bodyweight strength

MOVEMENT...WHAT IT REALLY MEANS!

American Turner Gymnasium 1860

American Turner Gymnasium 1860

An online lecture I saw recently given by Dr Ed Thomas, an expert in the foundation of Physical Education, drove me to analyse what fitness is today in comparison to what it was historically.  Historically, there are three fundamentals of movement and fitness, these are Progression, Variety & Precision.  

Now from what I can tell and have observed over the years is that the majority of fitness enthusiasts seem to do well to take care of the Variety aspect of fitness, it's not hard to keep workouts varied.  Progression seems to be mostly adhered to, it's quite simple, you learn a movement to a satisfactory level until it becomes quite comfortable and then you progress that movement, either by adding weight, increasing reps or challenging the movement to a higher level of difficulty (i.e. advancing from a squat to a single leg squat progression).  Now, I have to take a pause here, although progression seems to be quite evident in most fitness programmes, there is a little issue that is quite niggling…this would be the over-eagerness to progress.  This is a huge issue that is present within our field, you may have someone who is recently able to squat their own bodyweight comfortably but then wants to throw 40kgs onto their back and continue to squat, or a personal trainer who wants to make a client sweat more by handing them heavier weights resulting in a less precise movement pattern.  You can't expect the body to move as efficiently with extra load in a movement pattern that is newly learned with only bodyweight or that is challenging enough with the current weight used.  This brings me to the third and final (and I personally believe the most important) fundamental...Precision.

We need to find a way back to basics and get the population moving well and precisely again, we are so far away from our own mind-body connection that most people just go through the motions of exercise without ever making a conscious connection to how they are moving, why they are moving or how they are breathing.  There was no sloppiness in movement back in the 1800's & most of the 1900's, precision was the key focus and the fitness just followed.

functional movement personal trainer gold coast.jpg

In Gray Cook's book, "Movement", he talks about the origins of Martial Arts and sums up what fitness should and used to be.  Somehow recent generations have managed to distort this approach and turn it on it's back.  Current jobs and lifestyles have a huge role to play and make it hard for the body to hold onto fundamental physical fitness, but not impossible by far!  "Purposeful movement perfection was the focus, and physical conditioning happened as a natural side effect".

primal movement personal trainer.jpg

Modern day gyms are stacked full of equipment promoting dysfunctional movement.  The use of fixed machines encourage your body not to utilise it's core stabilising musculature and instead, rely on your large, global muscles for movement.  In our daily lives we need to be able to squat, lunge, push, pull, reach, run, bend and rotate, all done whilst fighting gravity (not sitting locked into a machine).  This is when our bodies are moving as intended.  These are the movements we need to perfect and do with precision in order to be healthy, fit individuals avoiding injury.

Look at gyms from ancient times and see if you can spot a hamstring curl, a pec deck or a leg extension machine anywhere?  They only use anti-gravity equipment in the form of ropes, rings, parallel bars, ladders etc and hand weights in the shape of dumbbells, kettle bells, medicine balls and clubs.

Train functional movement patterns and make sure you do it with Precision, Variety & Progression in order to achieve true fitness.  Don't rush into a new movement before you have perfected its predecessor and don't load up a movement pattern before being comfortable and strong enough in doing it body weighted first.

The Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a great bodyweight skill to challenge balance; coordination; flexibility & strength.  It also never lies and will show up any asymmetries in the lower complex.  

I have been re-visiting pistol squats (this video was taken a couple of months ago) after neglecting them for quite some time.  I had to first work them off the bench to warm up into the movement before getting back into full depth.  They still need a fair bit of greasing but if pistol squats are a goal for you I would make sure that you first have the necessary mobility (or start working to improve what you have) and work your strength in a regular squat in addition to exploring the pistol squat.  I like the use of a bench as a regression as you get some feedback of your depth and still ensuring you are gradually working depth within a strong foundation through the foot.

There are many ways to work your pistol squat, here is a great article from GMB with their view on how to work a pistol squat, with advice on regressions and progressions.

 

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What Is Animal Flow?

In this video Animal Flow creator Mike Fitch demonstrates what the "flow" in Animal Flow is all about.

Animal Flow® combines ground-based movement with elements from various bodyweight-training disciplines to create a fun, challenging workout emphasising multi-planar, fluid movement. 

It is great for improving mobility and core strength.  It can be applied to all levels of fitness although it does require a fair bit of load on the wrists but as long as you do not have any restrictions in wrist mobility your wrists can build up to accepting the load over time with the help of a good warm up and slowly building up the amount you do in each session.

At moov personal trainers we like to incorporate Animal Flow into most of our workouts, including our groups training, whether it be one movement or a few.  I have found them to be extremely effective in positively effecting our fascial system.

