Four Ways To Improve Your Hip Flexion

Decrease Lower Back Pain And Improve Your Lower Body Lifts

You’re not alone if you experience back pain when you train lower body, girl. Lower back pain is pretty much the number one reason why most people avoid heavy squats and deadlifts in the first place. And insufficient hip mobility, necessary to pull yourself to the bottom position of said exercises, is typically the culprit. 

Inadequate Hip Mobility Is Hurting You

I’m going to keep this explanation short, but it all goes back to a little idea called Joint-By-Joint Theory. One of the major conclusions of this important philosophy is that if you are lacking control in one joint, one or more of the surrounding joints are absorbing an excess of stress. And this may even lead to a waterfall of irritation and dysfunction up or down your entire body. 

Pain is a signal. In the specific case of back pain due to heavy squats, that alarm is your body’s way of letting you know that you’re trying to force the pieces - put your joints into a tough position - when they don’t quite fit. And you’re cruising for more severe injury if you keep ignoring this warning.

Work On Your Hip Flexion

So how do you put out the fire and get back to working out comfortably? Squats and deadlifts are valuable exercises in the gym for building strong legs and a nice tight booty. And they’re also important in your every day life to ensure you can bend over and tie your shoes or squat down and lift the value size bucket of cat litter.

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So, I’m giving you four exercises you can use to improve your hip flexion. That’s the action of pulling your knees to your chest with a neutral spine. You need to be able to put your hips in flexion while under load, with structural integrity, at the bottom of your squat or top of your hinge. Even in a split squat. So its’s quite imperative that you own this mobility with specific strength challenges in order to continue to make progress on your legs and lifts. 

Four Exercises To Strengthen Hip Flexors

This progression of exercises will increase in difficulty, taking your from the ground to a super tough hanging position. So be sure to spend about 3-4 weeks on each one before moving on. You can use them as a warm-up or as an accessory to your big lift. 

Band Hurdle Hold 

Place a mini band around the balls of your feet. Begin with your spine flat and your knees tucked. Exhale and reach one foot away to challenge the opposite side. Inhale and return to the starting position. 

Side Plank with hip flexion

Begin in a short side plank position from your elbow. Without any other motion, pull your knee to your chest and hold.

Banded Mountain Climbers

Set up a looped band at a fixed point. Begin with one foot in the loop from a push-up position. Maintaining neutral spine, exhale and pull the knee to your chest. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Hanging Hip Flexion 

Begin in a hollow hanging position with active shoulders. While keeping the anchor leg straight, exhale and pull the opposite knee to your chest. Inhale and return to the starting position.

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Get a Running Start On Your New Year’s Goals

This Is Your Year

It’s no surprise that starting a running regime tops the charts as the #1 goal of fitness seekers. Not only is running a great way to get fit and lose weight, but it’s also just a great deal. If you’ve got the will and a pair of running shoes(which can be easily purchased on close-out sale with all those holiday gift cards you’ve acquired), you can start immediately, no joiners’ fee or long-term contract required.

These benefits are enough for most to strap on their kicks and get started. But, there are also a slough of other perks that will not only increase your ROI, but also keep you motivated to stay consistent. And we all know that consistency is key when it comes to long term success with any goal, particularly in the business of fitness.

Contemplating your own New Year’s Resolutions? Unlike most trend-following fit pros, I encourage any of my clients who have interest, to get running. And I help them do just so. Here’s why…

Running Is The Best Form of Rhythmic Cardio

This fact gets easily overlooked but the truth stands: Lifting weights faster does not fulfill all of your cardio requirements. HIIT workouts done with strength moves will certainly make the walls of your heart stronger. Your heart will need to work hard to pump blood to your body and adapt accordingly. But this is just one half of the cardio equation.

When prolonged tension is placed on your blood vessels(as with lifting weights), blood flow back to the heart is actually restricted. And the walls of your heart will not adapt and EXPAND over time correspondingly as they should in relation to the thickening of the walls we just covered. This creates an increase in pressure that can actually put you at higher risk for cardiac episodes. 

Running however, does improve your heart health more completely. The sequencing of muscles during the motion actually allows for increased venus return to the heart, forcing that expansion of the ventricles that your heart needs to stay strong and healthy. 

