Should you Olympic lift?

The Olympic lifts are a fantastic way to develop power.

This is particularly important for those trying to improve athletic performance, as they provide an opportunity to develop power under load - something that is not achieved by jumps and other body-weight power-based exercises.

But (there is always a but…)

They do have some associated negatives.

Firstly, they have an extremely steep learning curve.

This means that they will require a lot of coaching, and take a lot of time to learn to before they can be completed safely and efficiently. This has further downside, as during this time when technique development is the focus, they will not actually be building strength or power, as the load used will be two small to elicit a decent training response.

Secondly, they require a HUGE amount of joint mobility – so much so that some people (due to various anatomical restrictions) may never be able to complete the full Olympic lifts (snatch /clean and jerk) safely.

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So what can we do?

Well, like most things, it depends.

Obviously we screen someone’s movement, and if they have the capacity to Olympic lift (AKA deep overhead squat with no issues), then there is no real reason why we shouldn’t Olympic lift – particularly if they have the time available to learn them, and have a need to develop power.

If they are lacking the mobility required to complete full Olympic lifts, but have the time and need, then we can use ‘safer’ variations, such as hang power cleans. During this time, we can also try and improve mobility so that they can get into those demanding positions more comfortably, with the potential to progress to full Olympic lifts further down the road.

If they have a serious lack of mobility, and don’t have the time available to learn them effectively, the answer is probably no. Instead we would use jumps, loaded jumps, and medicine ball throws to try and develop power in a time efficient manner. During this time we would also work on mobility (because we know that mobility is important, yo).

 

Now, it is also important to note that we probably don’t have to complete full Olympic lifts with ANYONE (unless of course you are an aspiring Olympic lifter – then it is probably a necessity).

Like most things, we need to assess risk vs reward.

For most people, no matter what the population, the risk associated with performing the snatch probably outweighs its training benefits. While it is a great way to develop power, it places the shoulder in a compromised position under load.

This position is what I would consider high risk (particularly for overhead or throwing athletes), and as such would avoid it if possible.

Instead, the power clean is a much safer option, as we can develop power without moving into an overhead position. This reduces the load on the shoulder significantly.

Using another example, if someone does not have the hip mobility to deadlift from the floor safely, a clean may not be a good option – BUT a hang clean from above the knee would still be safe AND be a great way to develop power.

 

So, should you Olympic lift?

Like I said earlier, it depends.

If you have both the mobility and time available, and need/want to develop power, then there is not any reason why you shouldn't.

If you do not, then there may be more suitable options.

Like anything, assess, and make educated decisions.

 

Contact me if you have any questions, and if you like the article please give it a share on facebook!

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Training frequency: The forgotten factor for building muscle and strength

When writing a training program people normally think about two key factors.

Volume and Intensity.

While there is no question that these two factors are integral to promoting the growth of muscle tissue and neuromuscular strength development, there is one other factor that needs A LOT more consideration than it is getting.

Training frequency.

Training frequency refers to how often we train a specific movement or muscle group.

While body building splits (where we train each individual muscle group one time per week) are extremely popular, they may not actually be our best option for increasing muscle mass or strength.

It is commonly accepted that muscle tissue takes 48-72 hours to recover from a solid training session. As such, we actually have opportunity to train a muscle group more than one time per week without running the risk of overtraining (which honestly occurs VERY rarely in the weekend warrior…).

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

 

Training frequency and muscle mass

Increasing training frequency is a great option to provide muscle tissue with additional weekly stimulus.

By increasing training frequency, we can effectively increase the amount of work a muscle or muscle group gets each week. We know that increasing weekly volume is a great wat to stimulate muscle growth.

Additionally, by increasing training frequency, we also increase the amount of mechanical tension our muscle tissue receives over any given training week. This increase in mechanical tension considered another key factor in triggering muscle growth.

 

Training Frequency and Strength

While increasing training frequency can have considerable influence on increasing muscle size, it is the way in which it can influence strength development that is arguably most important.

Demonstrating maximal strength requires the integration of both the nervous and muscular systems. The role that the nervous system plays in recruiting motor units and muscle fibres to produce force is extremely important in this demonstration of strength.

This becomes even more important during large compound movements (such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press…) where a large amount of neuromuscular coordination is required.

