Strength

Tune-Up Tuesday - Episode 4: Tips for a Better Push-Up

Tune-Up Tuesday - Episode 4: Tips for a Better Push-Up

Today's Episode of #TuneUpTuesday covers some tips and drills to improving your push-up.  The push-up is a commonly butchered exercise.  Read the full post to find out how you can get  the maximal benefits of this exercise. 

Why Aren't You Reaching Your Fitness Goals: Part 2

Why Aren't You Reaching Your Fitness Goals: Part 2

In the second edition of Why Aren't You Reaching Your Fitness Goals, I cover some ways to help keep you consistent with your workouts and nutrition. 

Clutter: Is It Bogging Down Your Exercise Program

Clutter: Is It Bogging Down Your Exercise Program

After reading the book "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser, I realized that writing and program design have a lot of similarities.  An example of this is clutter.  Clutter is an easy way to decrease the effectiveness of one's writing and one's program.  

Course Review: Optimizing the Big 3

A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar on optimizing the big three (bench press, squat and deadlift) at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.  Greg Robins and Tony Bonvechhio are two smart dudes and offered a ton of value. 

Greg and Tony's seminar is geared towards the powerlifter but did a great job making this applicable to all walks of life.  I am by no means a powerlifter, yet I love to use the big three in my workouts and in my clients programming.  

The information provided gave me greater insight into the programming and cueing of these exercises.  The best part of the seminar is the hands on portion - in which we actually got to lift and get coached by both Greg, Tony and Miguel.  Getting insight into your bad habits as a lifter, as well as watching them coach several others gives you invaluable education you can't get elsewhere. 

I highly recommend anyone interested in powerlifting or weight training, whether a trainer or someone who is an avid fan of exercises - this is a must course.

Here are some take aways from the seminar:

When it comes to program design for any client, powerlifter or not, you must address the needs of the lifter.  What are the prerequisite movements to be successful at the exercise?  What limitations do the currently have?  What's their training age? etc..

Secondly, when it comes to programming the big three, there are three things we must take into consideration.

  1. They are all saggital plane movements
  2. They are all bilateral movements
  3. They are all extension based movements

Therefore, constant programming of these lifts will create postural and movement changes due to the repetitive nature and loading of these patterns

Greg and Tony talk about a great concept called "covering your basis". Due to the facts above, we address the repetitive nature of these exercises through corrective exercises and our warm-ups.

I have already been a proponent of using the warm-up to address movement concerns of the athlete at hand so this was music to my ears. Having a warm-up designed to prepare the body for the demands of that day is key to owning that session. 

Start from the ground up using a few drills to address movement concerns and prep for the major workouts of the day.  For example, work on scap stability or thoracic extension before bench press.  

Technique is the one thing as coaches that we have control over.  So not learning how to coach and cue is doing a disservice to your clients or yourself. They mention that "crappy technique puts a ceiling on your training."  This is absolutely vital. Poor technique not only puts a ceiling on training, but causes bad habits and increases chance for injury.  Learn how to coach these well, so you can set your clients and yourself up for success in the future. 

  1. Bench 
    • Bar and wrist over elbows 
    • Leg Drive 
      • If you use a flat footed stance, your leg drive is similar to pushing yourself up the bench.
      • If you prefer heels up, then your leg drive is trying to drive your feet into the ground and squeezing the bench with your thighs.
      • The leg drive serves a couple of purposes.  One, to develop more power throughout the entire body.  Two, to assist in maintaining your bar path.
    • Pull your shoulder blades into your back pockets.  This will add more passive stability to the shoulders, but also will help you maintain your thoracic extension - which is crucial to shortening the motion and maintaining bar path. 
  2. Deadlift 
    • Bar lined up over shoe strings
    • Arm pits in front of bar
    • Wedge yourself into the bar
      • What this means is that you are trying to take tension out of bar.  In order to do so you pull the weight of the bar off the floor by dropping your butt and raising your chest.  Once you feel the bars weight in your back, you know you're ready to drive through the floor.  
  3. Squat
    • Greg and Tony used two terms to describe your squat technique:
      • Don't be a stripper
      • And Don't Pop-Lock and Drop - but rather Lock, Drop and Pop
    • What this means is you don't want to arch your back on the decent.  You want to maintain a belt buckle up, ribs down posture throughout the entire set.  So, A - lock in the torso position, B - drop into the bottom of the squat and C - pop back to the top.

