LEARNING HOW TO SQUAT CORRECTLY

squat

 

When I first started getting into strength training I kept hearing the word squats quite a lot. Although I had a rough idea of what a squat should look like. I didn’t know the proper mechanics of how to do a squat. Why it was such an important movement, and went about squatting with improper form for quite some time.

WHY IS THE SQUAT SUCH AN IMPORTANT EXERCISE?

Well a squat is a movement pattern that almost everyone unconsciously do on a daily basis. In many third world countries people use a squatting position to just relax and stay there for hours at a time.It doesn’t matter if you’re 1 year old or 100 years old you still have use for a basic squat.

 But most people heard that statement before. So the big question is what exactly is happening in our body biomachanically when we squat?  The squat trains our hip extender muscles( the muscles in your hips that helps you push yourself up) which in turn helps us improve a-lot of activities we do on a daily basis. Some of the activities that include hip extension are walking, sitting, running,jumping, walking up stairs, picking up something from the floor and the list can go on and on. So you can see the big picture here, weather you are a professional football player or someone with a 9-5 job. You preform some sort of hip extension every day, and training and strengthen those muscle that allows you to preform hip extension will greatly benefit you and prevent injury.

Here is two really good example of how people unconsciously squat everyday

         squat

HOW TO SQUAT CORRECTLY

1. Keep a neutral spine and head position- A neutral spine mean to maintain the same spinal position as if your you were standing upright.

2. Do full depth squats. It is a common misconception that you should squat to a 90 degree angle because if you squat lower it will place excesses force on the knee joint. The problem with this is that our knee joint is biomachanically made to squat beyond a 90 degree angle. A good example of this are olympic lifters .Have your ever seen an olympic lifter squat with a excessive amount of load to a 90 degree angle? .

3.Keep your feet a little wider than shoulder width and turned out to about a 15-30 degree angle.If you can do a squat with your feet straight and maintain correct form you should because it will help you generate more power. The only problem with this is a lot of people don’t have appropriate range-of-motion to squat deep with straight feet, but it is something you should be constantly working towards. The alternative is to squat with you feet slightly turned out which will help give your femur clearance allowing you to gain a better range-of-motion. The angle it is turned out will vary with everyone. So find the angle that you feel the most comfortable in between 0-30 degrees.

4. Keep the weight in the middle of your feet( right in-front of your ankle) and keep your feet glued to the ground.- You might think why keep the weight in-front your ankle and not in your heels? Well the cue to keep the weight in your heels is a beginner cue, because most people come up on the ball of their feet. Telling them to place the weight in their heels helps them keep their feet flat on the floor without confusing them. But in reality the way gravity pulls on your body, your center of gravity goes right in front of your ankle. The other thing is one of the most common faults I see happen, most people come onto the ball of their feet. This could be just a motor control issue or could be range-of-motion problem.

5. Screw your feet into the floor and shove your knees out.-Just as with a car, if it has more torque, it will have more power. Your body is no different, screwing your feet into the floor help you create torque in your joints which will help increase your power. When you are squating pay careful attention that your knees are not collapsing inwards. Try to shove them out.

SQUAT REGRESSIONS

Suspension bands : Suspension bands such as the TRX will help decrease the amount of weight your hip extensor have to push up and distribute it to your upper body( your hands hold the bands ). The goal is to slowly decrease the amount of weight distributed to your upper body by trying not to use the bands as much. I usually like to cue people to decrease the amount of finger you grip the bands with. For example: instead of using your 5 fingers to grip the band, remove your tumb and use only four fingers, slowly decrease the amount of fingers used until you can preform a squat without the bands.

Using a chair or any flat elevated surface : One of the thing we do everyday that require some degree of squatting is sitting. So a great way to work on squating correctly is to use a chair, start with something that is a regular kitchen chair hight and slowly try to lower it until you can get full depth with perfect form. A great equipment to use is a stepper, most of them have additional attachment to make them higher or lower.

Stretching and rolling out trigger points – You might think how is this a regression? Well if your hip extender muscles( Glutes, hamstrings, Adductor magnus, longus  & bervis) are tight, trying to squat is like stretching a dried rubberband.

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HOW TO DO A PUSH UP CORRECTLY

One of the first exercise that comes to mind when asked about working out is the Push Up. Although it is popular many people can’t do a basic push up with proper form. So in this Post I will address some common mistakes made by beginners and even experienced people who never quite learn the proper mechanics of doing a push up. 

