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Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Horizontal Pulls

A horizontal pulling exercise is any exercise that involves moving a weight in towards your torso horizontally from straight out in front of you. A good exercise routine should incorporate both pushing and pulling movements in order to keep a healthy balance, better posture, and prevention of shoulder injuries. Muscles involved in pulling exercises include biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, and middle trapezius.

Arm DB Row
There are a couple different variations that could be done with the one arm row. In the first and most common variation, set up with one dumbbell and put the opposite hand and knee on a flat bench. The back should be flat and the weighted arm should be straight with full extension in the shoulder. Keeping the core braced, bring the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side. Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. In the second variation, we are going to get a little more athletic and functional. It is called three stance row, or straddle stance row. Stand with the legs a little wider than shoulder width apart. Bend the knees slightly and make sure the feet are equally distributed and the back is flat (think linebacker).  Put one arm on the end of the bench or a 16-20” box. The hand with the dumbbell should be directly under the shoulder and centered. Row as described previously.

PUPP DB Row
Set up with two dumbbells in a push-up position plank. Keep the feet further apart to make the exercise easier, keep feet closer together to make it harder. Pull up one dumbbell, keeping the elbow close to the body and avoiding the tendency to dip the opposite hip. The body should stay still throughout the exercise. This variation is going to challenge the core as well as the rowing muscle groups. Alternate arms.

Horse Stance DB Row
This variation of the DB row is going to be more challenging than just a regular row as it is going to test your core stability and balance. Set up with one dumbbell and a bench. Put the opposite hand and knee on the bench and extend the free leg out horizontally, with the ankle dorsiflexed. The other arm is holding the dumbbell straight down as with any other row variation. Keeping the core braced, bring up the dumbbell in the same pattern as previously stated. Avoid the tendency to dip the opposite hip down. The weight used in this variation is going to be lighter than usual.

View the video here: https://youtu.be/gSMvrJGVeN4

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Vertical Presses

The vertical press targets the sternal and clavicular head of the pectoralis major to a small degree as well as the anterior deltoids in front of each shoulder. The triceps are the prime movers.  This is a tough movement for beginners to grasp because it requires a certain degree of mobility, but can be very beneficial to overall strength with a huge carry over to other pressing exercises. These movements can be performed kneeling or standing with one arm or two arms. Start from the ground and work your way to standing.

Tall Kneeling Bilateral DB Press: By starting in the tall kneeling position, we remove the hips, knees, and ankles from the equation.  This makes it easier to focus on what the upper body and core are doing along with eliminating common compensation patterns.  Kneel down on both knees with your toes dug into the ground.  Make sure your hips are fully extended (not sitting back on your feet).  From there simply bring the weights up to shoulder level with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).  Squeeze your grip and press upward while rotating your palms forward.  Stop when your elbows are locked and your biceps are by your ears.

Tall Kneeling Alternating DB Press: In this progression, the setup is the same as for the Tall Kneeling Bilateral Press, except you are going to alternate pressing one arm overhead at a time.

Tall Kneeling One Arm DB Press: This movement will require the same setup as the former two movements.  However, you will only use one weight and do one arm at a time.  This will require more rotational and lateral stability out of the core musculature.  Make sure to brace your core and don’t allow yourself to twist or shift your weight to one side.

½ Kneeling Bilateral DB Press: By lowering the center of mass, it is easier to practice moving through the hips and shoulders with less movement through the pelvis and lumbar spine, which is a common mistake and more difficult to fix in the standing position.  Assume a ½ kneeling position with the kneeling side toe dug in.  The front leg should be in line with your hip (not out to the side), and the ankle should be under or slightly behind the knee.  The knee that is down should be under your hip.  Bring a pair of dumbbells up to your shoulders with a neutral grip and press them overhead just as with the tall kneeling press.

½ Kneeling Alternating DB Press: Same setup as the ½ Kneeling Bilateral Press.  This version simply alternates the pressing.

½ Kneeling One Arm DB Press: Same setup as the previous two exercises.  For this version, you will only use one arm.  Grab a weight on the same side that you are kneeling on.  Start with a neutral grip and press overhead.  The asymmetrical loading will place a large stabilizing demand on the obliques and rectus abdominal musculature.

Standing Bilateral DB Press: Standing tall with the feet about shoulder width apart, bring the dumbbells up to shoulder level and press both at the same time. Make sure to keep core engaged and feet grounded. A common mistake is to arch the back and lean back just to get the weights up.  Make sure the weight being used isn’t forcing your body into extension just to lift them up.

Standing Alternating DB Press: The same setup as the previous exercise, just press one arm up at a time while the other stays at shoulder height. Try to avoid tilting in the shoulders.

Standing One Arm DB Press: The same setup as the previous exercise, just use one dumbbell and do one arm at a time.

Contralateral Standing DB Press: For this variation set up with one dumbbell, stand on the opposite leg than the dumbbell side. This movement will require core stability and balance and due to this, the weight used does not need to be heavy, which is ideal for those who suffer with shoulder pain as they can still feel challenged without lifting a heavy weight.

