Chalk Talk #20 – Pre-workout Hip Stretch

In Chalk Talk #17 I talked about some joint approximation stuff you can do to work on your hips prior to training. Today’s Chalk Talk puts a new twist on some classic stretches by adding banded distraction. It’s actually easy to perform because you don’t need to tie the band off on anything; you just tie it on your own hip and use your other foot to add tension.

What do you do to open your hips up before training?

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.

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 #7 – QLGM

Low back pain? Sacro-iliac problems? Chances are you have jacked up muscles as opposed to disc or S/I joint issues. Enter QLGM into your vernacular, and it stands for quadratus lumborum and glute medius. These are the muscles you should focus on if you have low back, sacral, and rear pelvic pain.

The quadratus lumborum (kwa-DRAY-tus lum-BOR-um) connects from the bottom rib and sides of the vertebrae (specifically the transverse processes) to the top of the pelvis on both sides. This muscles laterally flexes the trunk, but it mostly functions as a stabilizer and supports the entire upper body. Since it attaches on the rim of the pelvis, tension in the QL will pull up on the pelvis. The more tension there is on the pelvis or sacrum, the more pain there can be. The video shows how to do some soft tissue work on the QL to relieve tension.

The glute medius attaches from the outside rim of the pelvis to upper thigh bone (specifically the greater trochanter of the femur). When you take a step with your right foot, the left glute medius holds the pelvis in place by supporting the entire body weight. Because of the leverage, it handles a force around twice body weight, so it’s working really hard just when you’re walking. Things like walking with a load, running, or lifting can tighten it up…so everything we do. The video shows how to identify the GM as well as the glute minimus (which has similar function to the GM) and some soft tissue work you can do to address it.

Chalk Talk #6 – Waiter’s Walks for Shoulders

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.