CUES FOR DOING A PUSH UP.

1. Get into a neutral spine position on the floor- Neutral spine basically means to maintain the same spinal position that you have when standing. So in simple terms you don’t what to  overextend or over-flex your spine.

Over extended and flexed spine

Over extended and flexed spine

neutral spine combo

Neutral Spine Position

2. Screw your hands into the floor and create an external rotational torque -  This does not mean to externally rotate your hands. What you are going to do is screw your hands into the floor and try to move the floor by externally rotate your hands. Chances are your hands are not going to move  but what this does is create torque in your joints to keep everything tight, which will help you generate more power.

3. Keep your feet Wide-This rule does not apply if you are a pro and you are purposely keeping your feet close together to do an advanced push up. But if you are just starting off a wide stance feet position will distribute the weight a little more evenly and decrease the intensity while still helping you maintain proper form. The downfall of this is you lose the ability to fully contract your glutes.

4. Keep the Glutes contracted- One of the most important thing that people miss when doing a push up, is contracting the Glutal Muscles. When your glutes are not contracted it is very hard, almost impossible  to keep a neutral spine position, and you will find that you have an arch in your back or your hips are sagging. When you contract the Glutes, it almost forces you to contract your core which helps to  stabilize the spine and give you that nice neutral spine.

glute photo combind

5. Keep your head aligned with your spine- This is one of the most common mistakes when doing a push up. People unconsciously  tilt their head forward to touch the floor or lift your head up to look at a mirror. The problem with this is that it throws your body out of a proper mechanical position and put a lot of stress on your neck muscles, also it’s cheating. If your chest is only half way down and your head stretches out and touch the floor you won’t reap the benefits of doing a push up.

Try to avoid the excessive neck flexion or extension

Try to avoid the excessive neck flexion or extension

Here is a perfect example of a great push up position.

A perfect example of a great push up starting position

Notice how tight this babay glutes are.

I found the Picture to the left while browsing the internet. It is a great example of a baby in a perfect push up position without any instruction. Look at the spinal position , it’s Neutral. Also Notice how tight this baby core is. This is a result of keeping her/his Glutual muscles fully contracted which forces the core to be contracted. Her/his head is fully alined with the spine.

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HOW TO MAKE A BALANCE BOARD

The Balance Board is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. I recently looked into buying one because most commercial gym or in this case my school gym don’t offer one. I was shocked when I saw how expensive they were. So I decided to create my own.

GETTING STARTED

Materials needed:

PVC pipe-  The diameter of the pipe I used is 4″ which seemed to work great for me. Feel free to get a bigger size or smaller size based on your goals. I had the plumbing department in the hardware store I bought it cut it to the appropriate size I wanted.

Plywood- The plywood I used is about 4 feet in length but this varies depending on your height. The piece I used was just an old piece I had laying around but you can find plywood at almost any lumber or hardware store. I would recommend using something somewhat thicker to support your weight. I used a regular hand saw to cut the plywood to the size I needed.

Optional: Stoppers which are basically two small piece of wood at the end of the board that will stop you when you get to the end of the board. I personally don’t like these on a balance board so I didn’t build it onto my balance board, but it can certainly be done fairly easily. Use 2 piece of wood about 1″ thick and the length should be the width of the board. Line it up with the end of the board and nail it onto the board. Be sure to nail it from the top of the board so you don’t get poked by the nail if you are on the balance board barefoot.

This is basically all the equipment needed to create a decent balance board. You can get creative and decorate your board by painting it or adding your own individual touches to it.

 

 

 

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HOW TO DO A BACK-BRIDGE

Bridging Your Way to Better Health

 

The Back bridge is an exercise that has withstood time, it’s almost certain that any Yoga book you open you will see some sort of bridging variation. The great thing about the Bridge is how many bio-mechanical issues are addressed with a single movement. Not only does it activate your gluteal muscles (Buttocks), but it also helps to improve core stabilization and prevent lower back pain. The best part is that you don’t need any fancy gym equipment, just your plain old bodyweight.

Progressing your way into a Full Back-Bridge

 

Glute Bridge- If you never tried doing a bridge before this might be a great place to start. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet touching the floor. You are then going to push your pelvis upwards contracting your Gluteal muscle ( buttocks) then come back down to the floor. Always try to make sure that your pelvis isn’t sagging, try to keep them as high as possible.

