Better Mobility for your Squat, Lower Body Mobility and BJJ


Movement has been the hot topic of 2014.

Since learning the Anatomy in Motion system for Movement Therapy at the start of the year, attending the Ido Portal workshop a few months ago and generally fielding more and more questions from my clients about fundamental movement as opposed to just strength and endurance.

And I’m having a ball with the rise in interest in this topic.

I especially like it as it’s the anti-thesis of so much of the current fitness world, which is run by strength coaches promoting, well, strength; Physique coaches and their obsession with symmetry; Fat loss coaches flogging insecurity for the low price of €49.99 (with over €200 worth of FREE bonuses!!!) and Crossfit turning everything into a competition.

Movement for the sake of movement is being lost.
Movement quality is declining, being lost in the search of extreme weights, extreme power, extreme physiques, extreme WOD times.

But in one area, the thinking is relatively pure.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu possibly has the most varied and complex movement potential of all the martial arts at the moment. Of course we have wrestling and Capoeira, but BJJ is where it’s at right now.

bjjleg

With it being such a young art with such a hotly contested competition circuit, many practitioners are looking outside of the BJJ box to learn about better movement so they can take it with them onto the mat.
Strength is useless if you can’t move, endurance can be worn down if your fighting against your own physical restrictions as well as your opponent.
So movement, mobility, the ability to move freely and with confidence is becoming more and more recognised.

This is reflected in the rise in popularity of systems like Ido Portal’s, the MovNat and Primal Move and guys like Dewey Nielson.

I only heard of Dewey this year as my thinking moved back towards movement (it used to be my prime focus back as a martial artist living in the mountains), and he has some great drills.

When Seb, the BJJ guy who trashed his motorcycle and had to have his knee almost completely reconstructed, came to me and mentioned that he’s still not comfortable in the bottom of the squat. Well, we moved away from the barbell and towards the movement prescription.

After one round of this drill, his squat significantly improved:

This is a task focused exercise that is challenging all his joints, but particularly the ankle, knee hip and spine. Because of his focus on the task, he’s not thinking too much about controlling the movement, which means the body is free to do whatever is needed.

His joints are being taken outside of his conscious comfort zone, the muscles that are there to support the joint and decelerate movement are kicking in like a charm and his entire system wakes up as a result.

In one session his mobility increased several fold. After 2 sessions, he’s bouncing around. Imaging how he’ll be in a few months time?
And since the deep squat position is fundamental to any grappling game (think of the position you are in as you turtle up, side control, hold guard….it pretty much all deep squat)

For more on Conditioning for you BJJ, click this image

For more on Conditioning for you BJJ, click this image

Strength and endurance are key components of fitness but they form an incomplete picture, it’s an unstable model.
Mobility, ie the ability to move freely with strength and control, is the third side.
And three sides make a triangle, the most structurally sound geometrical shape.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

2 Ab Wheel Variations, because it not hard enough already!


core-training-129x300Anterior core training or “Dem Abz” is important.

It’s kind of fallen out of favour in this era of functional training, especially as any abdominal training is usually seen as vanity work and the domain of body builders and those horrendous group gym classes.

But in athletic terms, having a midsection that is strong and powerful is essential.

Proper full body compound lifts like the Squat, Deadlift, Swing, Snatch, Push Up and Military press all work the core, as do Kettlebell essentials like the Turkish Get Up.

But sometimes, it’s worth giving them some extra love.

There are probably more Ab training tools and tricks on the market than anything else, but one has stood the test of time. The humble Ab Wheel.

It is one of my favorite training tools. One reason is that the roll out takes the abdominals into a stretch position as it loads them. This, I feel is a better way to train for most. Especially as most athletic power movements involve the stretch loading of the core musculature, so being strong at length and resisting that stretch is kind of important.

Here are some abs:

sprint abs

The Ab wheel roll out is rough. There few enough people that have the strength to do them from standing, most struggle to do the standard kneeling roll out.
But once you can do it, the jump from the knees to the feet is huge, too much for most. So in this post I want to share two variations that I like to use with my guys once they’ve mastered the standard roll out.

