The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing (For Your Shoulders) Part 2

In our last post on the Armbar Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Physical Therapy took me (Coach Joe of Fit EDU) through the set up of the unloaded Armbar. Now it’s time to take the next step, but first a follow up to “my shoulder story”. I am still working my way back to 100%  and regularly perform the Armbar months after completing PT. Here’s why I mention my progress… I feel much more stable/packed in all loaded upperbody push/pull work because I am “in touch” with my shoulder stabilizers… particularly immediately after performing the Armbar in my prep work.  I am better able to get and keep the stabilizers active and know this will improve performance and prevent injury long term.

Now back to why you clicked…

Now that you have a basic understanding of what the Armbar is, when/why to implement this exercise, appropriate body position, and how to get into position it’s time to introduce load (from part 1 of this series). Please note it is critical to be conservative with the weight load and to follow each step in this process. Additionally, a kettlebell (not a dumbbell) is our preferred method of loading for a variety of reasons.

When making the transition from unloaded to loaded with the Armbar (assuming correct position) you will immediately feel the stabilizers (posterior cuff and serratus anterior just to name a few) turn on. When watching the video below you will notice quite a bit of shaking when Kathy loads me with just a 12kg kettlebell (55 seconds in). This isn’t a bad thing and is a great opportunity to help your students/patients/clients feel their shoulder stabilizers turn. This has become my “go to” exercise to teach shoulder packing even before loaded carries.

Here Kathy coaches and explains how to perform and coach the loaded Kettlebell Armbar with Shoulder Internal/External Rotation.

Important coaching points to remember:

  1. Ensure proper alignment of the spine, scapula, and arm before introducing load… position is everything
  2. Watch and palpate the scapula, pecs, traps, and lats to minimize compensation
  3. Develop cues that work for you as it relates to describing ideal shoulder blade position (I like “slide your shoulder blade into your back pocket”) and muscle activation
  4. Master the static loaded hold in this position before introducing internal/external rotation

Here’s a recap of the step by step process of the Loaded Kettlebell Armbar:

DSC_0003DSC_0010DSC_0011DSC_0018DSC_0019

  1. Assume a supine position (pic 1)
  2. Grasp a kettlebell with the hand on the “working side” and bend the “working side’s” knee
  3. Placed the other hand behind the head and keep the other leg straight (pic 2)
  4. DSC_0008DSC_0009 Establishing posterior cuff activation {be sure the ribs are down (not splayed) and the spine is neutral} and then press the kettlebell up to the position in pic 2-notice how I closed the gap between the scapula and the ground in the above pics
  5. Ensure proper alignment of the arm and shoulder blade on the working side and centrate the joint (pic 2)
  6. From this position roll the body as one unit onto the “non-working” side while maintaining shoulder joint centration and scapular position (pic 3)
  7. Connect the working side’s knee to the ground (pic 3)
  8. Now that you’re finally in position ensure proper alignment of the spine  and working arm (fist is directly above the shoulder joint) (pic 3)
  9. Activate the posterior cuff and Serratus Anterior in order maintain a depressed and retracted scapula
  10. Slowly perform internal/external rotation of the shoulder joint with an increased emphasis on maximal external rotation (pics 4 and 5)

If it’s already obvious to you, this is an exercise you must practice on your own before implementing into your performance or rehab programs. If you are working alone we recommend videoing from a posterior view and reviewing positioning. However, your best bet is to perform with a colleague present so you can practice performance and coaching. Once again thank you Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Specialized Physical Therapy for great information.

Want to learn more about this or other fitness related topics? Then visit us at www.fit-edu.com for tips on kettlebell and barbell exercises, breathing and postural control, and metabolic conditioning just to name a few topics. We also just so happen to offer 5 (soon to be 6)  live, full-day seminars on a variety of fitness topics.

The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing For Your Shoulders Pt 1

The longer you work in the field of exercise science (really most fields for that matter) the more you realize how much you DON”T know. I am certainly no exception to this rule. Many years ago and after 3 Labral repairs and many rounds of physical therapy from football and basketball injuries I was convinced I had the shoulder all figured out. I knew the anatomy and physiology, understood the movements at the Glenohumeral Joint and Scapula, common injuries, best practices for “rehabbing”, and thought I understood the interplay between the movement at the scapula and the Glenohumeral Joint. Well… as it turns out I was wrong. After all the surgeries and physical therapy I still had atrocious motor control and poor posture which led to re-injury.

