Technique Tuesday- Reverse Lunge

If you’ve been to a bootcamp or are part of our personal training program, you have likely done the reverse lunge.  It’s one of our staple single leg exercises, and is our first progression from the basic split squat.  However, one issue that arises when doing these, so we want to address it so you can get the very best out of your workout.

As you step back, the tendency is to let your heel travel with the leg.  What we want to do instead is keep the heel pointed to the ceiling, creating a better, easier movement.  The other error that you may see is a weight shift onto the back leg.  In that case, its important to remember that your weight should stay over the forward leg.


Start Small

So you have your main goal picked out; Stronger, leaner, healthier, more defined, faster… what have you. Now, you’ve broken that down into your stepping stones, or smaller goals. Goals you don’t feel overwhelmed with, things that are attainable for you to reach and within close grasp.  We want to start small.  Hitting smaller goals periodically leads to big change in the long haul.

What now?

We can’t just expect to set out goals and they’ll instantly happen. In contrast, if we set out our plans and goals and watch them fall by the wayside as time moves on, we will feel like we have failed.

Next Step

Seriously analyze your routine. Now, what is holding you back? Make a list of your top three obstacles. Got them? Good. Now pick one, the simplest, the easiest one to remove from your routine, whether it’s a food, a practice, a habit, whatever it is and rid it from your life. That’s it. Make that your focus.

This is the key to finding your way to that first reachable benchmark in your journey! Attempting to do away with so much at once can overwhelm you. It leaves you susceptible to fall off track and forget completely about your goals.

So this week, find your top 3 obstacles and remove the easiest from your routine. That’s all, commit to that for 1 week and watch how easily you can find your way to your goals!


Is This Your 8 Hour a Day Posture?

Computer Posture
Is this how you sit?
Is this you?

This is no way to go through life.  Although many of the population does so on a daily basis.

  • You likely sleep in some sort of awkward position.
  • You sit in your car on the way to work, school, wherever.
  • You sit at work or school.
  • You likely sit while you eat.
  • You sit in your car to go home
  • You sit while you relax on the couch after a long day of work or school

I bet you’re even sitting as you read this.

Now while this position may not result in immediate pain, because the body is incredibly adaptive to stress, it doesn’t look too comfortable.  Even as you’re reading this, you are probably demonstrating this posture.  Now you immediately fixed yourself.  Right?  Yea ya did!

There is so much going on in the body when you sit like this and its easy to see with the aid of this skeleton.
Rounded shoulders, pelvis is tilted, head and neck are forward, and the thoracic spine/upper back is super curved.  The rib cage almost looks compressed as well.  No doubt the shoulders are elevated into a shrug position.  Its almost as if this person is trying to get into a teeny tiny ball.  This posture leads to a lot of problems, namely pain and injury associated with your lower back and shoulders.  Poor posture and poor mobility, especially in the shoulder joint tends to lead towards impingement, or rotator cuff problems.  This presentation can also lead to tight hip flexors which will pull your pelvis into an anterior tilt and can be the cause of any of that low back pain you’re experiencing.

Now if this is you, do yourself a favor, fix your posture. Straighten up, pull your shoulders back, and open up you chest.  The more you focus on correcting and being aware of your posture, the less likely you’ll be injured or have pain.  Now it wont be an overnight success in correcting your posture.  But the more you work at it, the better off you’ll be.
Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

1.  Stretch your chest, and hip flexors especially.  Posture like this tends to present with tight pec muscles and tight hip flexors.
2. In addition to stretching, you should be foam rolling your upper back and hip complex in order to increase its range of motion.  This especially includes the hip flexors.
3.  Finally doing exercises that require you to strengthen muscles that have been weakened by your poor posture.  For the upper back, you should focus on exercises that retract or squeeze your shoulder blades.  This can include body weight rows, or dumbbell/machine rows.  Also work on simple retraction exercises with low weight. because chances are, if you’ve maintained this kind of position, your scapula have probably lost the ability to freely move. Shoulder slides on the wall/stick ups are a great way to increase shoulder range of motion.
For the hips, concentrating on glute bridges, hip thrusts.

Poor posture wont inherently put you in pain.  Like I said, the body is resilient to stress and the research agrees that poor posture doesn’t really result in pain.  But it can place you at a disadvantage should you try to lift in ways your body doesn’t safely allow.  When you try to do something your body isn’t quite ready for, or doesn’t have allowable movement for, there are going to be consequences.  Maybe not today or tomorrow, but somewhere down the line.


Essential Strength Training Tips Part II

In Part I we took a look at several vital tips in order to get involved in strength training this year.  In part II, we’ll throw a few more tips your way to really make sure you have the tools to be the best “you” this year.

Balance

This tip is less about doing exercises that will improve your actual balance and more about your approach to strength training.  The most common exercises you’ll see in the gym end up working the “mirror” muscles, meaning that you’ll see exercises that only train areas you can see in the mirror.  This is an ineffective and potentially hazardous approach as it can lead to issues down the line.

