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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 32

Written on February 8, 2013 at 10:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Thanks to Greg Robins, here are this week’s tips to make your nutrition strength and conditioning programs a bit more awesome.

1. Position your free hand in the correct place during unilateral upper body movements.

2. Improve exercise form by cueing spinal flexion, when appropriate.

In the following video I demonstrate a few exercises where spinal flexion is actually a good cue to keep people in better positions during the movement. It seems counter-intuitive, so what’s the deal?

First off, individuals may start of in a more extended posture. This is often the case with athletes, or really any active individuals. Therefore, cueing flexion brings you closer to neutral. This is something to which Eric devoted a lot of attention in Functional Stability Training.

As someone who is pretty extended, I often find that the appropriate positioning of my spine actually feels rounded over, or flexed. In reality, I am just less extended than usual. Try it out for yourself, and possibly try to grab a quick video so you can relate what you’re feeling to what it actually looks like. I think you will be surprised.

Second, certain exercises fit this description: They are inherently harder to execute without driving through back extension. Additionally, they are not loaded in such a way that erring on the side of being a little flexed is dangerous. With these movements, starting a bit flexed is helping, not hurting.

Third, many people who struggle with “anti-extension” exercises are simply unable to understand what should be kicking in to keep them in the right position. Taking these folks into a position of slight flexion helps them learn to use the abdominals. Before you knock it, try it out. You will find this cue gets most people to neutral, and in the cases where they remain slightly flexed you can gradually teach them to even out.

3. Pull through the floor when performing board and floor press variations.

Great benchers all have one thing in common: they use their lats well in their bench press technique. Using the lats to bench is tough to conceptualize, and even tougher to actualize when training. It was always a major issue for me, and held me back quite a bit. One great way to learn how to engage the lats is with the board press and floor press. When done the way I explain in this video you will be able to get some feed back on the “pulling” sensation you are looking for when lowering the bar. Give it a try!

4. Convert some of your favorite oils into sprays for cooking.

Most of us use oils to coat pans and dishes when cooking. One easy thing you can do to save a few calories, and dollars, is make spray bottles with your oils. It’s fairly easy to find BPA free spray bottles, or you can invest in a Misto, which is a cool little gadget too. I generally use a 3-to-1 ratio of the oil and water in my sprays and that seems to work well. You will notice right away that as little as 6oz of olive oil when converted to a spray bottle will last a LONG time! This means you save money and eliminate unnoticed calories from your diet. Too easy!

5. Consider this blueprint for being a good training partner.

I am lucky that over the past few years, I have had some really solid training partners. When you have a good team, you are always better than you could be alone. Unfortunately, my own schedule and location, has made it tough to keep a training partner around who is on the same page as me with their training. That aside, it got me thinking about what makes a great training partner. Give this a look and see where you can step your game.

  • Be consistent. Nothing is more important to your success in the gym, and nothing is more important to your training partner. SHOW UP, all the time.
  • Shut up and train. We all have better days than others, and your training partner doesn’t need to be dragged into some pity party you are hosting.
  • Coach more. Yelling things like “up!” is a giant waste of your training partner’s time. Unless he or she tends to forget which direction the bar is supposed to move, then take stock in learning what helps them. Talk technique with them, and yell out things that will make or break their lift

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11 Responses to “Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 32”

  1. Brian Seelos Says:

    I use the floor press a lot with my athletes and it is hard to get them to conceptualize incorporating lats into the move. I’m not so much of a board presser, but I think I’ll give that a shot to help them with the move.

  2. Conor Says:

    Hey Greg,
    Great tips! I really thought the tip about pulling the elbow through the ground on the floor press would work great with my athletes and I’m going to start using that cue! Thanks!

  3. Yudy Says:

    Great tips. Can’t wait to try pulling through the floor next time I do a floor press!

  4. Zack Says:

    Great tips today, Greg. Especially liked the last one “coach more.”

    Actively or assertively speaking coaching cues to an athlete or training partner gets me involved into the lift more as well. Instead of just being the hand off guy I take part in the lift by telling the lifter what they need to do to get this lift done. As the lifter I feel more confidence and use less thought when I’m told what to do.

  5. MG Says:

    I had to rewatch the stability ball rollout section again because I got totally distracted by the Tank cameo. Haha

  6. Yudy Says:

    Hey Greg, I also wanted to ask… How much thoracic rotation do you guys usually allow on the one arm cable row. From the video above, it looks like you prefer having a pretty fixed torso?

  7. Eric Cressey Says:

    MG,

    Tank’s big time!

  8. Greg Robins Says:

    Yudy, I would allow for thoracic rotation on the eccentric portion as you allow for natural scap protraction. Stay strict on the concentric portion allowing only what you need to make up bringing you back to square shoulders. That being said, as long as the rotation is purely coming from upstairs, and not the lumbar spine and hips, then I see no issue. Not allowing for rotation past square shoulders on the concentric portion will help clean up a lot of people’s tendency to move the humerus well past the mid line and into excessive shoulder extension (anterior humeral glide). This is why I tend not to cue any.

  9. Andre Says:

    This post was extremely helpful. Tanks strut… epic. Please Tank give us an encore.

  10. Chris Says:

    Greg/Eric, when it comes to pressing, whether vertical or horizontal I have an interesting dynamic that I’d like your thoughts on. First, I’m naturally one of those that tend to be a little lumbar extended. If I am keeping my ribcage down during a pressing movement I can’t seem to move my scapula…they just kinda sit down and back and I get some feeling of shoulder impingement. If I allow the ribs to flare out some and go into some lumbar flexion, suddenly I have free reign to move the scapula with upward rotation, retraction, protraction, etc. and the shoulder pain goes away. But, I feel like this is dysfunctional and I should be able to generate normal scapular movements without lumbar extension. Any thoughts?

  11. Personal trainer Oakville Says:

    Good info & vids guys. #3 is a great way of explaining lat recruitment. Any tips on lat recruitment during pushups? The way I visualize it is putting pressure on the outside of your hands and trying to turn your them outward at the beginning of the concentric phase. Thanks keep it up.

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