The Best Squat You’re Not Doing
The squat is arguably the most important movement pattern there is to athletic performance and overall health. It requires the ability to express and control full range of motion at your ankles, knees, and hips while maintaining a stable trunk position. These qualities are vital to any number of sport movements, such as sprinting, cutting, jumping, landing, and driving into an opponent to make a block or tackle. Additionally, when loaded, the squat is one of the best exercises there is for developing power, strength, and muscle mass in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings as well as stability throughout the entire body. The problem is that many people struggle with the squat pattern. They may feel “tight” or restricted, their depth may be limited, or they may be unable to control their joints during the lowering portion of the movement. Often, the person’s first reaction is to blame a lack of mobility… Not so fast. Often, we can make improvements in a person’s squat pattern simply by altering the individual’s center of mass using an offset load, effectively giving them more control of their trunk and pelvis. The ability to maintain a “neutral” relationship between the trunk and pelvis throughout the squat is critical to not only expressing a full range of motion, but to loading and driving the movement with the legs as opposed to the back Enter the offset plate squat.
Tips to Prevent Impulsive Eating
By: Dr. Matthew Cifelli We’ve all been there. Between running late for work, spending the entire day running errands or just flat out forgetting to prepare for a long day and then suddenly it hits; STARVATION! You are ridiculously hungry and your body starts experiencing every emotion possible. Weakness sets in, you begin to lose concentration, your stomach is in knots and all you can think about is devouring everything in sight. What happens next? You succumb to this overwhelming sensation and start making poor food choices that may potentially weaken your immune system, raise your blood sugar and ultimately contribute to weight gain. For some, this may be a one-time occurrence. Unfortunately for others, this happens too frequently and can severely impact overall health and fitness success. The answer lies in taking a small amount of time to be prepared for emergencies. While this may seem like a daunting task for some of you, it’s actually not as hard as you may think. Start by making a healthy list of on-the-go foods that you actually enjoy eating. This list does not have to be all-inclusive, but make sure that it’s balanced enough with healthy fats, protein and carbs to substitute one item for another if needed. Below are some ideas to get you thinking in the right direction: Unsalted Nuts (Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews) These provide protein and good fat. Vegetables These provide key micronutrients that your body needs. Nut Butters (Cashew, almond, peanut) Pick whichever your taste buds enjoy the most. Boiled Eggs Packed with protein, this is a great option when in a crunch. Water This is essential for life and can’t be forgotten. After you’ve put thought into foods that will make you happy, the food now has to travel with you. Convenience is key when you only have five minutes to grab something to curb that hunger, so here are some helpful tips for ease when you’re in a time crunch: Small Cooler Purchase a small cooler that you can keep in the kitchen and easily grab it on the go. Plates, utensils, napkins Reuse a bag and place a couple of plates, some utensils and some napkins in it. This should be in the kitchen next to the cooler so you can easily grab everything together on your way out the day. Small reusable containers or plastic bags Reasonably sized containers will help you control the portions you take with you for the day. Water bottle Drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces is what’s recommended. Are you getting enough water every day? The key to this process is to make it easy on yourself. Keep things simple. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed or not enjoying the foods from your list, simply start over with step one. You must find foods that will make you happy and that are well-balanced. Success lies in the palm of your hands; enjoy every morsel.
It Could Be Holding You Back!