By increasing training frequency, we can increase our ability to recruit muscle fibres during these complex movements. This allows us to become more efficient (and subsequently stronger) at these specific lifts.

In fact, within most training circles, the completion of these complex movements is considered a skill. Put simple, the more we perform these skills, the better we become at performing them. These improvements come through an increase in neuromuscular coordination and increased in muscle fibre recruitment.

Furthermore, these increases in neural development are likely to have a greater carryover to our endeavours of athletic performance.

Increases in motor unit and muscle fibre recruitment will make use more efficient and more powerful during athletic movements such as sprinting, jumping, and bounding.

 

Practical Considerations

So we know that increasing our training frequency can have significant improvements in our ability to develop strength and build muscle tissue, but how do we implement it into our weekly training program?

The easiest way is to split up your training week into upper body and lower body days, in which each day has a slightly different emphasis.

For example, we might have a squat dominant lower body day and a hip dominant lower body day where both squats and deadlifts are performed on each day, but the core lift changes slightly.

The same can be said of the upper body days, where we might have a push dominant day and a pull dominant day, where although we perform both pushing and pulling on each day, the primary focus differs slightly.

For example:

Monday – Hip Dominant Lower Body Day

Deadlift 5x5
Front Squat 4x8
RDL 4x8
Walking Lunges 3x10
Single led RDL 3x10

Tuesday – Push Dominant Upper Body Day

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench row 4x8
Overhead Press 4x8
Chin Ups 4x8
Incline DB Press 3x10
Batwing rows 3x10
DB Fly’s 3x10
Single Arm DB Row 3x10

Thursday – Knee Dominant Lower Body Day

Back Squat 5x5
Sumo Deadlift 4x8
Front Squat 4x8
Bulgarian Split Squat 3x10
Reverse Lunges 3x10

Friday – Pull Dominant Upper Body Day

Bent over BB row 5x5
Overhead Press4x8
Weighted pull ups 4x8
Bench Press4x8
Seated Row 3x10
Seated Shoulder Press 3x10
Single arm cable row 3x10
Decline DB Press 3x10

So while this program is not perfect (certainly no individualisation...) it does provide a good example of how we can integrate an increase in training frequency into our training program.

As a bonus, the increased use of compound exercises associated with an increase in training frequency can stimulate greater muscle growth and strength development due to further increasing the amount of load (and subsequently mechanical tension) we lift for any given week.

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about training frequency!

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Offset loading – what is it and why you should care about it?

In what feels like a never ending quest to find the best ways to build muscle, increase strength, and improve athleticism, we are frequently looking for new training techniques to help us reach our goals as quickly and as effectively as possible.

While I am strong believer that the basics will get you MOST of the way there, there are definitely occasions when different methods of training can have a very positive effect on our results.

One of the methods that I have been having frequent success with (both personally, and with my clients) is offset loading.

Hunter Bennett Performance adelaide personal training

 

Offset Loading

Offset loading is a training technique that is extremely simple to implement, but can have huge benefits.

Pretty simply, it refers to loading one side of the body to a greater degree than the other.

So as a very simple example, we could do farmer carries with a heavier load in one hand than the other (which is then repeated on the other side – can’t have those imbalances...).

This exact same loading method can be applied to squat and split squat variations, both bilateral and unilateral deadlift variations, and upper body pushing and pulling variations (think single arm dumbbell presses and single arm dumbbell rows).

This can be done by completely unloading one side while adding significant load to the other side, or using a slightly lighter load on one side and then a slightly heavier load on the other side.

 

Benefits of offset loading

While its method of application of simple, offset loading can have a number of benefits dependent on your training goal.

The initial benefit that we get from offset loading is due to the demand it places on the body to maintain stability. By loading more on one side we create flexion and rotation forces at the trunk and the hip that would not be there with regular loading parameters.

Therefore, the muscles of the trunk and hip must work overtime to maintain a neutral lumbo-pelvic position.

This makes offset loading a great tool to use when we are limited for time and want exercises that provide big bang-for-your-buck, as we can improve core stability while also loading the upper or lower body.

Not only will this increased demand for stability build core and hip stability strength, it also provides a great opportunity to work on any imbalances we may have in regards trunk and hip strength.

