“There is no way I would have been able to do that before!”
That’s what a TAW athlete said this to me this past week.
This isn’t an athlete who just started training a few weeks ago either. And this athlete isn’t a weak and deconditioned athlete. In fact, this athlete can front squat 1.5x his bodyweight and deadlift over 2x his bodyweight…and he can bang out at least 15 pull ups. So ya, he is far from weak and deconditioned!
With that, the task he was talking about was not some grand feat of strength, power or speed.
Instead, it was his ability to sink into a solid lateral lunge without his back killing him, his groin feeling like it was about to rip off, or his knee cap about to shoot through the wall in front of him.
So while this athlete is a stud, played sports at a high level and would definitely be the first pick for the local beer league softball team, his movement was very limited and he was constantly in pain.
The points below cover a few reasons why this athlete, and many more of us, do not move well and experience the repercussions…and to do about it!
You neglect soft tissue work.
No, self soft tissue work such as using a foam roller, tiger tail, lacrosse ball, etc., and manual therapy such as massage therapy, Graston, IASTM, etc. is not the golden key to moving well and feeling indestructible. But, if you consistently neglect your soft tissue work, you are not addressing a very low hanging fruit when it comes to moving well.
While the jury is still out about exactly why soft tissue does what it does, what we know is that it addresses the neural input / tone to the respective musculature.
What this means is if you utilize soft tissue work in a strategic manner, you can decrease the tone and stiffness in muscles that tend to be a pain in the ass (or wherever the muscle is located). When muscles are too toned up and stiff, they do not extend like they should and the surrounding joints they act on have a limited range of motion.
A common example of this is a stiff hip flexor that does not allow you to extend the hips fully. When this happens it can be tough to lock out on a squat or deadlift, and is very noticeable on a lunge where the back leg can’t achieve a full stride…or at the very least, feels extremely hard to do so.
The majority of the time you can work the hip flexor with a method of soft tissue and BOOM, you can finish your squat and deadlift, and have a much easier time reaching back into a lunge position.
The Takeaway: Specific soft tissue work (if you have a stiff hip flexor, work on your hip flexor) can detone the input to the muscle and decrease stiffness which allows for better joint range of motion…this is one of the big reasons why we have massage therapy at The Athletic Way and the TAW athletes have been taking advantage of it and reaping the rewards!
You rely on global soft tissue work.
Some of us find ourselves on the other end of the “soft tissue work” spectrum. Here, we rely on soft tissue work just to feel “normal” enough to move through our main patterns.
If you find yourself needing to get a massage every few days, spend 30 minutes on the foam roller before your session, or tiger tail yourself to death for an hour at night, you have likely become dependent (at least mentally) on soft tissue work.
Many of us think that by inundating ourselves with soft tissue work we are good to go and do anything we want in the weight room.
While I believe soft tissue work is a powerful tool (as shown in point 1), I don’t think it is a cure all to your movement whoas. This is especially true when you do the “blast it all” method of soft tissue work where you try to hit every region of the body for 20-30 minutes before your training sessions (or practice/games/etc.).
Instead, your soft tissue work should be specific (also stated in point 1). But, if you recognize that no amount of soft tissue work decreases the tension / tone of the musculature, it is likely not the soft tissue work that is the issue.
Rather, it is the inefficient movement and stresses you are placing on the body…so no amount of soft tissue will completely fix that.
The Takeaway: Soft tissue work should be specific when you are trying to create a movement enhancement. But, if you find yourself relying on soft tissue work to make you feel normal, it is likely because you are falling victim to point number 3.
You “complete” your reps instead of “execute” your reps.
For many of us who find ourselves not moving well (and feeling like garbage), it comes down to the execution of the movement(s).
And unfortunately, when it comes to training, many of us are not coached (taught) how to move with intent and proper execution. Instead, we are coached to complete the rep(s), and do so simply without making it look horrible.
While making sure the reps don’t look horrible is first, there is more to it! We must “feel” the movement and work taking place in the proper musculature. Lets take the deadlift for example.
Some of the key points to the deadlift are to maintain a neutral (“flat”) back throughout the movement, keep the knees from caving in and to finish with the hips all the way through.
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385×5….385 for 5 reps is no crazy feat of strength especially among the strong people I know. With that though, a little over 3 years ago I wasn’t expecting to ever deadlift again after some pretty nasty injuries. But what has allowed me to get back after it are a few things including… 1️⃣I learned what it truly meant to stabilize my hips via my core 2️⃣I learned that more isn’t always better 3️⃣ I learned that if something was nagging a little that I was better off giving it another day and calling an audible with my training ➡️Those are just a few and nowhere near all of the lessons I have learned. 🎯 When it comes down to it, it comes down to moving well, training hard and living Athletic. #strength #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #fitnessmotivation #fit #fitness #fitnessjourney #deadlift #deadlifts #liveathletic #athlete #athletes #athletic
But, if you are not coached to keep your core engaged, drive through the floor with your heels and feel the movement and work coming from the hamstrings and glutes, you will likely place excess force through the lumbar spine.
