The Kettlebell Coaching Series: The Goblet Squat -1

The art of loaded squatting can be tricky to master.  Look around most fitness and performance settings and you see plenty of loaded lunges, deadlifts, and often something that resembles a quarter squat, but you don’t often see a loaded squat performed though a respectable range of motion.  Is it because it is scary to put a barbell on your upper back or hold to hold a barbell in the front squat position? Is it the way people are introduced to squats? There’s a good chance both reasons are players in this. However, our opinion is that it has more to do with the initial approach squatting.

Here’s how we progress the squat pattern:
1. Air squat
2. Driver squat (see HERE)
3. Kettlebell goblet squat (see HERE)
4. Kettlebell front squat
5. Barbell front and/or back squat

For those of you who don’t already know, the goblet squat is a squat variation unique and powerful in it’s effectiveness.  It improves the fundamental squatting pattern by increasing range of motion in the hips and develops leg strength. The difference between the goblet squat and most other variations is that it allows participants to express a full range of motion with minimal loading of the spine.  When performed correctly, it’s very effective at putting participants in the “right” position.  This exercise can serve as THE squat a student performs in their training or simply be a bridge to the front and back squat.

Here are Goblet Squat Fundamentals: 

The remainder of this post and series will focus on coaching the goblet squat.
 
Setting Up

DSC_0026
Grasp a kettlebell by the horns and hold it in front of the torso at chest height. Take a shoulder-width stance with the feet turned outward slightly.  Please not that you should NOT wear sneakers when performing the goblet squat. Stand as tall as possible, acting as if a puppeteer has a string attached to the top of your head and is pulling you up.
Slide1
Be sure to firmly grasp the kettlebell and simultaneously engage your lats. A good cue to use, which accomplishes both, is “trying to break the kettlebell by twisting the horns away from the center”. If you aren’t able to figure this out, squat success may escape you.
DSC_0025
Finally, push the kettlebell 4-6 inches off the chest.
 
Connecting with the ground
DSC_0028Its important your feet are as connected with the ground as possible (hence no sneakers). Keep more weight in your heels, but also spread the toes as far as possible and press them into the ground. Think about screwing your feet into the ground.  Pretend your feet are on saucers and spin them out.  This will help load tension through the hips.

Learning to pull into the Goblet Squat


This can be challenging to learn, but is critical! If you allow gravity to do the work for you in the descent of the goblet squat you will NOT maintain a tall torso. Therefore, its important you learn how to pull yourself into the squat with your hip flexors. This is a tough concept to master and even harder to teach.

Here’s a great drill to help students learn what it should feel like:

The Drive to the top
DSC_1092
Once you have descended to a depth that allows your elbows to touch your thighs, briefly pause and drive back to the start position. Maintain a tall, rigid torso throughout the movement so that your hips and torso rise at the same speed.

Now that you have all this new information get a kettlebell and start performing goblet squats. In the meanwhile, we will work on additional posts which will address a variety of movement issues and coaching drill you can use to “fix” the squatting pattern including additional drills to help with that challenging concept of pulling into the descent.

The Goblet Squat is covered in detail in our Certified Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 (CKI-1) Seminar along with the kettlebell swing and turkish get-up. Our last CKI-1 in 2015 will be held onSaturday, 11/14/15 in Malvern, PA. Use coupon code SAVE25 for a $25 discount. Valid until 11/9/15. Our 2016 seminar schedule will be released shortly.

The Kettlebell Coaching Series: The Turkish Get-Up Part 3

We’re finally back… fresh off a CKI Level 1 Seminar. It’s about time we wrap up The Turkish Get-Up. We have already discussed how to perform and coach the Get-Up along with a variety of cuing tips and coaching drills (see our last 2 blogs here: Part 1 Part 2). Now we’re going to talk safety.
Logically, The Get-Up requires students to express a full range of shoulder flexion (among other things) on the kettlebell side. Well… this can get hairy for many as a limitation in shoulder flexion is common. We recommend evaluating shoulder flexion when possible before having a student perform overhead work. Many use the Function Movement Screen to determine whether or not overhead work is safe. While we like the idea in concept (of using the FMS), we are big proponents of directly measuring shoulder flexion.

