A proper squat pattern requires adequate mobility from your ankles, hips, and upper back. Here are a few drills to improve your squat.
Stiff ankles can limit squat depth. They will cause your weight to shift back making it difficult to achieve proper depth. Improving your ankle range of motion can dramatically change how your squat looks and feels. The box ankle mobility drill is one of my favorites. Place one foot on the box – keep your foot flat and drive your knee forward (towards your pinky toe). Grab the box and push your chest on your leg to increase the stretch.
Our hips play a major role in squat depth. As we lower into a squat our hips flex, externally and internally rotate – depending on which position were in. Our 90/90 hip mobility drill improves both external and internal rotation. The front hip is externally rotated while the back hip is internally rotated. Sit as up right as you lean forward to stretch the front hip. Then turn towards your back leg to work on internal rotation – still sitting upright.
Our upper back requires mobility to remain upright in the bottom position of the squat. Many of us have a tight upper back from sitting frequently. To improve thoracic (mid back) extension grab a foam roller and put it underneath the middle part of your back. Keeping your butt on the ground and your core braced, extend over the roller. Perform several reps until you feel a change.
Many aspects of our lives require balance. Focusing too much on one area may cause another to weaken. Becoming a well rounded individual requires us to devote time and attention to several parts of our lives.
This idea is very important when it comes to your health. We often see extremes in the fitness industry – people lifting insane amounts of weight or running hundreds of miles at a time. These individuals spend all of their time focusing on one aspect of fitness – usually neglecting all the others.
In order to feel good over a long period of time we must find a sustainable, balanced approach. We want to be strong enough to avoid injury during yard work and also have enough endurance to run a 5k with your friends.
Find something that works for you. It will take some time, but in the long run it’s worth it.
A proper set up leads to a solid press. Your head, upper back, pelvis, and two feet make up your 5 points of contact. Its important to utilize all 5 to create a stable platform to push from.
When setting up, position yourself so your eyes are lined up underneath the bar. This will prevent you from hitting the hooks that the bar rests on when you are pressing. Let your head rest on the bench – holding it up can strain your neck.
Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down to create a “shelf” with your upper back. Grab the bar just outside shoulder width. Use it to create tension through your arms – think “break the bar”.
Squeeze your glutes to create stability in your lower half. We want to create full body tension while we press. Your pelvis should remain in contact with the bench throughout.
Drive your feet into the ground as you press – this will provide a solid foundation for your press.
We’ve all experienced failure – it’s an inevitable part of life. How do you respond to it? Do you give up and stop trying? Or do you reflect and learn from your experience.
In order to grow we must fail. We have to try new things and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. It is in these moments that we learn and develop.
We shouldn’t avoid failure. We should use it as a tool to improve ourselves and overcome obstacles. Your mindset is so powerful – a small change makes a big difference.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Push ups develop upper body strength and stability. Here are a few tips to improve them:
As you lower your body, keep your arms 45 degrees away from your sides making an arrow shape – avoid flaring your elbows out in a T shape. This puts your shoulder in a more stable position.
In the bottom position your forearm should be vertical, not tipped back. Lean forward slightly rather than dropping straight down as you lower yourself. Think about pressing in an arch shape (up and back) similar to a bench press.
We want to see movement through our shoulder blades (scapulae) during a pushup. In the bottom position the shoulder blades retract and pull closer together. In the top position they protract and spread farther apart.
Creating tension increases stability and the effectiveness of the exercises. Screw your hands into the ground, brace your core and squeeze your glutes. This prevents your hips from sagging down. We want all the motion coming from our shoulders.
Whether you are performing barbell, band assisted, or floor push ups – the principles remain the same.
It’s important to establish a solid connection with the ground. Creating tension through our feet and lower body sets us up for a good pull. Its difficult to do so with shoes that have a lot of cushion and elevation – they also create instability. A stable foot becomes more important as the weights get heavier.
Deadlifting with a raised heel shoe will shift your weight forward. This forces you to work harder to stay in a good position. We want our weight evenly distributed through our feet as we pull.
Deadlifting barefoot allows you to feel the ground which makes your pull feel better. It will provide better feed back for areas of improvement – leading to better progress.