Lower back soreness, stiffness, ache and injury are commonplace these days. With these 3 assessment based exercises you can test your lower backs robustness at home.
If you flunk all 3 tests lower back discomfort or injury maybe imminent. If you can comfortably perform each test chances are your pretty decent.
Just take care on the final exercise if you have any knee issues. Below I've described why each test is important.
Test 1 - Crossed Leg Seating
As a young school pupil we spent hours in this position, however as an adult few people have the ability to get knees close to the floor. Imagine the discomfort in the lower back if we had to listen to the head teacher ramble on now!
This test simply highlights hip flexion, adduction and external rotation range of motion (don't worry if these words make no sense). This is essentially the bottom position of a squat, or the start position of a sumo deadlift, or the shape you create to pick pretty much anything up off the floor.
If you think sitting on the floor cross legged is only for kids, think again, it's also for your dear lower back. Which let's be honest is pretty damn important too.
The off-season consists of a unique time where the rigors of sports won't interfere with our training. This is why the chief consideration is generally to boost strength, power and high intensity fitness, which is most probably wrong!
After a long hard season the body has taken a beating, literally. There will be imbalances, asymmetries, stiffness, slight injury and inflammation. In laymen terms:
The Finisher. Session is almost complete, mobility developed during the dynamic warm up, technical skills work, strength, & power been achieved during the primary lifts, core stability is nailed, nervous system primed. The finisher (possibly the most grueling part of the sessions) remains.
The finisher is the final aspect of the workout where the last droplets of effort are squeezed out. This potentially means exercise form & technique is not as crucial, the time to add some volume and hard grind to your workout is now.
Ultimately the content of your finisher is based on goals and the current training focus. Below are some examples:
Creating an exercise database as a fitness professional or gym enthusiast is one of the most valuable exercises you can perform. It will not only create effortless program design but also provide endless variation keeping training engaging, exciting and progressive. Often old exercise gems are lost with the influx of the latest, greatest fad new exercise, this is all achieved by archiving your thoughts.
Below I've created a video to help organize your thoughts into an Exercise Library / Database that's simple to use and understand. Over time this will become your favorite tool as an exercise professional or fitness enthusiast.
Strength, power & muscle mass sound sexy and fun, joint mobility & flexibility doesn't! Unfortunately without the mobility you can't achieve the sexy stuff, sorry. Both mobility & flexibility are essential to not only developing potential but also remaining in the gym, pain & injury free.
When teaching fitness courses an area that always rouses student interest is the movement screening section. This workshop enables us to determine joint mobility, muscle flexibility and potential injury risk. We primarily use 3 tests that'll determine basic mobility of four major joints:
Below I will detail how to perform and interpret each test with the potential outcomes of scoring poorly on that given test. You will need a partner & camera to help with measurement.
Active Straight Leg Raise
This test will assess the mobility of the hip joint and surrounding muscles such as hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, hip adductors and calves. Adequate hip mobility is essential to performing day to day tasks such as lifting from the floor and running at any speed.
Hip mobility is also essential for correct deadlift & squat mechanics and the development of muscle (bum, thighs, hamstrings etc) around the hip area. A reduction in hip mobility will likely lead to upper leg muscle strains and lower back discomfort and pain.
Interpreting the test:
Sports require strength, power & explosiveness for general success. Increased size and muscle mass for some sports people (field based contact sports) from strength training is okay, however a weight gain to certain athletes would be troublesome. Most combat sports compete in weight categories therefore a weight gain of 2kg to a boxer will make the weight cut an issue.
Here are 6 tips to provide a boost in strength & power without a rise in weight & muscle mass:
Focus on singles, doubles & triples - This refers to reps range. To develop high levels of strength & power we must stimulate the nervous system. The nervous system represents your billions of power cables running through the body switching on muscles. Training these will boost strength & power without signalling muscle growth. When lifting heavy either perform 1, 2 or 3 reps...lucky you!
Stay away from the 5-10 rep range - Higher rep ranges in the 5-10 region will not heavily stress your nerves (power cables), rather they'll stress the muscles themselves. The muscles would like to respond to this stress by increasing size & density ensuring they're ready for the next bout, resulting in larger muscles.
High speed long rest activities - High speed activities such as box jumps, 10m sprints, Snatchs, KettleBell swings & MedBall Throws require extremely high movement speed. These exercises heavily fire up the power cables of the body delivering tons of electricity to muscles which can be expressed as power. Long rest periods must be employed ensuring a complete recovery before the next set...at least 3 minutes is ideal.
Never train to failure - When lifting to muscular failure a number of nasty compounds build up in our muscles, namely lactic acid and hydrogen ions eventually leading to a muscle building signal. You know this feeling as the intense burn within muscle when lifting heavy. A key concept for fighters is leave 2 in the bank. i.e. the set ends when you believe you only have 2 more reps remaining.