How to measure shoulder flexion:

Shoulder Flexion Test

Have the student stand with their back against a wall and their heels a little less than a foot from the wall. Their head, upperback and tailbone should all be and remain in contact with the wall.

Shoulder Flexion Test 2Shoulder Flexion Test 3

From this position, have the student flex one shoulder to 90 degrees (the arm should be in front of them and at shoulder height) with a straight elbow and their thumb up. Tell them to raise their arm up until their thumb hits the wall while maintaining a straight elbow. They must maintain the aforementioned 3 points of contact on the wall. If successful, their shoulder flexion is not limited.

If they cannot reach the wall they are limited. If they reach the wall, but either bend the elbow OR extend their spine they are limited.

Why having a full range of motion (ROM) is critical:

Let’s start of by defining the term “structural load”. A structural load is a load in which the weight/kettlebell/external force is positioned in a way that allows for the joints to remain in an optimal position and for the load to be transferred further up/down the chain to the “core”. Additionally, the load is close to your center of mass. It simply comes down to how the student positions their body relative to the load. An easy example to help with this concept is to go grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. This weight should be a weight you are very comfortable and confident in holding overhead. Seriously. Go get one. Stand up and safely press the object overhead. Once overhead, position the object so that the fist is directly over the shoulder joint while maintaining a straight elbow. If your joints and spine are all neutral and your core is active, you should feel as if this weight is very manageable. Maybe even a little light. Your Lats, anterior core, and posterior core should all be wide awake and helping your maintain this position. Notice you don’t feel too much in your Delt. This is representative of a structural load. Now follow all the same steps, but then allow the weight to get a bit further in front of you and a little lower to the ground (less shoulder flexion). The farther from your body and your center of mass, the harder it is for your core to assist. In fact, go far enough forward and it begins to feel as if your Delt is on an island.  This is not a structural load. Therefore, in The Get-Up a structural load is what you want to maintain throughout.

What happens when you do overhead with bad positioning:

pav1When performing overhead work, such as Turkish Get-Up, Waiter’s Walks, Presses, or Snatches, it’s important to have a neutral spine for a variety of reasons. Maintaining a neutral spine puts the student in an optimal position to brace and maintain stability throughout the exercise. If the student has limited shoulder flexion, getting the working arm(s) into the optimal position without compromising joint position elsewhere is impossible. Specifically, extension of the spine, lateral shifting and/or rotation of the pelvis, and flexion of the elbow are all common compensations. This will logically put high levels of stress on the elbow or somewhere in the spine increasing the chances of injury.

How to Spot The Turkish Get-Up:

Knowing where you need to be any when are critical to safely spotting the Get-Up. This video will help you understand ideal position for the coach.

Time to wrap it up:
After reading our last three installments on The Turkish Get-Up you should be quite a bit more knowledgeable on the intricacies of performance, evaluating, and cuing, etc. However, in order to be an effective coach (especially in this case) it’s critical for you to master the exercise. We highly recommend performing many, many, many Get-Ups before you start coaching others. If you have any questions or anything of value to add to coaching the Turkish Get-Up please don’t hesitate to reach out to us through our website, social media, or even a call.
Next Seminar:
Saturday, 11/14/15 from 8:00am – 5:00pm at McKenna’s Gym in Fawn Grove, PA. Visit our store to register: http://www.shop.fit-edu.com $75 off until 10/14 with coupon code MCKENNA75

The Kettlebell Coaching Series: The Turkish Get-Up Part 2

In our last installment of the Kettlebell Coaching Series we addressed teaching and coaching The Half Get-Up.  We discussed how to set up, the initial steps, and some coaching fixes to correct common errors in the initial phases. In this piece, we will thoroughly cover how to make it all the way to standing and the steps to come back down.

