Most training programs have holes and we, as human beings, have imbalances that can make things even worse. While we’ve detailed the importance of carrying external loads and approaching mobility for ankles, hips and shoulders in a different way, the best solution –of course– is to become a stronger, more-balanced athlete with your everyday programming.
These seven movements are by no means an exhaustive list, but they should be a fairly regular part of your routine if you want to prevent injury, gain better mobility and stability for your lifts and develop strong glutes and core.
When should you do them? If you’re on a strict program -say, a one-hour CrossFit WOD – arrive 15-20 minutes early and do 1 or 2 as a primer before that day’s training or a post-workout cashout. They could also be loaded up in challenging weights and sets as accessory work (go heavy and close to failure) or used for light, tempo-style circuits on active rest days.
Experiment for a few weeks, find what works best for you and see if your body doesn’t feel much better with these staples in your regular rotation.
1. TURKISH GET UPS
The holy grail of movements, the turkish getup requires upper body strength to maintain the weight overhead, shoulder stability, hip and glute strength to raise yourself off the floor and a tremendous amount of core strength and stability.
It’s also a basic movement pattern —getting up off the floor— and that in and of itself can be a core workout. (They first part of the movement is called Turkish sit-ups.)
Don’t rush these. Do them right.
2. GOBLET SQUATS
This is not just a beginner exercise! Goblet squats have a ton of value for any athlete, providing immediate feedback when held away from you to help you really perfect your technique. (If you can goblet squat with perfect form you don’t have a mobility issue, you have a stability issue.)
Goblet squats help reinforce the need for trunk stability and bracing and helps your body feel that proper upright position. Think they’re too easy? Try them tempo style with a 5 second descent and pause in the hole —as heavy as you can handle— or wrap a band around your knees and squat in sets of 20 to fire up your glutes.
3. RING ROWS
If you’re doing them right, ring rows are harder than pull-ups. Not only do they fire up your upper back (middle trapezius and rhomboids), they help your posture and overall shoulder health. They’re also a horizontal pull, which is rare in most programs (particularly CrossFit) and extremely necessary to balance out all of the vertical pulls (like pull-ups) done elsewhere.
You can make them as hard or easy as you want, but please, PLEASE keep your core tight and go all the way up, pinching your shoulders together. They’re a great bodyweight move for warmup but can be scaled up —with a box under your feet or weight vest— just as easily as an accessory piece. Don’t be afraid to play around with grip here, using false grip is a great primer to muscle-ups. Here’s a variation example:
Tonight's #ADailydose is ring rows with a twist. Love 'em or hate 'em, but ring rows are extremely effective (if done right) for building the pulling strength needed to do a strict pull-up. Instead of using the traditional neutral grip (with your palms facing each other) try turning your wrists so that your palms face away from you to better simulate an actual pull-up? #genius __________ With these it's important to make sure you are engaging your lats properly as you're pulling. If you aren't sure or you have no idea what it means to engage your lats, ask a coach to watch you. On the flip side, you can also flip your grip around so that both palms are facing you to work on your strict chin-up strength. #winwin #athletedaily #ADailydose #movelikeugiveadamn
4. SINGLE LEG SQUATS
Or step ups, or deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts. Or…you get the idea. Do more unilateral work, especially before you get ready to squat or deadlift with two feet. Balance is critical for moving big weights and single-leg stuff makes sure both muscles are firing evenly before you pick up a barbell. (And helps even out your pelvis.)
You can load up any of these variations as much as you want. They’re particularly effective in tempo schemes or if you’re nursing a back injury and don’t want to load the spine. You can apply a similar principle to single-arm movements. Almost everyone favors one side to some degree and that can cause a ton of problems down the line.
5. HANDSTAND HOLDS
Handstands make you better at everything. For real. The amount of coordination, spine and core stabilization as well as shoulder strength makes the carryover huge regardless of what you’re training for. These should be done facing the wall so that you can practice good positioning and not arching your back. Aim for just your nose and toes to be on the wall. Too easy? See the below video for more advanced progressions. (And read more gymnastics tips here.)
Athletes, coaches, anyone who wants to get better at gymnastics: STOP throwing yourself against the wall all loose with an arched back. Here's an easy progression to get your shoulders strong and stable and make handstand pushups (strict and kipping), holds and freestanding walks much easier. Today's #ADailyDose also works wonders if you're having shoulder stability issues.⠀⠀ .⠀⠀ Step 1: Wall walks. ⠀⠀ Step 2: Chest FACING handstand holds. These should be the majority of your holds. Try to get as close to the wall as possible so just your nose and toes are on the wall. It's scary at first but it forces you to stay tight and in proper alignment. (You can't cheat.) Work up to 90 second holds for multiple rounds.⠀⠀ Step 3: Shoulder taps. Get to where you can do 10 total without falling off the wall.⠀⠀ Step 4: Hands go all the way at your sides. ⠀⠀ Step 5: Enjoy the fact that your shoulders aren't weak and regular handstand holds and pushups are now easy. #athletedaily #movelikeyougiveadamn
6. OVERHEAD LUNGES
These are in the single-leg family, but they’re important enough that we thought they needed their own title. The overhead lunge is a punisher that requires good mobility and hits your legs, shoulders and core. These are a great catch-all if you’re short on time to work into warm-up, bodyweight lunges, lunging around the clock (back, front, side) to get into the groin and hips and front-foot elevated lunges to put our hips and ankles through a full range of motion.
They can also be super fatiguing as an accessory piece. Start with a light weight in one hand, progress to a plate/barbell overhead and —for more of a challenge — use double kettle bells or a sandbag.
Careful with reps here! It’s easy to overdo it and then not be able to walk tomorrow. Those who have done 400 m of walking bodyweight lunges know what we mean.
These are probably the only movement that’s not ideal for adding to your warm-up. (Though you could run with the empty sled a little to get the blood going.)
The risk-to-benefit ratio is what makes these so great. Because there’s no eccentric portion like with most lifts, sleds won’t beat your body up as much and you can recover quicker. They’re also a fantastic way to develop leg strength (without loading your spine) and get your lungs going fast.
Depending on your needs you can do 30-45 second sprints with a manageable load, put a few more plates on and really do some grunt work or make it a lighter endurance session (don’t be fooled, these still suck.)