Additionally, offset loading is a fantastic way to introduce more total volume into your training as we have to do twice as much work than we would with normal loading methods.

This increase in total volume can directly increase our total time under tension AND the metabolic demand placed on the muscle tissue – both of which can contribute to increased muscle hypertrophy significantly.

And while using offset loading is not the best way to build strength on its own (because the total load used is reduced), correcting imbalances can indirectly lead to greater improvements in strength over time.

 

Offset Loading Programming Considerations

So now we know the benefits of offset loading, it is HOW we implement it into our training that makes all the difference.

Firstly, irrespective of whether our goal is hypertrophy or performance based, exercises using offset loading should be used strictly as assistance exercises, and should not replace our core strength lifts. This is because their capacity to build strength is somewhat limited, as they will not provide the mechanical stress necessary to increase maximal force production.

BUT, due to the various other benefits that offset loading can have, they should be used as either the first or second assistance exercise in our training program.

Example Lower Body Workout

Back Squat 4x6
Romanian Deadlift 3x8
Offset loaded Bulgarian Split Squat 3x8 /side
Walking Lunges 3x10/side

Example Upper Body Workout

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench Row 4x8
Single arm Landmine Press 3x8 / side
Single arm Renegade Row 3x8 /side

Incorporating offset loading into our training can be a great way to increase core and hip stability, correct any imbalances we may have, and promote muscular hypertrophy.

Additionally, using offset training can promote further strength development by improving stability and eliminating those imbalances!

 

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Do Hip Thrusts for Posterior Chain Strength and Power

I recently wrote a post on low bar vs high bar squatting (you can read it HERE if you’re interested), where I claimed (a claim I still stand by) that one of the few truths within the health industry is that strong and active glutes are integral to low back health.

While making this claim is all well and good, I thought there was a little more I could do in regards to discussing how to increase glute strength.

As a result we have this blog post.

So here we go.

Dem glutes

Dem glutes

 

The glutes are one of the largest muscle groups on the posterior chain. They are powerful hip extensors, which explains why having strong glutes can seriously improve our athletic performance (think sprinting, bounding, and jumping).

While I have covered the importance of glute activation extensively (HERE), I have not talked about improving glute strength nearly enough.

 

Enter the Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is a posterior chain dominant exercise that focuses on hip extension strength specifically.

The hip thrust was made famous by the Glute guy himself, Bret Contreras. Since its meteoric rise in popularity, hip thrust strength has been demonstrated to have a direct relationship to a number of performance measures, with specific emphasis on sprint speed and measures of horizontal power (think broad jumps etc.).

To perform the hip thrust, all you need is a bench and some glutes (for an example check out the video below).

 

While it looks quite simple, there are a few key cues that allow you to maximise the benefits of hip thrusts.

1.       Keep your heels flat on the ground

2.       Keep the spine neutral by bracing your abs HARD (avoid excessive lumbar extension in the bottom position)

3.       Squeeze glutes HARD

Hip thrusts are an awesome exercise to develop posterior chain strength and power. As a bonus, they are extremely easy to load. You can use resistance bands, barbells, or even weight plates as a way to add external resistance to the hip thrust, making it an extremely versatile (and beneficial) exercise.

 

Programming Considerations

I typically use the hip thrust as an accessory exercise on my lower body days after either squats or deadlifts.

I use pretty typical loading parameters dependant on my current goal, for example if I am training for strength I might use a 6x4 set and rep scheme, whereas if I am training for hypertrophy and GPP, I might use a 4x10 set and rep scheme.

As I have already mentioned, the hip thrust is a great way to build posterior chain strength and power while also promoting spinal health.

As an added bonus, hip thrusts can be a useful tool to help build that ghetto booty you have always wanted.

 

Contact me if you have any questions!

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Low Bar vs High Bar Squat – What’s all the Fuss About?

Within the health and fitness industry there are a few truths that are (in my humble opinion) undeniable.

1)      To promote fat loss, you need to maintain a weekly energy deficit.
2)      To improve performance, you need to train for strength and power.
3)      Strong and active glutes are integral to the health of the spine.

Outside of that, the details become debatable.

And boy, do we like to debate them.

From what diet is the best, to what exercise is promotes optimal Tibialis anterior development (I kid, I kid..... kind of..), we love to discuss the minute.