Before we get into the coaching the next steps there are a few more points we need to make about the benefits of performing the Turkish Get-Up:

  1. Shoulder resiliency
    1. If you’re interested in improving shoulder stability in multiple planes the Get-Up should be a go to exercise. Assuming you (or your student) maintains packed shoulders (see the tips we gave here), you will improve shoulder stability in three key positions (anterior, lateral, and overhead). While many other exercises provide an opportunity to do so in one of these positions, none does in all 3.
  2.   Improved body control and awareness
    1. Not sure why? Start doing Get-Ups and you’ll experience it for yourself
  3. “Linkage”
    1. Linkage is becoming a common term used in the fitness industry by trainers and coaches. Linkage refers to the ability to link segments of the body so as to improve movement efficiency on a “global”  level. While this is an “unscientific” term it’s logical that movements/exercises that improve linkage also improve performance. In “Becoming A Supple Leopard” Kelly Starrett discusses linkage and reducing leakage. Leakage being “energy leaks” caused by a lack of linkage resulting in a loss of power production. A simple example would be failing to “pack” the shoulders and stabilize the spine when bench pressing. If your shoulder joints and spine are not in an optimal position you lose leverage and as a result power due to energy leakage.

Now to coaching the Get-Up:

Let’s start with all the steps to get to from the floor to the standing position:

Slide1

  1. Roll
  2. Press
  3. Drive to the elbow
  4. Post up onto hand
  5. High bridge
  6. Leg sweep
  7. Half kneeling
  8. Lunge up to standing

Slide1

High Bridge and Leg Sweep

If you remember, the Half Get-Up takes us to the high bridge position.  It stops us short of arguably the most challenging step in the Get-Up, the leg sweep.  Easily the most dynamic part of the exercise, the leg sweep changes our body position from prone, to kneeling, and gets our shoulder one step closer to the full overhead position.  What makes the leg sweep tricky for most is that you are reducing your points of contact with the ground from three (hand and both feet) to two (one hand and one foot) while simultaneously moving your center of mass.

It is our belief that a quality high bridge makes this step a bit easier.  Getting the hips higher in the bridge creates more space for the outstretched leg (kickstand leg) to get pulled under.  We also want to avoid dragging that leg on the ground.  If your leg gets caught up dragging on the ground there is a good chance the knee will not be positioned correctly on the floor which will negatively effect in the Half-Kneeling position.  This can make the steps to finish the move more tricky. To initiate the leg sweep, the knee must bend and the lower leg must rotate so that your pinky toe is close to the ground and your big toe is on top.  This will make the lower leg parallel to the ground on the sweep and give all the space needed to make the knee your principle connection to the ground.

Please note: Where the knee gets placed may depend slightly on limb lengths and individual anthropometrics, but generally you want to place that knee directly under the Kettlebell that is being held overhead.

Here’s how to coach from the ground to standing:

Great job! You now have a client standing up with a weight over their head. Looks like its time to get them back down.

Here’s how:

TGU DownAs you can see from the video and picture, getting back to the ground is as simple as retracing the steps you took to get to the top. Once again, it is the transition between half kneeling and high bridge that creates the greatest challenge. We love the cue “use your thigh as a guide” when having the student reach out laterally from the half kneeling position.  As we did on the way up during this transition we once again want to form a straight line of the hand, knee and foot.

One of the things that is great about the Get-Up is that every position is dependent upon the one preceding it.  You must be precise on every step to be successful.  Like most things that are worthwhile doing, it can be as draining mentally as it is physically, especially when learning the exercise.