Now let’s skip ahead… I was back in physical therapy… this time at Action Potential UnknownSpecialized Physical Therapy in Glen Mills, PA. In one of my first appointments the therapists reintroduced me to the Arm Bar. I knew of this exercise, but rarely performed it, never prescribed it to clients, and never considered it’s potential benefits when “rehabbing the shoulder” . As it turns out, this exercise was absolutely critical to my lateral viewrecovery.  Specifically, performing The Arm Bar under the watch of Kathy and the team of Physical Therapists at Action Potential helped improved my motor control by  teaching me to quiet my Pecs,  Upper Traps and Lats while activating my  Serratus Anterior and “Posterior Cuff”. I tended to default to Lat activation in lieu of Serratus activation which led to a host of motor control problems.

Given my success with the Arm Bar, I thought writing a piece on it made sense. Particularly because most people are scared of this exercise since it looks high risk when holding a kettlebell and many of those who do perform it don’t adhere to some of the most important principles.  Let’s get starting on the Kettlebell Arm Bar…

What exactly is the Arm Bar?

If you don’t normally watch the videos in our blog reconsider on this topic as this is much easier understand by watching. Here Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Physical Therapy explains what the Arm Bar is.

kettlebell-arm-barThe demands the Arm Bar place on the body are unique. The Arm Bar is a mix of rotary stability and active hip extension to get into the position and becomes a combination of rotary stability and thoracic spine rotation while maintaining a packed and centrated shoulder joint. Got all that? Now on top of all those things we need to ensure the correct musculature is active and prime movers don’t jump in to act as stabilizers. When I first began performing this exercise in PT I recruited Lat or a mix of Pec and Anterior Delt which is way wrong.

How to set up the Arm Bar…

As we said earlier, watching while Kathy talks makes learning the set up and mechanics much easier.

The basic steps in setting up/getting into position for the Arm Bar are:

  1. Establishing a supine position with a bent knee on the kettlebell side and the opposite side’s arm placed behind the head
  2. Press the active side up while establishing Serratus Anterior, Lower Trap, and Rhomboid activation
  3. Be sure the ribs are down (not splayed) and the spine is neutral
  4. Ensure proper alignment of the arm on the working side relative to the shoulder and joint centration
  5. From this position roll the body as one unit onto the “non-working” side while maintaining shoulder joint contraption and the same scapular positionkettlebell-arm-bar
  6. Now assume the position in the picture to the right (notice the knee is connected to
    the ground)
  7. Now that you’re finally in position once again ensure proper alignment of the spine, shoulder blade, and working arm.
  8. Finally, activate the posterior cuff and Serratus Anterior (told you this is easier to watch!)

When is it appropriate to prescribe the Arm Bar and what are the benefits?

While the Arm Bar appears to be high risk, it is safe when executed properly and can produce significant benefits including improved shoulder packing, motor control, and when loaded strength.  I now use the Arm Bar to help students and clients understand how to pack/centrate the shoulder and as a prerequisite to the Turkish Get-Up. I even like to use this before getting into heavy carries because it’s great at putting clients/students in touch with their shoulder/scapular stabilizers.

We will leave it there for now, but we’ll be back soon with a second installment on the Arm Bar. After all, we need to add in internal/external rotation while maintaining a stable scapula! Before we let you go we should probably clear up this whole joint centration thing since it is a term regularly used by physical therapists, but not so much in fitness. Joint centration is a fancy was of saying centering the ball in the socket. Yup… it’s pretty much the same as “packing” your shoulder, but this term can be applied to any ball and socket joint (shoulder/hip).

A very big thanks to Kathy Dixon of Action Potential Specialized Physical Therapy for such great information on this topic. If you are local to the Glen Mills, PA Area and you or a client need physical therapy I highly recommend using Action Potential! They are one of the very, very few one to one Physical Therapy Clinics in our area.

Want to learn more about this or other fitness related topics? Then visit us at www.fit-edu.com for greats tips on kettlebell and barbell exercises, breathing and postural control, and metabolic conditioning just to name a few topics.

