mobility

Fix your lats, fix your deadlift

There is no more important aspect of performing a proper deadlift than creating tension. Tension through the core pillar ... and tension through the lats.

A weak core and inability to activate the lats through the full concentric and eccentric phases of a deadlift is the easiest way to sabotage your gains ... and worse, leave the door open to injury.

So, in addition to performing real core exercises that train the core pillar to brace and protect the spine, learning how to properly engage and activate the lats should be the top priority in your preparation for deadlifts and other foundational hip-hinge movements.

We often think of the lats as the muscles that span the side of your back from the armpit to the waist. Actually, their form and function are much broader. The lats connect the rear ribcage, upper arm, pelvis and hips. When properly engaged and activated, they blend these critical areas into a functioning unit.

It's a mistake to think that strong lats are going to improve your deadlift. In other words, that dude in the gym doing seated lat pulldowns with the whole stack isn't doing anything other than showing off. Latsturbating, if you will.

To learn and cue proper lat activation and tension that will transfer to heavy pulling, all you need is a resistance band and something around which to anchor it. It's example No. 7,876 of how people unnecessarily complicate their training when it really should be quite simple.

Check out this article from Dr. John Rusin to learn all about the straight-arm lat pulldown and all its variations. Then, incorporate these activation drills into your training -- especially before a heavy pulling session -- and let us know in the comments how it goes.

What's the point of fitness?

The whole point of lifting weights is to get stronger, right? Perpetually lift heavier weights, more reps, at higher intensity.

Right?

Wrong.

The whole point of working out is to constantly push yourself past your limits and walk out of the gym feeling like you got hit by a truck, right? That's how you know you got a great workout. As you collapse in a pool of sweat, unable to construct a sentence or muster a coherent thought, your trainer smiles and says, "You crushed it today."

Did YOU crush IT, or did the TRAINER crush YOU?

This is where a lot of people go wrong with fitness. The whole Spartan, Tough Mudder and American Ninja Warrior mentality has permeated the fitness industry, to the point where people who are just trying to be healthier and look/feel a little better have been duped into thinking the only path to those goals is pain.

What's old is new again, and the "no pain, no gain" mantra from the '80s has infiltrated the fitness world and people are buying into it all over again.

Don't be duped.

Remember this: The first priority of a fitness program is to prevent pain and injury so you can continue exercising as long as you want to -- in theory, for the rest of your life. That's it. Period. Dr. John Rusin covers this topic thoroughly in this post, "How to Lift Forever: The Best Movements for Long-Term, Pain-Free Gains."

If your fitness program doesn't include the following components, it's time to look for a new fitness program:

-- Corrective Exercise: How does it make sense to load hundreds of pounds on your back if you have hip impingement, a collapsed arch or weak external hip rotators? Fix the movement pattern first before loading it.

-- Shoulder Care: It puzzles me why people think it's a good idea to throw and catch heavy weights overhead without taking the time to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maybe Wall Slides or Face Pulls don't get a lot of views on Instagram, but they will help keep you in the gym training instead of inside an MRI tube.

-- Unilateral Exercises: If you have right-left imbalances (which most people do), what do you think the outcome will be if you only push, pull, squat or hinge bilaterally? (Hint: Repeating a dysfunctional movement pattern will only lead to more dysfunction, and ultimately, pain and injury.) Improve and reprogram movement patterns in a single-leg, single-arm fashion before going for that next PR. Here's one of our favorites, the Rear-Leg Elevated or Bulgarian Split Squat (which we're doing in our Small-Group Training sessions today, actually.)

-- Core Exercises: And by this, I don't mean hundreds of sit-ups, v-ups and side-bends. I mean real core exercises that train the anti-rotation and anti-flexion functions of the core pillar. One of the most underrated core and hip stability exercises is as old and simple as it gets: the Glute Bridge. (Note: Only attempt a loaded glute bridge after you've mastered and progressed the unloaded version, including the Banded Glute Bridge.)

-- Loaded Carries: Speaking of old, underrated core exercises, it doesn't get much better than loaded carries. They're essential to developing neuromuscular stability, core stiffness and pure strength. Omit them from your training program at your own peril.

-- Squats and Deadlifts: But bear in mind, these two foundational lifting patterns should not be executed with a barbell if the athlete lacks the joint mobility and core strength to perform them properly. And they need not be executed with a barbell to get a training effect. Here's one of my favorite squat variations, the Landmine Goblet Squat.

Try some of these mandatory exercises in your training program and let us know in the comments how they work for you. And if your training program doesn't include these fundamental components, find one that does. This way, you can accomplish the No. 1 goal of fitness: to stay pain- and injury-free so you can keep doing everything you enjoy for the rest of your life.

 

If you sit all day, you need these exercises

Americans are more obese and broken than ever before, and a big part of it is our sedentary lifestyle and a grab-and-go diet mentality in which convenience trumps nutrition. But the one culprit that nobody wants to talk about -- and even fewer know how to address -- is sitting.

Sitting -- at work, at school, or in cars, buses, trains and planes -- wreaks havoc on the joints and connective tissues. No wonder you go to the gym after a day at the laptop buffet and can't squat to quarter-depth. Your hip flexors have been under tension all day.