For the sake of being crystal clear… here are the steps to go from standing to the ground

  1. Lunge to half kneeling
  2. Hand reach/windshield wiper of base leg
  3. High Bridge
  4. Lower to butt
  5. Lower to elbow
  6. Lower to back
  7. Lower the kettlebell and grasp with two hands
  8. Roll

So… shameless plug time. At Fit EDU, we pride ourselves on makes better fitness coaches. We do so by improving YOUR movement first, then developing your coach’s eye, and finally filling your coach’s toolbox with countless coaching fixes and corrective exercises. If you’re serious about helping your clients we want to work with you! Our Certified Kettlebell Instructor Seminars provide you with both a certification AND 8 CEUs for ACE, ISSA, NASM, NSCA, and 6.5 for AFAA.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania
ACAC (ACAC Staff only)
West Chester, PA
Saturday, 10/17/15 8:00am-5:00pm (please note this date is tentative)

McKenna’s Gym
Fawn Grove, PA

The Kettlebell Coaching Series: The Turkish Get Up Part 1

The Turkish Get-Up is awesome and is the best exercise your are not doing. Legend claims It’s at least 200 years old and is thought to have been created for soldiers fighting with shields and swords as a means to get from their back to a standing position when an enemy was on top of them. While its history is impressive, its training impact on training and performance is even more significant. One of the most respected professionals in our industry, Gray Cook, said “The Turkish Get-Up is the perfect example of training primitive movement patterns-from rolling over, to kneeling, to standing and reaching. The Get-Up promotes the shoulders’ stability and mobility. It improves one’s strength in many patterns by teaching the importance of linkage while eliminating strength leakage.” We can’t forget, it also provides the opportunity to functionally evaluate the right and left sides.

While it is amazing one exercise can do all the above (and more), performing and coaching this exercise can be extremely challenging. As a result, many fitness professionals either pretend it doesn’t exist or do some bastardized version they think is just as good. This 2-part series will put you in a position to understand how to perform the Get-Up AND the intricacies of coaching it.

DSC_0971An ideal place to start is with your sneaker. Yes, that’s right… your sneaker. In lieu of a kettlebell, we recommend you begin this process by balancing a sneaker on your fist. We also recommend mastering the Half Get-Up before moving the to “full” Get-Up.

The Half Get-Up is separated into 5 steps:

1: Roll

2: Press

3: Drive up to the elbow

4: Post up onto your hand

5: High bridge

Here are step-by-step instruction on teaching the half get-up:

Now it’s inevitable you will come across some issues along the way. Two very common issues to watch for are the knee on the kettlebell side going valgus at the initiation of the high bridge and shoulder packing.

Here’s one strategy to fix a valgus knee on the kettlebell side:

Here’s a great drill to use to help with shoulder packing on the kettlebell side:

Additional key item to address:

I. What to do with your head and eyes:

It’s important to look at the kettlebell through the entire half get up. However, you should begin to teach this when practicing with a sneaker. If you think about it… there is a heavy piece of iron over your head. Given the fact that you are actively moving your body beneath it, it is a really good idea to keep your focus on the kettlebell. Safety is a real concern here, especially when venturing towards “heavy” kettlebells. We’ll go over spotting in our next post.

II. Setting up after the press

Slide4

Get very, very familiar with this position if you are going to perform and/or coach get ups. Setting up correctly after the press sets the stage for the rest of the get up. If your limbs aren’t correctly aligned you might not have the leverage you’ll need to successfully perform a Get-Up. This could mean a failed attempt OR losing the kettlebell and ending up with a serious injury to your cranium.

Notice these key points:

  1. The arm on the kettlebell side is straight (elbow and wrist), the shoulder is packed, and the fist is directly above the shoulder joint.
  2. The leg on the kettlebell side is bent at the knee and the foot is just outside the width of the hip
  3. The arm on the non-kettlebell side is at a 45 degree angle relative to the torso
  4. The leg on the non-kettlebell side is straight

III. Connection with the ground:

There are two key connections to the ground that you want to move as little as possible through the get-up.