By: Dr. Matthew Cifelli Whether you want to believe it or not, clutter is like a dark cloud that constantly follows us around. This persistent threat impedes our abilities to make strides toward fitness success. For some, this means losing weight, getting more sleep, increasing the amount of daily water consumption or even as simple as adhering to a consistent workout program. Here’s the crazy part; most of us get so caught up with the rigors of everyday life that we don’t even recognize the disorder surrounding us. Clutter can manifest itself physically or mentally. It establishes a gradual presence and becomes so engrained that we aren’t even consciously aware of it’s affects. If you’re new to fitness, have been living a healthy lifestyle for years or find yourself somewhere in between, the presence of clutter will challenge your creativity, zap your energy, productivity and ultimately your health. Physical clutter refers to everything around you in your physical environment. This can be your kitchen, your office, your school, your bedroom, your backyard, etc. Some of us can find these environments to be unorganized or unkempt while others may be much more tidy and orderly. Whichever category you find yourself falling into, it all boils down to a simple concept; we all have way too much stuff to deal with. These demands are draining and potentially life threatening if allowed to spiral out of control. Keep in mind that a clear, focused mind needs a clear, focused environment. Mental clutter is quite the opposite, where you may find certain patterns of thinking affecting your ability to achieve success. This type of clutter tactfully operates under the radar and can strike when we are least expecting it. You may often feel self-defeated, more inferior around certain individuals, and shy away from particular opportunities all because of clouded cerebral highways. The trouble with this type of clutter is complete failure to thrive. You’re blind to options or healthier alternatives. You become stagnant and whatever energy you had in reserves is used up. At this point many of you may be asking yourself, “how do I get rid of something I can’t see?” Try these simple solutions over the next month: TAKE A MENTAL BREAK! In order to effectively identify, you must first recognize. Slow down and take a 5 minute break each day just to gather your thoughts and allow your brain to become consciously aware. Self-reflect on your daily routines: Morning, lunch, bedtime, exercise etc. What’s working well? What’s not? Do you have destructive habits? Are you inefficient and wasting time? How can you make improvements? Make a list of 3-4 tasks/week which you have been putting off and execute them by Saturday at sundown. Achieving new fitness milestones requires being intentional about your environment, your schedule and your habits. This may all sound very overwhelming, but just take one step at a time and start moving toward more deliberate living. 35% of Americans are already exposed to the hazard of inactivity. Don’t let clutter hold you back!
How To Do Pull – Ups
As Justin Moore has already brilliantly written about in several of his articles, we need the ability to protract and upwardly rotate our scapula to achieve a full overhead position with any degree of success. Too much pulling can lock us into extension and make any dreams of getting overhead on a stable thorax just that, a dream. He has made the case for balancing pulling with reaching exercises to promote movement variability and true scapular stability, which I completely agree with. However, even within a well balanced program we can still create excessive extensor tone if we are not careful. Pull-ups are very rarely done properly, and as a result they can wreak havoc on an athletes movement variability and thus the ability to shut their system off, let alone get overhead with a barbell. The lats are heavily utilized in vertical pulling exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups due to the demands placed on them to downwardly rotate and depress the scapulae. If left unchecked, the lats can take over and dramatically pull an athlete into extension. There is nothing wrong with vertical pulling, but it cannot go un-opposed. We need to oppose the lats with the anti-extension muscles of the anterior core, serratus anterior, and low traps to maintain a well balanced system that has the ability to shut off when needed. In addition, we need to make sure that we are performing our vertical pulling exercises in a fashion that does not promote any unnecessary extension. First, let’s start with some functional anatomy so we are all on the same page: Functional Anatomy of The Lats Attachments: -Spinous process of the 7th to 12th thoracic vertebrae, – -Thoracolumbar fascia -Illiac crest -9th to 12 ribs -Inferior angle of the scapula – Lesser tubercle of the humerus Functions: -Internal rotation of the humerus -Adduction of the humerus -Extension of the humerus -Extension of the spine
Odds of Fitness Success Without Proper Fueling
No matter if you’re one of the most elite athletes in the world or your new to exercise, success at any level is directly correlated to proper nutrition. If you want to stand any chance of tapping into the peak of your abilities, you need to be deliberate about your food intake. Paying careful attention to what your body needs at specific time frames becomes paramount. Any attempt to engage in activities with a body that is screaming for essential nutrients is a recipe for disaster. Making sensible decisions about what you put in your body can ensure that you’re getting the most out of every workout. Interested in learning more about the basics? Continue reading! The three nutrients that everyone should be concerned with are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You should work on developing a personal strategy that comfortably balances these three macro-nutrients. The operative word being “personal” here. Nutrition is not necessarily a one size fits all recipe. Our cellular makeup is extremely sensitive, which is why the meal plan that helped Jane shed 20lbs may not work for Stephanie or the next person. Carbohydrates Some may argue that carbohydrates are the most critical nutrient for an athlete to consume because carbs fuel muscle. Each time we move a muscle, jump, run or kick a ball, we are using carbohydrates. Your body breaks down carbs into simple sugars and then stores them in muscles and the liver. Earlier we spoke about a comfortable balance. If you happen to ingest more than can be stored in either of these two places, the excess becomes unwanted body fat. When picking carbohydrates for your meals, good options include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Proteins In order to effectively build muscle, you need to have adequate protein intake. A good muscle to body fat ratio becomes the foundation for anyone looking to succeed in a fitness regiment. Muscle also has a significant role in protecting the body from diabetes. The more muscle you have the more efficiently your body can uptake glucose from your blood stream. Be sure to include protein in your diet daily because our bodies have difficulty storing protein. Protein from animal sources is the easiest way to get complete protein, but plant-based proteins can be a viable option as well. Fat There is a huge misconception that we need to avoid or get rid of fat from our diets. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, fats are essential nutrients and we actually require a great deal of fats in our diets. Next time you go food shopping take a second to look at the nutrition labels. Avoid anything that is highly concentrated with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Many of you have come to know these fats as trans-fats which are considered very unhealthy. Good options include olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, wild-caught fish, and avocado. Like many people, you may have no idea where to start when it comes to putting together a well-balanced meal. I would suggest starting with an eating ratio of 40/30/30/ (carbohydrate/protein/fat) and then adjust the ratios to best fit your body. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all, but you need to adequately give your body what it needs to perform. This is the only way to increase your odds of achieving fitness success. Good luck!
