Humans are complex, and movement can be complicated. Why does your client always bend over when they do squats? Why do they do that weird thing with their back on some days? How can they understand it more simply?
Fixing movement is simple: make the wrong stuff look right.
Okay, smart guy, but how do I know what is wrong?
THAT’S the hard part.
Fixing movement is simple for me now that I’ve coached for roughly a decade. But that’s only because I’ve meticulously dissected thousands of reps. Now I can identify what I like and what I don’t like.
- That squat looks like a deadlift. I don’t like it for this person.
- That push up looks like they’re doing The Worm. I don’t like it.
- That deadlift looks like it hurts. I don’t like it at all.
Deciding what you DON’T like is easy… but only once you know what you DO like.
For example, there might be three dozen different squat faults you could identify…
- Forward shift
- Right shift
- Right-forward shift
- Left shift
- Left-forward shift
- Backward shift
- Right-backward shift
- Left-backward shift
- Knee collapse
- Knee splay
- Foot collapse
- Arching back at the top
- Never neutralizing back position
- Arching back at the bottom
- Rounding back at the bottom
- Collapsing chest at the bottom
- Looking too far down
- Not setting eye gaze
- Wearing poor shoes for squatting
- Limited ankle mobility
- Squatting too deep
- Squatting too shallow
- Shifting forward only at the bottom
- Shifting backward only at the top
- Shifting forward only at the top
- Spinning everything on the way up
- Squatting with the bar too low
- Collapsing one foot but not the other
- Collapsing one knee but not the other
- Not finishing with glutes
- Not driving out of the bottom with the legs
- Losing ab tension on the way up
- Losing upper back tension on the way up
- Looking too far up
- Thinking about too many things
- Being weak out of the bottom
That took me about 6 minutes to list. But how long did it take to build that database of squatting mistakes?
It takes a long time.
And that’s necessary. Experience begets competence. That’s how you can become a master of your craft.
But there is a quicker way. It’s not easy, but it is quicker.
You want to understand what “normal” looks like.
Think about how much simpler it is to simply say, “That doesn’t look right. If I do _________________, then it might look right.”
That’s it. It’s not, “You’re losing your upper back at the bottom of the lift. I want you to keep your upper back tight. Oh that didn’t work. Well… think about squeezing your shoulders together while you squat. Squeeze harder! Yes yes yes! Eh, no. That’s no better.”
Hey! Some of that is just coaching. It’s an art. You play with cues you like and sometimes they don’t work.
But let’s say you have a group of twenty people. Can you cue them?
Some would say no, but I think you can. I’ve done it. But your cues have to be dialed in. So does your exercise selection, but that’s a talk for another day.
But now the burning question: how in the world do you find out what “normal” looks like?
THAT’S the hard part.
And that’s also why I put together this mentorship.
I think I can teach you most of what you need to know is roughly 24 hours of hard work. NOT 24 hours of daytime, but 24 hours of focused, deliberate practice. 24 hours of nose to the grindstone. 24 hours of well slept, highly caffeinated attention.
At least, I think we can do that if you’re a somewhat experienced coach. You have some coaching reps under your belt. You’re already familiar with the process of seeing movement and giving cues. You probably just need some re-focusing. And more coaching reps never hurt either.
How does it work?
I think most people get into the fitness industry because they learn well by doing. We have to get our hands dirty. We have to coach each other. We have to look at movement in a new light. And we have to have reasons for the cues we give.
You can say, “Chest up!” But if the problem is in the hamstrings, that cue probably isn’t going to work.
So we work together to identify “normal”. Then we can use our instincts, harness our creativity, and come up with cues that work for us.
First, we become scientists. Then, we become artists.
Will you join us?
Learn How to Analyze Fitness Research
Dr. Jon Fass of Facebook debate fame posted a very thorough piece about thinking critically and evaluating research. The words “evidence-based” get thrown around a lot these days, so sharing this article is a no-brainer.
How Can There be a Squatting Controversy?
My boss Bill Hartman wrote a post about avoiding the black & white mentality. It’s even written in the format of a short picture book. I caught myself reading it with a rhythm.
You want sufficient variability for what your body has to do. Determine what that is and go from there. This is the key to training.
Open Source World
Tesla Motors, the leader in electric cars, has removed their patents in hopes to foster creative thinking.
As someone who loves the Cosmos (the show ended, but I picked up the Blu-ray, no worries), I worry about the environment. I guess that’s typical for a twenty-something, but that stuff scares me. Even more valued, however, is spreading knowledge. With this act, Tesla encourages healthy competition.
It’s like if someone opened a gym right next door to your’s. Would the public have a better view of you if you tried running them out or if you embraced them? You’re not even offering the same product anyways.
If you’re defensive or find yourself often offended, you should remember what Tesla is doing.
Cool Feats of Strength
Check out this random video of my buddy Miguel Aragoncillo showing off. Ab city, son.
You MUST watch this just to see his excitement. My boy’s all grown up!
I spent this past weekend in lovely Phoenix, Arizona to reunite with old friends, meet the legend that is James Anderson, and learn all the things. Check out the Twitter action.
