What Causes Poor Mobility?

In the article Mobility and Stability Are The Keys To Improving Movement Efficiency we learned that Mobility is how well a joint can move, while stability is the ability to maintain control of joint movement.  Mobility is key for moving better, and moving better is key for feeling better.

Many things can limit mobility resulting in less than desired movement and performance:  

Muscle Imbalances
  • Soft tissue restriction.
  • Shortened and tight muscles (tissue elasticity).
  • Joint range of motion dysfunction.
  • Motor control problems.
  • Postural misalignment.
  • Muscle imbalances.
  • Neural dynamic issues.

While this list can be daunting, many of the techniques to improve mobility will fix the most common problems.  If the basic corrections fail to improve mobility, or discomfort worsens, a comprehensive assessment by a specialist is encouraged. Specialists will likely prescribe a follow up regiment of soft tissue mobilization, dynamic and static stretches and/or self mobilization to reinforce the manual work.  

Remember it took time for the dysfunctions to build up, so reversing the damage will take time as well.  But a few proactive minutes every day addressing problem areas, can improve movement efficiency, speed recovery, and improve sports performance and make moving feel good.

Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk Might Lack Mobility

If you lack adequate mobility, you could be the Incredible Hulk and still find it difficult to do basic body movements like bending over to tie a shoe or put your pants on.

 

Movement is Medicine

Kelly Starrett, a Physical Therapist, CrossFit Gym Owner, and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard writes “we believe that much of the orthopedic dysfunction we encounter in our physiotherapy and human performance coaching practice results from people either not having a movement practice or exercising like fiends in poor positions and in narrow exercise ranges”.

The other area I see mobility issues is in people who are busy with their life, and do not spend enough time moving.  Sitting at a computer for eight hours a day will shorten muscles, cause restrictions, and even cause muscle imbalances if poor posture remains the position of preference. 

Establishing a daily personal movement practice will greatly improve our mobility.   The three most pertinent areas we can work on include:

  1. Loosening soft tissue restrictions with Self-Myofascial Release (SMR).
  2. Addressing shortened and tight muscles (tissue elasticity) by stretching.
  3. Improving joint range of motion (ROM).

Stay tuned, we will break these areas into three separate articles in the near future.

 

Engage Your Core!

We hear “engage your core” all the time by our Coaches, but what exactly does that mean? Do we suck in the belly just before a movement? Do we keep it sucked in the entire time? How do we breathe when we are sucking in our abs?  This article will answer those burning questions, plus teach you the importance of bracing your core to help us move more effectively.

First, What is Your “Core?”

Your “core” are the muscles that control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis, and stabilize the spine for voluntary and involuntary loading.  A strong core allows optimal production, transfer and control of force and motion to other areas of the body, and is the basis for good posture. Those with a weak core are much more prone to suffer back injuries, have greater difficulty with basic and advanced exercises, and are less likely to reach their strength potential.

 

The “Core Box”

Think of your “core” as essentially a box, with each side being several layers thick. It can be divided into front, back, top, and the sides.

 

 

On the posterior surface, or the back, the spinal stabilizing muscles (erector spinae, multifidus and latissimus dorsi) run from your shoulder blades, along your spine and back.  They are important for segmental stabilization of vertebrae, and are rich in sensory nerves, transmitting continual feedback to the brain regarding loading and position of the spine.  These muscles generate gross movement and forces.

The diaphragm muscle forms the top of the “core box”, and is also the primary muscle for breathing. So this is where the breathing part comes in when we teach how to engage our core.  There are many recent studies of how important proper breathing is to sports and movement. There will be more articles on this topic in the future.

The outermost layer on the anterior surface or front is the powerful rectus abdominis muscle, which begins at the pubic bone and ends at the sternum. This muscle is activated while doing crunches because it pulls the ribs and the pelvis in and curves the back. This muscle is also used during childbirth, bowel movements, and coughing. Breathing in and holding the rectus abdominis in pulls in the abdomen. When this muscle is exercised and layers of fat disappear from the abdomen, the exposed rectus abdominis muscle creates the look of a “six pack.”

 

The transverse abdominis (TVA)  is also on the front wall with the rectus abdominis but is the deepest layer.  The TVA is often referred to as the corset muscle since activation produces a hoop effect similar to cinching a belt around the waist.  This contraction pulls in the muscles, stabilizes the low back and pelvis before movement, and increases intraabdominal pressure to help brace the core. Having a strong TVA produces a slimming effect by drawing in the abdominal area.  A weak TVA can cause the lower abdomen to pooch out, and allow the pelvis to become anteriorly rotated, an imbalance that can lead to further dysfunctions.