Breathing And Bracing: Picking The Right Strategy For The Task At Hand
Here at Parabolic, we talk a lot about how we use positional breathing drills to influence mobility and stability. We even talk about how viewing movement through a PRI lens has influenced how we coach and program exercises for our athletes. Justin Moore has written several great articles on how PRI drives our program design and exercise selection. However, one thing we have not discussed is how to actually breathe during your workout to get the most benefit from those things. The perfect positional breathing resets will do nothing for you if you are not using the right breathing strategy to stabilize your body while you lift. There are two main breathing strategies that can be used to gain stability during movement. They are breathing and bracing. First, some definitions as they are relevant to this discussion: Breathing: Mostly focusing on a long and relaxing exhale and proper inhale to use breathing to set the position of our ribcage and pelvis. This is a lower threshold activity, Bracing: A forceful holding of breath that uses a higher threshold strategy to stabilize the thorax and pelvis. This is often the Valsalva maneuver. The important thing to consider here is that there is no right or wrong strategy. There are only appropriate ones for the task at hand. If all you can do are high threshold strategies, then that is a problem. If you can never brace properly and create an appropriate high threshold stabilization strategy, you are probably not going to be petty strong. But you better be able to shut that strategy down after the lift is completed. You also want to make sure you are doing this correctly. So now the question is, when do we want to use each strategy? And how do we most effectively perform each one to get the appropriate amount of stability? Breathing We want to be casually breathing to stabilize our spine during any activities that are not true high intensity efforts. This starts at positional breathing drills and goes all the way up through core activities, assistance work, and also lighter squatting and deadlifting for most clients. We want to breathe properly to stabilize our spine and thorax by putting our major joints in proper positions. This usually requires a full exhale to get rib internal rotation and posterior pelvic tilt. This puts our abdominals and true hip extensors in a position to work properly to stabilize and propel movement. Here we are not holding our breath at all. We can think of an inhalation as a position of extension of the entire system. Inhalation is also a sympathetic event. On the contrary, exhalation creates flexion and parasympathetic tone. If we always create a forceful inhale and hold when we lift, we will probably present with much more extensor tone than necessary. In addition, we might never be able to shut off the sympathetic tone. Our blood pressure will be much higher, and we will tire our much easier. Therefore, it will be much more effective to stabilize ourselves with a lower threshold breathing strategy that allows for a long full exhale. Bracing However, there are times where we really need to brace and hold a powerful inhale to stabilize ourselves. Usually this will happen under really heavy loads for higher level athletes. When we brace, we can create a large amount of air pressure to keep us stable, but this comes with a cost. This is a strategy that only needs to be used for higher level athletes under heavier loads, but for these circumstances it is a must. I am a believer that no-one needs to be cued to brace. They should be shown how to do it properly, and after that it should be reflexive. If the proper steps are not taken through a proper exhale and an inhale from an exhaled position, no amount of cueing brace help them brace. How to Correctly Perform Each One Breathing Breathing during lifting activities that do not require a brace is very similar to how we breathe during our positional resets. Most people present with an extension pattern, so the most important thing is usually to get a long full exhale to internally rotate the ribs. This is especially important any time the arms or legs are moving away from the periphery. As a general rule of thumb, I tell my clients and athletes to get a long and full exhale any time their arms move overhead or their legs move away from them. I only allow them to go through a range of motion that they can exhale through. For example, I have them exhale as their arms go overhead in a kettlebell pullover. As soon as they stop exhaling and start holding their breath, I know they have gone too far and I instruct them to cut the range of motion a little shorter. After the full exhale, there are certain times where we require an inhale to expand a posterior mediastinum.This opens up the upper back and allows the scapula to have a congruent surface to sit on. We do this by asking for an inhale that expands the upper back and ribcage but it is important that this inhale is coming from a fully exhaled position. We need a long full exhale to set our ribs down, and then when we inhale we must do it from that position of full exhalation and rib internal rotation. If we inhale from a position of inhalation, we will only end up extending our spine further which will put us in in a suboptimal position to create true active stability from. Instead we will