Having a strong posterior chain prevents injury and makes daily movement feel better. When a hinge is performed incorrectly it can place added stress on the lower back.
We want the movement to come from the hip and knee joints. Keeping your core locked in place as you hinge back keeps your spine in a good position. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings in the bottom position. Squeeze your glutes as you stand back up.
Here a few common faults:
Lower back rounding – core not locked in
Squatting the hinge – hips too low
Lower back extended – pelvis tipped forward
Proper hinge – core braced, hips above knees, chest towards the floor
The “Two Hand Test” is a great way to see if you are keeping proper alignment. Place one hand near your sternum and the other near your waistline. As you hinge back the distance between your hands should remain the same. If there is an increase in distance, you are over extending (pelvis tips forward). If the distance decreases your back is rounding (pelvis tucked under).
We want to use the big muscles along our back side to get the most our of our hinge (glutes, hamstrings, lats). These muscles keep us upright and provide power for movement.
Over head pressing variations are difficult to perform with tight shoulders. Missing range of motion or stability through the shoulder joint can cause pain during these exercises. The angled bar press is a great variation for those with cranky shoulders.
To perform stand with your feet hip width apart. Hold one end of the barbell at shoulder height with the other end resting on the ground in front of you. Your body should be slightly leaned forward. Brace your core then press the barbell away from you until your arm is locked out. Reverse the motion on the way down.
Maintain a neutral spine through out. Avoid flaring your elbow outward as you press. At the top of the press, shrug your shoulder to get motion through your shoulder blade – this is important for shoulder health.
The angled bar press improves shoulder strength and stability without requiring as much range of motion. It is also a great tool for beginners learning over head movements.
Deadlifts improve movement quality and posture. It’s important to find an appropriate variation for you – not everyone has to deadlift with a barbell. Here are a few non-barbell variations to shake up your training.
Double Kettlebell Deadlift:
This variation mimics a sumo deadlift. Holding a kettlebell in each hand requires more upper body stability. Begin with the kettlebells between your feet. Brace your core, hinge over (grab each kettlebell), then press through the floor with your feet as you lift. This will engage your leg muscles and save your back.
To perform, place a band on the ground and step on it with an appropriate stance width. Grab each side of the band, create tension and perform a deadlift pattern. The more the band gets stretched, the more challenging it becomes – this is called accomodating resistance. This variation can be used as a warm up before heavier variations or as a high rep finisher.
Begin with you feet hip width apart with a kettlebell right next to either foot. Perform your bracing sequence, grab the kettlebell and lift. It is important that your shoulders and hips face forward as you lift. This variation will require core and hip stability to avoid rotation.
Warm up sets prepare your body for heavier weights. They are performed at lighter loads that gradually build up to your “working” sets. Jumping right to heavy weights will not make it easier.
Muscles become warmer – increasing activation and power output. Our joints move through the required range of motion for the exercise. And our central nervous system starts preparing for an increased demand.
Warm up sets are an opportunity to improve technique and mental focus. Performing light reps with intent will have carry over to heavier loads. Make each rep count – perform lighter reps with the same focus you would a heavy set.
Think preparation, not fatigue. We do not want to perform so many sets that we get tired – we just want to give our body time to get ready to work hard.
Your ankles play an important role in your movement and foot function. Stiffness at the ankle joint impacts the way you walk, run, and squat. Tight calves and wearing shoes with a raised heel are common reasons for stiff ankles.
To test your ankle range of motion get into a half kneeling position. Put your front foot 4 to 5 inches away from the wall (about the width of your hand). Keeping your foot flat on the ground and drive your knee forward. If your knee can not touch the wall without your heel coming off the ground – you’re missing ankle range of motion.
Tight ankles will require a more forward torso lean to squat to depth. This will make variations like front squats challenging because it is difficult to stay upright. Improving your ankle range of motion will promote better squatting and single leg patterns.
When you run you should first contact the ground with the ball of your foot, then your heel should “kiss” the ground (touch it quickly). Limited ankle range will cause you to stay on your toes placing added stress on your calf muscles. Our feet and ankles are designed to absorb the shock and impact while we run. Poor ankle function will strain other parts of our leg which could lead to injury.
Missing range of motion in our ankles will cause other areas to compensate – leading to compromised positions. Working on your ankle range of motion will improve your running and squatting mechanics.
Our training philosophy is simple – perform basic movements well. Movement quality is our top priority. We focus on the details to improve exercise effectiveness and make them safer.
Let’s take a deadlift for example. We teach our clients to take the slack out of the bar (create tension) before they lift it – this prepares your body to handle the weight. It’s a small detail that can make a big difference.
Elbow position in a push up is another great example. Keeping your elbows close to your side creates a stable shoulder. This cue is important for those with cranky shoulders. Pain can prevent someone from performing an exercise – the details make movements feel better.
We want our clients to get the most out of their training. The details within each exercise require attention and we love to talk about them.
Movement is a skill that requires practice. We will always prioritize technique over intensity. Moving with intent is more important than the weight on the bar. It will lead to more consistent progress and help you feel better.
Warming up properly prepares our body for training. It reduces our risk of injury and improves performance.
We warm up to increase body temperature, heart rate and blood flow. This improves our ability to use oxygen and prepares our muscles and joints for heavier movements. It activates our central nervous system, which is important for force production and performance.
Foam rolling is another important tool in our warm ups. It improves muscle function by relieving tension and increasing range of motion – not to mention it feels amazing.
Warming up gives us an opportunity to think about our training. Focusing on proper movement and practicing with intent carries over. It slows down our busy lives. We like starting our warm ups with breath work for its physical and mental benefits.
The drills and exercises develop body awareness. It gives us an opportunity to work on coordination and balance while improving our basic movement patterns.