Simple squat solutions
Squatting is one of the fundamental movement patterns the human body should be able to complete. The interesting thing is that this pattern often deteriorates over time due to a loss of stability and mobility in the proper joints.
If you ever want to see a perfect squat, just drop a toy in front of a toddler and have him or her pick it up. Babies are born with perfect mobility and earn their stability over time. If we think about the major milestones that we are excited for babies to accomplish, this makes sense: first they learn to control their neck and look around, then roll over, then creep and crawl, then standup, and finally walk.
Once they are walking, we are often treated to perfect demonstrations of squatting and deadlifting because they possess the proper mobility in the appropriate joints (ankles, hips, thoracic spine) and have earned their stability through natural motor learning.
As we get older and begin to spend more time sitting and typing and doing other sedentary activities, we tend to lose our mobility and our body begins to alter its functional movement patterns like squatting and deadlifting that we once knew without any coaching. All that said, helping clients achieve a good squatting pattern is something I try to focus on.
Goblet squat technique:
1. Initiate the movement by sitting tight into your hips.
2. Try to keep your torso upright as you squat down.
3. Try to keep your knees aligned over the middle of your toes (i.e., do not let _ them cave in as you squat down)
4. When standing on the ground, keep your heels flat and do not let them come up and shift your weight to your toes
5. Try to squat to achieve thighs parallel to the floor as long as this does not cause pain or joint discomfort
6. Use a heel lift or counterbalance help technique if necessary
Anti-rotation for a stronger core
Core training is a topic that many people are typically very interested in learning about. The “core” is a bit of an ambiguous term, but for practical purposes we can think of it as the groups of muscles that connect our extremities (i.e., from “pits” to “hips”). One way that we can think about effective core training is to think of our core musculature as force transmitters (i.e., transfer force from our lower body through a stable trunk to our arms).
Picking up a toddler and carrying grocery bags at our sides are a couple of examples of how our core muscles need to be able to activate and stabilize our spine both to accomplish a task and to avoid injury. Core exercises that focus on resisting motion through the different patterns our spine can move are a great way to train our core for long-term health, limit exposure to injury, and also enhance performance.
The major patterns that help train our core through the resisting of motion are: anti-extension (resist bending backwards), anti-flexion (resist bending forward), anti-rotation (resisting rotations of the spine) and anti-lateral flexion (resist side-bending of the spine). The exercise demonstration in this blog tip shows a way for us to train anti-rotation of the spine.
Technique pointers for the tall-kneeling anti-rotation pressout
1. Adjust the cable column so that, when you are kneeling down, it is aligned with your chest muscles.
2. Position yourself so that the cable/pulley is lined up to your side.
3. Begin with a fairly light weight.
4. In a kneeling position, “make yourself tall” by staying tight in your glutes, abdominals, and “reaching your head for the ceiling.”
5. Bring the handle of the able to your chest with some tension on the cable, and then press straight out in front of you, then return to your chest.
6. Press out and back while keeping your core engaged as if you are stiffening your core for a “punch.”
7. Perform 8-10 repetitions, and then turn around and repeat to resist rotation to both your right and left sides.
A simple relaxation technique to help with sleep
It’s no secret that sleep is important. The full benefits of sleep could fill an entire book and far surpass the scope of a weekly training tip. However, sleep is commonly one of the most overlooked recovery tools available, and it also one of the most powerful. We also can’t forget that it’s free! Sleep loss can result in an increase in cortisol, a stress hormone, with one study showing as much as a 45% increase the day after subjects slept for only 4 hours. In addition, sleep can impact focus and performance in physical skills.
A research study at Stanford University found that when players on the men’s basketball team extended their sleep to 10 hours per night, they improved their sprint times significantly and improved their free throw and 3-point shooting percentages by 9% each. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep for 7-9 hours each night. With busy work schedules, making time for the gym, and other personal commitments, it can be a challenge to get the amount of sleep we need for recovery.
One challenge can be when we have a difficult time falling asleep. A tool that can help shift our bodies into a state of relaxation and parasympathetic dominance in our nervous system (the state encouraging “rest and digest”) is slow breathing. This could be a helpful took in feeling relaxed and having an easier time falling asleep.
Slow relaxed breathing
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet on the floor. Your neck and spine should be neutral and comfortable.
2. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your lower abdomen.
3. Take three seconds to slowly breathe through your nose.
4. Try to make the hand on your lower abdomen rise up with your inhalation minimize the rising of the hand on your chest.
5. Allow for a brief pause.
6. Exhale slowly through your mouth for two to three seconds.
7. Pause again for 2-3 seconds.
8. Begin next breath cycle.
9. Aim for 5 full breath cycles.