The Movement Fix workshop ruined me, in the best possible way.
It started last year. I had spent years trying to wedge myself into the “perfect” squat stance convinced that it was just a matter of the right drills, tons of mobility and stability work. When I found this article Dr. Ryan DeBell wrote about why people HAVE to squat differently, my whole world in the gym changed.
When I signed up to attend DeBell’s TMF workshop this summer, I figured I’d learn some new coaching cues and help others find their best squat stance.
But I learned much, much more than that. The workshop ruined me. It not only challenged me to move better, but to think outside the box. In a world brimming with quick fixes, online “expert” coaching and the mindset of pushing through pain in both workouts and mobility, DeBell’s stuff was a breath of fresh air.
MOVE ALL YOUR JOINTS, EVERY DAY.
That seems silly right? Of course you can move all joints- you probably do that in daily life or, at the very least, it’s covered in your training. But it’s not. Try this little number: Plant your foot to the ground and try to lift up only your big toe 10 times. Then try to keep your big toe down and move only the other four toes 10 times. For most of us, that’s really tough. Why? Because those joints don’t move.
Well, who cares about moving your big toe separately?, you’re probably thinking. Anyone who lifts weights should. Your feet are the ONLY point in contact with the ground on any big lift. If you aren’t able to move those joints, you can’t control them and that’s a real problem. Do you have hip pain, knee pain, feet that like to move early in the snatch or clean or that cave or come off the ground during a heavy squat? Pay attention to your feet.
Here’s a great drill for that.
And here’s a 5-minute routine to move pretty much every joint in your body. This isn’t stretching, so much as it’s keeping your joints active and healthy. Healthy joints move. Healthy joints don’t hurt.
STOP PAINFUL MOBILITY WORK
Pretty please. You may recall our ultra-popular article with Dr. Quinn Henoch over at Clinical Athlete where he debunked the myth that foam rolling is an effective warm-up or a way to break up adhesions. DeBell had the same line of thinking, —citing numerous research studies—as he explained there’s no way we can create the kind of stress to break up scar tissue with a foam roller or lacrosse ball.
“Why would I base my opinion on a viewpoint that all the actual data and research disagrees with?,” DeBell said. “Let’s take your foot for example. You see someone grab a ball and roll it out and if it’s not working, what’s the next step? To hit it harder. But what if the tissue is just irritated and needs time? Can you image what you’re doing to irritated tissue? If you have a bruise, you can see it’s a bruise and you know if you took a ball to it, it would hurt. I don’t make the bruise better by rolling out the bruise. It needs time to recover.”
Rolling out isn’t always bad. It’s actually been proven to help prevent some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after workouts. But it’s not a way to break up scar tissue and it’s not the best way to get you primed to lift heavy or do functional training. And you definitely don’t have to do it to the level of unnecessary suffering.
“Just because something hurts to roll on doesn’t mean you should be rolling it. Like a bruise. An eyeball. That would hurt. If i say, ‘It hurts to roll out, that means I didn’t roll out enough.’ That’s not true,” DeBell said. “You can roll out a nerve, your ulnar nerve, your humerus that would hurt. What are we trying to do when we roll out? We are trying to increase the temperature of the tissue and get the muscle directly underneath to relax so that we can get some range of motion working. If I want to remodel scar tissue that’s called tension, eccentric stuff and really loaded range of motion drills work best.”
YOUR BEST SQUAT STANCE IS YOUR MOST COMFORTABLE SQUAT STANCE
You can’t squat exactly like your friends or the person you watched hit triple bodyweight on Instagram. While there are general guidelines for how a squat should be performed —to prevent injury and maximize the potential for larger loads— the variation, stance and toes-out angle are going to be INCREDIBLY personal depending on your body.
Going as low as possible is NOT safe for everyone. Get the “ass to grass” mentality out of your head and really look at your form at your lowest point. Is your back rounded? Are your feet coming off the floor? Some people are better designed to move just past parallel. And there are a (relatively small) group of people who will never be able to safely squat below parallel.
