung Fu practitioner as we do it from the bow and arrow stance. As this stance is used in most techniques used in combat, it is more practical to build up the back extension strength with deadlifts in the bow and arrow stance than the four level horse stance.
Article By Leroy Kwok