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Jump Squats and Weighted Carries

16 Mar

Perhaps one of the most underrated, weighted, natural movement patterns is a weighted carry– and it’s simple! You can do this with your groceries, suitcase, kettle bell, sand bag or even your kids! Reusable shopping bags are perfect; you can fill them with whatever you want, and they even have handles. (Just be sure to do some research about how much weight your bag can handle!)

You can do a carry in just one arm and switch, or carry weight on both sides.

In the picture, below, I am using a 20 kg (44 lb) kettle bell on just one arm. In the workout, also below, I use one arm for the first 15 seconds then switch to the other.

Kettle Booty 2
You can also carry the wight close to your body in front of you- think of hugging a sand bag, or carrying a child.

sandbag carry- bear hug

picture courtesy of t-nation.com

Another variation is a farmer’s walk, as pictured, below:

2 arm weighted carry/ farmer's walk

picture courtesy of Wolfbrigade.net

Here is a quick workout, mixing in some weighted carries and some more explosive movements- jump squats (pyramid-style.) But first, a few tips for the jump squat:

  • Get into your regular squat position- feet shoulder width apart and butt back to lower yourself
  • Do the squat, keeping your chest up and butt back, as deep as you can go
  • Explode up, fast
  • Land soft- on the balls of your feet, rolling back onto your full foot
  • Get your butt back again, and repeat
  • If your knees start to cave in, or you are bending forward too much- STOP! You are likely too fatigued or need to get your glutes firing in order to do the movement safely.

Give yourself a good 20-30 feet to walk  around with the weighted bags, kettle bells, kids (or whatever you are using!) I like to walk in zig-zag lines, figure 8s and circles, because, let’s face it- how often do we actually walk in a straight line, back and forth?

Workout:

12 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
10 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
8 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
6 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
4 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry

Rest 30 seconds

4 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
6 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
8 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
10 jump squats
30 seconds weighted carry
12 jump squats

Done!

Russian vs. American

3 Mar

 

RUSSIAN KETTLE BELL SWINGS

The Russian swing starts with the kettle bell on the floor, between your legs.

IMG_7783

Bend over with a neutral back (no back arch, or as I like to call it, “stripper butt”) and grip the kettle bell. Stand with the kettle bell, just like a deadlift. Begin to use your hips to thrust the kettle bell forward in a swinging motion. Once you get a little momentum going and you are ready to do the full swing, the kettle bell should come back between your legs and should be tucked just below the groin, with your legs slightly bent (knees are not locked but your legs are not bent like a squat.) Your head should be looking down toward the kettle bell between your legs.

Think of hiking a football.

IMG_7814

The bell is then propelled forward to chest level, perpendicular to the torso. Your head comes up with the swing, and at the height of the swing, you should be looking directly in front of you at the bell. At the height of the swing, the bell should feel a though it is floating; like you can let go and it would stay floating in front of your chest without flying forward or behind your head.

Your hips and glutes should be doing the work, not your arms.

Meg Crossfit Beacon KB Swing

Meg E.
Cross Fit Beacon
Portland, ME

The movement is quick, explosive, short and stays within a relatively short range of motion; it is a hip-hinge movement, with minimal bend in the knee. The power of the swing is generated from the hips and glutes while the spine maintains a neutral position. At the height of the swing, the bell is at chest level (again, perpendicular to the chest) and your glutes are contracted, quads are engaged (pulling the knees up), torso/core is solid, tight and braced for impact. Your lats are engaged, pulling the shoulders back to support your posture and your neutral spine.

The Russian swing should be performed with rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing – filling your diaphragm with a deep breath on the down part of the swing and exhaling while bracing the core at the top of the swing. Oftentimes, you may hear someone performing this swing with a “tssss” sound, as you often exhale through the teeth at the top of the swing.