That's to say nothing about the damage done to your posture from hunching over your desk or phone for the majority of the day. 

One tip for desk workers is to set an alarm or calendar reminder every 90 minutes or so and get up, walk around, maybe even do some light stretching, lunges or squats. Research has shown that we can only stay focused and productive for about 90 minutes at a time; anything beyond that, and you're not getting enough work done to justify staying put. 

If you want to take it a step further, here are six exercise that every desk worker should be doing to combat the ravages of sitting. They come to you courtesy of MG Fit Life, and the whole routine only takes a few minutes but pays huge dividends in reversing the damage that comes with being deskbound.

(Speaking of which, check out my friend Kelly Starrett's book, appropriately titled, "Deskbound," for everything you need to know about what sitting is doing to your body -- and how to fix it.)

Here's one of our go-to t-spine mobilizations for opening up the upper back and rib-cage complex to get your shoulders moving better and keep poor posture from ruining your workouts.

Try these mobility exercises and let us know in the comments how they're working for you. And remember, every once in a while, push away from the desk and take a walk.

3 mobility drills all lifters should be doing

If you're serious about increasing your fitness and staying pain- and injury-free, you have a few options.

1) Watch all the mobility exercises flying across your Instagram feed, pick a few of them randomly, do them and hope they help. Not the best strategy, unless you enjoy wasting time doing exercises that may or may not be beneficial to you.

2) Make an appointment with a professional trainer who is qualified to assess movement. You would then undergo a movement assessment and receive a customized corrective exercise program. In most cases, such a qualified professional can narrow your prehab and mobility work down to 10-12 minutes of exercises that, if performed consistently and progressed properly, can improve your movement patterns and create a strong, stable based to support your fitness activities. 

(Wait, what? Your gym/trainer doesn't perform any assessments when a person comes to train with them? Run, don't walk, out the door. Just be sure to perform some ankle mobility drills and calf activations first.)

3) If you're new to movement assessments and corrective exercise and don't really know where to begin, Dr. John Rusin has done all the work for you. He's combined some of the best ideas about human movement into three catch-all mobility drills that address the vast majority of problems we see in the fitness population: hip and adductor tightness, poor thoracic spine mobility and an inability to brace the core pillar and co-contract around the joints to create stability.

You can read all about and watch these go-to mobility drills ===> here.

The best part about these drills is that each one addresses multiple mobility restrictions and trouble spots by incorporating movement. Unlike your garden variety static stretches that you see the Guy With The Giant Biceps doing for hours at your local fitness chain, these drills combine mobility with core stiffness and movement -- which is exactly what your body needs when you lift weights, play sports or perform a conditioning workout.

Here's a great example, which combines a corrective exercise popularized by Functional Movement Systems (which we use to guide our programming at Max Velocity) and renowned baseball trainer Eric Cressey (whose methods we follow religiously in training our young baseball players).

Save yourself some time and try these simple, easy-to-perform mobility drills and let us know in the comments what differences you see in your training. And if you need help, or would like to receive a complimentary movement screen by a certified FMS professional, make an appointment here.

A simple plan to bullet-proof your shoulders

One of the most common setbacks for lifters and fitness enthusiasts is shoulder pain. Sadly, most trainers and gyms do not utilize a sensible, well-designed shoulder-care program. That's problem No. 1.

Problem No. 2 is that most people don't know what exercises to do (and which ones to avoid) when their shoulders get angry. And without a well-designed shoulder-care plan -- and an educated trainer to implement it -- lots of people get stuck in an endless pain loop that hinders their progress, or worse, leaves them too injured to train.

Fall is a time when lots of folks get excited about resuming their fitness program. So it's the perfect time to share this incredible resource from my friend Dr. John Rusin: The 20 Most Effective Exercises to Train Around Shoulder Pain.

Here are two of our favorite movements combined into one: the Banded Face-Pull + Pull-Apart Combo.

Here's another one of our go-to shoulder mobility drills, the Wall Slide With Liftoff.

At Max Velocity, we evaluate every client with a Functional Movement Screen so we can identify weaknesses and movement restrictions and provide a customized corrective exercise program. If you think this process is only for beginner or de-conditioned athletes, think again. Whether you're an advanced overhead lifter, Olympic weightlifter, throwing athlete or weekend warrior, shoulder health is of paramount importance to your success and pain-free training.

If you have movement dysfunction that's causing shoulder pain, it isn't going to go away on its own. And if you insist on lifting heavy and with high intensity without addressing the underlying problems, it's only a matter of time before you get hurt.

Try a few of these incredibly effective exercises and bullet-proof your shoulders before diving into your next overhead training session. Let us know in the comments how this approach works for you.
 

Single-leg training for big gains

Single-leg training for big gains

Try single-leg training with isometric holds to spark big gains and train injury-free.

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

Back Pain? It's time to address your tight hamstrings. But avoid the standard rounded-back toe-touches that most people are doing. Try these safer, more effective hamstring stretches and mobility drills instead.