Ever wonder why your shoulder or neck hurts when you reach overhead or while you’re lifting weights? Chances are good that posture is a contributing factor. One of the most common postures I see across age groups is where the shoulders (where the upper arm meets the collar bone and shoulder blade) are slightly rotated in. This happens often for 3 main reasons. 1) some muscles are long and weak 2) some muscles are short and/or stiff 3) You habits feeding into the above.
So we know that this can be an issue, the next question is “how can I fix this?”
Check out my video below where I target the flexibility portion of this question.
Yesterday I saw a tweet from BodyBuilding.com that claimed they would discuss the safety of an exercise known as a “pistol squat.” I was disappointed to find that a total of 3 sentences mentioned that pistols could be risky, none of which explained why. The rest of the article was on how to do/progress to a pistol squat (as if this exercise isn’t well covered already). The author finished by insinuating that those who warn against pistols were ‘fearmongering’ and that he wanted to empower people.
After leaving an encyclopedia for a comment, I got to thinking. How much quality information is available to the regular person regarding safe strengthening exercises and how is a person who doesn’t have a medical background supposed to sort through the din of misinformation and bait & switch articles to find the truth? As a Physical Therapist (Doctor of Physical Therapy) I feel I can help to fill this gap.
So what is wrong with the classic exercises for lower body? The answer is, it depends. Are you already healthy with good movement patterns and joint mechanics? Great! Nothing is wrong with those exercises. If the answer is no, then it might be time to look at some alternatives. Barbell squats put a great deal of pressure on the knees, lumbar spine, even the junction where your neck and upper back meet. if you have existing issues, this exercise will compound them. Are squats a bad idea? No, not necessarily. Are other alternatives worth your attention? Absolutely! Below I am going to provide 5 good exercises to build lower body strength (that are not traditional squats). Several of these I wrote/did the pictures myself. The other two are videos from a reliable source with good information.
Sit to Stands
Position: Sitting near the front of chair/stool/box
Feet positioned back, knees in line with and almost over toes
Draw navel in towards spine and lean forward from the hips (nose over toes)
Back straight, head in neutral Action: Squeeze through your glutes and the front of the legs
Push through the feet and come to standing
Stop just before knees and hips are fully extended
Reverse steps and return to starting position without ‘flopping down Form:Do not arch your back.
Do not allow self to “flop down”
Push evenly through foot, not only heels
Keep glutes contracted the entire time
-To add difficulty you can try holding a weight in your hands (goblet squat), stop just before sitting down so that there is no rest between reps (this becomes a body weight squat), take a longer period of time for the “eccentric” phase of the exercise. (This is when you are lowering yourself down.)
RDL’s / Single leg RDL’s – I could explain how to do this exercise. But here is an awesome video. Credit to Coach PJnestler on youtube.
Position:Laying on back, palms up
Knees bent ~100 deg, feet flat and about hip distance away from eachother
Draw navel in towards your spine and flatten your back
Action: Squeeze through your glutes
Push through your heels
Raise bottom up until shoulders, hips and knees are aligned
Hold 5 seconds, slowly lower to starting position
Form: Do not arch your back.
If you feel this in your back decrease how far you raise your hips. Do not allow the knees to come in towards each other, keep them straight up and down.
To add difficulty try placing a band around the knees and don’t allow this band to pull knees towards each other. You can also place a barbell across your hips (hip thrust exercise), or switch to a single leg.
Position: Laying on side, knees bent, feet together
Heels, shoulders and hips aligned
Tilt body slightly forward (pointing navel toward the floor) Action: Squeeze through your glutes (buttocks)
Keep your heels together and lift top knee up.
Hold 5 seconds, slowly lower to starting position. (In this photo I have a resistance band around my knees, this is a simple way to increase the challenge but is not necessary to benefit from this exercise) Form:Do not arch your back.
Do not allow hips to rock back & forth.
–You may want to perform with a wall or other straight surface behind you
Keep glutes contracted the entire time.
To increase the difficulty you can add a resistance band around the knees or hold for a longer period of time.
Monster Walks/ Band walks. – Here is a great video to show how to do band walks. Credit to Coach Pj nestler
Stay tuned for more credible information and correctly titled articles. Lets sort through the misinformation together and focus on the purpose of strength training. To live healthier!