Remember when we did soft tissue work on the QL to relieve tension on the pelvis and sacrum? Well, now we’re going to do an incredibly useful and necessary exercise to strengthen the quadratus lumborum, and it’s a one arm farmer’s walk. This is a must-do exercise for all populations as it can significantly improve back health and prevent injury.
Regular farmer’s walks are a simple two-handed carry exercise to work on grip strength and loading the entire body. The one arm variation will function differently. Whereas regular farmer’s are to be done heavy, the one arm sort should be light to moderate. The goal isn’t to move the most weight, the goal is to maintain a stable, neutral trunk position (with the chest up and lower abs contracted) without slouching the shoulders. Putting an emphasis on not leaning over in the trunk or hips forces the QL to maintain leverage of the trunk, hence our reason for executing this exercise.
The first time I did this exercise, I just used a 24kg kettlebell (~53 pounds) and could not only feel my QL during the movement, but had a healthy soreness the next day or two. Strengthening the QL along with regular soft tissue work will likely reduce tweaks or strains and improve how your lower back, pelvis, and S/I area feel.
Throw these in at the end of your training session every week, but don’t do them if you’re gonna go heavy in the next session. You don’t want your stabilizing muscles to be sore or fatigued when trying to lift heavy. They would work well in the last session of the week with adequate rest after until you are accustomed to them. Remember, weight isn’t the key; good trunk position and QL activation is.
In a recent post by my Australian SOF buddy, Shaun Trainor, he reminded me that I recommended he do speed deadlifts and RDL’s while he was deployed in lieu of heavy deadlifts. In a program or circumstance that can’t tolerate the systemic depression or local soreness associated with heavy deadlifts, using speed deadlifts with posterior chain work will still get explosive work with the posterior chain. When Shaun returned home, he was able to jump back up to his previous deadlift numbers fairly quick.
Speed deadlifts can be alternated every week with heavy deadlifts, as they are in a few of my Texas Method templates, or they can be done every week to maintain some deadlift work without getting beat down. Not to mention you can accumulate some decent volume with doubles or triples on deadlift to develop a jacked back.
If you watch until the end of the video, you’ll see an explanation of NOT leaning back at the top of a deadlift. It’s a common fault that is incredibly injurious, looks ugly, and makes someone look inexperienced with anatomy or lifting. Simply lift the chest to ensure a neutral spine; don’t lean back.
Waiter’s walks are an exercise where a load is held in a one arm overhead position while walking. They have a variety of benefits, including:
- Working all of the muscles around the shoulder, including the smaller, stabilizing rotator cuff muscles, to hold the head of the humerus in position.
- The body is loaded asymetrically, so it will work on proper trunk alignment and the endurance of those muscles. The walking will also add some variation to the loading.
- It focuses on upward rotation of the scapula to build stability in the overhead position.
When doing these, focus on a keeping the trunk engaged and neutral without slouching to one side or the other. Put some light external rotation on the shoulder and actively push into the bell to achieve the upward scapula rotation.
During these assymetrical carry exercises I put an emphasis on good mechanics overall from the head to feet. Also short and stable steps are better than flowing steps in order to optimally keep the trunk tight.
Read more about a slightly different type of waiter’s walk on Eric Cressey’s site.
In this podcast I interview my friend Rob Andrade, a doctor of physical therapy. Rob does a good job of straddling the coaching/training world and the physical therapy world. His bias is obviously on optimal movement and a healthy client, but tapping into his hard science knowledge of things like motor control, muscle physiology, etc. is interesting and helpful to a coach. I’d like to have more interviews and makes ome videos with Rob in the future, so feel free to send questions.
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Knee pain is common in lifting, and it’s nearly 100% caused from a) poor mechanics and b) some sort of hip dysfunction. This Chalk Talk doesn’t get into lifting or movement mechanics, but instead addresses some palliative treatment and soft tissue work you can do to alleviate some of the pain.
Generally speaking, knee pain should tell you to work on hip mobility, especially with the rectus femoris. This muscle crosses both the hip and the knee, so if it’s tight, it’ll tug on it’s lower attachment near the knee (i.e. all of the quadriceps flow into a common tendon that attaches to the patella, which then attaches to the tibial tuberosity) and cause pain in the center of the knee, usually under the knee cap.
One thing we can do to try and alleviate tension is soft tissue work on the rectus femoris itself, and then on some of the other quad muscles.
Note that this precision soft tissue work works well when it occurs before stretching; it’s difficult to stretch a muscle that hasn’t had tension worked out of it. I like to follow this soft tissue work with the couch stretch, like in this video.