On my way to the gym. Running late. Got out of the office late. Then forgot something and had to head back really quickly. Stopped at seemingly every traffic light that has ever existed.
Surely you’ve experienced that. Do you ever skip your warm up when that happens?
How much of it do you skip? Do you even have a warm up?
There are some parts of a warm up that are absolutely essential. Then there are some things that you can use to “stack the deck”, so to speak, to ensure you’re optimizing your session.
A good warm up sets you up for a great workout.
Are you one of those people who likes to do overhead barbell pressing… but has no business pressing a barbell overhead?
How do you get your arms overhead? How do your clients get their arms overhead? Do you have the range of motion to do it safely? Or are you just overloading your back and irritating your shoulders?
I don’t want to sit here and pretend to tell you that I have the magic answer. It doesn’t work like that.
What I CAN offer you, however, is some insight on some of the things that have seemed to work for me… even the things that are a little counterintuitive.
Today we’ll discuss some things that have helped my clients safely perform overhead work.
BACKSTORY: I recently gave one of my new clients the All 4 Belly Lift to do for homework.
This exercise is one I learned about from the Postural Restoration Institute, whom I highly recommend. But if you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know that (exhibit one, two, three, four, and five).
He was already familiar with the exercise and the above video I sent him, but wanted to know the difference between something like this and just doing a toe touch or sit and reach and breathing?
The All Four Belly Lift is a way to take a few degrees of freedom (a.k.a. compensation options) out of the equation. What I mean by that is being on your knees limits your ability to use your ankle to avoid expanding through your back and tucking your pelvis underneath you.
This exercise is also a way to inhibit your back side and teach your front side to turn on. Specifically, it’s really good for helping someone feel their abdominals working, helping them get all the air out, shutting of spinal extenders, and opening up the back of the hips.
A toe touch and sit and reach breathing can also accomplish these things. I like the belly lift because I think it’s easier to cue someone to keep their neck muscles off.
With the other two, you’re putting the hamstrings on a stretch. That’s fine for some, but for people who have extra flexibility in their hamstrings (most lifters, including you), they will get a lot of this motion from their hamstrings, not pull their pelvis underneath them.
For these people to get the motion of the exercise, they will tend to reverse their spinal curve. That is, their lumbar spine flexes and thoracic spine extends. If this happens, we’re actually accomplishing the opposite of what I want. See drawing below if it helps.
I know, it’s beautiful. One of my science classes last semester was in the art building, so I’m an artist now.
The same kind of thing can happen with the toe touch. One thing that the toe touch offers that the other two do not is the sensation of the feet in the ground. Being able to hold a toe touch and breath is a progression in terms of complexity, but a regression in terms of how much strength one needs to perform the exercise correctly. Most lifter types need a little bit of external load to overcome to help them feel the positions that I want them to achieve. This is why I tend to dole out more all four belly lifts than the other two variations.
They all can be effective, but there are differences to consider.
Warming up is about preparing your body for the things you’re about to put it through. A good warm up makes exercise safer and more effective.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing, your warm up might be a waste of time, or, in the worst case, also detrimental to your goals. I thought it might be helpful if I wrote a basic post about warming up for people just getting into exercise.
This post is for people who:
- Just want a free warm up they can do before they exercise.
- Want to understand how to make their own warm up.
You can never know enough anatomy.
If you know your anatomy, you can apply it in unlimited different ways.
The problem is that schools don’t always go very in depth into anatomy. Trust me, I’ve been there (for nine years). My desire to change this was why I taught anatomy to exercise science students for two years.
One of the most neglected muscles in school anatomy curricula these days is the serratus anterior. I want to take you through the basic attachment sites, a few reasons why you should care, and then I’ll leave you a few ways you can train this muscle.