  1. The foot on the kettlebell side
    1. This foot SHOULD NOT move once you have pressed the kettlebell while on your back and set up your limbs for the drive to the elbow. Anchor it down and keep it there. This is where much of your stability will come from.
  2. The hand on the non-kettlebell side
    1. You will often see people moving this hand around before going into the high bridge. While you must externally rotate your shoulder and as a result point your fingers away from your body, DO NOT move the location of this hand in relation to your body. If you set up correctly it’s already in the best place to provide adequate stability and leverage.

IV. Shoulder Packing:

Getting your shoulder packed and staying there throughout the get up is no easy feat, but it’s critically important for your shoulder health. You have to go over the concept of shoulder packing before touching the Get-Up. Cover this concept in other exercises (deadlifts, push ups, any/all upper body pulls, etc.) before performing get ups. This is yet another reason to master the Half Get-Up before moving the to Full Get-Up. Packing your shoulders gets progressively harder the “higher’ (further into shoulder flexion) the arm. In other words, it easiest to pack your shoulders with your arms at your sides (farmer’s carry). It the hardest to pack your shoulders when you are at or near 180 degrees of shoulder flexion (waiter’s walk, pull ups, pressing, etc.).

V. Speed bumps

Treat each step in the get-up individually. In other words, think about your next step, perform the action, and then pause. Many refer to these pauses between each step as speed bumps. We reference these speed bumps in the screwdriver video. While the get-up is intended to be a beautiful and graceful set of movements it is also intended to be approached methodically and with focus. Do not blend any of the individual steps into one. You’ll get sloppy and likely increase the chances of a mistake… and remember you still have the big piece of iron over your head so mistakes can be costly.

Please recognize there are many more items to address in the get up. While many of these will be covered in our next post, we won’t address everything as there are simply too many subtle points to address when coaching this exercise. The best way to learn EVERYTHING is to attend a live seminar. If you’re interested visit our homepage to learn more about our CKI-1 Seminar at West Chester University of Pennsylvania this October. www.fit-edu.com

Hungry for more information right now? Check out the below step-by-step half get up pictures in sequential order.

Slide2Slide3Slide4Slide6Slide7

Building Myelin, Layering Skills, and Transference

Over the past few months, we have focused our posts/attention on one exercise, the two-handed kettlebell swing. Through a series of 4 posts we discussed how to load the posterior chain, increase the chances of gluteal engagement, scapular stability, and finally, proper sequencing. (just scroll down to check them out). While we have received positive feedback about these pieces being helpful for fitness professionals, they weren’t designed to “stand on their own”. It’s time we bring them together.  Much of the source material from this piece is from “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle.

Building Myelin

Before we get deep into the discussion of myelin, practice and how they’re related lets define myelin.

400px-Neuron_Hand-tuned.svg

Myelin: an electrically insulating material that forms a layer (myelin sheath,) around the axon of a neuron. The presence of myelin is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. The main purpose of a myelin layer is to increase the speed at which impulses travel along the myelinated fiber.

Myelination: the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly.

Circuits: A grouping of nerve fibers that work simultaneously and/or in series to complete a particular movement or task

Now that we have gotten that out of the way lets talk about the relationship between practice and myelination.  New research has revealed that myelin, once considered an inert form of insulation for brain cells, may be the holy grail of acquiring skill. Daniel Coyle has described this new information as a revolution that will forever change the way we view talent and practice. Here’s an excerpt:

“The revolution is built on three simple facts. (1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons—a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.”

