The week ahead is long and there is much to do, its only Tuesday. So we like to keep it short and sweet on #techniquetuesday. Today we discuss the plank. Plank is a great core exercise but often faulty techniques negates the true benefits of the exercise. In my mind, the true purpose of the plank is to engage the core to brace and protect a ‘neutral’ spine. However, I often find when performing a plank that the hold time supersedes good form. There’s a lot of excessive arching, ribs flaring out, more than desired hip flexion, cervical extension etc all for the sake of getting that extra 30 seconds. Here are some example-
Excessive lower back lordosis and cervical Extension
Excessive hip flexion
Try this instead-
Remember, the spine is not perfectly straight so a little ‘natural’ arching is acceptable. A cue I often use is to gently pull the front rib cage down towards the feet, I’m not a big fan of the cue ‘drawing the belly button towards the spine’ because it interferes with normal diaphragmatic breathing (which is important for proper core engagement).
If the plank off the feet/toes is hard, regress it to ‘off the knees’ like this-
As I have mentioned before many times, my masters in exercise science was just what I needed after completing my bachelors in physiotherapy. To over simplify it, It gave me an insight into exercise selection, administration and prescription which was only brushed in my bachelors of physiotherapy program. I believe this was for good reason, the bachelors degree in physiotherapy is focused on rehabilitation. Not as much on improving performance or training otherwise healthy adults. It brushes over it, but not thoroughly enough in my humble opinion. No wonder physios in countries like the US and Canada often go through this path of exercise science/ Kinesiology before entering physio school. I went the other way, but the bottom line is, there was a lot to learn and it is fascinating.
One of the facets of training which I was fairly unfamiliar with was training for speed and agility. Before we proceed, this is what the NSCA describes in its book ‘The essentials of strength training and conditioning’ speed and agility in terms of training-
Speed- the skills and abilities needed to achieve high movement velocities.*
Agility- the skills and abilities needed to explosively change movement velocities or modes.*
Most athletes need these attribute, the ability to get from point A to point B fast, this could be chasing a football/soccer ball, a run up for a fast bowler, sprinting to the finish line etc. Also, the ability to accelerate, change directions, decelerate etc. like in tennis or basketball. The ability to produce force fast in a certain direction would still require baseline/foundation strength. But we must also train for that quick first step in a sprint or that quick change in direction which must be practiced with drills. Just lifting heavy things might not help with that. These drills reinforce the ‘brain-to-muscle’ connection that we often talk about that is learnt with repetition.
One of the common drills I often saw being used by strength coaches as a warm-up or on a low training volume day is ladder drills. Here is a video of one of my colleague performing some basic (not simple) drills on the ladder. She has a track and field background in high school and collage and has practiced these drill many times over the years. Enjoy-
Forward sprint (Variation)-
Lateral In and out’s-
4. Icky Shuffle-
5. Cross behind forward-
I also use some of these drills in our senior population. After all, what is one of the major reasons for falls in seniors with balance issues? I think its one of them is the inability to contract muscles fast enough to prevent a fall. An example would be if they have one of their legs caught in the cable/carpet at home, its the inability to put the other leg forward to prevent a fall. Why not train them to move faster or to be able to maneuver around objects at home with ease. It can also be a great multi-planer cardio-vascular exercise for them. But of course at their own pace, keeping their medical history in mind and keeping these drills simple. There are many more drills and exercises which I will discuss in later blogs. What are some of the drills that you like? Feel free to share.
On #techniquetuesday part duex, we discuss pushups.
In the 1st video you see some of the common mistakes when performing a pushup. Elbows are not close to the body but flaring out, not going deep enough and not going down and coming up as a whole but instead bending and arching from the back which might be indicative of weakness or improper engagement of the core.
2nd video shows corrections for the above along with finding a proper neutral starting position for the pushup
If you are unable to perform a push-up with proper form, regress by doing it off a bench, table or mats as demonstrated in the 3rd video.
4th video is another regression of the pushup off the wall.
The intention of #techniquetuesday is to highlight mistakes and demonstrate corrections for common exercises that I see often. For the very first one, we will discuss everyone’s favourite, the quadriceps stretch and the hip flexor stretch. Here goes-