First the Pennate Roll Out
Roll one to the front, one to the left and one to the right. Here’s a video:

 

Knees Elevated Roll Out
This increases the load on the abdominals quite significantly so take care to keep the hip tucked under and a rounded back (the opposite of when you squat or deadlift)

Both of these up the ante a lot, but not as much as trying to go from the feet.

If you do want to go from the feet, I recommend the method outlined in Fighting Back and use a ramp of some kind to roll up onto.

Try these, just don’t sneeze the day after!

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

Random Friday Stuff


Had a client cancel on me last minute, so I’ll take this opportunity to write a few words down for you to stare at instead of doing whatever it is you usually do at this time on a Friday….

First this:

1 – Cat saves boy from Dog Attack!

http://jezebel.com/worlds-most-awesome-cat-rescues-little-boy-from-dog-att-1576276526

Now I’m definitely a Dog man, but I’ve had a cat in the past. But see this cat? It’s bloody Ninja!

A take away point with some relevance to fitness training and all round awesomeness?

Commitment.

Identify the problem (in this case, a dog is attacking my best buddy)
Formulate a plan (take out the dog)
Execute the plan with maximum aggression (dog gets taken out)
Move onto next thing

You don’t have to be a cat attacking a dog to learn something from this, but you can learn.

In your fitness training, have you identified your problems?
Are your glutes not firing?
Has your progress stalled?
Are you moving towards your goal?

If so, have you formulated a plan to fix this?

Are you now executing that plan like your life depends on it?

 

2 – Book Review

Mr Gan Power of Tramore Tactical Fitness and Tramore Kettlebell Club has just reviewed my Fighting Back eBook.
You can read it by clicking the image:

 

3 – A really cool article in the New York Times called “You Walk Wrong – How We’re Wrecking Our Feet Wih Every Step We Take”

Now, this is ironic that I am reading this just after the people behind the Vibram 5-finger shoe are being sued for false claims about the effects of barefoot simulation shoes.
So they took the message and spun it out to make money, well, hopefully they’re now learning their lesson because, as the NY Times points out, our feet are designed to move and shoes are preventing this happening.
However, taking a knee jerk response and simply shedding your shoes and going out pounding the pavement bare foot, is just as bad!
These athletes and tribesmen that run barefoot their whole lives, have run barefoot their whole lives. They don’t sit for 8-10 hours a day and then strap on their Nikes to pound out 10 miles on concrete.
No, they have run about in their bare feet since they could walk. You on the other hand were put in shoes and told not to run in the corridors.
So to suddenly jump up and start running, especially over uniform concrete surfaces, is a recipe for disaster.
You want to run barefoot or in minimalist footwear? Good, but get out to the woods and the hills and do it.
Break in slowly
Don’t throw out your other runners, still use them.

The problem, in  my opinion, is not really the shoe at all. It’s the way we move and what we move on.
Back when I lived in the English Lake District I used to run the fells, along with some of the knarliest bastards ever to lace up.
These guys were balls of sinew, barely human at all. They hardly ever ran on roads or any flat, even surface and other than twisted ankles, they as a group seemed to have fewer leg or running related issues than the road runners.
Why?

Uneven terrain forces you to constantly adapt, to constantly change stride length, stride frequency, ground contact times, weight shift. In fact no two steps will be the same.
Whereas on road, each step is like groundhog day. Can you say “Pattern Overload” or how about “Repetitive Strain Injury” ?

Running doesn’t injure you.
Shoes don’t injure you (unless their really don’t fit, or are simply stupid)
The way you run and what you run on is what injures you.

Oh, I suppose I’d better post a link to the article, click the image:

NY Times Barefoot

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

 

Knackered Knees part 2, It’s Not Your Knee!


I didn’t post much last week, my apologies, but it seems the “knackered Knees” post seemed to tick the boxes for many of you. It’s the most read post this year, so thank you, especially if you shared it.