The quadratus lumborum, external and internal obliques connect the front to the back (ie are the sides of the box), while the pelvic floor musculature comprises the bottom of the “box”.  These muscles stiffen to support loading and movement, and provide a stable foundation for the body to work from.

So How Do I Engage My Core?

First lets see if you can engage your TVA.  You can’t strengthen a muscle you don’t know how to activate.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent. Find your Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (the ASIS is the top corner of the hip bone).  
  2. Place a finger on your ASIS bone and then slide the finger an inch toward the belly button.
  3. “Draw in” the muscle of the TVA (10- 50%) but not maximal effort because that will engage the rectus abdominis. Another example would be to suck your belly button to your spine. It is important to keep breathing as you maintain a nice easy contraction of the TVA.
  4. You should feel the TVA muscle when you contract it.  You should not have any other movement occurring.

 

Strengthen the TVA

  1. Perform 3 sets X 10 repetitions with a 3 to 5 second tempo and a 10 second rest between each set, while still breathing normally throughout the exercise.
  2. Now do the lying TVA activation but lift one leg while bracing the TVA. Don’t hold your breath or bulge your lower abdomen.
  3. Once you can lift the legs with proper form, lie on your side, and do a clam shell move (keep ankles together and lift your top knee) while maintaining the TVA activation.
  4. Now work toward bracing the core while walking and moving.  

Other Ways to Engage the Core

The various cues for core engagement may vary depending on the specific movement you are doing, but in general, here are a few ways to turn on additional core muscles:

  1. Scapular Retraction.  Press your shoulder blades down and away from your ears as this helps to ‘cap’ the contraction of the abs and engages the core muscles in your back.
  2. Pelvic Floor Contraction.  Think of ‘lifting up’ through the pelvic floor to engage the muscles in the pelvic floor and deepen the contraction of your abdominal muscles.
  3. Proper Breathing.  Use your diaphragm, not only your chest during each breath. Your stomach should also rise and fall with each breath.
    • Breath out during the concentric phase (like the upward pushing during a push up)
    • Breath in during the eccentric phase (at the top of the pushup and during the initial lowering.

Starting Core Exercises To Develop Strength

There are many core exercise that will help strengthen the entire region and provide life lasting benefits for you.  Work your core three times a week on nonconsecutive days for 5 minutes.  Start with the first exercises listed below and progress to more difficult ones and you become stronger.

  1. Dead Bug – Start with keeping knees at 90 degrees and arms elevated. Slowly move one arm back overhead, then the other.  Progress to opposite leg and arms moving while building the number of repetitions.
  2. Quadruped – On hands and knees, slowly extend one leg while maintaining core bracing.  Once comfortable, add in the opposite arm. Extend the length of time you can hold each limb. Also add in movement by tucking the raised knee into the the raised elbow, then extending back again.3. Plank –  Variations include starting on knees, then progressing to elbows, to straight arms, leg or arm lifts then to moving planks and unstable surfaces such as on a Bosu Ball, or large ball.

4. Side Plank – Variations include starting on a knee, then elbow, then straight arm, then moving arms overhead, and then unstable surfaces.

5. There are many more advanced moves like bicycle crunches, atomic sit ups, V-Ups, Oblique twists, etc.  See this Pinterest board for additional core exercises.  https://www.pinterest.com/finney2734/core/

A strong core will make your movement patterns more efficient, decrease chances of a back injury, and will enable you to generate more power to your limbs.  Your posture will improve and if you have ever experienced bouts of incontinence during jump roping, that too can go away with proper core work.  As far as those six pack muscles shining through, these exercises will start you in that direction but six packs are also made in the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

Did Your 2018 Fitness Goals Already End?

 

What, your 2018 fitness goals have already died? Hold on, it really isn’t as hard as you think. Just pick one obtainable fitness goal and make it into a habit. Once a habit is formed, then you are on your way to setting a new goal(s).  Habits are built on consistency and that means every little step adds up to big eventual changes.  Don’t miss your target by failing to think through your goal setting.

All goals should follow the S.M.A.R.T. Goals outline to improve your chance for successful completion.   S.M.A.R.T. Goals should be:

  • Specific – Clearly written and defined.
  • Measurable – Provide tangible information so you know what is required.
  • Attainable – Should stretch you so you feel challenged but not overwhelmed.
  • Realistic – Measure an outcome(s) you are willing and able to do.
  • Time bound – Specify a timeframe to accomplish the goal(s).

