Archive for the ‘fixing movement dysfunction’ Category

After reading our last post on this subject, you have gained some insight into the why of our rotational program.  If you haven’t read it yet, click here to do so now, because I will be referencing some of those points throughout this post. This week’s post will also be the beginning of a programming to train this movement, especially for mobility and stability work to help improve the technique of human rotation.

As you are aware, the body operates in movement systems and have been imformed of the ones involved specificaly in rotation, commonly refered to as  slings. The one thing that we didn’t cover las time, was that these patterns are connected by a substance called fascia.

This is a web like substance that sits over our muscles and pulls them together throughout the body. So in addition to specific muscles firing to accomplish a task, this fascial pulling also goes on as well. Now this is a great thing and helps our bodies transmit force as well as helping us to stabilize , as we do so and  move in our sports or life.  Yet, it can also limit our performance in the same way that it can help it; in the case of an  individual muscle or muscle in a pattern being underactive.

As a result of the weakness of one muscle, another along the movement chain can become tight and overactive as well as it leading to restrictions in a movement such as rotation in this case.

In light of this fact, it would make sense that individuals with this issue would need to mobilize orrelease their tight muscles in this (or any) pattern and then follow it by strengthening the weak muscles that are causing the problem in the first place.

So the first question that we need to deal with is what needs to be mobilized and what needs to be stabilized and or strengthened?

First of all we cannot say with absolute certainty for every person without anevaluation/assessment like the one that we do here at Escape Medford that could identify the issues that the person may have and then a strategy on how to deal with them.

But this post will endeavor to give you some general ideas to help you improve your rotation and then to pattern it with better technique.

Our first step is to mobilize an area that many people are “locked up” in due to our seated culture. That is our Thoracic spine or mid-back. A lot of the times, we cannot rotate properly and transfer energy the way we should, due to not being able to move through our mid-backs well. As result we usually end up using not so good body parts for this movement pattern. (Elbows as in throwing, lumbar spine, etc.)

Use this drill below to help you begin to utilize your upper back to rotate better and to minimize your low back for this human movement pattern.

Once we have mobilized this area, the next step is to stabilize it; so that the new range of motion is maintained. We like to use the following move to develop this quality, especially for overhead throwers

After developing the mobility and stability needed for the move of rotation, we can begin to pattern it while standing, helping the athlete get better at their sport, whether it be golf, baseball, or any other sport that involves a lot of rotation and or overhead work.

Next week, we will continue this theme and teach you how to begin to use your new found mobility and stability to enhance your performance in your chosen sport and for your health.


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The full pistol or one leg squat is an advanced movement pattern that many would love to progress into and some even train to do. But somehow they never seem to be able to do it or if they do, it looks terrible and may lead to an injury at some point if they keep doing it that way. In light of that fact the goal of this post is to give you my reader some correctives to help you in your journey to a full pistol and to help those with ugly form improve their technique.

The few things that I will cover in this post are a few things that I have seen in my time coaching this move with clients and even in myself. So as always, try the move in this case the pistol, then do the specific corrective and then re-test the move again to see if it improved.

As with any move that involves this much complexity there are any number of things that could go wrong that can negatively affect this move. These qualities are: mobility, especially of the ankles and hips. There is also a need to master breathing specifically power breathing as well as ab strength. Finally, if none of those help it could be a motor-control thing and some re-patterning and regression of the drill could help take care of that as you work on improving this advanced squat.


Having a tight or restricted ankle can lead to poor pistol performance, in things such as: moving too much through your lumbar spine to make up for your ankle restrictions and or ending up on your toes and having a wobbly and later on a painful knee.

Below are some drills that you can use for your ankle to see if it helps you overcome this mobility deficit in your ankle if that is a problem for you.

In addition to these drills Goblet squats and practicing your pistol with a plate under your heel could help with this problem as well.

Hip flexors:
Tight and overactive hip-flexors can lead to crappy pistol technique. Use these two stretches and activation drills below to deal with this problem and then once again re-pattern the move with low reps and better form.


Another important component of this move is the ability to create your own stability using an ab brace, power breathing and muscle tension. This increases your control and strength throughout the move and of course as you train this move, to decrease your usage of this ability to progress. The video below shows you how you can use the plank to develop this quality and increase your strength.