I’m going to continue on the theme of knees in today’s post then.

knobbly knees

A huge, sorry, HUGE part of your knee struggling is down to the joints above and below not doing their job properly.
You see, the body is a system, a single integrated unit. It will do its absolute damnedest to keep functioning to its absolute best. The problem is, if one section of the body isn’t working right, something else will have to take up the slack, and pretty soon will burn out, passing the load to something else, which will burn out passing the load onto something else, which will. Well you get the idea.

Gary Ward, the man behind Anatomy in Motion told me on our first meeting that, “There’s no such thing as a dysfunctional body, it is always 100% functional”

Gary Ward

Gary Ward, the founder of Anatomy in Motion

As he said this I seriously considered getting my coat and asking for a refund on the course.
But I thought I’d allow him continue.

You know, I’m nice like that…

He then gave an analogy, which I loved and will now share, albeit paraphrased somewhat.

Gary said, “Imagine you have three cups each with an equal amount of water in them. This water represents 100%. Now if I pour water from one cup into the other two, I now have an empty cup but still 100% of the fluid.”

It took a while for this to sink in for me. But after taking many of my regular members through the Anatomy in Motion (AiM) assessments I am amazed that they can do the incredible things they do despite the “dysfunctions” the assessment process highlighted. Their 100% may not be equally distributed between all their “cups” but they were certainly using it to the best of their ability.

Keeping an AiM mindset during my regular work training a variety of people in various settings, I can see their “dysfunctions” screaming at me, yet these guys are currently pain free and doing awesome things.

Take today as an example. I was asked by our BJJ coach to warm his lads up and give them some new stuff to play with. So I did. We had a blast, lots of laughing and joking as I took the lads through animal movements, AiM movements and some of John Wolf’s EKG drills as well as some partner games.
I’ve seen these lads train week in and week out and am in no doubt that they’d tie me into a knot in a heart beat, despite my strength and endurance advantage, their skills would easily negate me and I’d be toast!

However, as we went through various movement patterns, I could see areas of weakness and probable future injury sites.

Sure enough by the end of the session one of the lads asked about a certain problem. When he asked, I spotted every ear in the room pricked up. This was a common problem.

His problem, tight hip flexors.

Hip Flexor

Hold on Dave, you said you were going to talk about knees…

Yes, coming to that in a moment, bear with me.

Now, hip flexors.

If there’s a muscle that give people crap, it’s the hip flexor. The ramifications of your hip flexors being tight go far and wide, here’s a few of them:

- Sleepy glutes
– Tight IT band
– Poor VMO function
– Low back pain
– Tight Hamstrings
– Weak Abs
– Anterior Pelvic Tilt
– Turned out feet
– and much much more

But the good news, the body will still perform to the best of it’s ability. You just may feel it, the next day.

Take another look at that list, tight IT band, poor VMO function and tight Hammies.
Does that sound like a combination of events that will keep a knee happy?
Consider that the hamstring and IT band both cross the knee joint and the VMO is pretty much the “Knee muscle”
If these structures are all working at less than 100%, something else must make up the deficit.

Tight hamstrings, well what else assists in bending the knee? Yes, your calves, so they’ll be tight too.

No VMO, what else straightens the knee? The other side of course, the Vastus medialis runs to the inside of the knee, the vastus lateralis is on the outside. The VL and the rectus femoris have to work that bit harder meaning the force is now going down the outer edge of the leg, and where’s the IT band?
Yup, on the outside. How do you think that will that effect the position and tracking of the knee cap?

All in, it’s a bad situation for the poor old knee joint.

If your knees are bothering you, check your hip flexors, including the Rectus Femoris.

The Thomas Test is the easiest and best well known way to do this, google it and you’ll get literally hundreds of articles on it, it’s a good test and it’s also a good solution in itself.
But on your own it can be impractical.
For the most people your best served by simply bridging.

