Keeping in line with this website's dedication to improving human movement and performance, this week's post is a list of everyday errors made by desk warriors and elite athletes alike. Errors that are made often, sometimes unknowingly, and hinder optimal movement. Movement and performance, by the way, are one and the same; poor movement patterns will crush and entomb hopes of elite performance and at the very least will shorten the ability to sustain high levels without injury. Anyways, here's the list:
1) Sitting. If you could change only one thing to improve not only athletic performance but also everyday performance, rid yourself of sitting. The average American spends at least 6 hours per day sitting. Kelly Starrett calls sitting the new smoking and that could not be more accurate. The real issues with sitting are two-fold:
1. General health problems: Sitting causes fat deposits around the heart, increases blood pressure, decreases bone density, and literally may kill you. The scary part of that article: even exercise and physical activity may not be able to undo the nearly 40% increased risk of death.
The fix: Stand the heck up. Walk instead of sit while on the phone, take frequent breaks while driving, and just plain stand at your workstation. This is often easily done but neglected due to appearances, if your coworkers look at you funny just know that you'll be cashing in on your pension while they're taking a dirt nap. Check this out to make a walking workstation on the cheap.
2. Performance detriments: Besides the above scare tactics, sitting can really mess up your movement mechanics. When you sit, your hip flexors (particularly your iliopsoas) control the position of your spine and pelvis and are continuously in a shortened position. This causes them to get crazy stiff and hypertonic (imagine keeping your elbow bent for 6 hours then trying to straighten it - gonna be stiff man). Additionally, sitting can drive the hip forward and jam it into the acetabulum (socket) and I suspect this is a major factor in the development of hip impingement. So now when the sitting warrior takes his talents to the training room he's unable to achieve full hip extension, totally overextends at the lumbar spine, and wonders why his back is killing him when he tries to power clean.
The fix: Prioritize anterior hip and quadriceps mobility with a goal of undoing every hour of sitting with 5 min of this stuff. Own up to your sitting sins!
2) Lack of goals: This is a common and major error among both beginning athletes and elite ones. Do you have a plan in mind for each training session? Not a vague, "I want to get a pump" goal but a thought-out goal and plan to achieve it. If the goal is to get stronger that's too general, we can do better.
The reasons we make goals and checklists are to hold ourselves accountable and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the time spent training. If each exercise, mobilization/stretch, etc. doesn't exactly match the goal of what you are setting out to achieve, why the heck would you do it? This is in-line with the research on deliberate practice by Ericsson et al; training is about mastering a skill/sport and without a set goal in mind you're wasting time. Expertise and elite status is not gained by simply putting in a high quantity of training, it is gained by putting high quality training. This is most easily realized by a firm set of goals with a plan. Coaches this applies to you too, having a training goal for your athletes is an absolute with practice, workouts, walk-throughs, everything!
The fix: I always prioritize having a daily goal with my clients, they cannot walk out without having addressed that goal. They are expected to have one for the session, too, and we discuss the plan for each session prior to crushing that impairment. Develop a short checklist (3-5 items max) that can be addressed THAT training session (for instance: 1) gain full hip extension after sitting all day, 2) emphasize glute drive during deadlift pull, 3) improve jump landing positioning for better repeatability). Each daily checklist should work towards reaching an overarching goal - reaching Olympic status, eliminating pain when using the stairs, squat 500 lbs, etc. Checklists reduce waste and improve consistency.
P.S. Read the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
3) Inadequate movement preparation: This goes along with prolonged sitting but too many times athletes roll in, do some half-hearted "stretches" and are ready to test their limits. I would argue that a proper warm-up of progressive intensity is just as important as the workout itself. Without a proper plan to prep for the movements, you or your athletes will never know how hard you can push the training session because it will be halfway over by the time true gains are to be had. The goal is to progress each warm-up from general to specific.
The fix: 1) Restrictions: Prioritize improving movement restrictions for movements to be performed that day. For instance, if you're deadlifting or sprinting and lack hip extension then you need to address this first, otherwise that movement will be wrecked by the restrictions. I know there are detractors that say static stretching decreases acute performance and I agree it may but if you are so restricted in a certain movement (like elephant-in-the-room-restriction) that is not going to fix itself you have to prioritize or jeopardize health and performance. Get a minimum of 2 minutes and mobilize at the point of restriction! Here's an idea for restricted ankle mobility. * You may need to check out a physio to screen and evaluate your specific movement needs.
2) Elevate: Increase your body temperature. 5-10 min of whole body movement to improve tissue temperature and improve elasticity. Jumping jacks, jump rope, treadmill to elevate the heart rate and prep tissues for loading.
3) Specificity: Here is where you prep for the day's movement by progressively loading and priming the tissues. For explosive training bouts (and competition-level) you need to prime the neuromuscular system for loading. This may involve some low-level plyometrics, progressively loading for weightlifting, increasing running intensity gradually. The goal is to progressively prime and load the systems for the day's specific movements. Here are 2 ideas for squat prep:
And one for sprinting from KroutPerformance.com:
Bottomline: Fix these 3 everyday errors and you're on way to improving movement and performance - which is why you're here in the first place. Drop some other ideas in the comments.
Next week: 2 MORE errors