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  • Al Painter, BA, Stick Mobility, NASM-CPT, CES, PES


There are three things the people I train absolutely hate hearing:

1) "You're going to love this exercise, its super simple!"

2) "The good news is, you won't need your arms."

3) "OOOOOHH!!! I've got an idea!!"

For some reason, they seem to think a some massive amount of upper or lower body muscular discomfort is eminent. Even though, most of the time they're right, I still "find their lack of faith disturbing."

The thing that usually strikes the most fear into their tickers is standing still. Commonly known as planking exercises.

We pick a joint angle used in every day movements, hold that position while trying to fire up as many muscles around those joints involved as possible for time and build joint stability along the way. Periodically, there may be a lactic acid monsoon unleashed.

But, like I tell my clients when they doth protest too much: "have you ever made an omelet without breaking the eggs?" Oddly enough, this doesn't get them on board and I usually get most of my "verbal hugs" after I say that. Weird...

See, I'm a huge believer in basics work best when it comes to getting stronger. Usually, the more simple/boring the exercise, the more effective it is to build strength. Not too mention the way it absolutely deepens your mind muscle connection so your muscles move your bones a lot better.

Probably the most critical part of exercise that, sadly, a lot of programs neglect. There seems to be more emphasis on "CRUSHING MY GYM SESH!!!!" (a little bit of my soul just died writing that btw) rather than putting together a sound program rooted in, GASP!!! CHOKE!!! GASP!!!, common sense.

Every time I've injured myself and done a tour of duty in physical therapy, boring has put me back together. That meant eventually being able to move better by creating force standing still.

Meaning, as I mentioned earlier, the PT found a joint angle, made me fire up the necessary muscles (usually it was some ego crushing incredibly simple glute exercise) to hold that angle. All the while sparking absolutely no joy in me whatsoever. Good times.

Since the your glutes are your primary lower body power plant, they can never have too much horsepower as far as I'm concerned. Especially since life regularly takes place on one leg. Play accordingly.

When we move, we are designed to do so with diagonal loading patterns through the core and hips. Meaning, your right shoulder is supported by your left hip and vice versa. This is why doing a single arm suspension row with your right arm lights up your left glute and vice versa.

Breaking it down a bit more, it explains how your tight right shoulder creates an issue in your left hip and vice versa. I've had people come in with left hip tension, we activate the muscles of their upper right back reconnecting that diagonal line, and VOILA! The hip tension is either reduced or eliminated. At which point I usually get asked "what sorcery is this???"

When things are online and working correctly, life is generally pretty good. When imbalances are present (your diagonals aren't dialed in), your movement quality goes down and your chances of experiencing a low back "occurrence" go up.

Whenever my clients do come in with low back issues, the explanation typically starts with "all I did was..." insert small rotation movement bending over here. It could've been tying their shoes. Picking up after their kids (which I LOVE DOING!!! said no parent ever...) or trying to move furniture. It doesn't take much of a zig when your body wanted to zag to lock up your back. There are better ways to binge watch Netflix.

The following exercises may just address the above mentioned lower body muscular mishaps and help prevent your next low back occurrence. They also might just target your abs a bit, which is never a bad idea.

BUYER BEWARE, they definitely contain some pretty high quality isometric muscle contractions that have been known to put a 5-alarm fire in your glutes (and the abs if you're really lucky, BIG hint there btw). So beefore you try these, do the right thing and get evalutated by a trainer, PT or trusted health professional to make sure you're doing these right.

ALWAYS err on the side of common sense before you start doing new things in your workouts. But you knew that already, right?

Once the above mentioned health pros green light the project, have at it with these three exercises. Explanations are in each video. Depending on intensity, I like holding diagonal isometrics anywhere from :15 seconds (high out put strength approach) to :30 (lower output to enhance your mind muscle connection as well as muscular endurance).

Oh, and the good news is you won't need your arms! So these are great to insert in between grip intensive exercises like loaded carries, pullups, etc.

Single Leg Side Wall Push

This is as simple as it gets to work on dialing in your diagonals. As you drive your foot into the wall, the opposite hip has to stabilize you so you don't fall over. Great exercise to give you more control of your single leg movements. I believe walking falls into this category!

Single Leg Isometric RDL

There should be a straight line from your ankle to your shoulder as you do this. The straight leg behind you puts a lot more load on your kickstand leg. Think of this as an isometric hinge. It keeps your back in neutral and gives you the best chance to get your abs and glutes working together.

Single Leg Rear Foot Elevated Wall Push

HUGE THANK YOU to Ming from TBD Fitness for the help with the videos!

This exercise both gets you to produce as well as resist force. As the foot on the wall drives into it, the foot in the front must work the hips to withstand it. You'll get out of this what you put into it for sure!

The 24th letter of the alphabet (X) is the key to your daily movement quality. Train your brain to talk to your muscles accordingly, get your diagonals absolutely dialed in and you'll have a much easier time being awake!

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