Ab strength:
Ab strength can be very helpful in owning this movement pattern as well as deep core stability. Use these two moves below to help build both in your program. I recommend doing the half-kneeling chop and lift as a warm up and the ab drills in your workout.

Counter balanced pistol:
Adding a counter balance on your pistol is a great way to help develop better form as you practice and it if you have a long femur, it could help you be able to do this move as well.

Heel lift:
If you have a bit of restricted ankle or lack core stability this regression can help you with being able to learn and earn this move. Watch the video below for demonstration of both.

Door pistol: 
this is one of my favorite drills to help my students achieve their full depth without overlying on an external help. This also requires that you create tension as a means to progress.

Box pistol:
this is another simple progression to build strength specific to the move and to pattern it as you train.

The next few moves are designed to help you build strength for the full pistol. Take a look at them and utilize them to help you build the force needed to help you get through the bottom to the lock out of the squat.

Step ups for pistol strength:

Split squats:

front squats:

You now have a good amount of information to work on and to develop the pistol. Get to work on it, try a corrective and then see if your form get better and stronger as you go along. I would almost recommend to get a friend or coach to watch you as you train and if you can’t do that, then you can video yourself to make sure that you are on pace to develop a pistol squat with good form for longevity and performance.

It seems like so many people who train pretty frequently and live a good healthy lifestyle cannot not perform a well-executed chin-up. I am sure that there are many reasons why this is the case. such as: lack of knowing how to progress, lack of spending time on a progression until it gets easy(ish) and of course the fear and weakness mentality wherein the trainee doesn’t think that it is possible for them. Usually these people will express this with sayings as follows: “ that would be nice and do you think that I can?!”  So just before we get into this post and series, I want to share the fact with you that you can! You just haven’t trained yourself to do it and if you did, you didn’t stick to the program long enough to earn the movement or you weren’t training the right way to get to this goal of the upper pull.

So this series will take you through some of the progressions that I have found to people to their chin-up that have worked even in one session! But before we begin to dive into the progressions, let’s first talk about your mobility and stability; you see if you don’t have adequate mobility to get in the proper position you may never be able to do your first full upper pull. Simply due to the fact that you cannot fire the right stuff at full capacity in order to produce the strength needed to chin.

To me the most important position is your arm position. In other words can you get your arm or in-line with your ear without cheating (rib cage flair) ?


If no you have some work to do in order to better prevent injury mas you do chin-ups or as you work on the progressions that I am going to give to you in this series. Remember friends that mobility comes before stability and then strength comes into play; if you want to continue to keep making gains in your training, otherwise injury may end up derailing you.

There are a few things that can be the cause of this lack of good shoulder positioning for overhead work. There could be an under active muscle in the movement chain, so that your body shuts it down to protect your joints and muscles from tearing. It could just be a mobility restriction due to poor posture. Or it could be poor breathing patterns causing tightness in your t-spine and making you also unable to this move.

In order to find out what the problem is, you will want to do a corrective drill and see if your lock out gets any better. For example try breathing and then immediately reassess the issue and see if it improves if not try another drill and so-on until it does.

I won’t get into breathing and t-spine drills too much because I already wrote a post on this very subject.  (Click here to get it.)

However, I do want to talk about some ways that one can get their arm in the proper position to begin to do this movement for the long-term while better preventing injury.

As you know the beginning of this upper pulling move is abduction or arms away from your mid line. If you cannot achieve this position in your set up you may have either one of this problems or all in some regard:

You have tight lats that are pulling your arm forward and internally rotating your humerus. This is a simple one to fix, either do the bench thoracic opener or the deep squat lat  stretch popularized by Eric Cressey to help you get in the right position.

Next when a muscles is over active another is under active. So you will want to do some serratus drills and or low trap work to create better balance and overhead arm position.

Serratus activation:

Low Trap work:

Achieving your first chin-up may require more thought and effort on the front, but making sure that you can get in the right position, your chances of progress will go up. Also some of you may get your first chin with the help of these drills given above, if you have been training for one with no-avail. So get to work friends and keep following this blog for this series, my weekly workouts and other good stuff like the next few parts in this series!

