Take stock of your workout routine using this check list of movement patterns which are vital for improving your performance.
You’ve probably heard it before: these are the exercises you need in your routine. No single piece of equipment, other than the human body is the cure all. As you age and progress as an athlete, it’s worth taking stock of what you’re capable of and what’s missing within your armory of performance. This starts with a question you should ask yourself: why are you waiting until after you get injured to do functional movements? You may not have the answer that you function across three planes of motion: sagittal, frontal and transverse. Most exercises in the gym are sagittal. Most injuries happen in frontal plane and transverse. So, why don’t you activate those planes and what gains are you leaving on the table when you ignore them? What’s more, activating more joints and muscles also burns more calories – simple math! You shouldn’t waste time in your workouts when you can get more calories burned in less time
On top of this it’s important to be aware of closed chain and open chain exercises. So, you may be doing heavy leg extensions for years, which are not a natural movement for the legs and is all open chain. Closed chain is the body’s natural movement and going from open to close is not natural movement. Most gym exercises are all in one plane of motion: forward. When you train in multiple planes of motion you prepare the body for life’s little hiccups, such as changing a tire on hill, laying mulch in the garden and carrying groceries up flights of stairs. Consider the following like riding a bike for the first time where you are educating your muscles and your mind together. Training in a new way may not be an easy change in the beginning. You may freak out when training like this because you’re not lifting heavy weights the way you’re used to, but it’s this adaptation which spurs unique improvements. You will very soon begin to get stronger and fitter in ways that you had not imagined.
The very best exercise is entirely accessible to everyone: the push-up. To do it better, you should not limit the movement and should embrace variations such as a lateral push-up, rotational push-up, stability ball push-up, Bosu push-up or plyometric push-ups. These challenge your body in new ways to retain balance and new movement structures.
The best moves for this are every type of pull-ups or chin-ups. There’s no sense in being able to bench press 500lb and not being able to do a single pull-up. How are you going to pull yourself up a wall or on a boat? What’s worse, too much push-work rounds the shoulders forward, so you end up looking like a gorilla.
This involves changing the position of your body and none does it better than the squat. As you get older, proper alignment is key and too many people avoid sitting into their hips enough and not arching their lower back or pulling their shoulders back when they squat. You want to test your squat? Stand in front of a wall with knees almost touching, now try and squat down below parallel without touching the wall and falling. That wakes you up pretty fast.
Some of the best moves are diagonal wood chops with a medicine ball or plate, figure 8’s with the same or a good old fashioned med ball or plate twist. People have mentioned that they don’t feel it in their core which is correct because you may not feel it where you think your core is. Most people have been trained to think the core is just the rectus abdominal muscles. It’s part of your core, but so is your lower back, your side obliques, top of your hips, the glutes, etc. The simplest way to put it is to draw a line from your opposite shoulder to opposite hip, that is your core and it needs to be trained as such.
This involves some sort of forward progression and the most basic and easiest exercise to digest would be the lunge or sled push/pull. Squats are great and needed, however you are not going to squat out of the way of a moving car, are you? If there’s a choice between squats or lunges, lunges should be you first choice. As far as any other locomotion exercises, anything with an agility ladder will fit the bill.
Too often this aspect is severely overlooked in exercise programming and should be integrated from the get-go. If you have no balance you have nothing in competition or life for that matter. The best exercise to develop this is the one-legged reach also known as the single leg deadlift. It works the entire leg from the toenails up. Anyone can do modifications from it and anyone can improve it.
People are generally doing full range of motion exercises but spend 10 minutes in a hot yoga class and you’ll respect the strength it takes to hold a position in place. Isometric strength is hugely important in life when you’re carrying groceries or holding a child, you will need it to avoid injury while improving performance. There is no single ultimate static position because they all have benefit for that specific area and others as well. It does not matter if it’s a static push-up, isometric chin-up hold or a side plank – they are all extremely beneficial.
Proper Breath work
This should be on the top of everyone’s list. So many people do not know how to breathe and a slow, rhythmic and controlled breath is the best because it forces you to slow down and take a look at life and yourself, even when performed during exercise.
Take stock of your current program and categorize each of the exercises you’re doing to figure out if you’re lacking in any areas because that becomes a risk area for injury. Try to strike a balance between working all these movement patterns because when you achieve this equilibrium, you’ll be well prepared to achieve all your athletic goals.