IMG_7789

AMERICAN KETTLE BELL SWING 

American Swing has the same basic mechanics as the Russian swing, only the bell is brought overhead on the swing up. You will likely see this lift performed in a Cross fit setting. In theory, the bell is “pushed” overhead; the momentum from the swing (glutes, quads and hamstrings) drives it up. In reality, most people who perform this lift, especially for heavier reps or when form starts to break down due to fatigue, use their chest, traps and deltoids to get the bell directly overhead; they lack the mobility to execute this movement safely, and shouldn’t do it.

One way to determine your mobility with respect to the American swing, is to lay flat on the ground, on your back, with your legs about shoulder width apart.

kM SWING 3

Note in the picture above that my pelvis is tilted and my lower back is not on the floor. This needs to be fixed in order to maintain a neutral spine. In order to do this,  roll your pelvis forward so your lower back is touching the ground; there should be no space between your lumbar vertebrae and the floor. Tuck your chin close to your chest, in order to minimize the arch in your neck and to straighten your spine- this will help the lumbar curve, too.

km swing 2 ground

Once you have your posture in a neutral position, put your hands together, straight out in front of you, as if you are holding a kettle bell at the height of a Russian swing. This should feel normal, comfortable and your posture should be nice and flat with minimal effort.

Now, raise your hands to overhead while maintaining the neck pack and your lower back to the ground. Can’t do it? You lack the mobility to execute this lift safely. It is quite likely that your lower back is now tilted (anterior tilt) and/or your head is tilted upward and you have dis-aligned your spine.

KM swing ground 4

At this point, it is your deltoids and traps that are bearing the load of this lift. Your shoulder joint is in an unnatural position. Add weight to this, and you will have injuries in your shoulders, chest and lats.

In short, the Russian swing is a safer movement. It is fast, explosive and moves within a relatively limited range of motion. This allows the swing to focus on the glutes with protecting the natural range of motion of the shoulders, neck and back. If you’re training for a Cross fit event and the standard is the American swing, you should practice laying on the ground and completing the exercise, above, in order to improve your mobility. If you’re training to be stronger, to lose fat, to increase overall athletic performance or you just want to look good in yoga pants, stick to the Russian.

 

Further reading: Check out THIS ARTICLE by Bret Contreras.

The Purpose of a Push-Up

23 Feb

I am sure we have all seen it…

The guy with shoulders attached to his ears, arms splayed out and walking around on stick-skinny legs, randomly busting out sets of 50 head-bobbing push ups to keep his “pump” going.

The girl doing a push up (sometimes with her feet up on a Bosu ball) and her body in the shape of a “U” because her hips are sagging.

push up sagging hips

Picture courtesy of basictrainingacademy.wordpress.com

The guy with his arms out in a wide  “T” and his head and neck bobbing up and down with little to no bend in his elbows.

The girl with her butt WAY high in the air and little movement through her arms and shoulders.

baby push up

Picture courtesy of movemoretoday.com

STOP- admit it; you can’t do a proper push up. Back it up and start from the beginning.

A push up is supposed to be an entire-body movement.

Push ups focus mostly on the chest, shoulders and triceps, but every muscle in the body has a role in a proper push up. Your lats, traps and core must stabilize your pushing muscles (plank), while your quads, hamstrings and glutes need to stay tight and engaged in order to keep your hips from sagging or being raised too high. Push ups allow you to train your muscles to work in harmony with one another.

  • Get into a prone position plank, raising up onto your toes so you are balanced on your hands and toes. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Your eyes should be focused on the ground, a few feet in front of your body.
  • Keep your body tight from head to toe without sagging in the middle or arching your back- core tight! Tighten your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine, rolling your pelvis forward. With your arms straight, butt clenched, and abs braced, begin to lower yourself by bending your elbows. Keep a tight core throughout the entire movement.
  • Steadily lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle and your chest is close to the floor; elbows tucked in by your sides. Try not to let your elbows go way out to a “T” shape with each repetition. If they start to fly out, stop and rest; this is a sign of fatigue.
  • Inhale as you lower yourself and exhale as you begin pushing back up to the start position, keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line. Don’t lock your elbows- keep a slight bend and lower yourself again for another rep. Think of moving your body as a tight board.
push up form

Picture courtesy of jedichick40.com

If a standard push up is too difficult, you can modify it.

