1. Molest the Glutes
My friend Mark Young likes to make fun of me for finding creative ways to “palpate” my clients’ glutes. The truth of the matter is I don’t just palpate, I molest the bejezus out of their glutes during their first couple of sessions while I’m putting them through different movements. How else are you going to know if their glutes are firing during the various exercises? Seriously, I predicted much of my glute EMG results before I conducted the experiments because of the considerable amount of palpation I practiced while my clients were exercising. I’ve also learned that many women have trouble contracting their glutes in a certain position. It could be prone, quadruped, side lying, supine, squatting, or hip hinging, but many have glutes that work very well in most positions but don’t fire properly in one particular position.
Let’s say that I assume that a client’s glutes fire well during bridging patterns and I load them up with heavy hip thrusts. If they don’t have good glute activation in this pattern, they’ll just compensate with their hamstrings and/or substitute lumbar extension for hip extension by overarching their lower backs. This will not improve matters, it will feed the dysfunction and make matters worse. You have to get the glutes to fire properly with bodyweight before loading a particular pattern, and the only way to know if their glutes are doing their job is to palpate (unless you want to spend a fortune on EMG or MRI technology).
I first ask the client if they mind if I palpate their glutes. Since I’m confident and the clients trust me, I’ve never had a client that minded. They usually welcome the palpation because they realize I’m trying to be thorough. Then I put them through a ton of different movements while palpating the entire gluteus maximus, as well as the erector spinae and hamstrings, to get an accurate picture as to what’s occurring. Since the upper gluteus maximus and lower gluteus maximus fibers function uniquely, I make sure I palpate both regions. I put them on the massage table and roll through prone straight leg and bent leg hip extensions, quadruped straight leg and bent leg hip extensions, side lying clams and abductions, double and single leg glute bridges, and then move off the table and have them do back extensions, front planks, squats, static lunges, and deadlifts. All the while I’m poking and prodding.
Now, when I had Lifts and employed two different trainers, I would not have advised them to utilize this same methodology as I wouldn’t have wanted to assume the liability for sexual harassment claims. However, if you really want to be the best trainer possible, then you need to feel the glutes to make sure they’re contracting properly during movement.
2. Waterfalls in Relation to Back Pain and Performance
I’ve come up with a unique way to explain my philosophy of posterior chain biomechanics during lifting.
Obviously we could get really technical and describe the moment arms for the various hip extensors and discuss all the muscles that come into play during various movements, but I tend to keep it simple and suggest the following analogy.
Let’s say you have a river with three waterfalls in sequence. The three waterfalls represent the erector spinae, the glutes, and the hamstrings. You want an equal amount of water going to each of the waterfalls. A beginner will often have 50% of the water flowing to his or her erectors, 30% flowing to his or her hamstrings, and 20% flowing to his or her glutes.
This sets up the lifter for back pain very quickly. However, if you can redirect some of the water to the hip extensors and particularly the glutes, you’ll spare the spine and set up a much safer motor pattern for safe and effective lifting technique.
By utilizing proper form and focusing on hip dominant movements such as deadlifts, hip thrusts, and back extensions, you’ll re-route the water very quickly in order to see the proper flow – 33% erectors, 33% hamstrings, and 33% glutes.
Now you have proper core stability and shared load-distribution which will prevent back injuries and increase performance.
3. ACL Biomechanics and Split Lines on Articular Cartilage
Here is some stuff I recently learned in my KIN 512 course at ASU on the ACL and Articular Cartilage. Pretty cool!
4. Huge Genetic Component to Tendon and Ligament Injuries
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about tendon and ligament injuries and whether there exists a genetic component to the injuries. It appears that there is! Here are some links to abstracts I recently stumbled upon. Basically, some individuals are predisposed to soft-tissue injuries due to specific genes.
5. Reverse Hyper and Thoracic Extensors
Have you ever palpated people’s thoracic extensors while they perform reverse hypers? Holy macarole! I’m always amazed at how well the movement targets the extensors musculature. I recommend that you palpate the erector spinae of the thoracic spine so you get an idea as to how hard they contract during this movement. Even with just bodyweight they contract very hard, but loaded reverse hypers cause even harder contractions. I like that in the reverse hyper you grip the handles very hard to get some transfer through the hands, arms, and torso. You’d think that this movement worked primarily upon the hip extensors but this is simply not so. Reverse hypers are excellent erector spinae builders too. I have my clients do reverse hypers from time to time and have found them to be dangerous as long as you stick to certain rules, which are: 1) extension-based back pain clients don’t do them, 2) only do them once every two weeks, 3) make sure you keep lumbar extension in check up top, 4) prevent lumbar flexion at the bottom, 5) mainly use them for variety, don’t focus on progressive overload, and 6) prescribe them for high reps if a client complains of slight back soreness due to exercises that create spinal flexion moments such as squats and deadlifts.
6. Lever Squat
I have a lever squat machine from Tuff-Stuff and I really like having it. I know that machines aren’t popular in training these days but the fact of the matter is machines can be very useful and some machines are better than others. Even when it comes to lever squat machines, some are great and some suck. There was one at my gym that allowed me to load up with 8 plates per side which equals 720 lbs. That was ridiculous. The lever squat I own feels very similar to a regular squat and I love using it with new, weaker clients. Often new clients are too weak and unstable to perform bodyweight full squats but they are able to perform bodyweight box squats and bodyweight parallel free squats. I have these clients squat every session, alternating between box squats, parallel free squats, and lever full squats. The lever machine allows them to go rock bottom and get accustomed to using full range, which creates stability down deep and leads to quicker performance of bodyweight full squats. Yes, a machine can actually be beneficial for free weight training. This may be contrary to what you’ve heard but I’ve had much success using this method.