I have many other drills for you, for example an AiM 3D Hip Flexor stretch but to describe that is a monster article by itself.
For most people, most of the time, the bridge is relatively idiot proof with many progressions to use as you improve.

The Activate Bridge plays a central role in the training of ALL my BJJ guys, and features front and centre in the training advice laid out in the Fighting Back book.
Rather than bore you with several paragraphs of instruction, here’s a video:


You’ll see in the video we use a resistance band, but a belt or even a training partner can be used to provide you with the resistance.
This will give your glutes little choice but to get involved in the fight while giving the hip flexors the option to relax.

Once they the glutes are singing and the hip flexors are relaxed, you need to move. You need to go through some of your drills in order to to for the body to realise that having functioning glutes is a good thing and that the letting the hip flexors relax from time to time really does allow the body to move more fluidly.

I recommend getting up and doing some bodyweight squats and lunge movements. After the bridge, these should feel like a dream to perform, as the hips and knees will flow much easier.
Deep walking lunges with the back leg kept as straight as possible will further open up the hips and strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and vmo.
Your poor tortured knees will think it’s Christmas after the 10-15 minutes it takes to bridge then integrate with the squats and lunges.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com
Some feedback from the Fighting Back eBook:

Fighting Back sales“The first thing that struck me was how fucking relevant that information is. I’ve done BJJ for years and coaching BJJ athletes in a Strength & Conditioning setting these same things are seen almost across the board with athletes who’ve given an appreciable amount of time to that sport. This is a product I’d recommend for anyone who deals with BJJ athletes, or anybody with postural issues in general. So, everyone! Great stuff mate well done” - Alan Sherry, Crossfit Strength & Performance

“I have been intensely involved in the martial arts for over 34 years, and with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 20. In that time, I have competed at more tournaments that I can remember, and have put in a lot of time on the mat. In doing so, I have done some damage to my body, both through the physical training as well as the wear and tear of life. I wish I would have had Dave Hedges’ book Fighting Back years ago. In simple language even someone like me can understand, he gives you the prescription not just to fix bad backs, but to make them better and stronger so you can keep training hard for years to come. I truly enjoyed this book and have already implemented his advice into my own personal training regimen. I heartily endorse this book, and look forward to more from Dave.” - Cecil Burch, 1st degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, http://www.iacombatives.com

 

Knackered Knees, No More!


kneeKnees.

Lets take a show of hands. All those who’ve NEVER experienced knee pain or injury put your hand up.

Those who’ve had PAIN in their knees put your hands up.

Yeah, as I thought, a few more that time.

It’s a joint that get hammered by just about everything we do.

Yet, with a bit of smart thinking and common sense we can keep it strong, health and functioning long into our twilight years.

What we can’t protect against are the bangs and impacts we take as part of our sports and martial arts practice.
But as the knee is the number 1 non contact injury reported, it seems the heavy impacts are the least of our worries!

All through last year I had the pleasure of working with Seb, a big Polish BJJ player who wrapped his leg around a lamppost when he crashed his motorcycle. So I’ve had a very good look at the knee, how it works and how to look after it.
I was helped out by top Physiotherapist, Mr Andy Watson over at the Raglan Sports Medicine clinic as we took Seb from knee reconstruction, regaining the ability to walk, to run, to squat to return to BJJ and eventually to bring home gold from the European BJJ Championships.

That 14 month period has taught me more than any amount of reading and researching could have. But even still I did the reading and research, just to be sure.

So what does the knee need to stay healthy?
My mate “Kettlebell” Jim Higgins just wrote about that on his blog. He’s coming at it from a BJJ viewpoint, but if you’re not involved in BJJ, he’s still on the mark for the wider audience.

Have a read HERE

 

I want to expand on the strength and mobility section of Jim’s article.

For mobility, you should aim to be able to sit comfortably in a deep squat. When I say deep, I’m talking hamstrings against calves deep, If you can get down there and stay there, it’s fair assumption your knees are being supported by ankles and hips that are doing their job. Three joints harmoniously working together through their full ranges of motion.

