crossfit

The Pull-Up Tutorial

Welcome To My Pull-Up Tutorial

Some of you Lovelies may be looking for your first rep. And some of you might just be looking to improve your current abilities. Either way, this comprehensive tutorial will teach you drills and progressions to help you finally master this highly coveted skill.

Don't forget to download the written program. Just tell me where to send it!

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 Do I Train My Core?

And What Does That Really Mean, Anyway?

I always make it a point to sit down with new clients and talk about their goals. And in the past, the most frequent request of my lovely ladies was, as you can easily imagine, weight loss. They’d look down at their already beautiful bodies and point to this or that stubborn spot and anxiously ask, ”How do I get rid of this?

But the tides, they are a'turning. A shift has been made. The mainstream fitness industry is beginning to push the importance of moving better and getting strong. Now my potential prospects are pointing to the exact same areas and proclaiming, with even more uncertainty, I think I need to work on my core?

Not unlike fat loss, core training is somewhat confusing. There’s tons of available information and all of it seems to be quite conflicting.

The only difference being, we don’t seem to come across a decent definition of what core stability actually is as we scroll through our feeds.

There are however, endless random lists of exercises that appear to challenge our midsections….or something like that?

Core stability... That’s like working on my abs, right?

And that assumption is not untrue. Go ahead, girl. You’re on to something with that statement. It’s just not the complete story. There’s a little bit more to the definition.

 

What Is Core Stability?

Core stability refers to your ability to tie yourself together, to connect the different segments of your body and maintain your posture through a given position or movement.

It’s your ability to hold that position, to stand your ground against resistance. 

So it involves your abs and your midsection yes, as much of your success is dependent on your ability to breathe through the positions and harness that power. 

But it’s oh so much more than that. 

Mainly because, not unlike fat loss, the reason for the mystery surrounding core stability is that it’s situation specific. Or position specific to be exact. 

Meaning, your ability to maintain core stability in a squat, is quite independent of your ability to maintain core stability in a row, or even say something as similar as a squat on one leg. You might look really poised and pretty on two legs, and then not so much on one.

And everyone has different core strengths and weaknesses. Things we are inherently good at and things we may need a little more confidence with.

There’s plenty of reasons why that could be. Maybe you’ve had more practice with squats, so your posture looks lovely. You’ve had more experience and training to refine the movement.

But maybe you sit at a desk for long hours during the day and now your rowing posture is not quite as pretty. 

Not to worry, my dear! You just have some practicing to do.

 

Regress to Progress

Just as you attack any other skill, you’ll need to start with the basics. All exercises have regressions and progressions. There are unlimited ways to make them easier or harder. A deadlift can turn into a swing. A split squat can turn into a lunge.

You will, however, need to start at the very beginning of the path to learn the requisite skills you’ll need later. So that as the challenges get more complicated, you can move through the next progressions successfully. You can progress to that lunge without pain or compensation. Which is really a nicer way of saying you’re doing it wrong. Let’s get it right. 

The very first step for most exercises is to bring them to the floor and turn them into isometrics, or static holds, rather than dynamic movements.

And that my friend, is why you think of core work as that ab stuff on the mat. You learn to use your breath to connect to your body and it certainly does feel like a lot of abs. Mostly abs. All of the abs.

We said that core strength is specific to the movement in question. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that in the gym, your movements are generally broken up into six or seven different categories. You push and pull. You squat and bend. You rotate. And you stand on a single leg. I say seven because I believe the split stance is it's own thing. Respect the lunge. Anyways...

The Best Basic Core Routine

So, I’m going to give you five different foundational exercises(the single leg consideration is built in) and a breathing exercise, that will serve as your core warm-up for any workout you may have planned. Or they can also be used as the workout if you are just getting back into the gym. 

Breathing From Child's Pose

Finding neutral spine can be difficult when you are stuck in lumbar extension. Stress, sitting at a desk, indigestion, periods, and wearing heels can all cause your back to stiffen up. What we're referring to here is that excessive curvature in your lower back that feels painful and makes ab stuff impossible. Not everyone deals with it, but a lot of us do. In this video, I instruct you to complete one round of five breaths. But you may need more rounds on tough days to experience relief.

Even if your back is perfectly painless, it's a great idea to still start with some breathing first. You're going to need to create large amounts of tension for these exercises while still managing to control your breath. Practice without the tension, first.

 

Prone Cobra

What we're preparing for: pulling motions - Deadlifts, rows, carries 

***For all exercises, be sure to read the cues and troubleshooting tips below the videos! You'll find them in the description section if you click the little YouTube icon to the bottom right.

 

Prone Plank

What we're preparing for: pushing motions - Squats, Bench Press, Sleds

 

Hurdle Hold

What we're preparing for: squatting motions/single leg motions - Squats, Step-Ups

 

Leg Lock Bridge

What we're preparing for: bending motions, lunging motions - Deadlifts, Split Squats, Step-Ups

 

Side Plank

What we're preparing for: rotating motions - Get-Ups, RoTational and Anti-Rotational Exercises

The Routine

1. Breathing From Child's Pose 1 - 3 rounds of 5 breaths

2. Prone Cobra x 30sec

3. Prone Plank x 30sec

4. Hurdle Hold x 30sec

5. Leg Lock Bridge x 30sec

6. Side Plank x 30sec

And don't forget about the carry-over! When you advance to more difficult movements or move to the strength portion of your day, look to apply the same principles to the progressions. Breathe through your loaded movements while creating tension and focusing on maintaining stability. 