Does that mean you should stop trying to improve things like ankle and hip range of motion? Absolutely not. But as an athlete (or a coach) you can’t think of squats as a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s not even a one-size-fits-most approach. Play with different stance widths, degree of toes out, low bar versus high bar. Most of us are training for fun, for long-term strength and longevity. You deserve to find the best stance to do that.
Speaking of squat improvement, if you know your feet/ankles are a problem, try this distraction paired with negative calf raises as a primer before you lift.
The banded ankle distraction gets butchered all the time and you end up essentially wasting time fiddling around with a band. 🙋🏼🤦🏼♂️🤷♀️Enter this simple, effective variation I picked up at a recent seminar with @themovementfix⠀ ⠀ ❗️❗️❗️First, place a band over the tongue of your shoe. People frequently put the band too high on the shin and they aren't actually creating space in the intended area, the talus. So make sure the band loops in the right spot.⠀ ⠀ ❗️❗️The other key here is to add more of a vertical element in stacking two 45-lb. plates to put your foot on. This assists in distraction. As you move your foot back and forth, DON'T jam or force anything. Just relax, put as much weight as you can on the PVC pipe and do 10 reps per side. You're just creating some space to use down the line.⠀ ⠀ ❗️These are great to circuit with some negative calf raises (you can use the plates already stacked for this) and goblet squat holds to really help seal the new range of motion. Remember, mobility is great but you have to find a way to make it stick to get real, meaningful change.⠀ ⠀ Stay tuned for some more cool stuff with @themovementfix coming soon. Thanks to @code3sandiego for letting us crash and film some stuff. ⠀ ⠀ #AthleteDaily #ADailyDose #movelikeugiveadamn
EARN THE RIGHT TO MOVE FAST (AND LIFT HEAVY)
Your training program should be IMPROVING your quality of life, not making it tough to get out of bed and function in the morning because of back pain. High-level athletes deal with various amounts of pain, and that’s because the level they train and compete at isn’t normal. But most of us aren’t high-level athletes. We are training to get strong and get in shape, but we need to have a balance between that and overall longevity.
Take your shoulder for example. It’s the most mobile joint in the body, yet one of the most common complaints DeBell sees is people who think they have “tight shoulders.” Almost every time, the athlete would benefit MORE from a proper shoulder program that strengthens the capsule as well as increases overhead mobility in active way.
So, before you do a CrossFit WOD with 100 pull-ups or work on heavy jerks, put the time and effort in to get the tissue prepped and work on activation around the shoulder girdle. Here’s an example:
Pick your favorite shoulder opener for the back of your shoulders, followed by…
3- 4 rounds of
10 banded face pull
10 band pull apart
10 banded lateral raise
DeBell calls this kind of stuff “your daily greens” (And it’s not just beause every workshop participant gets a green band.)
Think of this kind of stuff like eating veggies- not huge for your macro goals, but very important for micronutrients. It’s this kind of stuff that’s going to keep you healthy and injury free. Too often, especially in CrossFit, people just want to do brutal metcons where they “go into the pain cave”. But you have to balance that out. You have to earn the right to ratchet up the intensity, otherwise you’re just beating your body to a pulp for no good reason. Not everything has to leave you winded, or be super heavy to be effective.
If you pay attention to little things –like practicing single leg hinging before you deadlift- and constantly ask your body for feedback, you’ll notice that stuff carryover to everything else in your training session. Earn the right to go hard now or pay for it later.
For more from The Movement Fix:
Quick Hip Assessment for Squatting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0nJpBGOml4
How to Prep Your Hips for Squatting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjSvZ_KjvmA
Nightly ‘Stretching’ Routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqpCAuNvAOg
Modifiying Workouts for Athletes Who Have Pain: http://bit.ly/movement-fix-modifying-workouts
Shoulder Program: http://bit.ly/movementfix-shoulder
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