 

Reverse Bridge-  Once you’ve mastered doing a regular glute bridge the next progression is a reverse bridge. Start by sitting with your hands to the side and legs extended. Just like in the glute bridge Drive your pelvis upwards as high as you can. You should feel your Gluts and Hamstring Muscle being contracted.

 

 

Neck Bridge- The neck bridge is a great progression once you’ve mastered doing a glute bridge and reverse bridge. Start by getting into a full bridge position with the crown of your head touching the floor and your two hands on the side for support( you can also do this without placing your hands on the ground hands for support). The goal is to start lengthening  your abdominal muscles and gaining spinal flexibility in order to work your way up to doing a full back bridge.

 

Full Back Bridge- Once You’ve mastered doing the above progressions you should be ready physically to begin training towards doing a full back bridge. From my personal experience it’s a great idea to start stretching your Quadriceps and getting your body warmed up before doing the Back Bridge. You’re basically going to get into a neck bridge position with your hand on the floor and press up. Don’t be in a hurry to do the full back bridge, take your time and listen to your body.

 

 

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ALL ABOUT THE BURPEES

 

The Burpree is one of my all time favorite exercise. It is one of the exercises the NFL, the U.S Military and almost all high performance athletes have in common. It is a compound movement meaning it works a number of different muscle groups at the same time, and can really challenge your cardiovascular system. It is a combination of a squat, a push up, and a vertical jump. And the great thing is all you need to preform this exercise is just your body-weight.

 

 

Basic burpee: At it’s most basic form the burpee consist of 3 basic movement.

  1. A squat
  2. A plank
  3. A Vertical Jump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting started: All you need to get started is a small space. Start off by squatting and kicking both  feet out into a push up or Plank position . Do a push up, Then jumping back onto both feet and verticlelly jumping as high as you can. The challenge is to try to do this as fast as you can.

Beginner Modifications: The burpree can be modified into an easier version. If your push up skills aren’t  too good yet, simply substitute the regular push up for a beginners push up on your knees. You can also start off at a slower pace and as your cardiovascular endurance increases you can modify your pace as necessary.

More advanced versions: The burpee is one of those exercise that you can always adjust to somehow challenge yourself. The addition of pull-up and plyometric movement in addition with the bupree can really become a challenging exercise. To add pull-ups to the regular burpee. when doing the vertical jump part of the burpee, grab the pull up bar and do a pull up. And to add plyometric into the exercise do a clapping push up to replace the regular push up.

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Healthy Smoothies

 

Smoothie time is here again 

Smoothie’s are one of favorite things to drink in the summer. Unfortunately most smoothie sold in bottles, and even those at smoothie shops are packed with either a ton of low quality protein powder, or refined sugar; and in some cases contains both. In order to continue drinking cool refreshing smoothies I decided to research ingredients that will give you a good tasting, high nutrition smoothie. that’s not only high in protein, but also contains a high level of nutrition as well. This research led me to create a smoothie  named because of its moss green color which is a result of the main ingredient Spriulina. Sprilulina is a sea weed that is said to contains the highest antioxidant level found in any food, and contains more protein pound for pound than beef.

Ingredients

  1. 1 tlb spoon of spriulina
  2. 1 chopped peach
  3. 1 TB spoon of natural cocoa powder
  4. 1 banana
  5. half cup organic milk
  6. 5 drops of vanilla essence (optional)
  7. ice cubes
  8. 1 TB spoon of organic agave syrup or natural maple syrup
  9. FOR ADDITIONAL PROTEIN ADD A SERVING OF PLAIN YOGURT

How to Make it

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend . For a more fruitful flavor use 2 peaches. Feel free to modify this by adding different kind of fruits based on your own liking, and more or less milk based on how thick you like your smoothies.

 

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Raising the bar

 

I got my hands on the E-book of Raising the bar by Al Kavadlo a few days ago. It was absolutely amazing to see the variety of exercises that can be done from just a simple pull up bar. The book demonstrated how to use the Bar to work every different Body part, and simple progressions that can be added to any workout routine. It has a lot photography demonstrating every step of the progressions being done, and the instructions for every exercise was very clear and easy to follow. Even after researching and practicing Calisthenics for so many years I was amazed by how much I gained from this book.

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JUMP ROPE WORKOUT

 

JUMP ROPE FOR A FULL BODY WORKOUT

As a kid I remember how natural it was to jump rope, almost everyone knew how to. As we grow older many of these basic coordination patterns are forgotten. Jump roping can have a tremendous effect on your body’s cardiovascular system, and also gives you a great full body exercise. It can be manipulated through the use of different ropes to work on different goals, and the great thing about it is that you can buy a good jump rope for under $10.