Add light mobility & core work into rest periods - As mentioned previously we require long long rest periods between sets of lifting, this gets boring making workouts long. Adding light mobility drills and core exercises into rest periods will fill up the time without having to perform these drills before or after the main session.
Pair low rep & high rep in the same session - Whilst mid range reps (5-10) aren't advised higher rep schemes (15+) are beneficial. Single & doubles should be performed early in the session whilst higher reps exercises such as glute, abdominal and upper back should be performed at the end.
'Born To Run' is a fantastic book by Christopher McDougall. The book makes a compelling account on how we're born to run and how a lack of [proper] running actually creates injures and accelerates the physical aging process, as opposed to vice versa. Common knowledge is generally that running will injure you and create physical aging. This book was responsible for my re-birth of running and a resulting decrease in some annoying knee pain.
In particular they discuss the Tarahumara and Ultra-Distance events that span well over 50 miles in length and occasionally days in duration. Most people struggle with marathon distances however these athletes have a secret weapon apparently...an ability to tap into body fat stores.
The human body utilizes three fuel sources during long distance low speed activities Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein. Carbohydrate is in limited supply easily running out after a few hours of sustained effort. Carbohydrate is also very important for high intensities and should therefore be rationed by the body. Protein is not favorable for metabolizing as this indicates you're burning your precious muscle as a fuel source.
The main source left being fat which has an abundance of energy that will literally sustain energy at low intensity activity for days if not weeks. Unfortunately, due to high sugar high energy diets and low exercise, our bodies are extremely poorly adapted to mobilize and burn fat as fuel. Resulting in fatter and fatter populations and runners hitting 'the wall' early due to depleted Carbohydrate stores coupled with an inability to burn fat.
In the 'Born To Run' book a character named Phil Maffetone works with many top ultra-endurance runners to help train their bodies to efficiently burn fat as a fuel source. Over time the body must adapt like any other process. The process of adapting to heavy loads lifted will result in larger muscle. Long very low intensity activity will result in an increased ability to release fat from stores and burn it as energy. An inability to do this will seriously hamper any endurance athletes chance of success or event completion.
How then do you determine the correct intensity or speed of your run?
The simplest and most effective way to monitor intensity during cardiovascular exercise is heart rate monitoring. Maffetone recommends calculating your 'fat burning' zone by:
180 - age = Training Zone for Maffetone Fat Burning
The aim is to maintain your heart rate at or below this number whilst walking, running, jogging, swimming, cycling etc. This is the only way to effectively adapt your body to burn fat as a fuel source during exercise. Warning: it can be extremely frustrating attempting to maintain a low heart rate if you are used to training full steam.
The Karvonen Formula is another way for the geek in you to calculate heart rate training zones based on both age and current cardiovascular efficiency. The video below illustrates how to complete the formula:
Unlike most I'm fortunate enough to drive long distances most days to teach workshops & seminars. When driving you can't do much (hopefully) rather than think, contemplate, listen and drive. I use this time to listen to many podcasts and audio programs along with arranging my thoughts, it's my mental debunking time.
During each journey I aim to take one nugget of information that I can build into my life immediately. This maybe related to training, nutrition, lifestyle or other, by taking one I don't have to stop my car every 20 miles to write down the idea. I'm currently sitting in a service station in West Devon as I found this little gem so insightful that I wanted to commit it to memory by writing it down, here we are then.
Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I'm terrible at replying to emails, text message, phone calls, Facebook's, pretty much any form of communication other than verbal. I shrug off remarks of my rudeness by claiming I'm conditioning people to not contact me frequently, which is bullshit because when I don't receive any I feel lonely and unwanted.
Even more annoyingly is the fact that I'm consciously aware that I haven't replied which weighs on my mind at annoying times, during dinner, breakfast and bedtime. I feel bad for not replying. Often due to my laziness I leave the reply so long that I feel it would be rude and offend the respondent because of it's lateness so I don't reply at all, ever!! So I worry more. Hopefully someone out there is the same or am I just a crazy and lazy! Back to the little nugget:
Sam Walton's - The 'Sundown' RuleFrom Wal-Marts founder Sam Walton the Sundown Rule simply states that you should reply to all requests before Sundown (days end), "why put off until tomorrow what can be down today".
This rule mostly applies to communication, and even if I can't provide a full response that day, a simple "thanks for the message, I'm currently full on, I'll reply properly day after tomorrow" would certainly unload my mind and demonstrate politeness.
Just the thought of applying this rule lifts a load off my mind. The thought of lying in bed at night without remembering I have to reply to all those damn messages and feeling bad for my rudeness & ignorance towards certain respondents.
Maybe your similar and this will help a little. Hopefully this post will provide a little accountability for myself, if you message in the future, expect a prompt reply!