I like to add 3 additional steps:

Step 1 – PLAN. Break you goal down into little steps, and structure your plan of attack to reach each small step along your journey. Write your goal down where you can re-visit it daily. Make a written check off sheet to show your daily completion.

Step 2 – REASON.  Write down your “Why” for your goal.  “Why” is this important to you?  Will it make you better or healthier?   Will failure or success impact others?

Step 3 – FOLLOW THROUGH. You’ve heard the phrase, once you do something 21 times it becomes a habit? So focus on the next 21 days:

  • Create an environment conducive to success.
  • Stick motivational quotes or pictures across your mirror so every morning you have to see them.
  • Talk about your goal(s) with friends and family so they can encourage you when the going gets rough.
  • Partner up with someone who has a similar goal.
  • Reward yourself when you hit 21 days of consistency.

 

My 2018 Fitness Goal:

To be able to perform 100 Double Unders in a row by December 31, 2018. My plan is to practice Double Unders two times per week after my workout. I will rotate between jumping for timed intervals and jumping for a maximum number per set (ie keep jumping until I get 20 in a row). My reason is to overcome my struggles with this CrossFit Movement that I find very difficult. I have worked on improving my Double Unders for over two years, but a lack of consistency has halted my potential.  When I hit 50 in a row, then I plan to go out for a nice dinner as my consistency reward.  So here it is…… my goal is public and I am on my way.  What about you?  Will you join me in building a new habit?

 

 

Rogue Voodoo Bands Review

If you’ve ever seen somebody use a Voodoo Floss band before, you probably wondered what exactly they were hoping to accomplish by wrapping a band around some body part and then moving it around. Moreover, if you managed to actually talk with the owner you probably heard some fantastic tale of it solving pain that had been nagging them for years. Understandably you were a bit skeptical so you went to the Internet to find the truth. Lets see how Voodoo Floss Bands really stack up.

First things first : Price: $24 USD for (2) 7’ bands or $42 USD for (1) 28’ band.

Manufacturer: Rogue Fitness.  You can buy them here at Rogue.

Additional brands are available through Amazon.

Voodoo Floss Bands

How They Work:

Voodoo Floss Bands provide compression to a specific joint or muscle(s). When this compression is coupled with movement, a phenomena known as ‘tacking and flossing’, multiple things occur. It improves range of motion by helping to reduce tissue restriction, improves joint mechanics, and pushes swelling out of the area and into the lymphatic system for proper drainage.

How to Use:

Voodoo Floss Bands are very simple to use and merely require one, sometimes two, hands to wrap the band around the desired area. Dr. Kelly Starrett recommends to wrap the band towards the heart, beginning at the furthest point from the heart for the desired area. An example for a knee wrap would be to begin wrapping below the knee and work up towards your quadriceps.

Pros:

Easy: There is essentially zero learning curve, just wrap the band around the desired area and tuck it back into itself and start mobilizing. Also it is very easy to carry around in a gym bag or anywhere on the go.

Longevity: This is a quality product that I have used for 3 years now and it works just as well as when I first purchased it. It will fade over time and usage, but we aren’t shooting for cool points here.

Multi Purpose: Can be used for mobilizing/stretching to improve movement and to reduce inflammation from nagging injuries/help recover for the next workout. This is huge as most mobility tools are single facet like foam rollers just providing myofascial release. Perfect for warming up for a WOD or cooling down and stretching afterwards.

Quick Results: Only takes up to a minute or two of mobilizing to make immediately noticeable changes to your physiology. This is especially prominent if you’re trying to work out inflammation.

Adaptability: Nearly any part of your limbs (legs/arms) so ankles, knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders, etc can be treated. Stay away from the trunk as they were not designed for that.

Cons:

One Person Ease of Use: Some positions can be tough to wrap such as elbows or shoulders, so having a partner in these situations will make it much easier. I highly recommend mobilizing at your box with a friend, both before or after a WOD as it is makes the time go much faster.

Should Clean: I say “should clean” because I have cleaned my own set once in the preceding three years; however, I do the majority of my mobilizations at home when I’m not sweaty. If you find yourself using the bands to warmup or cool down from workouts, you’re likely sweating a fair amount and they can attract dirt and other grime. A quick wash with some soap will make them sparkle again!

Temporary Skin Marks: You will more than likely see redness and marks on your skin from your use of the bands. If you begin to notice any unbearable tingling sensations or pain, the band is probably too tight, immediately remove it.  Skin marks typically last only between 5-20 minutes, then fade away.