 

The most fundamental functional exercise

You know breathing is important when it comes to movement and training. We have all been taught exhale on the exertion and inhale on the return (this is a general statement… there are nuances). Ok great… easy enough, but is there more to it? If so, is this out of our scope as fitness professionals? 
To answer the above questions:
YES there is much, much more we should / need to do with our clients and NO it isn’t beyond our scope with a little education and practical experience on the most current science related to breathing assessment and corrective strategies. 

Human-LungBreathing is our first motor program. It’s also the most essential and foundational motor program we have. Unfortunately, we begin to lose optimal function of this pattern early in life. We’ll get into why later. When our breathing is compromised, so is our posture. When this occurs, our deep core muscles (specifically the diaphragm) don’t function properly and our breathing gets even worse.  This can have detrimental implications on movement quality because the diaphragm is the center point of our body. If the diaphragm is faulty, there is a lack of stability that no amount of abdominal or gluteal bracing can compensate for.  

Have you ever tried to improve a movement pattern OR increase ROM in a joint OR improve flexibility OR try to move up in weight in a “big lift” where all the “normal” strategies fail?  Believe it or not, if you’re not assessing and correcting breathing you might find that you get stuck more often than you’d like to admit. 
 Correcting breathing will:
DSC_01121. Improve deep core muscle function
2. Improve length in muscles being forced to assist in breathing because the deep core muscles are under-active
3. Allow joints to return to their optimal position (if they’re being pulled in bad position by overactive “compensatory muscles”)
4.     Improve bracing
5.     Decrease stress and anxiety
6.     Improve endurance
7.     Decrease neck tension
8.     Improve posture 


Whether you are a “function first” fitness professional, strength and conditioning coach, or specialize in fat loss you NEED to better educate yourself in this area and here’s why:
Function First Fitness Professionals:
6752PS2If your client is being pulled into flexion as a result of bad posture there are often significant posterior chain limitations. For my “FMS People”, I’m talking about a poor score on the Active Straight Leg Raise and/or Shoulder Mobility. Additionally, if you’re goal is to train the “core”, but you ignore deep core muscles you’re not training the core in an ideal manner. 
The bottom line is if you can’t breath correctly you aren’t really training the core. At least not the deep core.
Strength and Conditioning Coaches:

DL Rounded spineThis is an easy one. If you want your athletes to lift significant weight you need them to learn how to brace and maintain that brace while moving and applying significant force.  You also need to teach them power breathing. If your athletes lack the ability to perform basic diaphragmatic breathing they can’t correctly perform power breathing. Therefore, you will see bad posture in the head, shoulders, C-Spine, T-or Spine. I think we all know deadlifting heavy weight with bad posture can result in bad things…

 

Here’s how screening for and correcting dysfunctional breathing patterns will help in strength and power training:
Battling Ropes Metabolic ConditioningProfessionals Specializing In Weight Loss:
Your success (in the weight room) is all about getting the metabolism up and keeping it there for hours and days after the session. The better your client breathes, the more work they can perform in a session. If you’re programming the right way this will help your client in the quest for weight loss. 
So… Why do we lose our breathing patterns?

1.     Sitting too much (especially in bad posture)

2.     Too much screen time

3.     Poor posture / postural awareness

4.     Movement dysfunction (increased compensatory strategies)

5.     Early specialization in sports

6.     Improper training methods (Training muscles not movements)

Notice the trend above? The bottom line is spending too much time in flexion (sitting in some form) and poor movement are the primary culprits.
Where and how do breathing assessment and corrective strategies fit into your programming?
There are simple assessment and corrective techniques that can be included in your initial fitness screening and in their training programs. Just like any other exercise, it can be progressed and regressed accordingly. Most importantly, you are teaching them strategies they can integrate into their daily life to not only improve their fitness, but their overall well-being.


If you would like to learn specific strategies to screen for and correct dysfunction breathing patterns attend Breathing and Postural Control by Dr. Missimer on 4/2/16 in Malvern PA! www.fit-edu.com

The FMS and Screening for Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns

If you’re an FMS Practitioner and value the system (as you should) it’s used every day. Having a tool in your belt that exposes movement quality issues in the most fundamental of patterns is so important when it comes time to program corrective and traditional exercises. Knowing what movements are safe and which should be avoided (until the client is ready) was really a game changer for me in my career and maybe yours…?

