Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…Part II

 

If you didn’t read part 1 of this series, stop here, grab some coffee, take a deep breath and read this —> (Get These Exercises Right or Stay Weak and Injured…Part 1)…then come back here to finish off the knowledge bombs in part 2! 

After reading through the part 1 of this series you should understand that it really isn’t  all about the sets, reps, rest periods, or how many back flip burpees you can manage to complete before smashing your face on the ground that truly determines whether or not the program you are on is the best program for you. 

 

 

What matters is how the program, and more specifically, how the exercises are executed. 

With part 1 behind us, where we covered the squat, the deadlift and the row, let’s dive into part 2 with three more common movements that are typically executed in a way that produces suboptimal results and overuse injuries. 

 

The Push Up

One of my favorite “upper body” exercises is the push up. And I put quotes around upper body because if you are performing the push up correctly it is truly a full body exercise!

The most unfortunate thing about the push up is that it is usually absolutely butchered when we are not coached to perform it correctly. 

And because of this, many will usually describe that they feel the work taking place in the chest and triceps, which is good, but also that there is a lot of pressure in the front of the shoulder and the lower back…NOT GOOD!

The push up is an exercise that should target the chest, triceps and shoulders, but there should not be a ton of pressure in the front of the shoulder. And there should NEVER, I say again, NEVER be pressure or pain in the lower back.

When it comes to the pressure in the front of the shoulder, one of the most common mistakes we see is at the bottom of the push up, the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) glides forward out of the shoulder socket compressing the structures at the front of the shoulder. 

 

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This is easy to spot, especially when we see the elbows passing to far beyond the midline of the body. Also, you will likely notice the shoulder blades tipping forward. 

So the goal here would be to stop at the range of motion when the elbows are roughly in line with the back, or slightly behind, and focus on keeping the shoulder and shoulder blades from going forward. 

Next, if you low back hurts, or feels like it is “working” during the push up, really what is happening is that you are relying on your spine and other passive structures to keep your hips from dipping all the way to the ground. 

When you let the hips sag and tip forward, the lower back arches and this places a significant amount of stress through the structures of the lower back. 

 

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Instead, focus on keeping the hips from tipping forward, as if you were trying to pull your zipper up towards your ribcage, or if you had a tail, try to tuck your tail.

 

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This will help you prevent hyperextension of the lower back. Then all you have to do is keep your hips up and in line with the shoulders and heels.

Take these cues into consideration and you should feel your chest, shoulders, triceps and core working during the push up. Not only will this result in more strength and muscle gain, but it will reduce your risk for overuse injury of the shoulder and lower back.

 

The Bench Press

The bench press is very similar to the push as it is also a horizontal pressing exercise. 

Many times we are told that athletes and clients feel the bench press in their chest and triceps (again, a good thing), but here again the front of the shoulder and the low back are commonly felt.

The nice thing about the bench press is that because you are lying on the bench, the bench provides you some feedback to help you stay in better positions.

First, when it comes to the head of the humerus moving forward, and the shoulder blade tipping forward, you can think about pulling both back into the bench as you descend the weight down. 

While you may not actually move the shoulder blades much as they are between your body weight and the bench, you can move them just enough and keep them from tipping forward by thinking about pulling them back into the bench. 

 

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Also, you now have the bench as a reference point to not allow your elbow to pass too far behind. Once you feel the elbow approaching the bench you can stop just before it passes behind the bench. 

This helps you feel yourself placing the shoulders in a better position to prevent the forward pressure and excessive tension on the front of the shoulder.  

When it comes to the low back, walk into any commercial gym and you will likely watch guys (and some of the ladies) bench pressing and it may look like they are reenacting a scene from The Exorcist . 

 

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↑ Thats gonna hurt!

While this position will allow you to push more weight in the short term, if this position is used throughout your bench press training, in the long term this will leave you with chronic back issues.

Instead, use the bench as a reference and make sure your back stays flat to the bench…or at the very least does not pop further off the bench. 

Here again you can think about pulling your zipper up towards your ribcage to prevent anterior tip at the pelvis and hyperextension of the lower back. 

You should get up from the bench press and feel that your chest, triceps, shoulders and core were working to complete the movement. 

 

The Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is an amazing exercise when it comes to overall lower body strength, size and stability. But here again, there are a few common areas that athletes and clients feel working during the reverse lunge that are not optimal.

First, the quads are usually the first area to light up. And more so, many will feel the work taking place in the back leg quad. While the quads will be working, when performed correctly you should actually feel more of the work coming from the hips (glutes) and hamstrings.

The reason the quads take over is that many of us will lunge to straight up and down.

 

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This forces the quads to kick on more as they are in a more advantageous position to apply force. And when we are to straight up and down we will be forced to put more weight on the back leg, therefore the back quad will not only be stretching, but it will also be experiencing a lot more tension.

This is why the day after a heavy lunge day it may be hard to walk down the stairs for fear of your quad ripping and sending you tumbling to the bottom.

So instead of being super straight up and down, think about creating a slight hip hinge, almost as if you were to get into a position to take off for a sprint. 

 

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From there, focus on keeping the majority of your weight on your front foot as you step back. 

Lastly, to return to the top position, drive the heel of your front foot into the ground and as if you were trying to rip the ground behind you, pull yourself up from the bottom position. This will help you engage more glute and hamstring. 

Not only will this help you turn on and work the muscles that we are looking to work, but it will also help you prevent knee pain as knee pain usually occurs from excessive tension in the quads. 

Next, a lot of us will finish the lunge and feel tightness in the low back. First you must focus on keeping your core engaged and the zipper pulled up towards your ribcage. 

But also, this can again be attributed to being too straight up and down as when the leg goes back, if you are straight up and down it is more likely for the hip to tip forward and the low back to hyperextend. So by leaning forward slightly you can help this.

Along with the slight forward lean, make sure not to step back too far with the trail leg as this again will pull your hip forward and place your low back into hyperextension.

 

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Instead focus on stepping back far enough to allow the knee of the trail leg to drop right underneath the hip. This will create a 90 degree angle at the front leg and a 90 degree angle at the back leg. 

All in all, you should finish the reverse lunge and feel the majority of the work taking place in the glutes and hamstrings, not just blowing up the quads, and never in the low back!

The Final Part

Part 3 of this series is next and will be the final part. We will go over 3 more common movements that are also commonly performed incorrectly. 

Please help spread the word and share these articles (FACEBOOK) as the goal is for everyone to be able to train pain free and achieve the body, performance and confidence they want and deserve.