So, if you’ve been thinking you should add some cardio into your fitness routine, you probably should. And running is a perfect way to get all the benefits your heart desires. 

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Running Will Give You That “Fit” Look

Yeah, you know what I mean here. That lean but shredded physique that gives the impression that you could rock a red carpet, but also crush a quick 10K if you needed to straight after. Defined, but not necessarily jacked.

This physique phenomenon is not a genetic anomaly, but merely the result of improved glycogen storage in your muscles. Glycogen is a source of energy for your body. This little adaptation occurs from the result of endurance work, not from heavy lifting as you might imagine. Although, it’s important to know you’ll need strength training to ensure there’s muscle to be pumped in the first place.

When your body is asked to do prolonged bouts of works, it must begin to use glycogen as fuel, instead of just ATP(bio lab flashback!). That glycogen that’s stored in your muscles has certain H2O binding factors that help it give you a “shredded” look. Yes, your body depletes it during the run, but going forward, your body learns to become more efficient and keeps better stores on the daily. Those glycogen molecules will in turn rip more water from underneath your skin and suck it into your muscles, further defining those lines that make us look “fit.”

So, if you’ve been hoping to fend off the fluffier look you normally rock in the colder months(those hibernation instincts are strong in 14-degree cold of New Jersey), running can give you that bikini-ready look in March.

Running Helps Your Brain Become More Resilient

Yes, we all know that exercise helps release some feel-good hormones that can help you deal with chronic mental health issues like depression and anxiety. But, running also releases the chemical norepinephrine. 

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter, but it’s also an important hormone present during the body’s stress response - your “fight or flight” mode. Running has been shown to increase the production and storage of norepinephrine, effectively allowing your body to manage it’s response to physical and mental stress better. 

So, if you feel you’ve been dealing with stress poorly or you know you’ve got a tough couple of months coming up, starting a running regimen can be a great way to troubleshoot or preventatively balance. 

Get a Program

All of these potential benefits from running paint a very bright future. But, it’s all just speculation until you actually get rolling. You’ve got to be consistent with your efforts and meticulous in your planning. You could just hit the road and start logging miles without any more awareness or knowledge, but this is how most fitness seekers drop off by February. 

You need a program that will keep your mind motivated and your body strong. Ready to finally tackle that mental block that seems to get in your way every year? Get STRONG ENOUGH TO RUN on sale now and find your inner runner.

Learn more by clicking the link above or purchase before the sale ends here!

How To Really Master the Pistol Squat

Oh it's me, so you must know there's almost always a "but." And here it is: I do not think you NEED to be able to complete a perfect pistol squat in the same way I believe that EVERYONE should be able to deadlift, goblet squat, run, and sprint. It's not necessary for joint health and certainly not an indicator of overall fitness. I even wrote an article on the premise that pistols are more of a party trick than a training tool. The sentiment still remains.

However, I've had some fun messing around with them myself recently; and coincidentally, a very dear friend asked for help with her first rep as a decent bodyweight challenge in light of facility/equipment challenges. So, I felt inclined to oblige your requests for a "how to" as well.

You see, the truth is, a pretty-looking pistol isn't that difficult to achieve, if you've got the patience and the path. And as a product of your diligence, you'll also gain previously unfathomable mobility in your hips and ankles, as well as covetable core strength and chiseled abs. 

As said, I've got the path. It's simply the practical way you would try to master any other physical skill. We'll break it down the lift into smaller, more manageable pieces to master the movement as a whole.

But the patience part, now that's all up to you. You'll need to spend considerable time on each of these exercises as part of a bigger training cycle. And you may even need to complete the cycle twice before you are able to drop it all the way down on one leg. This willingness to respect the process ensures your safety and success.

And one more thing before we get lost in the explanation of each exercise in the cycle: A rounded spine and collapsed upper body(as I've seen some IG movement specialists ignore) is inexcusable in a pistol. It's a poor pattern to reinforce, and also indicates suboptimal lower body mechanics that you may not be able to see distinctly. In short, you can end up doing more harm than good to your joints and tissues, resulting in aches, pains, and injury.

You'll know to progress to the next exercise when you can maintain the integrity of your posture though the movement, and you can also find some ease in the execution of the exercise. So while I recommend a certain amount of sessions with each skill, you may need slightly more or less time than the prescribed interval.