Another thing they mention, and I think we all forget this often, is fitness is dependent on the goal/sport at hand.  A golfer and a Cross-fitter require two very different training stimuli to reach their goal.  But does a golfer need to be crushed by a Workout of the Day (WOD) everyday in order to effectively hit a ball 300 yards down a fairway?  No, it can actually hinder their performance.  Point being, know your athlete and find their goals, and as Dan John says "keep the goal the goal."

All in all, this seminar blew away my expectations and I highly recommend you attend.  The work done at CSP is top notch and you can learn a lot from these fine gentlemen. 

Move Well, Stay Strong

 

How To Instantly Become More Productable

I always feel as if I am never productive enough. At the end of the day there is always something left on my to-do list, and before I know it, I have achieved almost nothing done.  My days always feel very busy, but my to-do list always seems to stay un-checked.  I have tried many times to overcome this, but all have failed - until now. 

I just recently read an amazing book called the Perfect Day Formula by Craig Ballentyne.  In a nut shell, the book is about helping you maximize your productivity so you can get your work done and still have time for the things you love. 

One message the book conveys to it's readers is how to take control of your mornings in order to increase your productivity. By doing so you can tackle tasks first thing in the morning while energy levels are at their highest and before your day distracts you. Craig states, to do this, simply wake up 15 minutes earlier and undertake any responsibilities that will lead you to your big goal.  

When I first read this, I thought Craig was deranged.  I am not a morning person by any means. For the first 30 minutes of the day I can barely function.  My typical morning begins with the the snooze button and continues on my couch where I drowsily scroll through social media. Before I realize it, I am behind in my morning routine and have to rush out the door. 

Nevertheless, I decided to give this a try.  

My first day trying this I woke up at 5:00 am instead of 5:15, while at the same time swearing off social media for the first hour of the day.  

This combination added 30 minutes of free time to my morning and improved my productivity.

Now I write blogs, read or get any other work done that needs to get done for the day.  I'm completing the tasks that I used to constantly run out of time to do on a regular basis.  I am closer to hitting my goal of investing in the stock market which takes research and time to initiate. 

If you want to instantly become more productive so you can complete tasks you constantly struggle to find time doing (HEP, writing a book etc...) you should wake up 15 minutes earlier than you do today.  Combo this with not touching your phone for an hour and you will be able to accomplish more each day then you thought was possible. 

Move Well, Stay Strong.

What is Kinstretch?

Kinstretch is defined as a movement enhancement system that develops maximum body control, flexibility and USABLE ranges of motion.

So what does this mean?

Unlike other common methods of flexibility training such as yoga and passively stretching muscles, Kinstretch focuses on gaining control of your passive flexibility by using our muscles (rather then gravity) to attain improved mobility.  This serves two purposes, improve usable ranges of motion and strengthen in these new ranges. 

Top picture is the before and the bottom picture is the after, they were taken a week apart. 

Top picture is the before and the bottom picture is the after, they were taken a week apart. 

Simply stated, Kinstretch focuses on training your end range of motion with the goal of improving your movement capabilities and decreasing your risk of injury. 

Why end range of motion?

The human body is a highly efficient organism.  Due to the copious amount of biological processes that go on in our bodies, it has learned to become extremely efficient.  

The body's efficiency allows it to take short cuts when possible to allow it to work at full speed.  This is a reason why we develop habits, which are automatic behaviors that we don't have to think about.  It is also why our bodies tend to the path of least resistance when doing things such as skiping a workout, hitting the snooze button or utilizing movement compensations.