UnknownWhen we take part in “deep” (quality, mistake focused) practice of a skill where quality learning occurs (anything from playing the piano to deadlifting) we build myelin. The more deep practice the better and the more mistakes you make (and learn from) the better. The phrase practice makes perfect has been thrown around for generations and while logical, we didn’t have any scientific basis to back this up. What has been discovered is that it’s really deep practice that makes perfect. Myelin grows in direct response to deep (mistake focus practiced).  For instance, once a mistake is made, it is more beneficial to stop, evaluate what went wrong, and try to immediately fix it on the next attempt than to plow through and disregard your errors.  Twenty minutes of deep practice can easily trump an hour of mindless practice. Daniel Coyle described this process as follows:

“Deep practice feels a bit like exploring a dark and unfamiliar room. You start slowly, you bump into furniture, stop, think, and start again. Slowly, and a little painfully, you explore the space over and over, attending to errors, extending your reach into the room a bit farther each time, building a mental map until you can move through it quickly and intuitively.

As it relates to fitness and high skill work like a kettlebell swing, clean, snatch etc. it’s critical the student takes part in deep practice early on. Being mindful of your position in different parts of a movement and more importantly developing and understanding of what good positioning is… is essential for building myelin.

Layering Skills

Another aspect of building myelin is quality coaching.  A master coach, pinpoints flaws and knows how to address each one and in the right order to optimize performance.  A quality coach needs to have an abundance of knowledge about their given subject (coaches need to build myelin just like their students).  What a quality coach does is recognize exactly what makes their student improve, take them slighlty out of their comfort zone and guide them to the next level.  Every student needs to be handled differently because they all respond to different motivations.  If you have a vast supply of tools in your coaching toolbox (interpersonally and skill specific) you will be a more effective coach.

DSC_1151Bringing this back to the kettlebell swing, if you notice your student is not able to grasp the idea of hinging, put the kettlebell down and do a drill that will help them to feel the movement and positions you want them to achieve.  For a beginner with little movement skills, this is often all it takes to get them out of their comfort zone.  Hinge drills with a piece of PVC pipe and high tension front planks will do much more for this person than swinging a kettlebell. Once they master the hinge and high tension plank have them perform swings to apply this new skill. The coach must then begin to layer in additional skills as needed. Staying with the example of the kettlebell swing these additional skills should include “core firing” / “tightness” at the top of the swing, shoulder packing, DSC_1157and then sequencing.

Here’s the order we use when layering skills in the kettlebell swing:

  1. Hinge
  2. Core Firing / Tightness
  3. Shoulder Packing
  4. Sequence

**Please note: Our last 4 Kettlebell Coaching Series Posts addressed how to coach each of these ** View the coaching videos here 

Transference

If you want to develop complex skills, the drills used to improve them must have a direct transference to your goals.

Another practice that helps to build myelin, and was briefly mentioned above, is slowing a skill down to a snail’s pace. The above section referenced the hip hinge drill as a tool to help teach the kettlebell swing. This is drill is purposefully performed SLOWLY.  It’s important to feel the top and bottom positions in the swing before actually performing the exercise due to the speed of movement.  The swing is essentially a hip hinge on steroids. No race car driver begins their career driving at 200 mph!  He or she probably started with a bike, than a go-cart or 4-wheeler, then maybe some small dirt track races.  They most likely spend at least a decade racing at lower speeds before safely and effectively driving at 200 mph with other cars only inches away.  Now you might say, I’ve had my drivers license for 20 years does that mean I can drive a car 200 mph?  The obvious answer is no, but the reason why may be cloudy.  Driving to work and back has no transference to racing.  By law, you are allowed to drive 65 mph  on some highways in our area.  Therefore, your circuits are only myelinated for driving up to 65 mph.  And what happens when someone gets too close to us?  We beep our horn at them!  We are used to a nice cushion around us.  Driving a race car requires much deeper  and more specific practice than driving our sedans to a grocery store provides.

As you can tell we are fans of the “Talent Code” and highly recommend all coaches read it. We also feel if you are training others with kettlebells it’s critical to your development as a coach and to the safety of your students you get a coaching focused kettlebell certification. When it comes to teaching bells it’s all about having a systematic well thought out approach.

