I want to give a Big Thanks to Dawn Flowers, owner of U FIT, for hosting the 1st ever Function 4 Life Workshop this past Saturday, April 16, 2016. The event was a success in many ways. We had a great turnout and we raised money for the U Fit scholarship fund to provide the opportunity for an individual or individuals who can’t afford a gym membership to work towards their weight loss/fitness goals and everyone walked away learning something, myself included. It was very humbling to have a group of people come to here me speak and share knowledge about a passion of mine, human movement. This opportunity meant a great deal to me as it is a sign that hard work really does pay off! I’ve learned to never take things for granted and to cherish every opportunity to make an impact on the lives of others.
I found this quote that fits perfectly: “Everything worthwhile in life is work. But if it puts a smile on your face, it doesn’t feel like work. Hard work becomes easy when your work becomes your play. Never underestimated the value of loving what you do”.
The Workshop kicked off with a discussion on the Joint by Joint Approach developed by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle. This approach highlights which joints/regions of the body are most functional when they are primarily mobile(ankle, hip, thoracic spine, upper neck, shoulder, wrist) or stable(foot, knee, lumbar spine/sacrum, scapula, lower neck and elbow). This approach can be useful and is very applicable to training and rehabilitation. I have personally found it useful as well in treatment guidelines and protocols with many patients through my years in practice as a Chiropractor who incorporates rehabilitation, stretches and exercise training into the care of my patients.
Next up was a discussion and demonstration on mobility and stability. Mobility looks at the range of motion one has with a movement or in a joint without any other influence(ie. band, device, someone helping). Stability looks at how controlled the movement is.
We gave a couple of examples of the whether an individual needs to improve their mobility or stability. The first was the standing toe touch screen. To summarize, if an individual can’t touch their toes standing, but can seated, they need to improve stability(most likely in their core). If the range of motion doesn’t change, then they likely need to improve their mobility(via stretching, foam rolling, Active Release Techniques[ART], Chiropractic care). We had a good example of this second scenario, take a look!
The next example is my go-to functional movement screen, the overhead squat. It looks at mobility and stability of the whole body. If asymmetries, imbalances or movement dysfunctions are seen, then we see if squatting with the heels elevated improves the overhead squat. If it does fully improve, then the individual likely needs to improve their mobility. Keep in mind by improving mobility, an individual’s stability is likely to improve as well. If an individual can get into the complete overhead squat position while lying on their back then they likely need to improve their stability. This is because they have demonstrated that they have the mobility to do an overhead squat unloaded.
When unloaded this way on your back or while seated while performing the toe touch screen, your body can move more because your brain doesn’t feel any threat. Your body feels safe, therefore your muscles and joints will move more freely, without locking down or seizing up. This opens one up to ponder that maybe the reason they can’t touch their toes is because their brain doesn’t want them to go into a range of motion that could hurt them. Or maybe their hamstrings are tightening up to keep them from falling forward, like onto their face! So if an individual always has “tight” hamstrings, continuing to stretch them probably won’t change anything as they may be dealing with an underlying stability issue.
The overall theme of the workshop after the overhead squat screen was how can we improve the squat pattern. In doing so, we looked at why each individual may have to squat differently. This could be to pre-existing or current injuries, muscle tightness and health history. We did demonstrate through a couple orthopedic tests that structural reasons could be a likely culprit.
We then focused on the 3 B’s of squatting: big toe, butt(glutes) and belly(core). A few simple cues to recruit these 3 B’s in an effort to improve the squat are as follows:
1.) Maintain contact between the floor and your big toe. Press down if you have too! This will cue your stability from the ground up and will help balance your center of mass. **Fun Fact=the big toe joint is rich in proprioceptors that allow your brain to know where your body is in space, ie. balance, stability**
2.) Start your squat by hinging back through the hips instead of bending at the knees and drive your knees out to generate more glute activity. Squeeze those butt cheeks if you need too! **Training Tip=if you feel a strain in your quads or front of the hip or knee, you are probably not doing these steps. Practicing slow, controlled squats can help you feel those glutes working**
3.) Before you squat make sure your abdomen is “braced”. To brace properly, place your thumbs just under your lower rib cage in your lower back and have your finger tips along your sides and front of your rib cage as much as you can. Puff or Push out all around your abdomen, sides and lower back. You should feel your diaphragm contract when you do this. This way of bracing may feel similar to how it feels when you are pushing out while going #2. **Training Tip=imagine you are wearing a weight belt & push out into it** Also, check out this related article for a more in depth look at the abdominal brace utilizing the diaphragm.
When muscle tightness, primarily of the hip flexors(psoas, iliacus, pectineus, quads) or stiffness in your thoracic spine are present, how you are squatting will be altered. Your technique, depth and even strength can be affected. This is why I am a big fan of using a foam roller or lacrosse ball to address these regions, especially prior to activity. We don’t run the risk of separating the contractile units in the muscles with these mobility tools, like static stretching will. For foam rolling or using a lacrosse ball I advise rolling over a spot or region around 6 times and then finding another spot to roll over making sure that the pressure is not so intense that you can’t breathe. Being able to breathe will allow oxygen to get into the tissues and will help your brain relay the messages to the muscles to get them to relax.
After working on ways to improve their squat the attendees were noticing some positive changes, ie. more ease with squatting, increased depth, better technique, less pain and tightness, etc.
As promised to those who attended the workshop, here are the exercises. Remember to do them slow & controlled when you are first learning how to perform them. I recommend about 10 reps of each variation and start out by doing them at least a few times a week. They could even be added to your warm-up or cool down routine.
THE BIG TAKE HOMES FROM THIS WORKSHOP:
- Utilize these two screens to see if mobility or stability training will benefit you more to improve not just your squat, but your life
- The 3 B’s always and forever
- Remember to breathe when “bracing” your abdomen.
- Try these exercises out, they will help!
Thanks again for everyone who attended. If you couldn’t make it, be sure to stay tuned for future workshop dates!
Yours in health,