My neck hurts as I…..; my low back hurts as I squat. My shoulders hurt as I press overhead. These are common complaints that I hear from my online clients, in person and of course my fellow fitness fans. Although there can be many reasons as to why a person has pain in any given movement pattern. There may be overuse in a muscle in the chain due to imbalances and compensations or even just the old-fashioned reason of poor form as a person trains that movement. There also may be a serious medical condition such as cancer or the like. So as always if you have pain present especially if it is chronic, see your doctor.

However, this post is not about that type of pain especially since I am not a trained medical professional. This post will show you how to reduce discomfort in a movement by learning how to get your thoracic spine moving in the ways that it should; both in extension and rotation. The result of this new mobility will help you move better, feel better and could quite possibly make you stronger and more conditioned in the long run!

The t-spine or the thoracic spine is composed of 12 vertebrae and has an absolute important function in just about every exercise. The T-spine must either extend or rotate in our human movements, such as: gait (running/ walking) squatting, lunging as well as other movement patterns and exercise.

You probably now can see that if this area has too much dysfunction that it can affect the surrounding areas and create potentially dangerous compensation in other movement patterns and exercises. In other words lack of mobility and stability in this area can lead to injury in places such as: the low back, neck or potentially other areas as well by creating undue strain in another area as a result of the aforementioned dysfunction. 

So then you see that if it is not functioning well we will want to make it better by specific drills to do so. Not just from a health perspective but problems in this area can also lead to poor performance in your training or in your chosen sport. So sometimes mobility in conjunction with stability work followed by re-patterning; can lead to better strength gains in people who are training and having some difficulty getting better at their pursuit.

The way that the thoracic spine moves:

Your mid-back is designed to move in two ways and if you are extremely deficient in them your chances of getting injured are much higher.

The first movement is rotation.

Your middle spine should be able to rotate almost equally from side to side. This movement is seen in walking, running and in many lifting moves. Failure to rotate well here can lead to all kinds of problems and pain in any area that the movement pattern involves. For example if you cannot rotate form you thorax, you will rotate too much form somewhere else as I wrote about earlier.

Good                                                                                               You’ll need some work

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The second move is extension.

This movement mostly happens at the lower part of this area. once again failure to have this movement in the t-spine will usually lead to ugly overhead form, possible injury and overuse of the low back in order to try to extend and to get in the right position for overhead work.

Good                                                                                       You’ll need some work

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Fixing these issues:

First thing first there should be some kind of assessment to find out if your t-spine is the problem. Then from there, a break down should take place to find the one of more things that can be corrected to improve these movement patterns.

Step One: Check breathing:

Lack of proper breathing patterns can create tightness in your neck, upper back, chest as well as other areas in our bodies. To see if you are breathing well stick one of your hands on your chest and one on your belly. Take a breath in through your nose and see what moves first and what area you are breathing into.

Then place your thumbs on your back and other fingers in the front of you. Once again take a breath in and see what is moving as a result of your breathing.

Did your chest rise up first? Did you feel it in your neck? If so you have dysfunctional breathing and will want to make it better.

Not having these qualities in our training can lead to injury and most likely will keep you from getting the results that you want from your fitness training. So don’t be one of those people who don’t spend time on training joint mobility.

Step Two:  Check your rotation:

This post is geared towards people who are doing a self assessment and don’t necessarily have someone to look at their t-spine function. In light of that, the following assessment you can do yourself, if you are simply aware of your position and breathing as you do it.

Step Three: Cervical rotation/ extension

At times due to the closeness of a person’s neck to their t-spine, one can compensate for another. This can lead to lots of tightness in a person’s neck and possible injury as the person works out.

Good                                                                                          You’ll need some work

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Step Four: Check your extension

As I stated earlier, your mid-back shouldn’t be able to just rotate but also extend as well. Failure to do so often leads to the dreaded rib-cage flair,  low back pain, shoulder instability and not being able to live up to your full potential as a lifter! (Oh-no!)

Finally: fix what is going on.

Drills to improve these movement issues:



Neck drills:


Taking care of this area doesn’t guarantee that you will never be hurt, but not taking care of it is to leave things up to chance and most likely not end up living up to your potential in fitness. So make sure that you spend time on these drills especially the ones that you need the most improvement in. If you don’t you are simply a slacker! (J/K) But, really, you are!