Types of ropes

speed rope- The speed rope is the most popular jump rope, and it’s normally used by boxers. It allows the most number of turns per minutes and can be used to train for speed and coordination. The speed rope comes in many different variations: vinyl, leather or beads.

weight rope- The weighted ropes are great because they allow you to gain speed and coordination but also gives you a great upper body workout.

Jump rope can be a very intense endurance exercise so it’s very important to slowly progress into it.

Sequence of progression

  1. 2 Feet jump- This is usually the best place to start if you’re just getting back into jump roping. Simply jump and lift both feet off the floor.
  2. Alternating Feet jump- Keep one foot off the floor and use the other foot to jump. Alternate back and forth with each foot.
  3. Cross overs-  The cross over is an extremely good movement because it requires you to use coordination of both your upper body and lower body. To start simply do a two feet jump, but this time cross your hands when the rope is under your feet. Make sure that you cross your hand wide enough or else the rope will get caught on your feet.
  4. DoublesThe double is a great way to really increase your endurance. You preform a two feet jump but the goal is to turn the rope two times before your feet make contact with the ground. Most of the work is done by your wrist, so the idea is to move your wrist faster and your jumps remain at the same speed.

These are a few basic jump rope styles feel free to experiment and come up with something new.

Putting it all together

 Once you’ve mastered each of the style above combine them during your workout. Switch from one style to another, it becomes alot eaiser to jump rope for a longer period of time. You can also set time intervals to jump.

Here is an example of a time interval:

Week 1 – 10 intervals of 1 Min

Week 2 – 5 intervals of 2 Min

Week 3- 3 Intervals of 3 Min

Modify it as based on you fitness level and set goals to accomplish.

For more information check out the video:

This Video was done at Nimble Fitness

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WEIGHT TRAINING EXERCISES THAT MATTER

THE SQUAT & DEADLIFT

 

Most of the content I blog about mainly consist of body weight exercises. However there are a few weight training exercises that I think really matter, and can help you develop a tremendous amount of strength. Two of these exercises are: the Squat and the Dead Lift.

 

The Squat & Deadlift

The Squat- The squat is one of the oldest and most effective exercises. It is something that we do unconsciously everyday and it can benefit everyone; weather you’re an 18 year old teenager  or a 80 year old elderly person. Before attempting a weighted squat  you should make sure that you can perform a regular body weight squat with perfect form. Some key factors to keep in mind when doing a weighted squat is to keep your heels planted to the floor, and keep a straight line down your spine. Some progression that you can take to strengthen your regular body-weight squat are: Hindu Squat and Pistol Squats

 

The Deadlift- Just like the squat, the Deadlift is a very old and effective exercise.  It’s a full body exercise, that almost anyone can benefit from. While there are many different forms of deadlifts, the most common form is the barbell deadlift. Remember to keep your back straight and keep most of the weight on your heels. Most of the movement that occurs during a deadlift happens in your hips, so keeping your back straight doesn’t mean you cant lean forward. In fact leaning forward is part of doing a correct deadlift. When you’re doing a deadlift your heels should always be in contact with the floor.

For more information check out the video:

This video was done at Nimble Fitness

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DRAGON FLAG

 

The Dragon flag is one the most challenging body-weight exercises. The first time I encounter someone doing the dragon flag was during a scene in Rocky III, I remember thinking to myself how cool it looked ,and how cool it would be if I could actually do it. While it looks like it only works the core, The dragon flag uses almost every muscle throughout your body, and can help you build a tremendous amount of strength & endurance.

These are a few simple progressions on how to train for the Dragon flag


Leg Raise

Leg Tuck

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leg raises- simply start by lying flat on a bench and try lifting your leg until it is aligned to a 90 degree angle with your body. The hanging leg raise is also another great exercise to add in combination with the regular leg raise to train towards achieving your first dragon flag.

Leg Tucks- Simply start by laying flat on a bench, do a regular leg raise and extend your hips towards the sky. Bring your hips back down and lower your leg for one repetition.

Negatives- Doing negatives is a great way to train for the dragon flag, simply start by doing a regular leg tuck, but this time on the way down perform the negative phase of the dragon flag.

Just as with any other advance exercise, practice makes perfect. These progressions are just a few of many ways to train towards achieving your first dragon flag. Feel free to experiment and create additional progressions as you train.

 

Check out the video for more info:

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