So You’re Saying You Want to Squat

The squat is one of our fundamental movement patterns that we incorporate into not only our workouts, but every day life as well.  However, there is this preconceived notion that performing squats are bad for the knees, especially if it happens to go beyond 90 degrees or past parallel.  Then faces melt and minds get blown.

How many times do you squat in a given day?  In and out of chairs, on and off the toilet, maybe sitting to pick something off the floor.  And not once was the thought: “oh I shouldn’t do this, it’s gonna hurt my knees.”  Countless times I’ve heard the following phrase: “I can’t squat because of my knees.”  And then I die a little inside because I just don’t believe that to be true.  It’s just a matter of finding the positioning and the right variation that will make you successful.

There are numerous factors that can go into the squat, from tense muscles, to structural issues, to just not having the necessary motor plan to actually do it.  Some people have no idea how to actually do the movement, so learning could be the very first step. In that case the videos and exercises that follow will provide tremendous benefit.

Regress to Progress

Mastering these regressions in order to progress can develop the movement pattern so that we can move onto different loading strategies in the future.  If your squat looks like one of those wacky inflatable guys outside car dealerships, or a new born giraffe, then you’re going to get all the benefits out of these.

*Fair warning, the videos ahead provide a lot of man legging action*

Quadruped Rocking

A good looking squat requires a good deal of mobility at the ankle, so by setting ourselves up in a quadruped position we already place the ankle in an optimal position at the ankle.  The rock-back allows us to see if there are any major breakdowns in the movement, from the ankles, on up through the core.

In the video, you can see that I keep a neutral spine throughout the rocking.  If something went a little wonky there, we might work on say our core stability.  But this is a safe place to start building your squat up as you avoid some of the hip & knee issues when vertically loaded. The quadruped position also allows you to get an idea of how deep into a squat you’ll actually be able to go.

Once you control the rockback, try elevating the knees and repeat the drill.  All of the sudden you find yourself squatting, without ya know, squatting.

Assisted Squat

After learning our squat pattern without having to deal with the likes of gravity, we can move towards a supported squat.  Using a bar or a TRX, we can support some of our bodyweight and make it easier to get into the squat position.  In this video, I use the bar as a support to get into the bottom position I feel most comfortable in, then let go and stand up.  This manages the control issues many have with the squat, that decent portion.  But then gets many of the benefits of the ascent phase.

Counterbalance Squat

Our last regression actually puts some weight in our hands, but provides a counterbalance so that our hips get behind us.  One of the common faults is the knees lead the movement.  What we want to see is the hips driving the squat for the most part.  As you press the plate out, your body has no choice but to stick the hips out.

This also ensures that your chest stays up and you maintain an upright position, instead of folding like a beach chair.

 

Squatting doesn’t have to be with a barbell as most typically imagine.  There are exercises that can help you build a stronger, pain free squat pattern.  You just have to practice them.


Set Better Goals

While listening to The Fit Cast live from Perform Better in Rhode Island, Steve Ledbetter and Pete Dupuis made a point that had me thinking back to what I just learned through my most recent audio book.  They pointed out that, we, as humans suck at setting goals.  Congruently, this point was also made in “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath.  And it’s not isolated to just fitness or health.  It’s with everything that you might set a goal for.  We all do it.

As I make my way through Switch, one thing that’s been brought up is the concept of SMART goals. This is a popular method to setting goals because its pretty straight forward, its clear and gets to the point.  However, this concept misses the mark when it comes to change.  The focus is too much on outcome rather than the process.  Focus on small improvements.  A goal of “I want to lose weight,” has no process to it.  Counter that with “I want to learn how to develop healthier habits,” gives behaviors to follow through on.

Change is what we’re seeking, right?  We want to change our bodies, our lifestyle, our health.  What SMART goals lack is an emotional response.  To create change, we want to set up a postcard for ourselves, some sort of picture of the near-term future that shows what is possible.  By pointing to a destination that we want, we can apply our strengths to figure out how to get there, instead of over analyzing everything.

People who change have a clear direction, ample motivation and a supportive environment.

So what’s your postcard look like?  If you sent yourself a postcard six months, nine months from now, talking about yourself, what would it look like?

Postcard

Are You Ready for Summer?

SummerWe’re about a week away from summer and the focus turns to the beach and getting a killer tan.  But for some its about how you want to look for “beach season.” We all want to be able to rock that bathing suit this summer and look awesome.  What are you doing right now to get there?  What steps are you taking?  Do you have a plan?