While I was training two friends that worked out together with me and were doing Romanian Deadlifts with dumbbells; a very overweight gym goer approached us and then told one of my clients, that they would hurt the student’s back. As a result of this well-meaning ladies exhortation, I had to virtually talk this lady off a proverbial ledge and re-assure her of this particular exercise’s safety for her lumbar.

That was over ten years ago and these fear still plagues gym goers everywhere and that is what this post is about. So read on friends.

Before I begin my rant on low-back safety and health, I want to talk about the lumbar spine and  its function . First of all, in movement our body works in a concept called the joint by joint approach or regional interdependence. This concept is a pretty simple one; when it comes to movement, some parts of our system should be more mobile and others more stable. In this science, we find that the lumbar are is one that requires more stability than mobility although it is made to move as well. (More on that in a bit)

So many times we end up injured in my opinion due to the fact that we don’t understand and apply this concept to our fitness and lives.

Just before I completely begin this rant and its application to our training, let’s discuss the low back and how it should be treated during our training and life. The lumbar spine consists of 5 vertebrae and at connects to sacrum an area that has five fused vertebrae and finally ends at the coccyx which is often referred to as the tail-bone.


The muscles of this area are a force couple known as the lumbar erectors and are multifidi, longissimus thoracis, Iliocostalis lumborum and others these muscles are very small in comparison to the neighboring glutes and lats above and in our lifting should be treated as such.

The movements that the low back can do are as follows:

Extension, flexion, rotation, and lateral flexion or bending; these movements are and can be relatively safe within reason. However, too much of these and or with loading can lead to injury and pain. Yet, on the other side of this coin, one should be able to do these moves in order to have a healthy spine and to keep their movement vitality.

There is also another issue that needs to be dealt with as well; most of us have not so good to terrible posture due to excessive sitting or standing. This places us in either a forward head or an excessively extended posture and can cause things to get shortened and tight that shouldn’t as well as cause muscles that should be active to be under active.

Now that you understand the anatomy and function of the low back, we can begin to understand how to train in a way that will make your chances of injury lessen even if you have been injured in the past.

Let’s go back to few a paragraphs ago and review a concept that we already stated. That being that the lumbar area is built to be mostly stable. This does not mean that there is never motion in it as we move, in fact the opposite is true, as you move, so does your spine. The problem comes into play though when it moves too much and we go too often into the end ranges of the spine as we move.

This includes too much rotation through the low back and way too much extension and flexion. So you see when it comes to low back pain, in most cases it is not necessarily the movement and how it may look to the outsider without the training needed to identify what is potentially dangerous and what is not. It is more a matter of not being able to control the lumbo-pelvic complex as we move and as a result going into hyper-extension and so-on.

Does this mean that everything is safe for everyone all of the time and people should just go crazy and do whatever? The answer of course is no, because of the simple fact that what doesn’t hurt one person, could injure another. This is why some sort of assessment should be administered before a person begins to embark on their fitness journey. This should find any limitations in movement, any potential pain provoking movements and a referral should be given to a qualified medical professional if there is pain present during the performance of a movement pattern.

Then as we go along any issues with mobility and stability can and should be dealt with as well as the avoidance of any pain provoking moves until the issue is dealt with if at all possible. Also as we train, in order to maintain a healthy lumbar spine, we must pay attention to our hip position and spinal position in our movements.

If one can do that and stabilize as their spinal column they can most likely do movements that may be potentially dangerous, if they have not developed the mobility and control that is needed. An advanced trainee not only has arrived to higher than their peers levels of strength and work capacity, but  have also learned how to control themselves in movement and as a result can do the movements that require higher levels of awareness.

Another important aspect to this whole concept is the need for the muscles involved in a pattern to be firing both unconsciously and consciously  in a movement in order to keep the neighboring muscles form being overworked and creating pain and undue stresses to the joints in that exercise. In the case of the low-back it is often the glutes and some of the ab muscles.

This is why any good program will have built-in it proper progressions and regressions in order to make sure that the requisite muscles are firing quick enough to do an exercise safely. Another example of this is just yesterday a man was doing a high bridge and the gym and someone commented on how he was hurting his back as he did it. My response was the opposite of what he expected, “not as long as he is using his glutes!”