rely on passive stability from bony and ligamentous structures, which is not what we want to be doing. Bracing When we do brace, we hold a forceful inhale which as we already discussed is a sympathetic event and drives some amount of extension. However, there is a right and a wrong way to go about this. As we also mentioned, an inhale must come from a position of full exhalation if we want to truly stabilize our thorax. If we inhale from an already inhaled position as most of us do, we actually just end up jacking ourselves further into extension. Inhalation is a position of extension, and if we inhale from extension we will have a whole lot of extension. If we do this, we will present with much more extensor tone during lifting, we will not truly have intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure, and we will probably jack ourselves up long term. So when lifting requires a brace using the valsalva maneuver, we MUST first get a long and FULL exhale with rib internal rotation and some degree of posterior pelvic tilt. After that exhale, we should pause for a second or two and then inhale. But here is the kicker; when we inhale we must keep our abs on to eccentrically internally rotate our ribs. In other words, they have to prevent our ribs from flying up when we inhale. If that happens, we just extend our back and will not have the abdominals and hip extensors in proper positions to stabilize our thorax and extend our hip. The air can go two places when we inhale, and the position that we start from is the determining factor. It can go in the front of our ribcage as we extend our back, or we can keep the ribs down and have it go in the back our upper back. We want the latter to drive stability by using air pressure and correct biomechanics instead of relying on extensor tone and passive constraints to stabilize ourselves. Conclusion We are going to get sympathetic extensor tone when we lift. That is a given, but we can stabilize ourselves in a way that will not create any unneeded tone by. This is done by using the appropriate AND correct breathing strategy for the task at hand. We shouldn’t be bracing when we don’t need to be. On most exercises, we should use a relaxed breathing strategy utilizing a full exhale to maintain proper position of our joints which will in turn place the correct muscles in position to propel movement and stabilize. We shouldn’t be using a high threshold bracing strategy on low lever exercises like rolling, dead bugs, planks, and even non-maximal strength training like goblet squats and trx rows. However, there are times when we do need to brace. When we do, we must do so properly to most effectively stabilize our thorax and not place ourselves in more extension and sympathetic tone than which is necessary. Shown below are specific exercises with a good inhalation after a state exhalation before beginning the exercise itself…And then there’s the bad. You will also see exercises with an inhalation from a state of inhalation and how little you will get out of the exercise.
Commitment…It’s Worth It!
The idea of commitment can be very scary for some people, but when it comes to your health, it’s a decision that yields unmeasurable dividends. A true commitment to improved health and wellness requires a deep understanding that the process is a journey. It means that you need to be in it for the long haul; rising above your bad days when you don’t feel like doing anything. It’s about being determined about your health and finding a way to manage your time despite a busy schedule. The journey is more than one time per week or a couple of months. In fact, its more than just a year, a simple pill or magical drink. It’s a lifelong process of self-evaluation; not a sprint to the finish. Take it one step at a time! As creatures of habit we go to great lengths to find the path of least resistance, to find the quickest way to get those washboard abs or “toned arms”. But why not take that same energy and enthusiasm and spread it out over the course of time? This seems like the most logical thing to do, but it requires the most amount of work. Instant gratification has become the norm of society and disillusions people into believe this is the only way. You may be one of those people who over analyzes every decision when it comes to exercising or finds every reason why you simply can’t take the first step. Maybe you’ve started your journey and have taken that leap of faith but miss workouts here and there or make poor meal choices during the weekends. Either way, whether you’re struggling to get started or hard on yourself because of bad decisions, one bad day or one bad meal will not impede your progress, just like one great workout or one healthy meal will not ensure fitness success. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a commitment to the process and every repetition, every bead of sweat, and every decision you make. Believe it or not, even failure is a valuable part of the process. You can’t achieve your goals without everything in between. Consistency becomes extremely important throughout your journey. Building something that lasts over a lifetime means making smart and deliberate decisions and above all, staying committed. If you’re committed, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. So, go get started today and commit to just taking that first step. It’s worth it!