One of those discussions that come up regularly is low bar vs high bar squatting. People will argue for hours about the differences between the two, often aligning themselves to one entirely.

Which is funny, because in the end the differences is a couple of inches.

Seriously.

hunter bennett performance

 

Two inches (if you’re lucky) higher or lower, and that’s the differences.

Well, there is a little bit more to it that, but honestly, not a whole lot more.

 

Bar Placement

As mentioned already, the difference ultimately comes down to the position of the bar on your back. With high bar squats, the bar sits on top of the traps, while with low bar squats, the bar sits just above the spine of scapula and slightly above the rear delts.

While this change is relatively minimal, it does result in some variances in technique further down the chain.

You see ideally, with a squat, the bar should sit over the middle of the foot for the duration of the lift. This is where those variations in technique come into play.

hunter bennett performance

 

Torso angle and Joint loading

To maintain the bar over the mid-foot, the angle of the torso changes slightly. With a high bar squat, a more upright torso is required to keep optimal bar position, whereas with a low bar squat greater trunk lean is required.

Maintaining a more upright torso places slightly more torque at the knee joint than what would typically occur during a low bar squat where there an increased trunk lean is observed (It is important to note that this is not a bad thing, it is just what happens biomechanically). As a result, the hips are loaded less, and we see a subsequent reduction in shear force through the lumbar spine.

Using a low bar squat position forces us to sit back and load through the hips, which subsequently causes an increase in the shear force on the spine (again, not necessarily a negative).

If we look at this from a muscular perspective, a high bar squat is going to place increased demand on the quads. A low bar squat is going to place an increased demand on the glutes and spinal erectors.

This isn’t to say that during a high bar squat there is no demand on the glutes and erectors (and vice versa in regards to a low bar squat and the quads), just that the demand is slightly reduced in comparison to the alternative.

It is also important to note that as a direct result of bar position, the extensors of the thoracic spine are going to be under less demand during a low bar squat in comparison to a high bar squat (this is in my opinion, why some people can squat more low bar than they can high bar).

 

Practical Implications

So what does this actually mean?

In reality, not a whole lot.

I often find that people who may not have had a whole lot of experience in the gym pick up the high bar back squat better as it more closely replicates goblet squats and front squats (which I typically use as a regression). As a result, we often start with those.

From there though, what I recommend becomes goal dependant.

If an individual’s goal is purely hypertrophy based, I will opt for whatever variation is more comfortable. This is because the muscular load is quite similar between the two lifts, and from a hypertrophy perspective, glutes and quads are going to get a heap of work either way.

From an athletic performance perspective, I would typically recommend a high bar back squat as the joint angles more closely replicate movements that require vertical power (AKA Jumping), and there is less load on the erectors (which are typically already copping a heap of load from exercises targeting posterior chain strength).

For someone trying to build a big ass squat, I would recommend low bar. As the thoracic extensors are taken out of the equation, we effectively eliminate what is often the weakest link in the chain. As a result, the hips and quads should be able to handle maximal load, increasing the amount of weight we can move.

 

But seriously, in the end, the difference is a couple of inches. High bar squats are still going to build strength, low bar squats are still going to improve performance.

The differences are minute.

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Exercise Selection and Risk vs Reward

I have a number of staples in my training programs.

You can guarantee that most of my clients (myself included) will perform some sort of squat, hinge, single leg squat, push, and pull.

Pretty simple really.

But this does not mean that every client deadlifts from the floor.
It doesn’t mean that every client bench presses.
It doesn’t mean that every client back squats.

While these exercises may seem important, they’re not (competitive powerlifters are the exception here). It is really the stimulus that these exercise provide that is the important thing.

Which brings us to the title of this blog post.

Hunter Bennett performance personal training adelaide

Risk vs Reward

With training, we are trying to provide a specific stimulus to reach a specific goal. As such, each exercise should provide a way to reach this goal.

The way to get to this goal is going to be different for each person.

This is why we need to weigh up the benefits and risks of our exercise selection, dependent on the individual, and their individual goal.

For example, if we have someone who wants to build lower body strength, but back squats with abhorrent (AKA makes my eyes bleed) technique, then should we use back squats to build lower body strength?

In short, probably not.