DO NOT USE YOUR KNEES!

Using your knees to modify a push up takes away the core work and you won’t build up the proper strength for a complete push up.

You can start by working on your plank- hold a tight plank for 3-5 sets of 30 seconds each. Remember: core tight, pelvis rolled forward, body like a board.

You can then progress to doing push ups against a wall, a box, a bench, even the arm of your couch or the side of your bed; it depends on how high you need the surface to be. The higher the surface, the easier it will be. Place your hands on the surface and get into your plank position.

modified push up on step

Picture from antsonafarm.blogspot.com

WallPush-up

Picture courtesy of marksdailyapple.com

push up on bed

Picture courtesy of healthyliving.azcentral.com

Once your plank is solid, continue to lower yourself by bending your elbows, as described above.  As your strength progresses with this movement, lower the surface until, eventually, you are doing push ups flat on the ground.


Squat Workout- Jumps and Prison Squats

3 Feb

Before doing any squat movement, I like to warm up my hips. Here is a quick description of my warm up and work out today, all based in squat variations.

Warm-Up:
3 cycles of:
15 slow body weight squats, down to parallel (quads are parallel to the ground, butt as deep as you can)
10-12 leg swings with each leg

dynamicstretch leg-swing

Workout:
Jump Squats and Prison Squats Pyramid

Jump Squats:
-Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
-Stick your butt out and start your squat
-Jump up, as explosively as you can
-When you land, land on the balls of your feet and roll back onto your heels, lifting your toes, continue to lower your body into squat form
-Keep squats at parallel; jump up again
-Repeat

Prison Squats:
-Hold hands behind your head; fingers touching or hands clasped
-Squat, keeping body erect and elbows back (retracted scapulas)

prison squat

Pyramid:
10 Jump Squats
10 Prison Squats
rest 15 seconds

8 Jump Squats
8 Prison Squats
rest 10 seconds

6 Jump Squats
6 Prison Squats
rest 5 seconds

8 Jump Squats
8 Prison Squats
rest 10 seconds

10 Jump Squats
10 Prison Squats

Squats for Better Sex

20 Jan

Sex is a physical activity. It requires stamina, strength, coordination, balance and endurance. The greater your sexual “fitness,” the better your sex will be.

Sex and Self-Confidence:
Physical activity increases energy, releasing endorphins (“feel-good” hormones) that boost your mood and your self-confidence. Women with higher self-confidence report greater satisfaction with their sex life. In a study of women ages 30-50, the relationship between sexual satisfaction and a positive body image were considered. The study noted:

“…there are several factors that influence a woman’s level of sexual satisfaction including self-esteem, body image, and the amount of sexual knowledge she possesses that contribute to how she experiences sexual pleasure and satisfaction… People are almost totally incapable of experiencing a satisfying sexual relationship without a positive body image or normal level of self-esteem… The research study revealed that single women 30-50 years of age who have positive self-esteem, a positive body image, and high levels of sexual knowledge experience high levels of sexual satisfaction. Walker, 1998.)”

As you exercise, move, lose body fat and eat well, you feel good. The better you feel, the more you’ll want to you exercise, move, lose more body fat and eat even better. This positive feedback loop will lead to enhanced body composition and more confidence when you take your clothes off in front of another person.

If you’re stuck in a perpetual state of self-doubt and self-loathing, you are likely not comfortable with your body. If you’re not comfortable with your body, you won’t want to be undressed in front of another person; so you don’t do it. And if, by chance, you do, you’ll likely be so focused on your own body and insecurities that you’ll loathe the experience or the other person. If this is you, it is time to break that cycle!