In our Level 1 Certified Kettlebell Instructor (CKI-1) you will learn:

  1. Our system for teaching each of the Kettlebell Big 3 (Swing, Goblet Squat, Turkish Get Up)
  2. How to developing your coach’s eye
  3. Corrective exercises and coaching drills to “fix”movement flaws,
  4. Simple yet effective programming strategies.

Visit our homepage to see our upcoming seminar schedule. www.fit-edu.com

The Kettlebell Coaching Series Pt 3: Shoulder Packing

Our next installment in the “KCS” is centered around shoulder packing. In many ways, this is a follow up to an old post titled Scapular Stability Matters. However, we will focus more on coaching strategies and techniques used to address shoulder packing rather than getting all “sciencey” on you like last time.
Shoulder packing defined:
blog-examprep-091313-2To put it simply, shoulder packing occurs when you depress and retract your “shoulders”.
Take a minute right now to do the following (from a position of good posture… neutral head, upright torso, etc.): Press your shoulders down (depress) towards the ground and pinch your shoulder blades inward (retract) towards your spine. Now activate your lats… this might take a little work for some people. However, the cue of “you have a $100 bill between your arm and ribs… don’t lose it” usually works.  Congrats… you just packed your shoulders. If you wanted to take this a step further and brace your torso and pelvis refer back to the BOSS Position from one of our previous posts.
The Lats:
latissimus-dorsiSo much of this comes down to getting students to become aware of their Lats (and other “scapular muscles”) and learning how to get and keep them engaged. This is an important skill… not just for swings, but also for deadlifts, push ups, rows, goblet squats, overhead press, etc etc etc. Noticing a trend here?  Shoulder packing is a fundamental skill which needs to be taught (along with bracing) before performing most power, strength, and even core stability exercises. To get specific to the Lat’s role… The Lat attaches to the spine from T7 to L5 and has quite a few responsibilities…
“The latissimus dorsi is responsible for extensionadduction, transverse extension also known as horizontal abduction, flexion from an extended position, and (medial) internal rotation of the shoulder joint. It also has a synergistic role in extension and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine.”
In addition to being a prime mover or assister in a variety of movements the Lat also has the capacity to stop movement… When the Lat is isometrically contracted T7 to L5 is stabilized. When the contraction is strong enough (a sufficient MVC… see our last article if your unsure of this term) it creates stability in that segment of the spine. On the other hand, no engagement of your Lats means little to no rigidity in that portion of the spine. Therefore, you are likely to see flexion and/or rotation in that segment. This is a bad thing in nearly all exercises. As a “fitness coach” you need to recognize the difference between packed and unpacked shoulders then coach students to understand the concept / acquire this skill.
To the bell
Lets take a quick look at what a kettlebell swing looks like when a student fails to pack their shoulders. Here’s Brett, a CKI-1, at the beginning of our last CKI Seminar.
Brett’s rounded shoulders and thoracic flexion are obvious at the top of his swings. Both are clear indicators that his shoulders are NOT packed.  Brett cleaned this up in short order… In this next video we compare Brett’s initial swing to his new swing 30-minutes later after some skill work at a CKI-1 Seminar.
Now that you’ve seen the difference… let’s talk about corrections… Also: Thank you Brett… he has an exceptional swing now!
Here are a few drills we like to use to correct this issue:
As we always say… please keep in mind that there are many, many more options (for example: for some students all you need to do is introduce the high tension plank). However, we have found these drill to be some of the most effective in helping students acquire the skill of maintaining a packed shoulder.
In Brett’s case he only needed 1 drill to clean up his posture and it wasn’t any of the drill from aboveFor Brett, it was all about  the hip hinge drill. While this is not one we always use for this issue, if it works… it works.
Unfortunately, “Lat Amnesia” seems to be as much of an issue as “Glute Amnesia”. So… when you see a student having a hard time packing / keeping their shoulder packed (and you will see this) try some of the drills above.  Try other drills too… find what works. Go with whatever drill or corrective most effectively helps the student engage their lats / maintain a packed shoulder. Its all about quality practice. For those of you who read The Talent Code… as you know… it all about building myelin.
Great news you can learn so much more about kettlebell training on Saturday, 6/13/15 at Mavlern Prep. It’s our next scheduled CKI-1 Seminar.
Before we let you go… one last thing… A big congrats to Erik and the The Miller Family on the birth of Lola (FYI: this is Joe writing this and not Erik congratulating himself)
Lola