Progression #1 The Narrow Stance Squat

Also called the "flat foot squat," this skill pre-requisite is imperative to your practice. Because it's ludicrous to try to attempt on one foot, what you cannot do on two feet. But in fact, this is the most frequently skipped skill on the path to a perfect pistol.

As demonstrated in the video, you''ll begin with your feet pointing straight forward and hips width distance apart. The key is to bend from the knees first before breaking at the hips for maximal mobility. If however, you cannot get to the bottom with that tall spine we talked about earlier, you can use a weight far away from your body as a counter balance or place a small wedge of some sort like a 5lb plate beneath your feet. Take the assistance away when you can comfortably complete the exercise with ease. You can also add resistance to make the exercise harder by holding a weight close to your body.

You'll want to work on these at least two time per weeks. 3 sets of 10-12 reps with a 3-second lower would be excellent. Train whichever variation you begin with for 3-4 weeks.

Progression #2 The Isometric Pistol

The goal of the first exercise was to gain the mobility and strength to own the bottom of the pistol squat on two legs. The goal of this progression is to own the bottom position on one leg. 

You'll begin by descending into your narrow stance squat. But instead of coming right back up, you'll hold at the bottom and begin to shift your weight. To add more challenge, you can actually lift the foot off the floor as I demonstrate in the video. And to even further challenge, you'll begin straightening that leg out as you kick it forward. In this practice, you'll find that the opposite foot is just as important as the one you're standing on. You'll need great control to keep that hip in flexion and prevent the foot from touching the ground. Add some suspension for assistance with that posture again.

You'll want to work on these at least two time per weeks. Completing 3 sets of 8 shifts, lifts, or kicks would be excellent. Remember to breathe! Train whichever variation you begin with for 3-4 weeks.

Progression #3 The Eccentric Pistol Squat

You practiced on two feet. You learned to own the bottom. Now, it's time to work on the descent with a little more focus. Your intention with the eccentric is to fight gravity and control the lowering down part. 

Beginning at the top of of the pistol, attempt lower down on one foot on a count of 4 seconds. Do not, come back up out of it. Simply roll out of the bottom. Return to the starting position however you like for the next rep. Add in suspension for postural assistance.

You'll want to work on these at least two time per weeks. Four sets of 4 reps with a 4 second eccentric would be excellent. Train the exercise for at least 3-4 weeks.

Progression #4 Toe Grab Pistol Squat

It's important to remember here, that the pistol demands a high degree of difficulty. And once you achieve your first pistol, it still requires a max effort at one rep alone. So, I want you to do away with structure here. You're holding on your foot in efforts to assist the flexion on that side and aid in stability.

You'll train this toe grab pistol at least three times per week now. And you might do 2 sets of 3 reps. You might do 3 sets of 2 reps. Or you might even do 6 sets of single reps. The benefit of this sort of structure, is you're free to follow your intuition and train what feels right. You might train the singles on days where you feel more tired or sore. And you can train the doubles and triples when you feel fresh and strong. 

Pistols and other single-leg exercises can be super tough. But just like your two-legged sills, the right progression will get you to your goal, and really impressive feat of strength at that. #sophisticatedstrength.

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Why Too Much HIIT Is Killing Your Progress

...And How You Can Incorporate Intense Training For Maximum Results

HIIT workouts are EVERYWHERE. From Barry’s on the east coast to Orange Theory on the West Coast. Think those combo treadmill/dumbbell workouts are it though? Soul Cycle and Flywheel are the HIIT of cycling. In most cases, your neighborhood hot yoga class is probably an HIIT workout more than it is an ancient mobility practice. The magazines and the Instagram fit-pros pretty much deal in nothing else. And oh yes, Crossfit is an HIIT workout too. 

There are multiple reasons to explain why  HIIT training has become the new go-to workout. But, they aren't what you might think.

HIIT training is (on first glance) accessible. It’s what we call in the industry low-barrier-of-entry. Don't be fooled, though. That does not mean that the workouts are easy. Decidedly the opposite is true. What it means to boutique fitness is that instructors can pack a class in a relatively small space with dozens of bodies and minimal equipment. And similarly for the IG stars and fitness editors, they can provide a workout that followers can perform in their living rooms without registering for a class. 