Phoenix is seriously 40 degrees warmer than Indianapolis and seven thousand less percentage humidity, so I was immediately caught off guard. Though I didn’t have my physical therapist friends test me right away, I’m pretty sure the unpredictable environment would have stolen my neutrality, had any remained after four and a half hours on a plane.
I don’t get to put things in practice as much as most of the other attendees, so this overview is both for you to become aware of what the Postural Restoration Institute is doing, and for myself to cement the information.
I’ll give you some of the highlights of my notes in bullet form. Quotations will not be attributed to any one person to protect anonymity. You can assume I said the inappropriate things and that James said the intelligent things.
“PRI is neurology, but the mechanicoventilatory system is used to regulate neurology.”
This is a big deal. A lot of people think PRI’s system is just to strengthen some well-illustrated muscles. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The concept of neutrality is the centerpiece. This neutrality isn’t just a pelvis that is in the right position, but a brain that doesn’t perceive harmless stimuli as threatening. We can use these muscles, your shoes, your eyesight, and a million other things to get you neutral. My good friend and hotel-mate, Zac Cupples, gave me neutrality (albeit only for a short while) by softly saying, “Lance, just go neutral, bro.”
“Ron Hruska puts his hands on a joint – and he’s not thinking about that joint.”
That joint is the farthest thing from his mind. This ties into the previous quote. Neutrality is neurology, not biomechanics.
“Girl, that ganglia’s so hot.”
The new pickup line for women who are stuck in extension. James quickly illustrated this point to us by having my table neighbor, Maegan, stick her arms into some bands running vertically down a stretching cage. The bands represent the sympathetic trunk. Maegan’s arms represent closing of the posterior mediastinum from extension. An extended spine forces the vertebrae anteriorly, which compresses the contents of the posterior mediastinum.
A side note that I want to mention: this is why PRI is my crack addiction. James prioritized. He opened with the neurology talk and vividly has Maegan demonstrate to us the detriment of an extended posture. As someone who helps others learn anatomy, I admire the teaching ability of the presenters.
“Don’t fight the brain.”
This was something Mike Cantrell opened my eyes to last month at Postural Respiration. A big breath is worth nothing if it’s perceived as a threat, even if you’re doing a manual technique at the time. The purpose isn’t to get as much air in as possible. So if you see someone fighting through inhalation with their neck muscles, you need to stop that. Slow inhales. Let it come in – don’t make it come in. The same can be applied to putting weight on your right leg. You don’t need to only have your left leg down for PRI techniques to work.
“When I wear these shoes, my arm freeze up.”
Frontal plane support at the heel helps you maintain neutrality. Your soft Nike Frees could be throwing you into a state of extension. Check out the 2013 Hruska Clinic recommended shoe list.
“When I squat the way the strength coaches tell me to, I can’t get off my right quad?”
We discussed the bro mentality that more weight is always better. James suggested looking at the objective outcomes like 40-yard-dash time and vertical jump and seeing what actually improves those measures.
“How come I’m squatting heavy, but my vertical is going down?”
“Make a neurological wedding between the left heel and the floor.”
This alludes to the six reference centers they discuss. If your client can feel those, you’re doing things well. These reference centers are going to be useful when coaching exercises.
“I got Apollo Ohno right butt syndrome.”
Apollo Ohno has to turn left to be good. His right glute max is working well in the transverse plane instead of the general PEC patterned individual’s “sagittal plane only” right glute max.
“‘Trunk’ means above T8.”
This was something I had struggled with for a long time. Now the semantics make sense.
“The key to triplanar performance rests in a triplanar ZOA.”
The Zone of Apposition (ZOA) is not found unless it is found in all three planes. Thoracic abduction (a frontal plane translation), lateral flexion, rotary orientation, and extension all need to be taken care of. Abs are not a good thing if you have them without a triplanar ZOA. Use exhalation to get good abs.
“That’s my favorite weight belt called bilateral low trap.”
Picture the spine as a flagpole. Each low trap can prevent the flagpole from tipping over (in the frontal plane). A right arm reach can orient the spine back to the left. It can also get you a triplanar zone if you couple it with exhalation. Hold the reach. Inhale. Then you get right trunk rotation with filling of the right mediastinum. Right low trap is important to consider because it’s being lengthened from both ends (scapula protracts, IRs, anteriorly tilts while spinous process moves away).
“Serratus without low trap day at the gym? Stay home.”
The upper body musculature works together to intricately. Right upper trap opposes subclavius. Low trap is useless without serratus and vice versa.
Right serratus anterior acts as a sling on the side of the chest. When this contracts, it pushes the thorax to the left side. A movement called left thoracic abduction. The left low trap pulls the spine into left thoracic abduction at the same time to reinforce this movement. And this is only the frontal plane.
“Breathing is gait and gait is breathing.”
If you don’t use the mechanicoventilatory system as a tool, you’re making things hard on yourself.
“Left pec is a stupid muscle.”
Why is he trying so hard to get air in? Just get a left ZOA instead.
I love PRI. It is my addiction. See you at the next course! They’re coming to Indianapolis next year…
This may have further confused my search. What should I do with the rest of my life? Well, I don’t know, but I want to be able to get people neutral. What’s the best avenue for that?