Lack of movement in 0ne places greater stress on another. If the hip is stiff and the ankles don’t move well, that leaves the knee (and low back) to pick up a lot of the slack.

pistol-squats-and-beyond-bench-pistol

Al Kavadlo showing a box pistol

How we achieved this with Seb was through the use of the Pistol Squat. More specifically, the Pistol Squat to a box.
Now, with Seb as our example we have a man used to training, but with a catastrophic injury. But I’ve used this same process with “normal” folk, and barring the odd special exception, it’s a winner if patience and diligence are applied.

We’re looking to simultaneously develop strength and stability while creating an environment for mobility to flourish.
Damn that’s a sexy line, you can tweet that if you like by CLICKING HERE

Start with a box that allows your knee and hip to both flex to 90 degrees.
If you have to stick an elevation under your heel, so be it, do it.

Now with your hands on your hips and the non weight bearing leg held out in front, stand up. Be sure to fully extend your hips, even tuck it under at the top of the rep by flexing your glutes and lower abs hard. Sit back down under control, and that’s 1 rep.

When you can do 30reps per leg in 2 sets or less, lower the height of the box.

The strength you’ve built, will allow you to go that bit deeper, yes people, being strong will get you more mobility than stretching alone ever will.

Each time you get to 30 reps, lower it until eventually you can get a full range free standing Pistol Squat. Anytime you wobble or lose balance, that rep doesn’t count. Be strict, we’re talking about building up to 30 PERFECT reps where each one looks identical.

Great Form

Great Form

 

Getting this done will take time, but it will bullet proof those knees better than almost anything going.

How often should you train this?
Why not everytime you train?

Seb did this 5-6 days per week, sometimes twice a day. He ended up being able to pistol squat while holding a 28kg weight for three reps per leg.

Have a look here:

You may not want that level of strength (why not?) but 3 days per week would be the minimum necessary dose to get the most out of this challenge.

All that means is getting to your BJJ class, Rugby training or Gym session 15 minutes earlier and getting on with it.

The Fighting Back Warm Up and the 30 reps per leg of the box pistol will take you 20mins, 30 min tops and will leave you better warmed up than just about anything else your competitors are doing.

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

Let me know how you get on.

Regards

Dave Hedges

http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

 

Get Up and Get Awesome


If it's good enough for Iron Man.....

If it’s good enough for Iron Man…..

I think it’s fair to say the Turkish Get Up is one of my favorite things to do.

It’s also pretty fair to say there’s a lot of people who would agree with me that it is an incredibly valuable lift, for a number of reasons.

It’s also fair to say that a lot of people talk a lot of bollocks about the lift.

There are many ways to work the get up depending on the type of response you’re trying to elicit from the body.
And just the other day I had two very different lads in who have get ups programmed into their workouts but for very different reasons, and as a result, they do the lift differently.

The two lads are Don and Les. Don is a BJJ player, fairly new to the sport coming into it with very little of any sort of training. Much like most people who take up a martial art, it was his first real training experience.

Les on the other hand is a bit of a machine. He’s a hockey player (proper hockey, not that padded up ice dancing thing…) and loves to train hard.

The two lads both partake in sports that live in a forward flexed posture. The hockey player is hunched over with his stick on the floor to control the ball. The BJJ guy, especially the new guys, are usually on their backs in a foetal position trying not let the better guy fold them in half.

Don realised early on that he needed to get some serious core strength going, so he came to me. At first he couldn’t hold a plank steady for 30seconds.
With some “gentle persuasion” he accepted my homework assignment and  couple of weeks later he passed a 2min plank test.
But he despises the plank, and to be fair, 2mins is plenty,.at least that’s what Dr Stuart McGill says and who am I to argue.
So what next? Various exercises, all very core centric with an emphasis on developing the get up.
Some days he worked volume with a comfortable weight, other days he’s pyramid up to a max.
Just the other day a 75kg Don did this with a 40kg bell

In total he worked up to the weight before managing 3 reps each side. It was only the second time he’d worked the 40.
Interestingly, a shoulder injury he picked up from an overzealous submission attempt has magically cleared up.