HIIT also fits our deeply engrained ideas of what an effective workout is. We believe that training should be ALWAYS be hard. It should leave you feeling spent, sweaty, and sore, right? This assumption is not true. But HIIT checks all those boxes we’re tempted to tick. 

But wait! Isn’t HIIT so popular because it’s good for fat-loss???

Well, yes. Of course it can be. But any new and novel training style will result in initially favorable fat-loss. And HIIT certainly has it’s place as PART of a well rounded fitness regimen. But as most things go, too much of anything is too much. 

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And that too much - that high level of intense acute stress can turn into chronic stress that threatens your health and sabotages your success.

Now anecdotally, you may have already come to this conclusion on your own without knowing exactly why. You want to lose fat but no matter how much you increase your effort, you seem to have plateaued. And you’re supposed to be getting strong, but in fact you’re realizing more aches and pains than when you started.

So why does progress seem to reverse when you’re working out hard? And how can you incorporate HIIT into your program with favorable results? Those successful studies on the multitude of benefits must have some merit, yes?

Well, I went to my friend Justin to get some clarity on this very complicated and potentially frustrating issue. Justin Janoska is a clinical nutritionist and coach who helps women facing autoimmune disorders turn their lives around. He is an expert when it comes to hormones. And that’s what we spent much of our time chatting about.

It All Depends On Stress And Hormones

You see, different types of workouts elicit different hormonal responses. And workouts that are super stressful, just like life situations that are super stressful, temporarily cause a spike in cortisol. This acute elevation isn’t bad as you might have heard. Chronically elevated cortisol is a problem though.  It’s persistent and prolonged bouts of stress that result in excess cortisol and subsequent belly fat buildup.

“Hormones dictate your ability to lose weight before calories can even be spoken about,” says Justin. “If abnormal cortisol and thyroid hormones levels are present, no amount of caloric restriction or deficit will push the needle.”

This is why consistent under-eating and frequent hard workouts may have little or no effect on your ability to make physique progress. 

What’s even more startling is that this particular kind of hormone dyregulation can result in digestive havoc and induce cognitive changes in your brain - i.e. giving you problems like IBS, depression, and a multitude of autoimmune disorders that seem unrelated.

“It literally puts the kabosh on any chance of weight loss because the body is too preoccupied with overcoming the challenges. Bionergetically, its shifting towards immune function and inflammation, which is costly in energy requirement.” says Justin. Think of it like going into fight or flight-mode. Basic body functions gets under prioritized as your body struggles to adapt.

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Too little cortisol is not good either. Your training program should provide the RIGHT amount of stress, an appropriate challenge that your body can adapt to. But without any stimulus, there can be no prompted change either.

How To Incorporate HIIT Correctly

You can totally avoid the negative health effects of chronically elevated stress hormones, and find your own RIGHT amount of HIIT for the positive results you’ve read about, if you follow these simple but important guidelines.

1. Realize that HIIT is one course of the meal that is your personal fitness plan.

 And if you want to get really specific with your metaphors, consider it dessert. It’s the “use sparingly”, indulgent treat of the fitness pyramid and should be treated as such. Your training plan should be grounded in mobility and highlighted by focused strength and rhythmic cardiovascular sessions. But that doesn’t mean that Barry’s class you love to take with all your friends and your favorite instructor doesn’t belong. Fitness should be fun. Simply try scaling back to just 1 or 2 times per week.

Monitor your body’s response.

It can be difficult to know if you're pushing too hard. But you can ask yourself these guided questions: Do you feel at least 80% recovered at the beginning of each new interval? Is your heart rate back to normal by the time you get to the subway or your car? Do you sleep well that night and wake up feeling rested? Just these simple questions can start a really good inner dialogue, which Justin says is key for figuring out what works for you.

Stay conservative.

This can be tough if the prescribed parameters from the instructor are extreme to begin with. And that added pressure of class competition and having your results displayed on a huge screen can also tempt you to screw it and go beast mode. But, don’t be afraid to be that girl doing something different(this is bigger if advice too). I always recommend my lovelies begin at a 1:2 work:rest ratio. So if you have 30 second bouts of burpees, break 60 seconds. This will also allow you to crush the pace and keep the intensity high. When you can no longer recover in 60 seconds, take a longer break, switch things up, or call it.

Monitor the intensity of other stressors.