Stand your ground, girl!

Are Your Ankles Adequate?

And What To Do If They Are NOt!

Lunges are necessary—The split stance should never be ignored. And I don't care what anybody says on that particular subject. Front squats are a great introduction to the world of barbell lifts—the one true 8-minute ab workout among the gimmicks. Sprints are theoretically the best choice for cardio—and can turn you into a fat-burning machine.

All three of these exercises have two things in common. The first is that they are all simple but excellent staples, that merit a place in any good training program. From fat-loss to core strength, they all hit the marks with multiple shots.

The second, is that they require a certain amount of mobility to be completed successfully. Lunges, front squats, and sprints all require you to have ankles that move pretty damn well.

And bad ankles affect more of the population than you might think. It’s kind of a hidden problem because tight, locked up ankles typically don’t result in pain at the site. It’s a rare occasion that any client ever comes to me actually complaining of ankle pain.

Limited ankle mobility affects other joints, and shows itself as seemingly unrelated issues. So it can be really difficult to realize unless you actually measure it.

Clients DO often complain of knee pain during lunging.They experience back pain after goblet or front squats. And I’ve seen a slew of runners with frequent ankle sprains. These are merely possible clues. But, any one of these issues could prompt an ankle investigation. 

The simplest way to know? You don’t need a kinesiology degree to dig a little deeper. You just need a dowel(could be the swiffer mop in the closet) and a ruler(your phone works fine. An iPhone6 is about 5 and a half inches long for reference).

How To Know If Your Ankles Need Work

Now, should you find that your ankle mobility is less than stellar—as you learned from the video, a distance from the wall of less than four inches, you need to work on your ankles before you jump into any of the aforementioned exercises. 

In the meantime, you can swing and snatch yourself silly. Do all of the deadlifts. And any upper body stuff is of course fair game. Simultaneously, you’ll be working towards earning your sprints and front squats back. 

Here is a quick routine to run through, with a bonus exercise at the end after you’ve been working for about two weeks(every day 2x a day or 4weeks 1x a day).

**Should you find that one ankle is tighter than the other, you'll complete 50-100% more work on the challenging side.

***THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT! If you experience closing joint PAIN-- and that means that as you push the knee further in that ankle mobility assessment and the front side of your ankle hurts--DO NOT try this routine. DO NOT even bother reading the rest of this blog. Proceed to your nearest body work professional. This is not going to work for you and might make the situation worse. 

If everything feels good, let's get going!

(1) Foam Roll Calves

As we covered in the last blog, we don't necessarily know why it works, but foam-rolling the calves can get you a little more range of motion in a snap.

(2) Stretch Calves

Push into the wall as you drive the heel back into the floor. Make sure that foot is straight and hold for thirty seconds.

(3) Mobilize Ankle

This is my go to mobilization if I know my client is going to be working out alone. All you need is a sturdy band and an anchor to tie it to.

Post stretching and foam rolling, you should have gained more flexibility. Now move through it! 8-10 strides is perfect.

(4) Core-Activated Hurdle Hold

This one can seem kind of silly. You might even get into the hold and think, What's happening here? Where's the work?

The feedback from the cables(or a band works here too!) teaches you to push into the ground with the standing leg and elongate your body, creating space in the joints. In yoga, we call this rooting to rise.

All of our joints work better when there is adequate space to move properly. Including those pesky ankles that can get otherwise squashed in single-leg balances. LENGTHEN.

If you pay attention to this subtle activation, you'll learn to apply the concept to the next two exercises...

And maybe EVERYTHING you ever do. And then maybe EVERYTHING you do gets better as you set yourself up for increased core stability with this one simple cue. BOOM. Automatic sophistication. You can stop reading now. Ok, just kidding.

(5) Assisted Split Hold

OK, Ok I know we said lunges will cause you problems if you have tight ankles. 

But! If we dial it back down and regress our split stance to an isometric hold, and we take off some of the load by adding assistance, you should be able to find the perfect first challenge. 

Progressively load the ankle by using the straps less and less as the exercise becomes easier. Thirty seconds on a hold is great.

(6) Squat Toe-Touch*

*To be completed only after progress has been made and confirmed by reassessment. 

Not to be confused with a typical bend-patterned toe-touch. Don't worry about hinging back. I want you to drop that booty for 8 reps on this one.

I also want you to look for a lot of ankle dorsiflexion i.e. push that knee forward to challenge your new range of motion. 

And move slow! Speed makes everything harder. A four count down and a four count back up, minimizing any shift on the foot as much as possible to be successful. A loss of balance is an indicator to you that your learning speed may be slower than you think.

And finally, remember that space concept from the hurdle holds? Root to rise! 

The Program

(1) Foam Roll Calves (60sec)

(2) Stretch Calves (30sec)

(3) Band Ankle Mobilizations (x8-10 strides)

(4) Core-Activated Hurdle Hold (30-60sec)

(5) Assisted Split Hold (30sec)

*(6) Squat Toe-Touch (8 reps) After clear progress has been measured

 

Now, once you get to that magic 4-inch mark, don't just jump right back into long sprints and heavy front squats and loaded bulgarian split-squats.

Adding load and jumping ahead too quickly is a sure-fire way to negate your progress.

Start with short sprints. Begin with unloaded split-squats and lunges. Stick to easy reps on the front squats. 

The benefits don't just stop here. Your single-leg lifts should all benefit from the ankle work. And you may even find your glutes engage a little bit better as well. As your newly named glute goddess, I know a thing . 

#adequateankles #sophisticatedstrength