Have a read of a review on Animal Flow by the lovely Ryan Hurst at GMB...just follow this link.

 

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vertical force management: are you box jumping your joints into overload?

Far too often I see and hear people carrying out inefficient and heavy landing box jumps. This places a large amount of stress on your joints and can lead to injury. Box jumps or any leaping and landing drill should be done by absorbing the impact through the whole body in a soft and controlled manner.

If there is insufficient mobility available in a certain plane of movement, the body may need to accommodate forces in another plane (i.e. poor ankle range of movement in sagittal plane = knees & ankles fall inward into transverse plane). If your body does not have sufficient stability in a certain plane, it can divert forces to another plane (i.e. insufficient spinal stability in sagittal plane = spine side flexes into coronal plane). You need sufficient control of all involved joints in order to safely perform box jumps.

An example of correct and incorrect landing form with knees and ankles buckling in on the picture on the right. (Picture taken from Stability, sport & Performance Movement by Joanne Elphinston.)

An example of correct and incorrect landing form with knees and ankles buckling in on the picture on the right. (Picture taken from Stability, sport & Performance Movement by Joanne Elphinston.)

"Your hips, knees & ankles should stay in alignment during take off & landing. A good landing should absorb force through the hips, knees & ankles; the muscles on opposite sides of the joints work in partnership to allow the extensor group to first quickly lengthen and then shorten again to absorb and control joint bending. This does not necessarily come naturally to some athletes. Instead of springs in their joints, the supporting muscles fail to change length in a coordinated fashion and the athlete lands with their joints locked, causing a jarring sensation and reducing their ability to move easily from the landing position." ~ Joanne Elphinston.

Another common trend with box jumps is landing on the box with your heels hanging off the edge, this can add extra strain through the calves and achilles, leading to inflammation and injury. Make sure your whole foot lands on the box to avoid unnecessary injury.

There are 3 key components for vertical force management:

1. Unlocking the hips

Unlocking the hips involves a small movement that fractionally lowers your centre of gravity while maintaining a vertical trunk (the initial phase of a squat), this releases tension in the hip flexors & lower back which makes a spring action available in the hips. This allows for efficient functional motor patterning and the possibility of glute activation. It is extremely important to be able to separate hip movement from spinal movement as it is common to couple hip flexion with back extension (compressing the lumbar spine) or couple hip flexion with spinal flexion tilting the pelvis under (increasing load in the lumbar spine), both of these compromise the spine.

2. Dropping the centre of gravity

The natural squat (air squat) is the most direct method for dropping the centre of gravity. Adequate ankle, knee & hip mobility is required and an ability to control your balance point in the squat. To find your balance point practice sitting in a squat and shifting your weight from heel to ball of foot (whilst still keeping your heels on the ground) until you find a comfortable position where you feel balanced and as if you can move sideways, forwards or upwards if you choose to but still be in balance. Once you have this, practice dropping into your squat and bouncing back out of it with little effort. Once this is mastered, effective shock absorption in box jumps becomes easier. Essentially, this is the motion used at the top of the box to absorb the impact.

3. Shock absorption

If the forces are not absorbed in the hip and knees, they are either forced downwards, causing a pronatory collapse at the foot and ankle (weight on the inside of the foot as foot rolls inward), or they shunt up into the hip or sacroiliac joint. Smooth, co-ordinated hip and knee bending keeps vertical forces flowing down and out. If this motion is blocked at the hip and knee by over-contracting the muscles around them (splinting effect at the legs), the pelvis stops moving downwards and the force from above crashes into the lower back. This can cause a buckling effect in the spine, and over time, lower back pain. Alternatively, the knees can collapse inwards as another compensation strategy for force absorption. This causes stress at the knees and ankles and lead to various injuries.

So in order to stay injury free and not over stress your joints it is imperative to look at your box jump form if this is a movement you do on a semi-frequent basis.

 

how to make bircher muesli

So simple, yet so tasty!

Serving size: 1 (adjust accordingly)

bircher muesli recipe healthy breakfast
  • pour 1/2 - 1/3c of raw organic oats into a tupperware

  • pour apple juice (or any apple and other fruit combo, my fav is apple & ginger or apple & guava) over, just enough to nearly cover the oats

  • add any extras you desire such as a handful of goji berries; cinnamon; chia seeds (my chosen picks)

  • gently mix with a fork to make sure the juice has mixed with the dry ingredients, cover & soak for at least one hour in the fridge or if making in the morning just put it in the fridge at work when you arrive.

  • in a seperate container add 1/2c of organic yoghurt, this is to mix in with your oats once you are about to eat it.

  • feel free to add nuts/berries or any other fruit to it just before eating...ENJOY! :-)

 

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