Like your emotions, job, relationships, finances, etc. Stress is stress. If the intensity in these other areas of your life is high, you may not need to add additional fuel to the fire by ending the workout in a puddle of your own sweat and starting the next day too  gassed and stiff to be productive. What’s the cost? What’s the benefit? If the benefit isn’t higher, find a less intense outlet to move your body and blow off steam. Resume when conditions improve. 

And most importantly, remember that fat-loss and fitness are about working WITH your body, not against it. 

Ready to try something new? For just $29 you can get my STRONGENOUGHTORUN program that combines varying intensity, alternating strength and cardio days to maximize your physique results. Not a runner? Any cardio medium can be swapped in at your choosing. You'll get 12 weeks of core-focused workouts to get stronger than ever, without the excess stress. Use code HELLO2018 and get started TODAY!

Play With Speed (Part 1) - Add a Pause To Your Lifts

When you think about your overall abilities in most strength exercises, you probably tend to judge your progress by how much weight you can move at once or how many reps you can complete at one time. And so, these two variables, load and volume, are likely the ones you focus on the most as you practice. You make the work more challenging by increasing one or both.

This strategy is quite smart. Changing only these two variables will work for quite some time before your progress seems to level off - years, really(when programmed correctly). However, there is another variable you can manipulate just as easily to bust through that next plateau. You can play with the speed of your repetitions to help you get stronger, and closer to your aesthetic goals.

And there are a lot of upsides to this beyond those two more obvious, covetable benefits. The first is that you can work with relatively light weights for big gains. You’ll have considerably more options to train sub maximally and still continue to build strength, without super heavy weights all the time. Working with super heavy weights more than a few weeks at a time can fry your nervous system and stunt your progress and cue significant detriment to your health, so this one is major. Whether increasing or decreasing the speed, you'll be working with no more than 60% of your max.

The second is that you'll really OWN the movement. Like any other skill - and strength is a skill to be sure - it's to your advantage to practice slowly at first. As you gain proficiency and fluidity in the movement, you'll be able to add speed and complication while maintaining integrity.

OK, OK. On to the reasons you really care about...

Add Speed For Challenge

As you can imagine, you have many options here. You can try to move your body or the weight(the load) really quickly and explosively. This action teaches your brain to recruit motor units very quickly, and therefore get your muscles to help you execute the action really fast. We’re talking about building efficiency here. You'll feel more like the strong chick you already are. Keep in mind, this is on the advanced end of the spectrum. 

Decrease Speed For Mastery

You could also slow down the concentric or eccentric(the push or pull) parts of the lift, fighting gravity a little more to lengthen out the time of the reps. This action teaches your brain to recruit a higher number of motor units, and therefore get more of your body involved. We’re talking about keeping your bod looking like it does all the work you do. Also important to note, is that exaggerated isometrics and eccentrics have been shown to reduce inflammation that can keep you feeling both achey and boxy(you know what I mean here). These are great options on the more beginner end of the spectrum, as we sort of touched on above.

Or, you could slow things down so much that you take a PAUSE somewhere in the lift.

Pause To Break Through Plateaus

Now the pause is great for multiple reasons including all the benefits that come from decreasing the speed of work. But, the pause being a quick hold that you add to a specific part of the lift, also helps you gain more specific strength at the moment you stop, and work through weaknesses that might be holding you back from progress. For example, if you find it difficult to get your back knee close to the ground in a split squat - if that end range mobility is tough - you could dump some of the weight and add a pause in the bottom of the movement, adding greater value and dare I say FUN to the session.

There are an unlimited amount of moments at which you can add an unexpected pause to your typical movements. So, get creative if you're not sure. Really girl: Trust yourself. Try adding it in different places and see which feels most challenging. This can lead you to intuitively find the weak links and learn about your body.

Here are some wonderful ideas (including the split squat example above) that focus on owning that end range of motion, as most of you lovelies express concern with mobility. Beginners can start with 10 reps and a three-second pause. More experienced lifters can use loads of 40-50% for 4 sets of 5 reps and a two-second pause.

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Plus right now, you can train with me for just $9. The Holiday Challenge is back and better than ever with 30 days of progressive workouts, fat-loss nutrition support, and science-backed mindset strategy to help you find your motivation. The Challenge begins December 1st so sign up now for a chance to win a prize!