Because the risk of injury (squatting under load with nasty form) far outweighs the benefits.

We can gain lower body strength through the use of squat regressions (such as the goblet squat) and single leg loading (split squats etc.).

Sure, we can try to progress to a full back squat gradually.
But that isn’t essential.

But building lower body strength is.


This train of thought can be applied to a number of different scenarios.

For example, if we have someone who wants to build upper body strength and mass, but doesn’t have the mobility required to overhead press.

Then maybe we shouldn’t have them overhead press.

Instead, we can use neutral variations such as landmine presses, while focusing on improving shoulder mobility. This allows us to reach their goal safety, while also building the mobility required for overhead pressing.

 

Similar in athletic populations.

If you have an older athlete who needs to develop power but has no experience Olympic lifting, should we Olympic lift?

Again, probably not.

Not necessarily because they are dangerous, but because the learning curve is so steep they may not actually see a whole lot of benefit from them. Instead we can use jumps and throws to develop power, as they require less technical proficiency.

This may be different for a youth athlete, where building technique is important. In this scenario, teaching the Olympic lifts will be well worth the time, as it will prepare them for the training rigors expected at a higher level of competition.

 

This doesn’t mean that you stop using specific exercises all together. It just means that you weigh up the risks of performing a specific exercise with a specific individual.

And if the risks outweigh the benefits of using that particular exercise, then opt for a variation that provides the same stimulus, with less risk.

Simple.

 

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Why the Front Squat is King

As an exercise, the front squat is heavily overshadowed by the barbell back squat.

It is considered a ‘regression’ in certain circles, where it is used as a mere stepping stone allowing you to move towards a full back squat.

Ultimately, the front squat does not get the love that it truly deserves.

That’s why I am here to tell you that it should be a staple in your training if your goal is to improve strength and overall athleticism!

hunter bennett performance adelaide personal training

 

The front squat smashes the anterior core

Most wouldn’t think it, but one of the key benefits of front squatting is the load it places the muscles of the trunk.

Due to the bar position being slightly in front of the torso, it effectively tries to pull the spine into flexion. This creates a HUGE demand on the muscles of the anterior trunk to maintain a nice upright spinal position, making it a fantastic way to build core strength and stability.

This actually leads quite nicely into our next point…

 

It’s hard to cheat a front squat

During a heavy set of back squats, it is pretty common to fatigue through the erectors of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

This results in ‘caving’ of the trunk, causing a movement that kind of looks like a squat / good-morning hybrid that places a large amount of shear force on the spine.

This cannot happen during a front squat due to the bar position. If we lose our upright position during the front squat by caving forward, we will lose the bar.

This actually makes it a safer variation, while limiting poor movement patterns and poor compensations.

 

The front squat demands mobility

To perform a deep front squat, you need good mobility at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.

By front squatting often (and addressing any serious mobility requirements) we can improve mobility and movement quality, while also improving our strength throughout a large range of movement.

This can go a very long way in improving our ability to improve strength in the gym, reduce our risk of injury during athletic movement, and improve our overall athleticism.

 

Front squat strength directly carries over to athletic movements

Simply looking at the front squat we can see its similarities with a number of athletic movements.

The upright trunk position during the front squat is very similar to that we see during jumping, bounding and sprinting. So it makes sense that getting stronger in the front squat can directly improve our capacity at performing these athletic movements.

Additionally, due to its ability to build strength in hip and knee extension, it can also improve our ability to accelerate, change direction rapidly, and perform jumping and bounding movements.

 

The front squats improves squat and deadlift strength

The upright torso position of the front squat places a serious demand on the quads. This helps improve knee extension strength, which directly improves our capacity to perform other movements.

Obviously, this carries over directly to the back squat. Having strong quads is only going to improve your ability to squat more weight. Also, considering that the front squat can significantly improve strength of the spinal erectors, it will improve our ability to remain upright in the back squat. This improves our capacity to perform the movement, making it more efficient (AKA stronger) and safer.

Secondly, improve quad strength will significantly improve your deadlift strength off the floor. The first portion of the deadlift (floor to knee) is VERY quad dominant, and as a result front squats can seriously improve deadlift strength.

So, there you have it.

