Categories
Perspectives Training

2 Key Points for a Solid Push-Up

I could rant on about a few things when it comes to the push-up, but I’ll choose two key points that I believe to have the greatest overall impact.

 

Core Stability – Everyone knows they need to “strengthen their core,” but few do.  This is by far where I see the biggest breakdown in push-up form and the cascade effect of a weak core will result in poor biomechanics everywhere else.  You shoulder hurts when you do a push-up?  It’s probably because your core wasn’t strong enough to support the variation you were attempting.  Work on core strength and stability first and choose a push-up regression that allows you to promote proper engagement and sequencing of your core at a difficulty level that you are actually capable of.

 

Points of Contact – I find this to be one of the most overlooked areas with any exercise.  Your points of contact are arguably the most import aspect of any exercise.  They anchor you to the external object that you are leveraging off of and transferring force through.  If you do not have solid contact your are giving away leverage and therefore strength.

 

With the push-up the main contact points are your hands.  If performing a push-up on the floor, spread those fingers apart and create as large a surface area.  The larger your contact surface is on your base of support, the greater your stability, feedback loop and force transfer will be, giving you more strength.  Whether you are gripping a bar or using the floor, use the muscles in your hands!  You need to have an active base.  Your wrists hurt when you do a push-up?  There’s a good chance you’re not using the muscles in your hands and wrists that provide support and create small space cushions around those joints.  Actively squeeze into the ground with those fingers and hands, or if on a bar, crush it.  Not only will this help protect your joints, the radiation effect of engaging those muscles will increase your overall strength in the movement.

Make sure your feet are well anchored as well.  They are another contact point and your body will leverage from them as well.

 

My favorite push-up regression is the incline push-up.  The incline can be adjusted to any level to make the movement achievable for all with out shortening levers such as with a bent knee push-up.  This promotes learning to engage your body and move it as an entire unit, maximizing the safety and effectiveness of the movement.

 

How to perform the push-up:

  • Whether on an incline, decline or the floor, start in a front support (straight arm plank) position on toes, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and inline with shoulders.
  • Fingers should be spread apart to create more surface area while actively engaging hand and forearm muscles.
  • Head shoulders and hips should be in a neutral aligned position squared up with one another. Picture as steel rod going through your body from head to toe. Squeeze thighs, glutes and abdominals thinking of holding in your poo and pee.
  • Fill-up mid-back by driving hands through the floor, scooping your shoulder blades and slightly corkscrewing them into the ground by thinking of turning your hands out.
  • Initiate movement by thinking of actively pulling your torso toward the ground allowing elbows to bend. Head, shoulders and hips must stay aligned and all move together as one unit.
  • Lower until chest touches the ground or object you are on.
  • Drive hands through the ground maintaining tight body position returning to start.
  • If you cannot get your chest down to your target object, you are performing a variation that is too difficult for your current level. Squash your ego and regress the movement so that you can perform it properly and then as you get stronger, slowly increase the difficulty.

Categories
Lifestyle Perspectives Training

Knee Pain? Do this! Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

The full range split squat is one of my favorite lower body movements and even more so when the modification of elevating the front foot is added.  If you experience knee pain, this modification might be an easy fix that allows you to keep your joint moving and strengthen the surrounding muscles to help improve its alignment and stability and alleviate some of that pain.

 

We live in “use it or lose it” bodies and brains.  Numerous studies have shown that when we cease to use our muscles and joints in certain patterns, the ability to perform those patterns diminishes, the same happens with the neuroplasticity of the brain.  That is why it is so important to keep moving and practice full movement patterns.

 

When we move our joints, a lubricating fluid is produced that helps keep them healthy and nourished.  Without movement, this fluid becomes absent and the joints will become stiff, immobile and possibly achy.  This is another reason why joints need to move.

 

Knee pain is often the result of an alignment issue causing excessive friction to the structures surrounding and/or within the joint.  One of the common areas where pain is felt in the knee is under or around the knee cap.  This pain often flares up with activities that produce a forward and down force, such as walking down stairs.  When the knee bends under this kind of pressure, the thigh bone glides forward creating greater tension on the tendons and ligaments surrounding the kneecap and on the cap itself.  If these structures are already exasperated due to another mechanical issue, this simple motion will cause pain.

 

We learned above that movement is important to maintain and restore joint health.  But we don’t want the movement to cause pain.  We need to modify the movement in order to achieve the results we are looking for.

 

The split squat incorporates multiple joints and muscles all important to knee health as well as challenges balance and proprioception.  Its functional carry over is undeniable.  But sore knees don’t like this movement pattern unless we add elevation to that front foot to distribute the load and force appropriately.

 

This video provides a quick overview of why we might elevate the front foot for the split squat and how to perform it properly.

 

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful.  Thanks for watching!

Categories
Lifestyle Training

8 No Equipment Hacks to get your Back Jacked

Need a killer back workout but don't have any equipment or access to gym? No problem!