These processes allow our bodies to remove pathways from the body that are no longer used. For example, having a skill when you were a kid that you suck at today (whether you want to believe it or not).  This is because the synaptic pathways that created that skill degrade when rarely used.  This gives way for new pathways to connect to allow you to learn new tasks.

The same goes for movement.  If you haven't moved through a particular range of motion, the joint mechanoreceptors don't get stimulated often. Eventually the lack of stimulus will cause atrophy of these mechanoreceptors and cause decreases in range of motion.

There are other factors involved in this, but this plays a role in our lack of movement variability today.  

Our lives today revolve primarily around sitting ( I am sitting now as I write this post).  We tend to be hunched over with arms in front of us and hips flexed.  This typical posture results in the loss of thoracic extension, shoulder flexion (arm over head) and hip extension.  Therefore, the adage of we lose range of motion as we get older is incorrect.  It really should be, because we don't use it that we lose it. 

Returning back to training end ranges of motion.

In Kinstretch we train end ranges of motion to attempt to restore decreased mobility and improve movement capabilities.  Kinstretch is geared towards creating more active range of motion so you can be better at all the things you love to do most. Whether that is deadlifts, swings, running, sporting events, gardening or playing with your kids.  The better you move, the better you can enjoy life regardless of your goals and what you enjoy in life. 

Move Well, Stay Strong. 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Rehab

Just to be clear, Physical Therapists do not fix people.

Um what!?

You read that correctly, physical therapists (myself included) do not fix injuries.  I know you are thinking 'well why do I spend all my time and money on co-payments and deductibles if no one can fix me?'

In an outpatient setting, a PT is able to determine the root cause of your pain through the evaluation process.  By understanding your mechanism of injury, current symptomology, and examination of movement a PT can give you a movement diagnosis that allows them to address any pain, tissue extensibility, mobility or motor control issue that might be present. 

You are probably thinking now, 'hey you just said PTs can't fix me, but they can put me on the road to recovery?'

Exactly! Physical therapists put you on the ROAD TO RECOVERY.  This does not mean we fix you; the hones truth is the only person who can fix you is... YOU.  The bottom line being that a PT alone cannot ¨fix¨ your ailments all by him/herself, the other person in the equation of recovery is YOU. 

Every time I see a patient, any benefit they get from seeing me I call “the window of opportunity.” All tissues in the body have a threshold level that once met, pain settles in.  The benefit you get from PT is increasing your threshold, which improves your pain tolerance.  

So if you see a PT for 20 minutes to an hour twice a week and have your window of opportunity opened, what you do with the remaining 23 hours will have an even greater impact on your window as well. 

What I often see is a person feels much better after leaving PT. These effects lasts roughly a day or two and by the time they return for their next visit their pain has returned.  

 

SO WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR REHAB!?

The number one tool a patient has for recovery is their home exercise program (HEP).  Your PT should be giving you, the patient, 2-4 corrective exercises that will maximize your window of opportunity between visits. But more often than not my patients have all the excuses in the world why they can do their home exercises, which on average takes under 10 minutes to complete. 

This boggles my mind because if I told you in 10 minutes a day you can be pain free, would you say yes, I will do whatever it is?  You may be nodding your head yes, but my experience begs to differ.

If you do your exercises as prescribed, you keep the window of opportunity open a little longer, so the next time your PT sees you they can continue to make it larger until your threshold of pain returns to normal. 

Even after being pain free, you must remain pain free for six months before you decide to cut back on frequency of HEP.  Would you rather spend 10 minutes a day now however it fits your schedule for the next 6-8 months or continue to have pain and see PTs for the same problems over and over again. 

HERE ARE A FEW TIPS

  • Do your exercises at a set time every day.  This will help you to develop habits.

    •  For example after you brush your teeth in the morning you do 5 minutes of exercises.  

  • Break up your exercises throughout the day.  

    • If your PT gives you 10 minutes of exercises but between life, kids, relationships, work etc some days you just can find 10 minutes.  No problem.

