Chalk Talk #13 – Banded Squat

The ‘banded squat’ is merely wrapping a band around the thighs and performing an unloaded squat to work on the active external rotation in the hips. This exercise can be a powerful tool for trainees with inefficient glutes, problems with the knees coming in during the squat, and even piriformis or glute medius issues. The video talks about execution and cues, why they are beneficial, and how to program them.

Chalk Talk #12 – T-shirt Bench

T-shirt benches are an idea I gleaned from Jennifer Thompson and her husband. They are essentially a speed bench, but with a slow eccentric, or downward, movement. It is a less stressful way to work on both overall tightness throughout the rep, but an explosive punch off the chest. The video demonstrates them, talks about pausing, weight percentages, set/rep schemes, and overall programming.

Contributors to Disc Injuries

One of the most worrisome injuries to a lifter, athlete, or hard charging trainee is a spinal disc injury. For years I’ve gotten questions about management, rehab, and easing back into lifting from this particular injury. This post doesn’t aim to be comprehensive, but will give a brief overview on why these injuries occur. Understanding the “why” will help prevent and rehabilitate them.

There are three things that contribute to a disc injury and any of them alone is enough to cause a problem. They are: body mechanics, lifting mechanics, and mobility.

Body mechanics merely means how a person moves (or doesn’t move) throughout the day, including posture and gait. We can throw around terms like “kinesthetic awareness”, “motor control”, and even “neuromuscular efficiency”, but it all boils down to what kind of positions the body is in. Usually we pay attention to our body position in training, especially our preferred modality of training, but neglect it throughout the day.

Body mechanics include what you do on a regular basis. Do you work at a desk and then commute a couple of hours? Lots of sitting. Do you slouch to one side to lean your elbow on your chair to use your mouse? These habitual positions can contribute to tightness or muscle dysfunction. Instead of dissecting every possible incorrect position, you need to learn what “right” is and try and do that most of the time.

Lifting mechanics is what it sounds like; the technique you use when loaded. Increased loading on the body is great for building strength, but if your technique is consistently sloppy, you can get chronic inefficient loading that can contribute to a more serious problem or injury. Quality is more important than quantity, regardless if we’re talking about lifting or CrossFit. Optimal mechanics will prevent misloading the wrong soft tissue structures.

Mobility in this case refers to your ability to properly achieve full range of motion in the major joints to properly and safely execute movements in every day life, training, or competition. Even if your lifting mechanics are perfect, crappy mobility can contribute to soft tissue irritation.

For example, if a lifter has general tightness in the hips and lower back, and they cannot properly load the muscles of the thighs and hips in a squat or deadlift, the force will dissipate to other structures that should not be loaded, like the lumbar spine. Doing this a lot over time can cause disc irritation, especially when combined with poor body and lifting mechanics.

If you know you have a deficiency in one of the above factors, educate yourself on how to improve it and incorporate it into your schedule. If you can’t help sitting down a lot during the day, then you know you’ll have to increase your mobility effort to make up for it. Add in a couple of mobility exercises to target your problem areas on a regular basis. Don’t make it complicated; simple mobility exercises will suffice. Find a way to improve your lifting mechanics, whether it be video form checks or hiring a coach. Learn how to avoid bad posture throughout the day. Focus on the three areas of body mechanics, lifting mechanics, and mobility to avoid disc related injuries. If you already have a disc injury, then it’s imperative you improve all three.

Chalk Talk #9 – One Arm Farmer’s Walk

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.

Chalk Talk #8 – Speed Deadlifts & RDL

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.