Video of vertical presses can be seen here: https://youtu.be/2-7T0ebGIkM

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Horizontal Presses

The Horizontal Pressing variations primarily work the pectoral musculature, anterior deltoid, and triceps.  The rotator cuff musculature plays a stabilizing role.  As we progress through this series, the core musculature, particularly the anterior core and glutes play even more of a stabilizing role.  The strength of the stabilizers will be your limiting factor on these movements, not the prime movers.  These movements can be performed on the floor, bench, or incline bench.

DB Bench Press: Set up with both feet planted firmly on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.  Lie down on the bench bringing the dumbbells to your shoulders as you do.  As soon as you are lying down, press the dumbbells straight up.  Try to keep your elbows at roughly 45 degrees from the side of your body.

Alternating DB Bench Press: With the same setup as the DB Bench Press, start with both arms extended straight and dumbbells touching. Lower one arm at a time keeping the other arm fully extended. This variation builds endurance and promotes stability in the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.

One Arm DB Bench Press: Performing a DB Bench Press with one arm really engages the core and stabilizer muscles in the chest. This is a great exercise for athletes as they are often required to throw, shoot, or hit a ball with one arm and this variation mimics that motion. Set up in the same position as the previous variations except only use one dumbbell. The other arm can extend out to the side or rest on the stomach. Lower the one arm down slowly and make sure to extend fully at the top, avoiding the tendency to lean to the opposite side.

Contralateral DB Bench Press: This variation of the dumbbell bench press requires the core to brace and stabilize while having one hip flexed and the other extended (just like it would be when throwing a ball). With one dumbbell that is lighter than one you would usually use for pressing, lay flat on the bench and bring the leg up on the same side as the dumbbell. Bend the knee at a 90 degree angle, flex the hip, and dorsiflex the ankle. The other foot is firmly planted on the floor. Place the free hand on the stomach or straight out to the side for balance. The core should be braced and the low back should be pressing into the bench as you press the dumbbell straight up just as in the other variations.

Watch video of press progressions here: https://youtu.be/4ihkyIOXi4g

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Hang Snatch

 

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Hang Snatch.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/TrOhhKLIpqA.

The Hang Snatch, like the Hang Clean, is a better, easier option to learn than the full Snatch or Power Snatch.  Again, you start from the standing position.  We teach the Hang Snatch with a Hang Clean grip.  The traditional grip of the Snatch is much wider and places much more stress on the shoulders.  It is done to reduce the distance the bar must travel so you can increase the load you are able to use.  If you are not competing in Weightlifting, however, this doesn’t matter.  Once you are ready for the Hang Snatch and have the required shoulder mobility (can you touch your fingers behind your back?), it is the best power movement out there. The lighter loads used on this exercise compared to the Hang Clean make it an even friendlier exercise on your spine and the longer bar path requires more power output.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Hang Clean

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Hang Clean.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do.  See the video here: https://youtu.be/KupitKep6Lk

The problem with the traditional Clean and Power Clean is that many people have trouble getting into a good position to start the movement.  The Hang Clean eliminates this problem by starting from the standing position.  It only requires a small amount of hip movement, yet still produces a great deal of power.  A good goal for your hang clean is to do the same amount of weight as your 1 rep max bench press.  If you can’t get there, you need more cleans and less bench work.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Push Press

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Push Press.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do.  See the video here: https://youtu.be/1pI4eb6lMYQ

The Push Press is a limited, less technical, portion of the Clean and Jerk weightlifting movement.  It’s a great alternative as it has been shown to increase power but is much simpler to teach.  As long as you possess adequate shoulder mobility, there is much less risk with this exercise.  If done properly, both the hips and shoulders produce a large amount of vertical force which has strong carryover to sports that require jumping and overhead activities (throwers, volleyball, etc.).

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Plyo Push Ups

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Plyo Push Ups.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/C0A0dibCmqE

Plyo Push Ups are a great horizontal power exercise for the upper body that simultaneously improves core stability. Pushing has obvious carryover for most sports and tends to be more on the speed side of the power spectrum. It can be easily progressed by adding a weight vest (use caution while performing this exercise due to force on the wrists).

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Split Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Split Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. See video here: https://youtu.be/yahWPNE0C-k

Those who have worked up to Split Jumps know it is a tremendous power exercise.  It challenges balance and puts the individual in a split stance which has much more carryover to running and cutting on the athletic field.  Split Jumps can be increased in difficulty by adding load (DBs or KBs in the hands or a weight vest) or by elevating the back foot.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Broad Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Broad Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/iAmz2kyOx-0.

Broad jumps are a great movement for developing horizontal power/force production. Traditional Olympic Lifts emphasize vertical force with little carryover to sprinting/jumping.  Broad jumps emphasize speed though loading them can be difficult.  However, if you wish to progress the exercise and you have good mechanics, add a weight vest with a load of 10-20% of your body weight.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Box Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Box Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/LV9DH157nrU.

Although named box jumps, this exercise should technically be called box landings.  The point of a box jump is to introduce jumping and landing mechanics without the impact and force absorption of the landing that can lead to injury in many individuals.  The goal here should be to jump and land, softly, in the same position.  Once mastered, a one leg hop progression can be added.  Lastly, a traditional jump or hop can be used since your body will be ready to properly absorb the force of the movement.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

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