Unfortunately they are everywhere, giving personal trainers a bad reputation, neglecting the fundamentals of movement and the specific biomechanics of each exercise. Reinforcing bad habits, poor posture and muscle imbalances and of course increasing the likelihood of injury.
Yesterday I saw a group of girls doing pushups where it looked more like they were praying to Mecca.
I saw people doing step ups where struggle to rise then balance themselves at the top.
I saw people squatting when their knees are almost kissing at flexion.
I saw people dipping on benches with their hips closer to their ankles than the bench.
IT HAS TO STOP.
There is NO governing body policing neglectful and incompetent personal trainers. I would love that job!
So learn the basics yourself, learn how to position your body for maximal tension. Tension through the right muscles. Tension through the muscles that support your spine and keep you aligned and upright and able to move efficiently and effectively. Without applying these essential technique tips you are wasting your time doing exercise.
These are the foundations of movement. Not only applicable on the gym floor or exercising at the beach. These are the body positioning and muscular-tension building tips that APPLY TO LIFE. Standing, sitting, walking, running, lifting, swimming, playing. Simple cues for you to reinforce until they become unconscious healthy habits.
Save your back, your neck, your knees and your overall health by applying these now, tomorrow, and every time you exercise.
STEP 1: STANDING POSITION (feet shoulder width apart, hands by your side):
* GLUTES OF STEEL – Activate your glutes (aka. bum, bottom, butt, booty, derriere), squeeze them and make sure (by touching) that there is maximal tension in them. Your goal is to maintain glute activation through a range of movement (ie when squatting). One great little cue is to imagine holding a pure gold coin between your butt cheeks, now squat without dropping it. See, can you feel your “Glutes of steel“!
* PELVIC BALANCE – Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all body parts are in good alignment. To find this try ‘humping the air’, take your pelvis from maximum anterior tilt to maximum posterior tilt. If you have very little movement here then that is a ‘RED FLAG’ – you need to free up this area. Now imagine your pelvis as a bucket and “Don’t spill the water” by holding it ‘flat’ between the two positions. For most people this will be a slight anterior tilt (reinforcing the activation of your glutes -see above).
*SCAPULAR POSITIONING – “Put your shoulders in their sockets“. We live in a ‘pushing dominant’ world as can be seen by the prevalence of rounded shoulders and kyphotic upper backs. Most of us are also upper trap dominant from constantly shrugging or holding our tense shoulders up toward our ears. ‘Back and down’ is a simple cue. This should not only correctly align your shoulders, stable in their girdle, it should also lift your chest (open your lungs) and straighten up your thoracic spine. NOTE. It is easy to overcompensate here so from this position “Tuck your ribs in”. Ah ha… feel your core activate?
“Wow, you look hotter already, and taller, and leaner… seriously!”
* MUSCULAR TENSION (Lower) – Now “Screw your feet into the floor“. Imagine tearing the ground apart with your feet and feel the tension in your calfs, quads and glute muscles. This will help you track your knees (avoiding valgus – knock knees) over your toes reinforcing correct muscle firing sequencing and helping your glutes and quads take the load.
STEP 2: PUSH UP POSITION
* Start with the first three teaching points from above:
“Glutes of steel” – squeeze those peaches
“Don’t spill the water” – neutral pelvis
“Shoulders in their sockets” – strong scapular position
“Tuck your ribs” – fire your core
* MUSCULAR TENSION (Upper) -Now “Screw your hands into the floor“. Imagine snapping a stick with your hands and feel the tension in your rhomboids, lats and chest muscles. This will help you track your elbows (aiming to keep them around 45 degrees in a push up) reinforcing correct muscle firing sequencing and helping your chest and triceps take the load.
OK so these are the foundations of body positioning for all movements. The fundamental cues you need to practice and reinforce until they become second nature. Try them now and feel the difference when you move. You will find some exercises harder – push ups for example – but this is because you are finally doing them properly. Remember exercise is not about reps, at least not until technique is mastered. Focus on building maximum tension and impeccable technique not counting reps. Feel each exercise in the core and glutes as well as the target muscles for that particular movement. So stop counting reps and instead I would recommend training for time instead (ie. starting with 20-40 second sets of controlled 4-8 second reps). One perfectly executed rep at a time is your goal.
Please read these tips again and apply them to your exercise routine. They will not only deliver you better results, they will bulletproof your body, improve your posture and make you a functional machine.