7. Genetic Component to Flexibility
Lately I’ve also been wondering from a physiological standpoint why some clients (usually females) can sit around for a couple of years and stay mostly sedentary yet upon embarking on a training regimen they demonstrate perfect mobility. Then you have certain athletes (mainly males) who regularly move their joints through considerable ranges of motion yet still demonstrate insufficient mobility. Obviously we could get into the various factors…are their muscles tight and they need more length, are their muscles hypertonic and firing due to protective factors to compensate for poor stability, do they just need to increase their stretch tolerance and get accustomed to various movement patterns, etc. But clearly there is a huge genetic component to flexibility.
I was surprised that I couldn’t find much research on this topic. My guess is that as time goes on, we’ll realize that specific genes responsible for encoding proteins or processing enzymes that influence the production and proportions of collagen, elastin, fibrin, and/or tenacins. We also know that hormones such as estrogen and relaxin can attach to receptors on connective tissue in order to increase flexibility. Obviously we need more research to better understand this topic. Here are a couple of full papers:
Want to be a great trainer? Then you need to understand progressions and regressions. This is such a critical component to being a successful trainer…definitely one of the most important aspects.
Often it involves common sense. Example: if someone can bench the 45-lb bar 30 times, you add weight. Another example: if someone can perform 20 step ups from a certain height, you increase the height of the step. Often you just add load and/or range of motion. However, sometimes it requires creativity. For example, if someone can’t perform a proper push up you could either 1) have them perform push ups from their knees, or 2) have them perform push ups with their upper body elevated onto a secured bench, table, or bar. The second strategy is wiser because often core-stability is the weakest link in a push up…not shoulder power. If you do push ups from the knees you eliminate most of the core stability component, whereas if you do push ups with the upper body elevated you keep much of the core stability component while still targeting the pecs, front delts, and triceps. Over time you decrease the height of elevation until the person is on the ground and able to perform proper push ups. So you can also change the angle, use implements to provide assistance, etc.
If something is too hard for the client then take responsibility for the mistake and say, “man I’m an idiot, I meant to start you out with this version…” and then regress the exercise (find an easier variation that the client can do well) and compliment them for their effort and technique. This builds self-esteem and encourages clients to enjoy lifting and be consistent.
I always love when I get clients who have been participating in yoga. These clients are very easy to train because they already have good mobility and core stability. I don’t have to do any “corrective work,” I just have them do the various movement patterns and utilize progressive overload. Yoga provides for an excellent foundation of fundamental movement and involves quite challenging drills in terms of mobility and stability. I will say that their glute activation leaves much room for improvement but this is not difficult especially if hip mobility and core stability is up to par.
10. Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) Tools
I’ve been using my rumbleroller a lot lately and I absolutely love it. One of my newer clients just brought over her gadgets from TPTherapy.com . At this link they sell some really cool products such as the footballer, the quadballer, the massageball, and the grid. I thought that these products were pretty gimmicky but after using them I love them. There’s something to their density and shape that really helps with trigger points.
A basketball is very effective for self-myofascial release as sometimes slick medicine balls cause you to slide off (whereas a basketball has texture), plus you can inflate the basketball to your desired level of compliance. I also like the Tiger Tail massager and a lacrosse ball, as well as the Yamuna products such as the foot saver balls.
11. Personal Trainers are Lucky to Have Clients
Although I love training people (and I know I’d totally miss it if my days were exempt from training others), I prefer reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, studying, etc. I’m a life-long learner! However, I’m always reminded of how lucky I am to have personal training clients. For one, they keep my communications skills up to par. If I didn’t train people I’d hide out in my cave all day long and forget how to talk to others. They also teach me things…I’m always lucky in that I train some unique people who have certain insights, wisdom, or perspectives. And finally, my clients tend to be positive people who rub off on me as positivity is contagious. Bottom line – it’s cool being a trainer.
12. Training Around Injuries
All lifters get minor tweakages here and there. After around a decade of lifting, a lifter finally “wises-up” and starts listening to his body and training accordingly. If your adductors are sore and feel like they’re going to pull, avoid full squats and opt for narrow stance high box squats. Avoid deadlifts and perform rack pulls. Don’t do any single leg work. The adductors come more into play as hip extensors in deeper ranges of hip flexion so you need to limit the ROM so you can still receive a training effect while “training around the injury.” You can usually find things that don’t hurt, for example often people with various types of shoulder pain can still do neutral grip dumbbell floor press and row variations but not full range bench press and chin ups. The secret is to get some blood-flow into the area but not go too hard to where you make matters worse. If something hurts don’t do it. Stop right there and try again at a later time.
I always ask my clients how they’re feeling and whether or not they have any muscles that are sore prior to their session so I can make proper adjustments if need-be. I’m amazed at how long it took my stubborn ass to fully comprehend this concept but I’m always sure to teach my clients and training partners to not repeat mistakes I made quite often earlier in my lifting career.
13. Check Back Tomorrow for Good Reads
Sorry for not posting a “good-reads for the week” blog last week, I was super-swamped and my computer also lost all the tabs I had saved once again. One of my readers even showed me a way to save my tabs but I’m too much of an idiot to follow through with the advice. Anyway tomorrow I’ll have a post for you that will contain good reads from last week and this week.
I hope you enjoyed the random blog!