These also goes for every move that requires hip extension from the rest/ rack position in KB sport, to a bench pressing power lifter and the hip extension moment on a good Olympic lifter’s snatch and clean.

If you take away anything form this post and all its science sounding jargon and voodoo. Let it be that exercise tolerance and ability is an individual thing and should be treated as such. As well as the fact that just because something may cause one person pain, doesn’t mean that it will do the same in another. Just make sure to be assessed before you begin to train and follow a progressive strength and conditioning program that will meet your needs and weaknesses as a person. Lastly if something hurts you don’t do it. However, don’t try to make others do the same as you and write off a sport or exercise as dangerous to all!

I hope that you have been enjoying this series and that you have been learning how these principles will help your training. Lastly, I hope that you figured out how to apply them to your own fitness and have gotten better as a result. As this series continues strive to add them all into your training, because as you so you will see that they are all part of the tapestry and when they are woven together in your fitness, you will get a tapestry of amazing results! (Click here if you need to read the last few posts in this series)

In light of that, this week’s point is a very important one and is often not applied well or it is taken too far. That principle is the overcompensationprinciple. This concept is absolutely essential if you want to get any results from your fitness. So ignore it at your own frustration and lack of results.

Before we begin to apply this principle to our training we need to understand how the body works. It is a basic exercise principle that our body has two phases when it comes to exercise, it is either at rest or being challenged by something that taxes it as we exercise. Then the body’s response to the eu-stress, it will then adapt and adjust to the stress. The result is more conditioning and strength and a leaner and better physique as well.

Now a failure to do so will lead to a lack of results and not breaking out of the rest zone as you train. That is why it is easy to get results when someone goes from the couch to doing anything, due to your threshold being so low. However as you go along, you will need to continually overload or use the progressive overload principle to continue to change and get to your goals.

So the choice is yours, you can either overload and get results and continue to do so in conjunction with the other principles that I have given and will in the next few posts. (If you don’t want to miss out on the fun subscribe.)  Or you can try to seek ease and comfort and end up not getting results. Then you can play the blame game by blaming others and your genetics. I hope that you choose to overload progressively friends!

Stay tuned to this blog and subscribe if you haven’t yet, because next week we will apply this principle with the overload concept. You will not want to miss out on it!

My wife has a saying that she uses as a standard reply when people try to take away her individually and place her in some kind of box. She will say a simple phrase that is loaded with power and creates a boundary when she says it, I am my own person! This statement is powerful in its simplicity and use. In our training we have to understand that we are all also our own people and the way that we respond to the training stimulus and our technique will vary as well as a few other factors. This post will attempt to delve into this principle and break it down so it will both encourage and help you as you train for results.

If you are a fitness coach and have been working with people for any period of time, you probably have found that if you are a dogmatic programmer that your success will be very limited with your clients. People are individuals and even though there are principles that we should apply to our programming, we also need to observe what creates the best changes to the person’s fitness qualities. Such as: better movement, strength gains, conditioning, getting leaner and so-on.


Of course there is also a need to find out what may cause pain to the person. In fact recently, I found that symmetrical squatting caused a client of mine pain. I sent her out for medical help and she felt better. We also did the usual correctives fixed any Valgus collapse and tried squatting again and she had pain after 8 reps. So I began to use the rear foot elevated squat and she had no-pain. For some reason her anthropometry caused her to have pain in high rep squatting so we made the adjustment and she is happy and making fitness gains as a result while staying pain-free and not create dysfunction.

However, she still should do some form of squatting; because within that pattern there is a lot of benefits for strength, caloric expenditure and so-on. Which brings me to my next point, just because some on is an individual doesn’t meant that they shouldn’t do the things that we know are good. For example, everyone should do some form of strength or resistance work, for the very reason that we know it has so many benefits to it.

Now the approach that one takes to get their resistance work in may be different. Some may love body-weight training and use that for a primary means of strength work. Others may love kettlebells, weightlifting, Olympic lifting and so-on. I think the key here is to find by experimentation what you like the most in order to stick to it and what gets you the most bang for your buck as far as results go.

You will also want to calculate in the time you have available to train, what you have an opportunity to use as far as equipment goes and so-on.