Conclusion:

The Voodoo Floss Bands are one of the premier mobility products for any athlete and I personally consider them one of my top three mobility tools along with my lacrosse ball and foam roller. I recommend this product to anybody dealing with inflammation in their arms and legs, those trying to improve their mobility and movement patterns, and to anyone wishing to spend a few minutes doing some preventative maintenance to avoid future injuries.

 

*This page may contain affiliate links that help support this website.

Strict Pull Up Progressions – You Can Do This!

Mastering the strict pull up is a fitness goal many people would like to accomplish. Being a strength based skill, strict pull ups can be difficult to achieve, especially for women who notoriously lack the upper body strength for this movement. The following are key steps for achieving this goal:

  1. Follow a progression program
  2. Be consistent with practice and increasing the level of difficulty
  3. Use good muscle movement patterns
  4. And don’t give up, good things take time to achieve

Commit 15-20 minutes, 3 days a week to the progressions. You need to put in the effort if you want results … you can do this!!!

Level One – Your First Strict Pull Up

Always Warm Up your shoulders before doing any pull up progressions.  Examples include:

  • Arm swings – forward and reverse.  2 X 12
  • Banded face pulls – make sure to retract and depress your scapula together on every pull.  2×12
  • Shoulder rolls forward and back.  2 X 12
  • Arm punches out from chest.  2 X 12
  • Push ups.  2 X 12

Afterwards cool down and stretch out.

  • Foam roll each latissimus dorsi for 1-2 minutes.
  • Foam roll the mid back and do thoracic extensions (arms reaching overhead with thumbs toward the ground).
  • Kneel on both knees with arms extended out in front of you with forearms on a foam roller, push chest down through your arms, toward the ground.

Important Details: A proper pull up should be initiated with the scapula.

Bar Hangs with scapular retraction – This step is crucial to ensuring you know how to activate your scapula. Use a box/bench to climb and grab onto the pull up bar (use a band to assist if necessary). Hold the bar with hands pronated, i.e. palms facing the bar.

Test your ability to do scapular retractions, pulling the scapula together and down. Your body should raise by an inch or two as your back engages. You should be able to do 5 reps of slow, gradual scapular retractions, holding for 2 seconds, then slowly releasing before beginning the push up progression program.

Active Scapular Retraction 
No scapular retraction, forward rounding of shoulders.
  • Do not hang from the bar with a limp form, this will stress the shoulders and potentially cause injury. Pulling up with the arms causes the shoulders to pull forward and down as seen in the photo above.
  • A supinated grip ( palms facing the bar as done in chin ups) is a good variation to use during your progression training.
  • Do not arch the body, swing, or bend at the waist to try and get momentum. A strict pull up is slow and controlled.
  • Every pull up must be started with scapular retractions in place prior to pulling up.

Now you are ready to begin your progressions. It might take several weeks to build the strength, so be patient and trust the process.  Building the requisite muscles takes time.  Before hanging from the bar, practice this pull up variation found below:

 

 

Progressive Workouts:

Vary workouts each week by adding reps and/or weight, and decreasing band size. Constantly varied stimulus with progressive overload are the keys to building strength.

A1) Seated Strict DB Press 3 X 8 at a weight that challenges you by the 8th rep.

Seated DB Press

A2) Scapular retraction bar hangs 3 X 5 (hold 2 seconds each). Start with a band if necessary to help support your weight.

A3) Banded pull ups 3 X 8 with a heavy band down by feet so you are standing on the band.

Low Band Pull Up

 

B1) Accumulate 25 ring rows. Once you can do 10 in a row, lower your angle to make it harder. Eventually work toward having your body parallel to ground with your feet on a box or bench.

B2) Chin over bar holds.  Do a jumping pull up to the bar. Static hold your chin over the bar for 1 – 2 seconds, then slow lower down to the bottom position in a controlled descent over 3 to 4 seconds. This is an eccentric stimulus and is important in building strength.

Pull Up with hollow hold, feet pointed

B3) Banded Pull Ups 3 X 8  with a band looped on the top bar. Reduce the band thickness when able to do so.

Top Banded Pull Up Assist

 

C1) Sitting Strict DB Arnold Press  3 x 8.  Start the press at your chest level, rotate your hands from internal (palms facing in) to external rotation (palms facing forward) during the press. Pause at the top for 1 to 2 seconds.

DB Arnold Press Top

C2) Scapular Retractions bar hangs.  4 X 15 sec holds.

C3) Jumping pull ups. 3 x 8. Make sure to keep core in a hollow hold, with feet tight together and toes pointed forward. Always retract the scapula as you begin to pull.