Follow some of these tips and you’ll be on your way.

Nutrition

In order to see success in the gym, you need to start at home.  You can’t out train a bad diet.  So what it all boils down to when it comes to altering one’s body composition, in terms of fat loss, is a sound nutrition plan.  Fail to plan, plan to fail kind of thing.  Lack of planning leads to reaching for convenience which leads to poor nutritional choices.  Having a great plan is built on developing healthier habits.

Here are some key things to ask yourself:

 Are you eating healthy fats?                      

Are you eating plenty of vegetables?

Are you eating enough protein?                 

Are you drinking enough water?

Fat is important for hormone production, a healthy immune system, and transport of many vitamins, namely A, D, E, & K.

Protein is filling, improves muscle mass, aids in muscle repair from your training, & stimulates your metabolism.

Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals as well as a source of carbohydrates and fiber. So fill up on those vegetables.

Lastly, drink plenty of water.  Staying hydrated creates an ideal environment for your body to exercise and lose weight.

Training

When it comes to training, think about developing movement patterns and doing full body movements.  More squatting, lunging, climbing, crawling, pushing, pulling, and rotational exercises.  Use your time wisely in the gym.  The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn, the better your results.

Try to follow a training program that builds up itself and allows you to progress each session.  Having a purpose and a plan to each training session sets you up to perform better each and every time in the gym, making you stronger, fitter, and more awesome.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to regress or take a step back at times if you are unable to do something.  Regress now, so that you can progress later.  Your training doesn’t have to be 110% intensity all the time.  Sometimes it pays to take a step back, regress, do more recovery work like foam rolling and stretching to set yourself up for the long run.  You just might see better results that way.

 

Supplements

There are times where taking a vitamin supplement or an Omega-3 supplement is necessary to fix any deficiencies you may have.  However I would seek out a doctor’s or a nutritionist’s advice on that subject.

Sounds like a lot to keep track of and follow, but it’ll be worth it in the end, and changing little habits now will go a long way towards maintaining a healthier, happier lifestyle.   In the end, isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Nutrition + Exercise + Recovery = Awesomeness

Remember plan ahead for success later.  Hopefully these tips help set you up for success in the kitchen and in the gym.


I’m an Adult

Hitting the snooze button multiple times each morning?

Feeling as if you’re never getting enough sleep?

This ones for you.

As kids, we were always told to go to bed at a certain time.  Usually so we’d get enough sleep before school the next day.  But now that we’re adults, we no longer give ourselves that same strict bedtime.  I mean when was the last time you told yourself that you were going to go to bed at say 10pm every night.  And stuck with it for more than a day or two.  We’re adults, we do what we want.  We get wrapped up in a TV show, a book, or if you’re cool, the NHL Stanley Cup.

Life happens.  However, much like we plan our meals, nutrition, and training, we can plan our sleep schedule ahead of time by setting ourselves up with a bedtime routine.  I dunno, maybe you start yourself off by reading Goodnight Moon to yourself.  No judging.

By reading this, the hope is that you will look at sleep as something vital to a healthy lifestyle.  No longer will you see it as undervalued and overlooked aspect to health and fitness.  Sleep, exercise, and nutrition are all part of a healthy lifestyle.  We tend to focus on exercise and nutrition and hope that will push us towards our goals.  For the most part that would be a successful plan.  However that is not always the case.

How Much?

How much sleep does the typical adult get each night?  Six maybe seven hours if we’re lucky.  But lacking in this area has effects on everything from brain chemistry, to muscle regeneration, to hormonal balance.  And that’s a no good situation.  Just a short list of what’s to come should you continue on your path of poor sleep:

  1. Changes in eating habits
  2. Inflammation
  3. Obesity
  4. Cortisol levels
  5. Decrease in Testosterone, Increase in Estrogen
  6. Loss of lean mass
  7. Heart Attack, Stroke

Hardly a list of ailments we want to develop.  We all believe that we are immune to this, that we can just grind away and hustle hard all hours of the night.  We all think we can get by on just a few hours, thinking coffee or Red Bull are the answer.  However the more you miss sleep, the more this “sleep debt” accumulates and makes it harder and harder to pay back.  The more nights you get less sleep, the greater the likelihood of those negative effects taking place.

There is hope.

The first thing you should do is to go sleep, duh.  It is possible that you can catch up by stringing together a few nights of great, quality sleep.  The more consistent you are with the amount of hours you sleep and the time in which you go to bed, the better.