So from reading this post I hope that you realize that following a program by some guru from a book may not be the best way to get results and possibly could end up hurting you or leaving disillusioned by this whole fitness thing. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Also learn every opportunity that you can follow this blog read books by experts and if you are a trainer, read research and objectively learn. Also don’t be afraid to adjust your program according to the needs and goals of your clients. Remember everyone is their own person and should be treated as such.

If you missed any of these posts click here to read them!

As you may remember form last week that I decided to write this series of posts to help my readers learn the principles that will help them have more success in their training. So due to my name being what it is, I went step further and decided to call it my ten commandments of fitness. The goal of this series is not to offend anyone, it is first my strange sense of humor manifesting in my writing and it is also my effort to once again educate others some of the useful information that I have learned over the years of study, training myself and others! (click here to see post # 1)

Today’s principle or commandment is “Thou shalt have a goal and plan.” (I told you I would!)

Training as with anything else wherein someone wants to accomplish something needs to have goal. I know that seems like such a basic concept and it is. Yet, you won’t believe how many people do not have one. I have done my own unscientific poll of gym goers in my influence and most of the time the answer is the generic, “I want to get in shape!” or even “I don’t know.”  These two types of mindsets will most likely lead to failure and discouragement to the exerciser.

So the first step that you will need to take in your fitness is to have a goal and a plan. In order to have a goal one must first think about their priorities in fitness. For example if you need to lose fat for health reasons that should be the thing that you focus on and then train in a way that will give you the most bang for your buck. (Complex movements, super-sets, circuit training, metabolic conditioning and low intensity cardio. Then of course you will really want to begin to eat less and better as the primary mode of fat-loss.

That covers your goal. In addition to this you will want to plan out how you will do it. Such as: you will begin to track your calories and then add in some better choices as you eat. Of course you will want to plan out which days that you will work out and for how long. You will also want to plan out what you will do on which day and so-on.

Having a plan is not an option if you want to be successful in any of your endeavors. It doesn’t matter if it is a performance goal, fat-loss or any other pursuit. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” So follow this fitness commandment and take the time to plan out your training. What days will you train? What time? How often? How many will you rest? What strategy will you employ for progression?  Take a few minutes to think about these things and write down your conclusions, try them out and learn from them. Plan on waiving your loads, know your percentages and rest as many days per week that you need to recover.  Remember “Thou shalt plan thy workout!”

Hopefully by now you have read my last two posts on this movement pattern and have an understanding of its importance in our daily activities and our fitness training. (If you haven’t read them yet, here is the links and here to see them.) Just as a quick recap, we need to adequate mobility and stability in this movement pattern, if we want to safely train this pattern when doing activities involving it; such as, such running and just about most sports.

However, the correction process as whole is not done once improving these qualities; you will then want to build some relative strength in this pattern by training specific exercises that better the person’s stability and strength simultaneously. These exercises are not exhaustive, but give an idea on how to build strength to maintain this pattern during the stresses of competition and life and to not regress back into a poor single leg stance pattern.

Double kettlebell or barbell single leg deadlift:
This exercise will not only help you maintain and improve your stability, but can also make you pretty darn strong as well. Your goal with this exercise it to work through the progressions of the single leg dead and then lift 1/2 bodyweight for 8 to 12 reps per side and then you have finished your correction as far as this drills is concerned.

Step-up progressions:
This exercise has been used in the fitness world as an aerobic type movement for years and even foot ball line-men will often use it for a strength exercise. In this realm it is just about the same as the single leg deadlift in that it is a stability and strength exercise. With the one exception being that it will work you quads; more than its single leg deadlift counterpart. So as a result, I would either pick the one that need more improvement or train both of these patterns.

Rear foot elevated squat:

This move much like the preceding ones, is another strength and stability exercise. So as a result has a direct correlation and connection to your single leg stance. Again this goal is half body-weight for 8 to 12 reps a leg with consistent form.

There are many other exercises that one can do to help maintain a safe single leg stance pattern. These last few are just a few non-complicated moves that will do the job and aren’t too difficult to learn and to do. So spend time on them and get strong by doing them. Then as you do you will not only better maintain your improved movement pattern, but will also see an increase in your performance as well!