Planking with good posture!

What does this even mean?

I’ve been taught that it means to have your body straight, and strong, like a board. The more I learn about the body and the movements we are capable of, the more I think I understand how complex each of those movements actually are. The plank is definitely one of those complex movements! I think we almost need to break each movement down into its parts before doing the whole thing. A basic premise that I have been introducing in these ‘posture’ videos is to figure out how to contract the rectus abdominis (thus pulling the xiphoid process down to the pubic symphysis (or pubes)) while simultaneously contracting the spinal extensors to pull us ‘up’ into a tall posture. The same is true in the plank … it’s just that our ‘tall’ posture is now parallel with the floor! Finding the neutral pelvic tilt is also important. Everything changes a little bit, though because now your shoulders are weight bearing joints instead of ‘free.’

Latissmus dorsi

…or your ‘lats’ … really need to be engaged during this movement. (Don’t get me wrong. There are MANY other muscles involved in the shoulder movement here!) The lats might be the easiest one to think about first.

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Adding arms to posture

Talking about the bench press and looking at the Tricep extension

Raising our arms above shoulder level shouldn’t affect our posture, yet so often … it does! If you are using your lats to ‘stand up straight,’ you are locking your shoulders into an unnecessary position. Your intention is most likely to be engaging your back muscles, but what you’re actually doing is just extending your arms.

So, in this video, I want to explore the idea of using your spinal extensors to stand up straight and your shoulder muscles to move your shoulder!

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Muscle Misconceptions

a snippet from a larger lecture (actual lecture not available on-line)

  • I hope to make the rest of this lecture available on line at some point, but I thought this was an interesting enough tidbit to share.

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Deadlifting for joint health

In this video, you’ll notice that his knees are flexing right along with his hip hinge. If you have tight hamstrings, this can’t be helped. However, if you don’t have tight hamstrings, try to keep your legs as straight as possible for as long as possible until you just can’t reach the bar without flexing your knees.

Some of you might say that knee flexion really isn’t too big of a deal. Up to a point, I’d agree. Keep in mind that the majority of what we are trying to achieve with the deadlift centers around the hip hinge and getting the glutes and proximal hamstrings to turn on during hip extension. So, let your knees do what they have to do. The important idea, in this moment, is that you are hip hinging with the very best form that you have even if it can’t really compare to your neighbor!

So, the next question might be ‘how do I pick something up off the floor … be it a barbell or a trashcan or my child … without rounding my back?’ This is where the intricacies of that hip hinge come into play!

As I point out at 0:50, the ability to anterior tilt our pelvis is a big part of that hip hinge. Two major muscles involved would be the psoas and the rectus femoris, our hip flexors. A person might want to say that our ‘abs’ are pulling us into that anterior tilt, but this is incorrect. Our trunk flexors curl our torso forward while our hip flexors create this hip hinge.

At 1:05, I address how to become aware of what happens during that anterior tilt. So many times, when someone tries to anteriorly tilt their pelvis, their lumbar spine hyperextends. I think this is wrong. As I have watched people do this, it appears like they are trying to stay upright. In competition, staying upright might seem good. In talking about joint health, staying-upright-by-hyperextending-your-lumbar-spine is bad.

So, how can you anteriorly tilt your pelvis and not hyperextend your lumbar spine? As you figure this one out, this might be where knee flexion comes in handy. Flexing your knees gives your whole posterior chain more room to adapt to the pending load.

As you are beginning your hip hinge, think about reaching backward with your hips. If you simply bend forward at the waist, you’ll either fall on your nose or at the very least all the weight will be on your toes! Try to center your weight more over the front of your ankles. (You’ll know when you are too far back because you’ll start to fall backward, or your toes will lift up off the floor.)

At 1:15, I mention using your trunk flexors, or your ‘abs,’ to help with this posture. This may seem counter-intuitive because it definitely does not pull you upright! Just know that I’m trying to help you achieve joint health and a flat back at the same time! So, while you are holding that anterior tilt, do a ‘crunch’ and hold those abs tight. Now, as I point out … somewhere around your shoulder blades, maybe just below … try to contract those spinal extensors and pull your spine into a ‘taller’ position. Keep in mind that ‘taller’ here doesn’t mean toward the ceiling. It means ‘taller’ toward your head and in a straight line. I find that if I pull my head up and out of my shoulders, that gives me more room to find a better position.

Go back and forth between the abs (rectus abdominis) and the spinal extensors until you just can’t contract anything else to make yourself taller.

The question is … now can you hip hinge more? Have you picked up your … barbell, PVC pipe, trashcan or child? Could you maintain this idea of form with every decreasing angle of anterior tilt? Keep your back straight, but hip hinge and then flex those knees to reach your object!

Now that you have your object, keep your form! This is still where you want to use your legs instead of your back! So, keep the back straight and engaged! Find those glutes and hamstrings and turn them on and then use them to pull yourself up to standing.

At 2:30, I highlight a difference when doing a competition deadlift. The end movement is called hip terminal extension, among other things. (It could also be called a posterior tilt, which would be the opposite of the anterior tilt described earlier.) As you are lifting your object, your glutes should be totally concentrically contracted. Thus, as you near the end range of motion, the final squeeze from your glutes should be pulling you into that terminal hip extension. An important note here is to be aware of what the end of that motion actually feels like. You should still be able to be tall, strong and stocky while holding that hip extension. If your pelvis drifts forward at the same time, though, you are now jamming your femoral heads into the anterior wall of the acetabulum while simultaneously jamming your sacrum up into L5. (This would look like a slight leaning back at the end of the motion instead of a slight tucking of the tail.) Don’t do this!

At this point, some rules allow you to just drop your object. You and I are talking about joint health here and there is a lot of ‘health’ to be achieved by using my proposed idea of form to set your object down. (Also, you might be holding your child! Don’t drop them!)

While you want your hip flexors to be helping you find that good anterior tilt on the way down, they are not going to be responsible for this movement. Your glutes and hams are still controlling the descent. So, keep them turned on and keep your spine straight and tall. No rounding … and no hyperextending! And if your object is not on the floor quite yet, flex your knees instead of your spine!

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The main joints we’re looking at here are the knee joint and the hip joint. At the bottom of your squat, the knee joint should be as actively engaged and fully flexed as possible. Your range of motion may not be the same as your neighbor, and that is okay!

As you push your pelvis backward into an anterior tilt, it is okay for your knees to drift in front of your toes. (This can actually help you attain depth in your squat.) (Remember this point, it can be very helpful!)

At about the 1:30 mark, I’ve asked him reach backward more, or do more of an anterior tilt. This is the beginning of getting parallel. You are using your hip flexors to do this anterior tilt.

At the bottom of the squat, your spine and tibia really should be parallel to each other. I find it easier to achieve this if I start thinking about it right away. So, as soon as you initiate hip and knee flexion, keep your back and lower legs parallel. Just before you can’t stay parallel, that is the bottom of your squat!

In order to not be pulled into lumbar hyperextension, contract your rectus abdominis as much as possible. This should keep that lumbar spine out of hyperextension.

However, it will pull your thoracic spine into hyperflexion if you’re not paying attention! Now you have to visualize thin strands of spinal extensors that you can contract to pull your thoracic spine out of hyperflexion.

Go back and forth to make sure that the anterior and posterior muscles are equally contracted. As a side note, remember to pull your head out of your shoulders. This will help that thoracic spine stay strong.

Increase your squat depth only if you can be parallel and equally contracted.

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