To summarise: Front Squats = Gainz

I would recommend using front squats as the core movement on one lower body day per week for lower reps (4 sets of6 reps, or 5 sets of 4 reps, etc.), and then as an assistance exercise on your other lower body days for slightly higher reps (3-4 sets of 10-12 reps).

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Improve Thoracic Mobility to Reduce Injuries and Increase Athleticism

‘Thoracic mobility’ (OR T-spine mobility, depending on who you talk to) is one of the buzzwords in the health and fitness industry at the moment.

And for good reason.

Poor thoracic spinal mobility can lead to a number of dysfunctions, including low back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. 

Poor thoracic mobility can also limit our movement quality and athletic performance.

The thoracic spine describes the 12 vertebrae of the upper back and abdomen that sit between the cervical spine of the neck and the lumbar spine of the lower back.

Each thoracic vertebrae has articulations between its neighbouring vertebrae (above and below), and to the attaching ribs.

Now, if we were to look at each segment of the spine, they each play an important individual role in movement.

The lumbar spine is a stable segment that provides a strong supportive base for the muscles of the trunk.

The lumbar spine does not have much mobility, as it is designed to bear and withstand load rather than create movement.

By acting as a stable support structure, it can aid movement and force production at the hips.

The cervical spine is similar.

While it allows much more movement than the lumbar spine (we need to be able to look around) it is still considered a stable joint, as it provides essential stability to the fragile neural structures of the neck.

But the thoracic spine is somewhat different.

It is actually considered a mobile joint, and is the spinal section that has the largest range of movement.

This is important as it allows us to rotate, flex, and extend. 

All of which are extremely important during running, sprinting, changing direction, jumping, and during throwing movements.

BUT.

In the wonderful age of technology that we currently live in, we spend a lot of time sitting (and not a lot of time moving).

This results in REALLY stiff and immobile thoracic spinal segments, which as you can probably guess, is not good (this thoracic stiffness is often typified of excessive kyphosis and forward head posture).

If a segment of the body is lacking essential mobility, we tend to find it at another segment.

This is a compensation pattern that allows us to complete the movements required, despite lacking the mobility to do so.

While these compensation patterns are helpful in the short term (they allow us to move), they can lead to chronic dysfunction further down the track.

In the case of the thoracic spine, if it is lacking mobility we are going to find mobility at the lumber spine.

Now, as we mentioned earlier, the lumber spine is not actually made to move much at all.

Rather it is meant to act as a stable base from which both the thoracic spine can rotate, and the hips can move freely to produce force. 

If it is forced to become more mobile, this is going to lead directly to dysfunction, and may also have negative effects further down the kinetic chain.

Firstly, we lose stability at the lumbar spine.

This is an issue in itself, because if the lumbar spinal segments move more than they are supposed to, we can irritate both neural structures of the lumbar spine, and the passive support structures around the spinal segments.

This can lead to low back pain and low back irritation.

Secondly, by losing stability at the trunk, the lower limbs no longer have a stable base to produce force.

To try and get the point across with analogy (who doesn’t like a good analogy?), picture a slingshot.

If you hold the base of the slingshot firmly, you can load and shoot much further. If the base of the slingshot is held lightly, it is going to be loose and weak, and your ability to shoot with it is going to be limited.

Now, the base of the slingshot represents the trunk, while the top portion represents the hips (or upper limbs… works for both really).

When the trunk is stable, we can produce great amounts of force at the hip.

If the trunk is too mobile, that force production is limited.

Additionally, it is quite common to see the muscles surrounding the hips try to produce the stability lost at the spine.

This results in shorty and stiff muscles surrounding the hip joint, which can lead to limited movement of the hips, potentially leading to a soft tissue injury, or an injury of the surrounding joints.

And, just to make things worse, having poor thoracic mobility can also increase our risk of developing shoulder injuries.

Many movements above the chin require a significant amount of thoracic extension to be completed safely and effectively.

If we think about overhead movements such as overhead presses, push presses, overhead squats, snatches, etc, etc, etc (the list goes on and on), they all have something in common.

They require the ability to get our arms over our head into full shoulder flexion.

Now, thoracic extension is a big part of this.

If we have a mobile thoracic spine that can extend easily and with good range of movement, it actually requires less shoulder flexion to get our arms over our heads.

This ensures we rely on the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint and shoulder girdle for stability.