The movement may look good, but the work is taking place in the wrong musculature. This will inevitably lead to an over use injury, and reinforce a faulty movement pattern…making you move even worse.
The Takeaway: When performing any movement from deadlifts and squats, to rows and bench presses (and beyond), make sure you understand where you should feel the movement and work taking place. If you don’t, you will likely work yourself into an overuse injury and further reinforce faulty movement.
***If you have a solid coach they will help educate you on where you should feel the movement taking place. This is one of the key principles at The Athletic Way.
You don’t understand how to use tension.
Closely related to point number 3, if you don’t understand where the movement should be coming from, you won’t understand how to use tension to complete the movement.
Active muscular tension allows the joints to stabilize, and stay neutral, while a movement is being performed. If tension is not created, joints are easily moved out of a neutral position which places unwanted forces on that joint and the surrounding structures. When this happens tendons, ligaments and other joint/muscular structures are compromised…and again, movement becomes even more compromised!
Lets look again at the deadlift to explain this concept.
If you watch an untrained (or inappropriately trained) athlete pull a deadlift you will like see a few things.
First, you will notice the athlete “crashing” into the bar. You can see this by a sudden “jolting” movement to initiate the pull from the floor. You will also hear the bar clanking into the plates as the athlete jerks the weight from the floor.
Second, you will likely notice some deviation of the spine (as in the video above). Because there was no tension prior to initiating the deadlift, the athletes body will “catch up” to the movement. Typically this will be seen with some rounding of the back initially, and then straightening of the back as the athletes approaches the top of the lift.
To remedy this, the athlete should be cued to “pull the bar into the plates” and “keep a long and strong spine” before the initial lift. I like to say this is like pushing a car…you wouldn’t take a 10 yard sprint start to push a car (unless you want to get destroyed). Instead, you would place your hands on the car, brace yourself, and start to apply force to the car. You would gradually increase force until the car moves.
Starting the movement with a little force, and then adding the big force production will ensure that the body and its joints are “locked and loaded” to complete the deadlift. This will also give you a better chance to keep the spine and other joints neutral throughout the entire movement.
The Takeaway: Before initiating any movement try to develop some tension through the working musculature. This will be the core, glutes and hamstrings for most lower body movements, and the core, shoulders and upper back for most upper body movements. Again, ask your coach to teach you how to do this. Without this ability, movement will be subpar at best.
You stick with the same old movements because you are comfortable.
We like to do what we are good at. That is not a bad thing, as many of us have, and will make a great living doing what we are good at. But when we are talking about movement, sticking with only what we are good at (or at least what we enjoy), will eventually limit our movement performance.
Many times we will not be as good on one leg, using one hand at a time, or moving side to side.
For these reasons, as soon as you feel comfortable with your primary movements on two feet, using two hands and moving forward and backward, it is time to get outside of those movements.
Make sure you can squat, hinge (deadlift), push and row bilaterally (two feet or two hands), and then work into split squats, lunges, step ups, single arm rows, single arm presses, etc. And from there, work into lateral lunges, single leg squats, rotational work and more.
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Single leg stability and strength is imperative for enhanced performance for sport, and also to prevent pain injury and an overall decrease in functional capacity. ➡️ While the pistol squat (single leg squat with the non working foot in front of the body) has been given a metric s$&t ton of attention, I much prefer the skater squat (the non working leg is behind the body). 🎯 The reason is the when the leg is out front, we typically see a hip tuck (butt wink) as the athlete approaches the bottom of the squat. The skater squat allows the athlete to keep the hip in a more neutral position throughout the entire movement. 👍 Make sure to keep the abs engaged throughout as that will provide the hips with great stability. Keep the knee from diving forward or rotating in, and drive through the heel as you squeeze the glute as the top of the movement. Lastly, you can use the TRX for some assistance but try to use it as little as possible. #strength #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #legday #glutes #quads #squats #squat #athlete #athletes #athletic #theathleticway #injuryprevention #athleticdevelopment
The Takeaway: Set your movement foundation, but make sure you build your movement house from there. Don’t get caught up in doing only what you are good at, or what you enjoy. Challenge yourself to move through different planes of motion in order to keep you moving well.
If you find yourself relating to any, or all, of these points you are likely heading down a path of decreased performance and pain. Take it upon yourself to address these issues to enhance movement and live a healthy and high performing life full of solid movement.
And please share this information with those you care about…you know those friends, family and co-workers!