This video provides no equipment home exercise solutions to get your back jacked! Gravity is a powerful form of resistance. Proper leveraging of your body weight with gravity can provide just as much muscle building stimulus as working with weights. We provide exercises for your lats, mid-back and lower back muscles as well as give you a free workout using the exercises shown in the video. The suggestions in this video range from beginner to advanced and will provide a challenging workout with zero equipment for anyone. If you find this video helpful, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, hit the like button and let us know! For customized training programs, video suggestions or inquires please contact us.

Have something you want me to make a video about? Let me know.

Categories
Training Uncategorized

Movement Tip: Half-Kneeling Short Range Hamstring Curl

This is a movement that I picked up from Dr. Spina’s FRC material.  I love it because it addresses the top range (short range) portion of a hamstring curl or knee flexion which is so often neglected.  Most hamstring movements focus on the mid or low range, and the movements that are supposed to include the top range are often performed poorly, leaving it out anyway.  In many cases people don’t even have to flexibility to perform work for this range and that’s the other reason why I like this movement.  It also works on quad flexibility at the same time, in particular the rectus femoris that crosses both the knee and hip joint which is often a restricting muscle for many people.

I like using this as a movement prep/warm-up movement especially on a lower body focused day.  The set-up is key to making this an effective movement and for those that can’t get into this position, the video below offers an alternative set-up.

Cramping or muscle spasms in the hamstrings are common when first attempting this movement.  This is a normal response and will pass once your body and brain adapt to the pattern.

This exercise should be performed slow and controlled throughout.

Start in a half-kneeling rec fem stretch position keeping head, shoulders, hips and planted knee aligned with one another.  Hold the foot of your back leg up as close to your butt as you can manage.

Slowly release your foot while squeezing hamstrings and glutes controlling the negative all the way down to the ground.  Try not to let your foot just sling shot out of your hand.  Slowly curl your leg back up to the top position as far as possible before assisting with hand as little as possible and returning to start.

Suggested variables:

2-3 sets, 3-6 reps/side, slow and controlled throughout. (4-5 seconds to lower, 3-4 seconds to return to start.)

Categories
Lifestyle Perspectives Training

Why do I Keep Straining My Neck?


By Gavin Buehler, RMT

Disclaimer:  Please consult your healthcare provider before engaging in any of the activities or suggestions that are highlighted in this article/video.

During this time of the season the coaches and therapists at Active Life tend to notice a rise in complaints surrounding the neck and shoulder area.  Generally it’s a little more stiffness than usual or mild “tweaks” frequently around the posterolateral (side/back) area of the neck. 

So why the sudden rise in these occurrences during this time of the year?  Our posture seems to change with the colder weather and maybe even from the stresses that may have been incurred over the holidays.  We channel our inner turtle power (everyone knows Raphael was the coolest Ninja Turtle) and manage to suck our heads into our protective shells between our shoulders, usually with our chins poked forward, and with added stress our breathing becomes shallow adding more to strain to some of the neck musculature that assists in breathing.  Spending more time in this type of posture can make the neck and shoulder area more susceptible to these aches and injuries. 

To understand why this is happening we need to take a closer look at the functional anatomy of these muscles, and since there’s a lot of them, I’m going to focus in on a muscle that I’ve found to garner the most complaints, the levator scapula.  This muscle takes a lot of abuse and is one of the most common reasons why I see people on my table.

As you can see in the diagram, the levator scapula originates from the transverse processes of C1-C4 in your neck and attaches to the superior aspect of the medial border on your scapula (shoulder blade).   Looking at the fiber direction and attachment points, we can see that its functions include scapular elevation (lifts shoulder blade up), scapular downward rotation (rotates shoulder blade down) and ipsilateral cervical flexion and rotation (rotates and flexes neck to the same side).  The most prominent action is the downward rotation of the scapula and it’s important to recognize this along with the cervical attachment points due to the impact this can have on overall shoulder movement.  Explanation is provided in the video along with a demonstration of actions.

When we’re in a forward head carriage postural position, this puts tension on the levator scapula pulling the shoulder blade into downward rotation.  This is generally the opposite movement of where we want our shoulder blade to go for the majority of our daily activities seeing as they are performed with our arms in front of our bodies where upward rotation of the scapula is required.  So we have a muscle that’s connected to our neck that’s pulling in the opposite direction we’re trying to go with our arms, inhibiting optimal movement of our shoulder causing compensatory muscle activation and firing patterns.

The postural placement of our head can interfere with the range of motion in our shoulders.  So if our heads are forward and our shoulders a little shrugged up and we go and try to do anything with our arms, such as reaching for a door handle or shoveling, we’re putting added strain on a muscle that’s already in a stretched position making it easy to “tweak.”

Be conscious of your posture and stand tall and proud with your ear in line with your shoulder to minimize your risk of injury and maximize your shoulder movement.