The Secret To Improving Your Squat Depth

Many of you lovelies are concerned about squatting past parallel. So we’re going to chat about that today.

But, let’s get one little disclosure out of the way first:

***Getting to rock bottom in a HEAVY barbell squat is really not as important as you may think. Unless you are stepping onto the powerlifting platform that is - in which case you’ll want to train to that desired depth as outlined by the rules of your league. Otherwise, dropping it to the point that is comfortably difficult is the best course of action when faced with more MAXIMAL EFFORT weights. And this kind of squat is really not what we’re talking about here anyway.

OK. Back to it...

To get this started, let me just say that I happen to think it’s generally SUPER important to be able to goblet squat at sub maximal loads to at least a depth that allows your hips to sit below your knees. But it’s this type of squat—the more upright, front loaded, tailbone-at-6pm kinda squat, where we seem to struggle the most.

I don’t really mean “we" as in you and I. I am not one of the strugglers. Just recognizing the truth here: I don’t have ANY issue with dropping it like it’s hot. I wait for the subway at Spring Street with my booty between my heels and my nose between the pages of a Henry James novel. 

 

Some Bodies Can Just Get There Easier

I don’t point this out to gloat. Although this ability has certainly allowed me an immeasurable advantage in shaping my very curvy backside. Hah.

I note this for two reasons. My joints are arranged definitively differently than yours. And, I spent many hours from the ages of 4 to 13 working on my flexibility in ballet shoes. What that means is, I’ve got an advantage in both leverage and training history. Those are two very important factors contributing to squatting ability.

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But You Can Drop It Low Too!

But, just because you may not have the same body or background as me, doesn’t mean you can’t get to be as comfortable as I am in a fuller range of motion with some intentional practice.

And oddly enough, all those releves and grand plies - those deep knee bends at the bar - taught me an important cue that you might find is the game changer for improving your squat training.

The one cue that makes all the difference - the one that will ultimately allow you to sit into a fuller range of motion - is exactly how you initiate lots of your basic ballet skills....

Instead of moving from the hips to start, you need to begin solely by pushing into the knees first.

 

But Won’t That Hurt My Knees?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself “But I have bad knees.” First off, don’t talk about your joints like that. How you speak about your body has a powerful effect on your brain. Don’t forget that! 

And yes, it’s certainly easy to imagine that aspiring for a sharper angle at the knee as we’re implying here, is going to make matters worse.

But, the thing is darling, doing a slow and controlled deep squat—putting your knee into greater flexion with intention and care; will actually help strengthen that knee you are worried about.

You know that knee of yours that doesn't feel so great after lunges or jump squats or sprints - when it’s forced into those tighter positions under much higher speed, load and pressure from that amrap clock. Slow it down. Give your brain and body a chance to learn and understand the motion.

As you practice BONUS, you'll also be giving your body a chance to strengthen other joints in a fuller range of motion like your hips and ankles - and those guys love to move.

 

How To Initiate Your Front Squat

So here’s your challenge. Start tall with your feet rooting down and the crown of your head reaching to the ceiling. Begin to pull the floor apart with your feet (if you've never heard that before, click here!) as normal. Now, keeping your hips locked up tight underneath your shoulders, continue to pull the floor apart as you bend the knees and pull them apart too. You can think of this like sliding your back down the wall a few inches.

Once you've got that slight bend, THEN you may move from your hips. But instead of sitting back, aim to get your butt right between your heels on the way down - i.e. push forward as you go down.

Watch this quick vid for a visual demonstration of what we're saying.

Did you get lower than you normally do? Do you think you could get even lower if you held on to something like a rack or a TRX? Make adjustments with assistance to achieve an even better result if you can't get all the way down there.

And more importantly - Do you feel how your quads, those muscles on the front side of your thighs, are working super hard? Thats gonna help you get that nice defined leg you’ve been chasing after. Just beware, you’re gonna be a lot more sore than you normally are.

 

Practice!

Start with 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. Try and descend nice and slow - like a 3 second count, before returning to standing. Add in a 2-3 second pause(without losing tension) once you've practiced a couple weeks. Add weight as needed.

