3 amazing, metabolism boosting exercises. 3 exercises requiring a great amount of strength, skill, and body mechanics. 3 exercises that i see done incorrectly in most gym members/clients. Now this could be due simply to bad body mechanics, bad posture, or bad movement patterns. Or it could be that the movement pattern wasn't learned correctly as has always been poor. When done incorrectly, these movements can lead to injuries to the hips, knees, lower back, and even ankles.
The key to learning these movement patterns is to regress in order to progress. Start simple and get the basics in order, so that you can progress to more complicated movements that involve multiple joints.
Lets start with the squat. In one of my previous posts, titled "Start acting like a 3 year old," I showed a picture of a baby doing a perfect squat. Problem is, we lack that same kind of form due to postural issues, and various compensation patterns we develop as we age. The squat, especially the deep squat involves a lot of mobility through the hips, but also requires that one has proper mobility through the ankles and thoracic spine. Oh and stability through the knees and lumbar spine (thank you Gray Cook's joint by joint approach).
Here is the way to execute a proper squat:
1. Stand with feet hip width apart, maybe a little wider.
2. Initiate the movement by pushing the hips back, and then bending the knees, lower yourself down at least till thighs are parallel to ground if not lower.
3. Make sure you keep your head and chest up and avoid bending from the waist.
4. Once you reach a proper depth, drive through the heels and push you body up.
Of course there a many variations and all sorts of movements and tools you can add to make it a more challenging exercise. Regress before you can progress. Get the simple part down, before you start making it complex. Too many people want to jump in and play with all the fun toys before mastering the basics.
Next, the swing. I hate improper swings. I really really really hate it. I hate seeing gym members do it, I hate seeing other trainers try to "teach" it. I guess it's become one of my pet peeves to the point that when I see someone pick up a kettlebell, I have one eye on my client, and one eye on this unwelcomed distraction. I think the uggliest swing Ive ever witnessed involved full spinal flexion where this persons shoulders ended up near their knees. If that werent bad enough, the swing continued into a full hyper extension with the kettlebell way overhead. Ugh!! I had to intervene and ask where they learned to swing a bell like that. I was disgusted when I was told, "oh my trainer showed me." Wow, is all I have to say.
Swinging a kettlebell comes from the hips, not the arms or shoulders.
1. Start with the feet hip width apart.
2. Push your hips back. As far back as you can(think deadlifts) keeping your abs tight.
3. Grab the kettlebell, swing it back between your legs and then explode forward, extending from the hips and squeezing your glutes as hard as you can. You should be standing straight up and not arching
4. Control the bell during the lowering phase, absorbing the momentum with your hips, and loading for the next rep.
Once you master and control the basic swing, there are many variations that you can do. Once you have this awesome exercise in your arsenal, your workouts will never be the same.
Lastly, lunges are constantly being done wrong. I see a lot of people tracking their knees over the toes, heading for a knee injury of some sort. This is especially true of forward and walking lunges. People tend to let the bodies momentum carry them forward and into a compromising postition. Another common error is lunging and letting the upper body fall foward, similar to the same problem with the squat.
Here is your quick fix:
1. You want to take a comfortable step forward and drive your hips DOWN towards the ground.
2. You do not want to drive your hips forward. That will strain the knee too much.
3. Lower yourself till both knees hit 90 degrees, however making sure the back knee doesn't hit the ground.
4. Push off the front leg using the quads and glutes to come back into a standing position.
A great way to progress up to lunging is by doing a split squat. This is an exercise in which the lunge is held and you learn to push your hips down to the ground and back up again. Once you master the split squat, then movement can be incorporated for an added challenge. Another added challenge is adding upper body exercises to the lunge, but save that for when you have the skill and balance to complete basic lunges.
Lunges also come in all planes of motion. Off the top of my head I can think of 5 lunge variations.
2, Reverse (step back lunge)
3. Lateral or side lunge
4. Transverse (which is similar to side lunge, but on more of a 45 degree angle)
5. Curtsy or crossing lunge (TRX is a big help on this one)
Master and learn the basics for all three of these exercises before you jump into trying all sorts of crazy things, just because you see other people doing it. If you take one thing away from this post it should be:
"You must regress in order to progress"