Earn The Right To Move



“You must earn the right to move.” These words from my mentor have colored the way I train my own clients at one of the most successful gyms in Washington DC. Our bodies naturally find the path of least resistance for any activity. Whether it’s squats, curls, or everyday tasks, our body subconsciously defaults to utilizing muscles that are already well suited and paths that are most familiar for the movement at hand. This is the result of, and further perpetuates, imbalances that not only affect our workouts but our basic mechanics. To counter this pattern I use what I call “conscious contractions”, and by assisting in the recognition of underutilized muscles I help assure the effectiveness and safety of my time with clients.

To help you ensure your most effective utilization of often forgotten muscles, I’ve outlined four common practices I use with clients.

Floor DeadBug – Core Activation

For the first movement, set aside your inner saboteur and take a relaxed position laying on your back. Raise your knees up to at a right angle. Flex your toes towards the ceiling, and extend your arms over your shoulders. Gently arch your back by drawing your shoulder blades slightly towards your tailbone. Now here comes the contraction. “Squeeze your ribs together”. Sounds odd right? Abs are such a common goal, but we often compensate to get through a core exercises. By thinking about squeezing your rib cage together while drawing your belly button towards the ground you ensure the activation of your entire core. Once this contraction is achieved you’ve officially completed a Static Floor Deadbug. Over time, progress by adding in bicycle kicks or arm flies or by moving to an unstable surface like a Bosu ball. Eventually, you’ll be in the gym, in a DeadBug on a Bosu ball, throwing a stability ball overhead against a wall (one of the only core exercises that don’t bore me to death).

Band Contractions – Upperback

Being able to “pack” the lats and traps creates a stable upper body, and will help you with pushing sleds, bent over rows, chin-ups and other exercises that utilize the upper body.

Start by holding a band with arms by your thighs. Pull the band apart, hold that contraction, then repeat. Do this with arms extended at chest height, and again with arms overhead. If you’re unable to recognize the contractions, I recommend completing bent over rows. Bend over a box or bench and grip a light weight with just your fingers, pull towards your chest, scraping your elbow along your ribs, slowly lower, then completely release the grip. That release is the trick. The light grip prevents the use of the forearms taking over for underutilized back muscles, and forces the lats to fire, while the light weight forces you to activate the back muscles with low risk of injury. Return to the band contractions, and you’ll feel a difference.

“While “ripped” bodies are praised in the health and fitness industry it’s important to remember why you’re training and whose wellbeing you’re investing in, your own.”

Isometric Curl – Biceps

Barbell curls are something nearly all clients think they have the hang of, but let’s slow down there hun (literally). Before adding weight I have new clients complete an isometric bicep curl. With a resistance band locked under their feet, they slowly curl to ninety degrees and hold. It’s important to squeeze your ribs with your elbows and maintain this form for about 3 seconds. Make sure your upper back is packed, and then repeat this until you begin to feel a bit of fatigue in the biceps. Having mastered this technique progress to robot curls; a movement that prevents the use of momentum, a common issue with curls. With a packed back and elbows against ribs curl a relatively light weight to ninety degrees, pause, curl to collar bone, pause, return to ninety degrees, you guessed it, pause, then slowly return the weight to your legs. Following this with a bent over bicep row is a killer combo.

Head-To-Toe-Checkin – Deadlift

This final movement is the most complex, but something that would help a lot of members that I observe on the floor. Deadlifts are a great measure of total body function and strength, utilizing muscles from the hamstrings all the way to the traps. With a heavy kettlebell between your feet enter a deep squat. If you don’t have the hip flexibility, stop there and address that first. Grip the weight and round your shoulders up and back to pack the upper back by using leverage against the weight. Packed upper back? Check. Next, squeeze your ribs and draw your belly button towards your butt to activate your core, as we did in the DeadBug. The deep squat forces you to utilize glute muscles to stabilize. Lastly hinge the hips up to a proper deadlift starting position (about a quarter squat, with your butt back). As you raise your hips you’ll begin to feel your hamstrings engage. This indicates it’s time to lift, just make sure you change to a more appropriate weight first.

While “ripped” bodies are praised in the health and fitness industry it’s important to remember why you’re training and whose wellbeing you’re investing in, your own. Completing a bicep curl? You shouldn’t feel it in your lower back, and if you do, adjust. Trying to get that bubble butt? Make sure you’re deadlifting correctly. Otherwise, you’re not going to get bulging biceps or bootylicious anytime soon. Checking in on your own form can be hard, so take time to get to know your body before you introduce or increase weight. Earn the right to move, Queen!

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