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How To Get Strong Enough To Run

Strength Training For Running 101 - Trunk Stability

In-person and online distance coaching clients included, many of my lovelies like to use running as a means for improving fitness. It’s an economic and effective choice.. Running is what we call in the industry a “low-barrier-of-entry sport,” - i.e. something that requires small financial investment and little or no facility/equipment requirements. That sounds great, right? Fitness should be available to all.

HOWEVER, the ease with which we have access to running sometimes tricks us into believing there’s no major pre-requisites in terms of skill either. And unfortunately, that just ain’t true.

In order to withstand the repeated stress of running and reap all the potential benefits—and yes, there are many reasons to run—your body needs to be strong in all the right places. There are certain strengths REQUIRED before starting a running regimen.

Getting stronger in order to run better is an easy concept to grasp. “But, strong in what ways,” you may ask? Well, that my dear is a very good question. Cause you certainly don’t need to go wasting your time with bicep curls and tricep push-downs, as I see lots of cardio queens toiling over in the weight room.

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You need to focus on developing certain qualities that will have better impact on your readiness for running like plyometric and deceleration training. You’ll also benefit from lower body mobility and strength training.

We can get into those concepts more at a later time(shout me out @ashleighkast if you have interest), but right now we’re gonna talk about the most important quality you should work on first - the one that is going to influence your success through all the others - and that is trunk stability.

I'm going to give you one bit of magic that will help you increase your trunk stability - which by the way is important for EVERYONE, not just runners - but first, let's talk about what it is.

Ok, what is trunk stability?

Trunk stability is what you may really be imagining when you think about “core training." You know that your trunk is your body—your torso without the appendages. So trunk stability is then defined as your ability to keep your torso stable throughout any given movement—moving with integrity and honoring the way the joints work there.

Why is this so important to me? 

Well, for our purposes, we’re going to focus on the lower part of your spine. As you run, you need to be able to keep your lumbar spine and your pelvis stable…

To Improve Your Mobility

Proximal Stability Leads To Distal Mobility. What leads to what? Ok. let’s break this loaded statement down. Cause it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds. When we say “proximal” we mean towards the midline of your body i.e. your trunk. When we say “distal” we are referring to joints further away from your midline, like in this particular case - your hips.

So what we’re saying is:

If you can create a more stabile environment throughout your trunk, you can gain better mobility through your hips without doing a single isolated stretch. 

And that increased mobility can potentially lead to a WAY more efficient stride. With a more efficient stride, you’ll be able to run faster with less effort. That sounds good, right?

To Breathe More Efficiently

Your diaphragm is primarily a respiratory muscle. Everyone knows that. However, the diaphragm also plays a significant role in your postural stability, including the lumbo-pelvic complex we’re focusing on. As you engage in more strenuous workouts, the priority of the diaphragm needs to shift to that cardio focus. But you’ll need to have enough strength in other supporting muscles like the pelvic floor and the transverse abdomens in order to continue breathing optimally as the threshold shifts. 

So what we’re saying here is:

If you can challenge your trunk stability and in turn strengthen all those muscles involved in that task, you can be more efficient with your breathing pattern as you run.

With a better breathing pattern, you can run at higher speeds and you can run for extended time. 

To Lessen Your Risk Of Injury

We mentioned this before, but you need to honor the way you were made to move and therefore respect the function of your joints. As we said, your lumbar spine and your pelvis need to be more stabile and your hips need to be more mobile. Dishonoring of that relationship will result in unnecessary stress on joints that can't handle it. And more than likely, you'll run into lower back stiffness or pain first.

So what we’re saying is:

If you can challenge your trunk stability and strengthen your joints PROPERLY, you can build the capacity in your trunk and lower body to withstand the stress of running.

With the right strength, you can ensure your benefit is higher than your cost, and get better every year without being sidelined.

How can I start working on my trunk stability?

You can start building better core strength for running right now by training in the half-kneeling position. This posture works great because it not only mirrors what happens when you run (putting one hip in flexion and one in extension), but it's also simply difficult to screw up. You'll know if you're not getting it right because you will lose your balance and fall over. That doesn't sound nice. But the results from challenging half-kneeling are VERY NICE.

Start with these three:

Half Kneeling Chop

Chop the cable down and across your body as you keep your hips unmoving.

Half Kneeling Lift

Lift the cable up and across your body as you keep hips unmoving.

Half Kneeling Belly Press

Press the cable straight in front of you while keeping hips unmoving.

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