BUT,

If we have poor thoracic spinal mobility (stuck in thoracic flexion), we have to use more shoulder flexion to achieve the same overhead position.

This can place unnecessary load on the passive support structures of the shoulder joint, increasing our risk of developing injuries.

So to summarise, if we have poor thoracic spine mobility we are at an increased risk of lower back, shoulder and hip injury, AND our force production is limited.

AKA it’s not good.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about it.

We can use specific thoracic mobility exercise to increase our range of movement at the thoracic spine, making it more mobile.

 

Improving mobility of the thoracic spine

Thoracic spine mobilization on the foam roller

The trick here is to slowly extend the thoracic over the foam roller as you exhale.

The movement should be controlled and gentle.

Try and spend a 4-5 of deep, slow breaths on a single vertebra before moving onto the next one.

By supporting the head you limit cervical extension.

 

Thoracic spine extensions on a bench

This is an awesome drill that allows us to improve thoracic spinal extension while also stretching the lat’s.

The idea here is to slowly sink into extension while exhaling.

You should spend a little bit of time and the end of the movement, slowly increasing range of movement in the bottom position.

 

Side lying thoracic rotation

The idea here is to slowly rotate and extend through the thoracic spine while keeping a tight hold on a foam roller between the legs.

This ensures that the lumber spine remains stable and locked into a neutral position, allowing the thoracic spine to move freely.

You can also spend a bit of time hanging out at the end of the rotation, ideally taking some deep breaths.

This allows you to increase that end range of movement.

 

Quadruped thoracic rotation

Another great way to increase movement at the thoracic spine.

Again, keep the lumbar spine stiff and still in extension.

All the movement should come from the thoracic spinal segments.

The movement should be slow and controlled, while trying to get a little more range each rotation.

 

So now all we need to do is put it all together.

These exercises should be included as part of our warmup on both upper body and lower body days as it can improve our stability at the lumber spine while improving our capacity to produce force at both the hips and shoulders.

A sample warmup on an upper body day might look something like this:

Foam roll:
Pecs, Lats, Thoracic Spine

Mobility:
Thoracic spine extension on the foam roller x 15
Thoracic spine extension on bench x 15
Side lying thoracic rotation x 15/side
Quadruped thoracic rotation x 15/side

 Individualized upper body activation/ dynamic movement preparation

Individualized upper body session

 

I hope this post provided a thorough explanation as to why having adequate mobility of the thoracic spine is important for both injury prevention and performance, while also providing some simple and effective exercise to improve thoracic mobility.

If yo want to have a chat, or organise a time to train, contact me today!

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Training vs Exercising. There is a Difference.

There are many different ways to describe the attempts and efforts we make to improve our body composition or physical capacity, but ‘Exercising’ and ‘Training’ are hands down the two most common terms I personally hear on a daily basis.

And so what, right?

People can call it whatever they want, if it refers to the same thing?

well, maybe not?

What if i said that Training and Exercising are actually inherently different from one another?

Because In my personal opinion there is a significant difference, and by changing your mindset and the terminology you use from’ exercise’ to ‘training’, you can begin to make massive jumps forward in achieving your personal goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance, Adelaide Personal Training, Lose Fat Build Muscle

 

Exercising

Firstly, exercising.

Exercise is physical activity for the sake of physical activity. 

It is exercise performed for TODAY, and for today only.

Exercise is often done for the sake of raising the heart rate and getting a bit of a sweat on.

People who ‘exercise’ typically perform the same sort of routine over and over because it does meet their immediate needs - to perform physical activity today.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with this.

It is great way to meet the recommended weekly requirements for physical activity, ultimately providing us with the minimum required stimulus to stay healthy and manage weight gain.

This is fine. It keeps our cardiovascular system working efficiently, and significantly reduces our risk of developing a number of diseases and disorders.

But what if you have a specific goal you want to achieve?

I don’t care whether it is strength related, performance related, or body composition related.

Merely ‘exercising’ will not cut it.

Training

Enter training.

Training is different.

If you have a specific goal in mind, then training is essential to effectively achieve that goal.

If you want to run a marathon, become a better athlete, or compete in a physique contest, performing a group exercise class 4 days per week is not going to cut it.

You need to follow a clear track that will lead YOU to YOUR specific destination. 

