I teach people how to move. I help them understand why their bodies move the way they do, why moving this way makes their knees hurt but moving this way doesn’t. I give them the tools that will help them continue to move better. Then once they are moving better, I can then teach them to get stronger. Move your butt!
Author, physical therapist, orthopedic certified specialist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, RKC instructor and the founder of Functional Movement Systems, Gray Cook, writes, “We want to move, we should move, but when we move our options are limited by our abilities to move well. We bounce between a minimal training effect, nagging injuries and idle times when we become sidelined by our movement problems, tuned into injuries and flare-ups. Quality exercise requires a minimal investment of time and effort, but what if our bodies cannot handle the frequency, intensity or duration of the required minimal dosage? Easy answer: We turn to incomplete movement practices, like only training our legs, only doing machines, or only participating and practicing the same diet of incomplete movement patterns.”
I could not agree more with Cook. My clients want to get stronger. They want to have more energy. They want to feel better. They want to move better. Yet many of them come to me with the usual problems – tight hip flexors, weak glutes, weak hamstrings, poor hip mobility and poor thoracic mobility. My clients want to be able to function better but a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture and lack of mobility makes moving well…..well, difficult.
So what do I do? Sure, I would love it if all of my clients were deadlifting with chains and benching with bands. Who wouldn’t? 🙂 But that is not my population nor does it have to be. My clients are primarily women (I do have a few male clients but as I am a female business owner and trainer, more women are drawn to me), between the ages of 25 and 65. And you know what? They all need the same thing. So I work with them all on the basics.
They all do glute activation exercises to wake up those glutes, whether it is glute bridges, glute marches, banded glute bridges, clams, banded clams, X-band walks. They all activate those glutes because they all need it. I work with a really awesome and strong woman who lives and breathes getting stronger. The other week, she was squatting and as the weight got heavier, her knees started to cave. Not surprising. “Knees out!” I said. She pushed her knees out but that right leg just caved in. I grabbed a band and got her on the floor. “Glute bridges…and lots of them ,” I told her. “We need to get those glutes fired up.” Sure enough, that right side was shaking during the clams and the X-band walks. It all became that much clearer to me. When I say knees out, I am also saying “externally rotate your femur by contracting those glutes!” which is hard to do if those glutes don’t want to contract. Squatting makes your glutes stronger but what happens if you can’t squat? You work on it…and you do your bridges, your clams, your X-walks to help them along.
They all do bird dogs. I worked with a new client a week ago and her bird dog consisted of just raising each leg, no arms. That is where she starts. She is 64 and has never participated in any regular exercise program. She led a pretty active life up until a few years ago and with her new work, she is starting to realize her strength is gone. She wants to get stronger. But first, we need to get her moving better.
All of my clients do planks. Front plank, side plank, on the forearms, on the palms, with a band, raising a leg…..bent knees, long legs…you get the point. Doesn’t matter for how long. Just get in the position and hold it for as long as you can. Another part of getting them to move better is getting them to understand how to create a rigid body, how to get “organized” as I like to say (thank you K-Star!) It is amazing what they can do once they understand this basic concept. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. I have a client who moaned and groaned each and every time we did planks. Last week, during class, I had her hold a plank instead of doing mountain climbers during her circuit (it was the third round). This was after her step ups, 45lb sandbag carry/drops and jump roping. She dropped to the floor into a perfect plank position and held it there for an easy 30 seconds. The only time she moved was when she lifted a leg (guess it was too easy for her.) She commented afterwards that she could not believe when I said “time.” Those 30 seconds went by in a flash. This coming from a woman who groaned and moaned when she had to hold it for 15 seconds when she first started. She started with the basics, learned how to move better, got stronger and now moves very, very, very well.
They all do basic movements. They squat (goblet squat, Amosov squat, squat to a box, split squats). They all hip hinge (deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, single leg deadlifts). They push (push ups, incline push ups, overhead press, single arm press). They pull (chin ups, body rows, inverted rows, band rows, dumbbell or kettlebell rows). They do farmer walks, wall slides, band pull a parts, no money drills. They work the basics and when the basics are good enough, they keep working them. Then they add resistance or increase the number of reps or sets.
They all understand the importance of good form. Not perfect form. Good form. Good enough form that will allow them to complete the exercise efficiently. No one progresses in weight (if they are using weight) until the form is good. Movement quality is important. Resistance will come. I have a client who was determined not to let her split squats get the best of her. In the beginning, it was simply enough to use her own bodyweight. She struggled with the form, the position. As she got stronger, she started to add a little weight. This did not happen overnight. She stayed with bodyweight split squats for almost two months (she began in September, attending class once a week and only upped it to twice a week in November.) Now it is January and she is using 25 pounds, held goblet style, for her sets, 10 reps per leg. She has more in her, of course. She progressed at her own pace, only adding resistance when the form was good enough and the movement quality was good. To say that she is proud of herself is an understatement. 🙂
There is nothing tricky about helping people move better. You just have to start them off with the basics. You have to help them understand why they are moving a certain way, how that plays a role in how they feel. Then you have to give them the tools to start to move better so they can move more so they can get stronger so they can keep moving. It is not about wowing them with the latest gadget. It is definitely not about giving them a workout that makes them bleed from their eyes (where is the fun in that???) It is not about using big, fancy words to make you look smarter. They don’t care about that. They want to know that you care about their well-being (thanks Mike Boyle). They want to have more energy, look better, feel better. They want to see progress each time they walk through your door.
For me and my clients, we all want the same thing. We all want to dominate….in our own special way. For some, it means getting that first unassisted chin up. For someone else, it means squatting her bodyweight. For others, it simply means being able to walk up a flight of stairs without any knee pain. For me, I wanted to heal my back and be able to dance again. I succeeded. Now my goal is to stay that way….and clean my bodyweight. Not too much to ask, I don’t think, do you? 🙂
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