Unknown-1Now that I’m done putting the FMS on a pedestal let’s talk about what it’s not… IT’S NOT THE WHOLE ANSWER.  Most of “us” also use additional break out test to determine if the issue in a pattern is motor control or a “hardware issue”. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, even when we add breakout testing (measuring dorsiflexion, glute max activation, hip hinge mechanics, etc.) to the process we don’t always come up with a corrective solution that works. 
 

What’s missing? 

BREATHING! 

We NEED to screen for dysfunctional breathing patterns so we have all the information we need to improve movement.
maxresdefaultWhen a client has dysfunctional breathing patterns all the leg raises, rolling drills, and foam rolling in the world won’t fix movement dysfunction. That is… until the breathing pattern is reset. 
DSC_0112Dysfunctional breathing patterns have the potential to wreak havoc on our bodies. Inhibition of respiratory stabilizers such as the diaphragm, TVA, multifidus, and obliques (just to name a few) force the respiratory system to default to the recruitment of muscles not designed to be involved in respiration. While the recruitment of these muscles is inefficient, the body will recruit whatever it needs to keep you alive and breathing. 
 

So what…???

Well… most often, dysfunctional breathing patterns will drive compensation upward and downward into the surrounding musculature of the shoulders and hips. To be more specific, pain and/or stiffness often presents in the Neck/Shoulder Musculature (Pec Minor, Scalenes, SCM)SI Joint/Lumbar Spine, and Anterior Hip Musculature. If significant enough compensations will likely result in mobility, stability, postural, and motor control issues.
Human-Lung
It’s finally time to bring this all together… If we don’t screen for dysfunctional breathing patterns we end up trying to prescribe correctives to address The Active Straight Leg Raise and Shoulder Mobility Screens. The likelihood of correcting movement dysfunction without addressing breathing is VERY UNLIKELY. Therefore, using a systematic method to screen for and correct dysfunctional breathing patterns is critical if we want to get our clients/patients the results they want. 
Now… to develop a systematic way of screening for and correcting dysfunctional breathing patterns. There’s lots of great breathing research out there now, but few systems that can easily be learned and implemented into your practice with ease. 
 

Until now…

Fit EDU and Dr. Arianne Missimer have collaborated to bring you Breathing and Postural Control. 
This course is designed to help you: 
1. Recognize the importance of breathing and postural control for optimal performance in life and sport
2. Develop a better understanding of functional anatomy including the fascial system
 
3. Identify screening methods for postural control and breathing dysfunction
 
4. Learn strategies to correct these deficits
 
5. Integrate screening and corrective strategies into your current fitness and/or corrective program
Seminar Details
SIGN UP & SAVE $100


Save $100 on Breathing and Postural Control when registering by 3/18/16
Use coupon code BREATHE at checkout. 
Limited to the first 5 registrations.

Offer Expires 3/18/16.

 

The Barbell Coaching Series: The Deadlift Part 3… Hip Position

Perform the ‪deadlift‬ ? Great! Are you sure you know what to do with your hips before “lift off”? Should they be high… or low… or somewhere in the middle? What if you’re tall or short? Much like Ricky Bobby being interviewed after winning his first race… you’re just not quite sure what to do with those hips before lift off. Well we got you… read on…

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In our previous posts about the deadlift we discussed how to set your feet, grip the bar, breathe, and explained the movement. However, we weren’t specific enough with how/where to set your hips. Since this is something many fitness professionals think they know, but often will admit to grey areas in how they explain hip position, we felt it necessary to dedicate a posts to the hips.

 

Common hip and body position set up flaws
DL Hips lowHips too low
– In this position, you’re not deadlifting… You’re squatting. The bar will inevitably scrape this shins… Bad… And you will have less than ideal leverage given your shin and torso angle. Oh yeah… And you’re not actually deadlifting.

If the hips are too low the shoulder blades will be behind the bar and will prevent the bar from leaving the ground. If it is light enough, the bar will leave the ground but be in front of the mid-foot, putting the student at a significant mechanical disadvantage. The vertical spine angle will likely lead to scraped shins from pulling the bar “through” the shins.. Remember the deadlift is more of a back exercise and less of a leg exercise.