An example of the programming with varying stimulus is below.  Remember, your programming will begin at a level that you can currently achieve, and then you will increase the difficulty as you progress :

Week 1

Monday: warm up, then do:

A1) Seated 10 lb DB press. 3 X 8;

A2) Scapular retraction bar hangs with a band. 2 X 5 for 2 seconds;

A3) Banded pull ups with thick band at feet for assist. 3 X 8.

Wednesday: warm up, then do:

B1) AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) of Ring Rows until fatigue.

B2) Chin over bar holds. Jump up, hold 2 seconds then slow lower. Do 5X

B3) Band from top bar pull ups with one or two legs in loop. Do AMRAP, rest and do 4 more.

Friday: warm up, then do:

C1) Seated DB Arnold press 10 lb DB press. 3 X 8

C2) Scapular Retractions bar hangs.  4 X 15 sec holds.

C3) Jumping pull ups. 3 x 8.

 

Enjoy the process and the final results will come.

CrossFit Definitions, Acronyms and Abbreviation

Have you ever been confused about your workout when the chalkboard says:


Today’s WOD:

21-15-9

DL 225/155

HSPU


This handy guide will explain what CrossFit abbreviations are.  In the example above, this workout is a “couplet” meaning two  movements . The clock is set and the athlete begins doing 21 Dead Lifts, followed by 21 Hand Stand Push Ups. Without resting they go into 15Dead Lifts, 15 Hand Stand Push Us, and then into 9 repetitions of DL’s and HSPU.   The 225 number is the DL weight for men as Rx’d (as prescribed) while women doing Rx would lift 155 pounds. Many athletes cannot lift the Rx weight or do an Rx movement, so they scale the weight or movement and still get an intense workout.

Every correctly completed movement is counted as a rep.  A “No Rep” means the movement was not performed to standards and will need to be redone.   The athlete can then record their workout time as their score.

Many foundational CrossFit workouts are called “The Girls”  because they have a girls name, such as “Diane,” which is described above.  Hero Workouts are named after fallen soldiers, police officers, firefighters and other public safety officers who were CrossFitters that died in the line of duty.

AMRAP-As Many Reps As Possible, usually in a specified time.

ATG: Ass to Grass, as in squat with butt below parallel.

BP: Bench press.

BS: Back squat.

BW (or BWT): Body weight.

CLN: Clean.

C&J: Clean and jerk.

DL: Deadlift.

DU: Double Under. When the jump rope goes around the person two times for every one jump.

FS: Front squat.

GHD: Glute ham developer. Posterior chain exercise, like a back extension.

GHD Situp: Situp done on the GHD bench.  

HSPU: Hand stand push up. Kick up into a handstand (use wall for balance),bend arms and push body up by locking out arms.

HSQ: Hang squat (clean or snatch). Start with bar “at the hang,” about knee height. Initiate pull. As the bar rises drop into a full squat and catch the bar in the racked position. From there, rise to a standing position.

KB: Kettlebell.

KTE: Knees to elbows. Similar to TTBs described below.

MetCon: Metabolic Conditioning workout. 

MP: Military press.

MU: Muscle ups. Hanging from rings you do a combination pull-up and dip so you end in an upright support.

OHS: Overhead squat. Full-depth squat performed while arms are locked out in a wide grip press position above (and usually behind) the head.

PC: Power clean.

PR: Personal record.

PP: Push press.

PSN: Power snatch.

PU: Pull-ups, possibly push ups depending on the context.

Rep: Repetition. One performance of an exercise.

Rx’d; as Rx’d: As prescribed; as written. WOD done without any adjustments.

RM: Repetition maximum. Your 1RM is your max lift for one rep. Your 10 RM is the most you can lift 10 times.

SCALING: Reducing the prescribed workout for a beginning athlete or until the movement is learned by decreasing weight, or modifying movements. ie if unable to do a strict pull up, use bands to assist in pull ups until strength is gained to complete as RD’d.

SDHP: Sumo deadlift high pull.

Set: A number of repetitions. e.g., 3 sets of 10 reps, often seen as 3×10, means do 10 reps, rest, repeat, rest, repeat.

SN: Snatch.

SQ: Air Squat.

SU: Single Under. The jump rope passes around the person one time for every one jump.

Tabata – a high intensity interval workout inspired by Dr. Izumi Tabata where an all out extreme intensity is done for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated for 8 rounds or 4 minutes total.

TGU: Turkish get-up.

TTB: Toes to bar. Hang from bar. Bending only at waist raise your toes to touch the bar, slowly lower them and repeat.

WOD: Workout of the day.