Hormones:
Lifting heavy weights releases testosterone; this increase in testosterone increases sex drive (in you, too, ladies!) Squatting heavy and deep will make you feel like a 15 year old boy watching an episode of Baywatch in slow motion. In order to release optimal levels of testosterone during your workout, you’ll have to lift heavy. 

arren r squat

Arren; Back Squat

 

Testosterone can actually decrease (and cortisol, the “stress” hormone can increase) with longer duration cardio workouts, when you are at 70% of your heart rate max for an extended period of time. Cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship- as one goes up, the other goes down.

The increase in testosterone is often coupled with an increase in endorphins (again, “feel-good” hormones) that, as mentioned above, boost your mood and self-confidence. Your blood flow increases as your heart rate increases, pumping blood into your limbs and extremities- all of them.

single leg

Keirsten; Single Leg/ Bulgarian Split Squat

Squat Movements:
Sexual “fitness” requires strength, particularly of the glutes and legs. The best way to get strong glutes and legs is to do some variation of the squat. Squats require (and use) a good deal of flexibility, mobility and endurance.  You use hip power, pelvic power, glute power (and even Kegle power!) Squats put your largest and most powerful muscles to work, producing greater amounts of hormones (testosterone.) Squats improve overall body strength and stamina, improving performance in athletics and aesthetics.  They work your glutes and the upper legs, resulting in a firm and attractive booty- you’ll have greater sex appeal.

goblet b and w

Keirsten; Goblet Squat

Squats, when heavy and methodical, also work your Kegels. Your Kegels are your pelvic floor muscles. As you squat, you are (primarily) working your glutes; they are contracting and driving the load of your body (plus weight you add) upward. As you stand from your squat, your glutes are tight, and you’re keeping your Kegel’s tight and engaged. Women who have more muscle mass, particularly in the glutes, have greater control of the Kegel muscles; you learn to control muscle contraction, lending to greater sexual satisfaction for both you and your partner.

 

So get squatting!


The Kettle Bell Swing is Not a Squat

7 Jan

The kettle bell swing is a hip movement. Its general purpose is to work the glutes and hamstrings. IMG_7786It can start a few different ways; I will outline the one I use the most, here, as I find it to be the most comfortable way to get started.

It should start with the kettle bell on the floor between your feet. Your legs should be slightly bent. Bend over, keeping your back straight, and grip the kettle bell.

IMG_7788Keep your eyes focused on the kettle bell.

Contracting your glutes and leaving your arms straight, stand with the kettle bell. This should look like a deadlift.

You should now be standing with the kettle bell between your legs, in front of, but touching your body.

Your shoulders should be rolled back and not slouched forward.

Keep your legs slightly bent, and begin to sit your hips back, just a bit. Thrust your hips forward, pushing the kettle bell into the swing motion. This may take a few swings to get the motion down, and you may find yourself using your pelvis to physically push the kettle bell forward; that is ok.

Continue reading

Hamstring Curls

20 Dec

K

1. Lay on your back and place your feet on a ball, as pictured. Use your elbows at your sides for extra balance.

2. Roll your pelvis forward so that you lower back is close to the ground and your abs feel contracted- think of doing half of a crunch.

3. Once your abs are tight, raise your hips to make a bridge, as pictured in the top picture. Tighten your glutes and hold this bridge position for about 15 seconds- keeping TIGHT the entire time!

4. Keeping your abs and your glutes tight, roll the ball toward your butt; repeat a few times.  (Don’t let your hips drop!) Stop when you need to. Reset. Go again.

5. Once you’ve mastered the balance required for this movement, try raising one leg, as pictured. First, just hold the bridge with one foot on the ball and one foot up, without your feet falling off the ball or your body turning over. If you can do this and feel steady, then progress to single-leg curls (while holding your other leg straight up!)

If you feel your hips start to drop, or your glutes and abs are not tight, stop and reset yourself. If all you can do is the bridge, focus on holding it for a few seconds longer each time. I do this hamstring curl fairly often, especially before doing any other glute/hamstring lift. Oftentimes I’ll do a few sets of these curls (anywhere from 15-25 reps for 3-4 sets) before heavier kettle bell swings, deadlifts, or even squats. My glutes are activated and engaged, my hamstrings warmed up and my hips ready for movement!

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