DL hips highHips too high – In this position, you have poor leverage (quads cannot make a significant contribution) and you will have no choice but to pull with your “low back” putting significant stress on your lumbar spine.

If the hips are too high, the legs will be too straight. This will put all of the stress on the low back and hamstrings and the quadriceps won’t be in a position to contribute. The bar will also swing away from the shins creating a mechanical disadvantage making the bar feel heavier and more difficult to control.

DL Rounded spine

 

Spine in Flexion (upper back, lower back, or both) – While this technically isn’t a hip position issue, it’s still important to address. With the spine in flexion, shear forces will dominate the spinal column, leaking energy and increasing the chance of injury. If a neutral spine can not be obtained, put the bar up on blocks and pull from a height that allows the spine to be in a neutral position.

 

 

We discussed how different anthropometrics impact set up in one our previous posts. For more information how how shin and femur length differences results in differences in set up click here.

Much, much more to come on coaching barbell exercises in the future. Until then…

http://www.fit-edu.com

The Kettlebell Coaching Series:The Goblet Squat 3

In our last few squat pattern posts we addressed goblet squat form and coaching fixes specific to “pulling” into the squat and to address torso position. In this post we will discuss using Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) to fix movement dysfunction.

RNT uses outside resistance to neurologically turn on an automatic response. It is often seen as a “quick fix” of faulty movement patterns without using much cueing. RNT is implemented to improve functional stability and enhance motor-control skills with an automatic response.

95p_Frequency of ExerciseTo put it simply, RNT improves flawed movements by employing external resistance which the body must resist and react against. External force should be applied so that it exaggerates the issue. This can be accomplished by pulling with a band OR by physically pushing or pulling a segment of the body.  In the picture above the coach is pulling the students right knee into a valgus collapse. The students automatic response will be to push the knee away from the midline.

In the squat, RNT can be used to fix a variety of movement flaws including: valgus knee(s), torso position, and uneven loading (placing more weight on one leg) just to name a few. Over the years we have implemented RNT to “fix” valgus knee and torso position countless time. Let’s start with Valgus Knee(s).

Fixing Valgus Knee(s) with RNT

While most of us know that a primary reason  knees go valgus when applying force has a lot to do with Glute Max activation, many trainers and coaches don’t want to spend the time on correctives to fix this issue. This is more often the case in large group setting and can simply be a time issue. Using RNT in this situation can be a great “movement hack”.

DSC_0277Here’s how…If the student’s left knee is going valgus in the squat attach a band to a fixed object to their right side. Have the student arrange the band so it rest is just above the left knee and is pulling the thigh towards the midline (to the right in this case). Make sure there’s enough tension to make the student DSC_0280fight the band, but not so much that they can’t maintain the position.

If both knees go valgus set the band up in front of the student and arranged so it simultaneously pulls both knees valgus. Use the same rule of thumb for tension.

Fixing torso position with RNT

DSC_0283As we discussed in our last post, maintaining a tall torso in the squat can present challenges for many students. For some, RNT is exactly what the doctor ordered. In this case, affix one or two bands in front of the student and relatively low to the ground (this is dependent upon band length and tension). The student should arrange the bands to that they rest on the back of the shoulders thereby pulling their torso into flexion. The natural response should be to get tall. In this case we used two band and Erik assumed a overhead deep squat position. Use the same rule of thumb as above to determine appropriate tension.

We recommend performing sets of 15 repetitions when implementing RNT and little to no additional load. Immediately follow the RNT set with a weighted set for good transfer. If the form continues to break down in the weighted set just use the RNT technique for a few sessions OR try decreasing load.

For more information on fixing movement dysfunction in a variety of patterns refer to some of our previous blog posts and consider attending one of our upcoming seminars.

Current offerings:

Breathing and Postural Control: 4-2-16 in Malvern PA

Certified Kettlbell Coach Level 1: 1-30-16 in Malvern PA

Certified Kettlebell Coach Level 2: 2-27-16 in Malvern PA

Certified Barbell Coach: 3-12-16 in Malvern PA

Metabolic Conditioning: no scheduled seminars thus far

http://www.fit-edu.com

 

 

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.
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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.
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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.