He first noticed his shoulder had cleared up, ie no longer clicked or ached when he started working with the 32kg bell regularly.

Which brings me to Les.
As I said, Les is a different animal. Les is completely anterior chain dominant, he lives in his sporting posture, forward flexed, internally rotated shoulders. Much of what I talked about in Fighting Back direct applies to Les.
It’s no surprise his shoulder blew up and he ended up in physio before coming to me.
Now we have him doing a bottoms up half get up every warm up.
In the beginning he could barely hold the weight out. A strong lad being crushed by an 8kg bell shows a huge problem.
So Les worked the movement with no weight, than slowly added load in the standard grip until eventually he could manage a single bottoms up rep.
This clip shows him performing the drill on his injured side

Remember this is him simply warming up. His training is very much about getting that posterior chain kicking in, but before anything happens we use this drill to turn on the rotator cuff and integrate the shoulder into the rest of the body.

Already in just a few weeks Les’ symptoms are reducing and he’s able to take on more movements.

So we have one exercise, the Get Up, being utilised in two very different manners according to individual athletes needs.
There is no one best way to perform any given exercise, especially something as global as the get up.
The mainstream kettlebell community may deride Don for not bridging up during the get up, but his hips are not our focus. We do other work for that.
They may also be baying for blood because Les doesn’t roll enough, not realising that to get to where he is now is an achievement in itself and a constant work in progress.

The key point here is that we can take an exercise and break it down, tailoring it to suit the athlete. We don’t try to make the athlete suit the movement, we.make the movement suit the athlete.

Spend time with the get up, get to know it intimately, and while a half bodyweight get up is the standard we want to achieve, for many, like Les, it’s not realistic.

Regards
Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-FIT.com

A Quick Guide to Upper Back Strength & Shoulder Health


Your shoulders take a beating.

Especially when your training partner knows 99 ways to hyper extend the joint to cause enough pain to make you tap before ligaments & tendons begin to tear or the joint becomes dislocated.

It’s not just your opponents attempts to submit you, but the general posture of a fighter that can stress the shoulder joint. Having a rounded (kyphotic for you anatomy nerds) upper back encourages the shoulder blades to “wing”, which stretches out the muscles in the mid and upper back region preventing then from doing their job.
And their job is to control the scapula (shoulder blade) whose job it is to keep the shoulder joint stable.

Poor scapula control leads to poor shoulder stability and a vastly increased risk of shoulder injury.

You must keep the upper back strong and get the muscles firing.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Joe DeFranco, but he’s one of the world’s top strength coaches and an influence of mine.
It’s through his work that I learned of an exercise called the handcuff drill. It’s the first drill featured in this clip:

The other exercises shown are also of great value for resetting the shoulders and strengthening the upper back, but the handcuff drill, being equipment free is one that should be added to your BJJ warm ups, in fact I feature it in the Fighting Back manual when I discuss how to warm up.

As part of your supplemental strength work for the upper back, there is a one drill that is a must.
It is the Inverted Row, ideally on rings or a TRX unit.

The Inverted Row is classed as an upper body horizontal pull. Which if you think of the direction of pull used most in your BJJ, it’s against an opponent to the front of you, so mostly horizontal.
But why this drill really works is that it is closed chain. That means your body is moving through space.

Using the rings allows the hands to rotate and move relatively free which will allow the scapula to retract as you pull and protract as you lower. Add a 2-3 second pause at the top of the pull and you’ll feel your rhomboid muscles scream for mercy!

Here’s a clip:

Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints across the athletic spectrum, but in a sport like grappling where it is actively attacked.
Take care of your upper back as a priority, your training efficacy and longevity will appreciate it.

As a wee bonus, here’s a video of European BJJ Champion Seb going through a conditioning set incorporating the Inverted Row:

 

Have you got your copy of Fighting Back yet?
Click the image:

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com