Make sure your strength training program has a balanced approach.  For example, if you do a pushing exercise, say chest presses, you want to compliment that with a pulling exercise like a dumbbell row.  In addition to doing exercises that have a balanced approach to your muscles, you want to make sure you don’t go hard or heavy every single day.  Mix up your rep ranges.

Don’t Kill Yourself

Probably the most important tip in this entire article, you want to avoid killing yourself.  It’s almost a badge of honor for people to crawl out of the gym or be so sore you can’t move.  That’s not the point to strength training.  You may feel sore, but you still need to function.  Avoid the need or desire to crush yourself. and realize that some days, you may actually feel great leaving the gym.  Repeat that to yourself.

“I don’t have to crawl out of the gym to feel like I got a good workout.”

Soreness does not necessarily indicate a good workout nor does it indicate progress.  What it does mean is you provided a new challenge or stimulus to your body and your muscles.  You may feel “hardcore” today, increasing the pounds, increasing the intensity, but if you can’t walk or raise your arm above your head the next day, how did you get stronger?  How do you expect to get the most out of your work out the following day?

The key is to use intensity wisely.  Find a delicate balance between going all out all the time and taking it easy.  Be a little uncomfortable, but you’re going to have to get used to how your body feels day to day, week to week.  Learning those subtle cues, sensations and signals can help you figure out when to go hard and when to back off a little.

Consistency and Perseverance Conquer All

Similarly, Benjamin Franklin once said “Energy and Conquer All.”

Strength training isn’t something to take lightly, pun intended.  Getting strong means being consistent with the process and letting your body adapt to the new stimulus each workout presents.  The more patience you show and the more consistent you are, the bigger the reward you will see in the end.

Plateaus will happen, as they do with any lifter, and there are going to be days were you feel tired or weak.  We’ve all been in that situation where you just don’t think you can get any stronger or any better.  When you hit that point, push on.   Adjust your plan and avoid that little voice inside that says to quit.

The body adapts at its own pace.

Recovery, Recovery, RECOVERY!

Progress in the gym can only come from what you do once you leave.  It’s putting demands on your body in the gym, and giving your body the rest, fuel, and self care it deserves outside of the gym.  This means sleep, eating, & self care like SMR or massage.  Restful sleep is where the body does all its repairing and regrouping.  Getting a great nights rest in between bouts of exercise can make the difference between having a great workout and a poor workout.

EAT!  Eat to perform.  It’s easy to get hung up on restricting calories because that’s what you’ve always been told to do.  But in order to build strength, your muscles need fuel.  If your goal is to lose weight, you want to avoid restricting your food intake so much to the point that your workouts suffer.  If you can keep track of your strength numbers, it will be easier to track if your workouts are suffering while you are dieting.  Oh and hydrate yourself!

Strength is the ability to do today what you previously couldn’t do a week, a month, or a year ago.  Use these tips to help you not only start a strength program, but to maintain and gain more strength.


USE SUPERSETS TO IMPROVE YOUR MOBILITY & TRAIN WITHOUT PAIN

Better Supersets for Better Movement

Supersets and their many benefits have been written about countless times. They save time, they ramp up metabolic stress, and increase the amount of work you can do during a workout. For those that have yet to hear the concept of a superset, traditional supersets pair two non-competing strength exercises for massive gains. While increasing metabolic load is a great way to achieve hypertrophy, there are other ways in which we can include supersets to help us move better and pain free.

Not that everyone is injured, but I have yet to meet a lifter that hasn’t been beat up from hammering away at weights. In this case, it’s important to program with more movement quality in mind.

These 3 non-traditional supersets aim to improve movement, but also focus on the main goal to gain muscle, develop strength and stay injury-free in the process.

Inhibit-Activate Superset

Surrounding every joint are muscles that perform opposite actions, but due to either training, or movement habits, one group ends up overpowering its antagonist. Through the use of an inhibit-activate superset, we’re looking to produce long lasting change.

Mobility-Strength Superset

Mobility has received a lot of attention as of late, and for good reason. Performing mobility exercises can aid in getting the body into more optimal positions in order to complete a lift. Improved hip mobility can lead to more depth on your squat, while better thoracic spine mobility may improve your ability to bench. However, mobility exercises lose their effect due to a lack of proper programming to make use of new found ranges of motion.

We need to not only create new found ranges of motion, but we need to learn how to control them. By pairing a mobility drill with a strength exercise, we make use of that new found range of motion. This leads to an adaptation both muscularly and within the motor plan itself.

Activation-Strength Superset

In a similar fashion the mobility-strength superset, this superset goes directly into the training program. We’re looking to maximize the amount of muscular contraction and integration for the big lifts, like the squat, bench and deadlift. How great would it be if our lats were firing before we deadlifted? The most classic example of where this is applicable is performing a set of straight arm pulldowns before deadlifting or a single arm raise to fire up lower traps before doing an overhead press.

 

For More info and the full article head on over to DrJohnRusin.com