Training involves reaching small, specific goals that lead directly to the achievement of your overall goal.

Each individual exercise you undertake is a small, specific step leading to the end of your journey.

Each set and every individual repetition is well thought out, and implemented with this final goal in mind.

You do these things not because you can do them, but because to reach your goal, you need to do them.

With that in mind, training is performed efficiently.

If you don’t have a valid reason for doing a specific exercise (AKA it doesn’t help you reach your overall goal), then you shouldn’t be doing it.

If you’re a sprinter, you don’t need to be jogging 10km on your rest days.

If you’re a powerlifter you don’t need to be doing 4 sets of Bicep curls at the end your session.

If you’re a marathon runner you don’t need to be bench pressing double body weight.

This doesn’t mean you throw out entire rep ranges, or stop doing certain exercises forever, it just means you need to focus on what is specific to your current goal and make that your priority.

Training has a focus on your individual needs.

This may mean addressing weak points, or correcting individual imbalances or dysfunctions.

It means addressing the areas where you are deficient, while also improving those which you are already good at.

Using a running as a specific example, your goal might be to run a marathon. You have good aerobic capacity, but are weak and have poor movement quality.

Increasing strength becomes a priority, as does improving your efficiency and quality of movement.

This occurs through specific exercise and training recommendations. Not through doing ‘whatever you have always done’ in the weight room.

Training results in measurable improvement.

This means that you actually PROGRESS through training. Whether it is getting stronger, getting faster, or getting leaner, when you are training (and training EFFECTIVELY) you will see improvements in yourself.

 

Now, exercising is fine. Some people enjoy working hard and getting a sweat on for the sake of it. And again, there is nothing wrong with that.

BUT

If you have a specific goal you want to reach, and find yourself doing the same thing over and over, you are exercising when you should be training.

And it is now time to make that change.

 

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Do the Inverted Row to build strength and integrity

Majority of my training is based around compound, multi-joint exercises.

Those that provide the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Within these, I find the inclusion of body weight exercises (such as pull ups and push ups) extremely beneficial for promoting good quality movement and enhanced trunk stability.

One bodyweight exercise that I don’t believe gets the recognition it deserves is the Inverted Row. 

The inverted row is the bodyweight equivalent of a bent over barbell row, but arguably less complex, as its easier to maintain a solid neutral spine. 

Pretty simply, you lie flat on your back and reach up to a bar (or a TRX), and pull your chest towards the bar. 

Hunter Bennett Performance, lose fat, build muscle, increase strength

 

Why the Inverted Row? 

There a few great reasons for incorporating the Inverted row into your training program; 

They require minimal equipment – no dumbbells, weights or benches are required. They can be done outside or inside any gym, and they are really easy to set up. 

They can be progressed and regressed really easily – you can either increase the height of the bar or TRX, or bend your legs to regress the exercise, or add load to progress the exercise. 

The also improve trunk stability – During the inverted row you are required to maintain a neutral spine while, as such it directly works the muscles of the trunk. Maintaining a neutral spine also requires strong glute contraction to keep a neutral pelvic position. 

They crush the upper back – As the rowing movement is fairly horizontal, the muscles of the upper back (think romboids, traps rear delts) really drive the movement. These muscles play an important role in maintaining good postural alignment (and are often missed in a lot of other exercises). 

They aren’t particularly technical – they are safe to perform, and as such can be performed to failure safely. As such, inverted rows are Ideal to incorporate into your program when training for hypertrophy 

 

Key Points 

Keep the spine neutral. Really squeeze abs and glutes to hold a tight, neutral spinal position. 

Keep the chest up tall and really drive the middle of your chest towards the bar (or TRX). 

Keep the elbows relatively close to the body. The grip is likely to be closer than that of a bench press. 

 

Programming Considerations 

These should be done on your upper body days, either before any pressing to warm up and activate the muscles around the rotator cuff / shoulder girdle. This will promote greater stability to the shoulder joint during pressing. Or at the end as a way to really fry the muscle of your upper back (for those back gainzzz). 

I typically like to aim for 2 sets of 8 (not to failure) if done at the start of a workout, or 3-4 sets of 10-12 when done at the end of a workout.

 

If you would like to contact me, fill out the form below and i will get back to you ASAP!

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