    • Break up the exercises into smaller time slots.  Do 2 minutes of exercises sprinkled throughout the day on 5 separate occasions.  No one ever said you HAVE to do them all at the same time. 

Hope this helps! Take advantage of this tool and feel better faster!

Hinge Your Way Free of Back Pain

What's your plan of attack when your back aches? Painkillers? Stretching? Ice and heat? While these might provide temporary relief, we're missing the bigger picture if we don't address the way we move through our hips.

Often times when your back hurts it is often due to lack of stability and/or mobility at joints.  This makes sense when we review Gray Cook and Mike Boyle's joint-by-joint approach to the body.

When we look at this model we see that the body alternates segments of stability and segments of mobility.  These areas align themselves so that we can stabilize in certain areas in order to move freely in others. An example of this (not on the chart above) is learning proper scapula stability so we can enjoy all the range of motion the shoulder provides.  If the scapulae aren't stable, compensation patterns inhibit optimal movement of the shoulder joint.  

IMG_0037.JPG

With repetitive stresses or lack of movement over time, bodily joints have the potential to lose their inherent mobility. Once this happens the body has to compensate for this lack of motion by creating motion at the segment directly above or below.  What this ultimately does is flip-flop the order of mobility and stability.  One of the most common examples I see of this is through the loss of hip mobility.  Most people, especially those who sit at work all day lose the ability to hinge at the hips.  This loss of hip mobility causes either the lumbar spine or the knees to move excessively while moving. Whether bending over, squatting, deadlifting, or picking up your child to name a few examples, the ability for your body to maintain the joint-by-joint approach is imperative in order to prevent muscle tightness, stiffness, weakness and pain.  

Based off this information, one of the first things I assess when having a patient with low back pain is their ability to hinge.  Most often than not, their hip hinge is not up to par... and that's putting it nicely.  Even if you don't have pain, the inability to hinge from the hips will rob you of strength, power, mobility, and overall quality of life.  

Check out the video below to see some hip hinge hacks.  They will make you a better person.  

If these helpful tips helped you out, or if you just plain hated them leave me a comment below and tell me all about it!

Why Squatting Hurts Your Knees

Your form sucks.

You're trying to lift more weight then you can handle.

               You've injured your knee doing something that was not squatting.

You're a combination of the three scenarios above.

It is unfortunate that the same myth continues to slap me in the face on a daily basis. I feel like I'm surrounded by it day in and day out at the clinic, with a potential client and/or a novice trainee under my guidance.  "My knees hurt when I squat".  My teeth cringe and my blood pressure rises every time I hear this said to me.  

If your knees hurt when you squat, it is time we stop blaming the squats for the pain and start looking into why our knees are bothering us.  We have been squatting since we were babies, why is it that all of a sudden squatting is the culprit behind our pain?

If "squats hurt you", here are a couple of things you might want to look into to figure out why you may be having pain.  

  • You lack full ankle dorsiflexion. 
    • That is the ability to point your foot towards your head.  If you lack dorsiflexion, you will have to compensate at other joints to make up the lack or range.  This often comes from the knees, or the low back (and possibly both).  
  • You lack core stability. 
    • Whether the abdominal wall, the lats or the hip musculature is weak, (all of these make up the core) abnormal forces will be transmitted through joints rather then through contracting muscles and tendons.  This will cause excessive shearing at the knees and even the low back, which overtime can cause pain and dysfunction.
  • Transverse/Frontal plane deviations. 
    • As athletes, gym-goers and sedentary individuals, we train and live mostly in the sagittal-plane (think front and back movement like walking).  Squatting is a sagittal-plane movement. Often time when some one squats, we see them sit more towards one leg than the other or rotate their bodies.  This is common especially when someone is trying to lift a weight that is too heavy for them.  This becomes a sure fire way to cause an angry knee or low back.  

Watch the video below to see how I teach the squat and how it may help you squat pain free. 

Leave some feedback in the comments section and let me know if this helps!

Until Next Time.