The Kettlebell Coaching Series Pt 2: Glute Activation

Glutes. There is a lot of talk about butt muscles these days. Two months ago Tiger Woods blamed his poor play on the inability to fire his glutes during his swing.  While we are not sure that was the problem for Tiger, lack of muscular contraction in the glutes is an issue for many people. As a result, a lot of time and effort is spent by trainers, S&C Coaches, and performance coaches simply trying to get the glutes to “fire”.

Here’s a very brief anatomy / physiology review of the glutes

glutes2The glutes along with the “abs” are prime stabilizers of the pelvis and torso. The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. The three muscles originate from the illium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the gluteal muscles and one of the strongest in the body. Its action is to extend and to laterally rotate the hip, and also to extend the trunk.

Everyone wants to “strengthen their core”, but it seems we overlook the glutes. A term was coined (not sure by whom) to describe the inability to contract the gluteal muscles. That term is “Gluteal Amnesia”. Basically it means we forget how to contract our glutes. This is a real issue for some people. Sitting for long periods can lead to the gluteal muscles atrophying through constant pressure and disuse. This is also associated with lower back pain and difficulty with some movements that naturally require the glutes (i.e. rising from the seated position, and climbing stairs).

Glutes and Swings

DSC_1080

When it comes to kettlebell swings, a strong gluteal contraction is critical to produce adequate power to correctly perform the movement and to stabilize/protect the lumbar spine. Based upon the information above it is clear steps might need to be taken in order to make sure the glutes do their job in the swing to prevent disaster. There are many simple drills to help students fire those glutes.

Here’s a few we really like…

Please keep in mind that there are many, many more options. However, we have found these drills to be effective in helping students learn to reach a high level of Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC). MVC is the greatest amount of tension you can apply to a muscle. It is important to ensure your students can generate an adequate level of glute MVC before performing swings.

Given the risk… why swing at all?

It is the fitness professional’s job to measure the risk and reward of each exercise. When the reward outweighs the risk it’s reasonable to consider adding the exercise in question. We all know that there is an inherit risk in swinging kettlebell, aka a cannonball with a handle. However, good coaching combined with the right movement prep and drills can significantly reduce the risk of injury in the swing. Additionally, the potential rewards are substantial. Research has proven that kettlebell swings are an incredible exercise for your “core”, posterior chain, and more specifically glutes. Two recent studies published by Stu McGill and Leigh Marshall in January 2012 and another by Kreutzfeldt Zebis and colleagues in July 2012 showed a very high MVC of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings).

Muscle % MVC
Glute Maximus 76
Glute Medius 70
Semitendinosus 115
Bicep Femoris 93

McGill also included a case study on Pavel Tsatsouline and when swinging a 32KG bell he was able to achieve 100% peak muscle activation in the glute maximus and over 150% in his erector spinae.

As a frame reference, the glute MVC numbers for some other “hip extension” exercises are 55% MVC in the Deadlift and 52% in the Sumo Deadlift (as per Bret Contreras).

Bringing it together

Teaching your students to brace their core to protect their spine and minimize “energy leakage” is a basic skill that MUST be taught. Practicing this skill until it becomes automatic is critical so that your student can safely progress to higher level activities. While kettlebell swings are a great hip extension exercise that helps develop strong glutes, laying the foundation of gluteal activation and general bracing strategies are essential, otherwise swings simply aren’t safe.  If you follow this model, adding swings to a student’s program will upgrade their movement skills and general fitness.

http://www.fit-edu.com