Second, make sleep a priority.  A priority in that it takes precedent over many of the things we get sidetracked by, like finishing a project, or the show on tv, or scrolling through Facebook.  Set up a pattern, set up a plan for bed and you’ll find yourself more rested than before.

  1. Keep a relatively consistent bedtime and wake-time.
  2. Darkness- Keep your room dark. This tells your body it’s time for sleep.
  3. Set a comfortable temperature
  4. Exercise
  5. Eliminate computer/phone use when you’re approaching that set bedtime.
  6. Avoid drinking anything leading up to bedtime

 


Eat & Train vs Diet & Exercise

Train

Athletes eat and train.  They don’t diet and exercise.  You may have seen that meme somewhere floating about the internet or right here. It is true.  Athletes have a goal in mind and a training plan in which to get there, some as long as 4 years long if you think about Olympic athletes. And they often don’t think about dieting (however they too can fall prey to marketing bs)

What can you take away from this process?  Start thinking about your nutrition as a way to fuel your body for performance and maximizing your training sessions.  We forget that nutrition is all about fueling our bodies so that we can perform in our workouts.  Instead we hyper focus on how many calories “x” workout or exercise burns.  We don’t take the time to enjoy the process and strive for performance goals.

Take for example, Michael Phelps, aside from his regular intense training he was taking in a reportedly 10,000 calories per day.  Now while we wouldn’t be able to sustain that type of nutrition plan, there are many things we can take away from how athletes set up their nutrition that can apply to us.

It all starts with a certain mindset

 

Performance Oriented

An athletes body much like yours is a machine, thus athletes eat in order to fuel that machine.  You can do the same thing.  Performance is tops on their list, as it should be for you too.

Get a piece of paper out and write down something you want to achieve, something that is a performance goal.  The idea behind this is to get away from the generalized goals of losing weight or building muscle, or getting stronger.  Those are great and all, but it’s pretty subjective as to when those may end, or how you would go about measuring that you accomplished those.  Pick something tangible, like doing a strict pull-up?  Maybe your goal is to do a pull-up for the first time.  That gives you something to strive for that has an end, or maybe it’s to deadlift a certain weight.  Again, you have something to train for.

The more you think about attaining that performance goal, and fueling yourself to get there, the less your focus actually is on food and making yourself crazy over what you’re eating.

Relationship with Food

Do you have a positive relationship with food?  Or a negative one?  As a client said to me, “food should be fun.”  She is absolutely right.  Food should be fun and you should be able to enjoy your food.  If you can’t, then whats the point.  Being healthy and eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or bland.  Ask yourself:

“Do I have a positive relationship with food?”

A positive relationship starts with not demonizing certain nutrients or certain foods.  That also includes not skipping meals, or thinking that all food is evil.  There are no good or bad foods, just ones that bring us closer or further away from our goals.  We’re quick to demonize this food or that nutrient, with the idea that somehow ONE thing has to be our downfall.  For example, how many of us define carbs as evil? That just thinking about them will make us fat.  When the truth is, your body actually thrives on carbs, and athletes look at carbs as an energy source, as fuel (noticing a trend).  Our bodies crave carbs because they are what our muscles and brain rely on to work.

What comes next is a gross over analyzation of everything that goes in our body.  While you should be aware or mindful about what you put in your body, avoid making it so complicated that you worry about every little thing that goes in.

Quick Fix

Avoid looking for the quick fixes.  This is due to the fact that, in order to get to where they want to be in their sport, there likely aren’t any LEGAL quick fixes.  They know that their training and the subsequent nutrition associated with it is a long term process and no shortcuts exist that will get them there.   When results don’t happen instantaneously, they don’t give up.  There is a bigger picture.  We often get so wrapped up in what we want the end result to be and when we expect it to happen by, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, or we forget how far we’ve actually come.

Look at it this way, training for the Olympics is about a minimum of a 4 year process, in most cases these athletes have been training and fueling that training process their entire lives.  Athletes don’t give up halfway through because they haven’t achieved what they wanted to.  They keep pushing, staying consistent with their training and nutrition.  Athletes embrace the journey.  So should you.

In addition to everything that athletes do that is associated with nutrition, their approach to training is quite different than how we see it.  Where one would see needing to get beat down and be exhausted after each and every workout, or put in two a days, or longer workouts, athletes solely look at training as a way to get better, as a way to get stronger.  It’s about being a better athlete.

Eat food to fuel performance, food is awesome so don’t skip meals, be mindful, quit looking for shortcuts, and above all else enjoy the journey.