Ever had that feeling that your glutes just aren’t firing for you? Wonder what it is that turns them off like a light switch and sends you into your back muscles? A tight Psoas could definitely be the culprit.
What is the Psoas? It’s a super thick muscle that connects from your lumbar spine to your femur (see below). Its primary action is hip flexion (pulls your torso toward your thigh) and secondarily, it assists in lateral rotation of the hip.
How does my psoas have the power to turn off my fabulous booty?
It’s a nuerological thing called Reciprocal Inhibition. To prevent injury, our intelligent body ensures that we don’t have two opposing muscles contracting at once. So when one muscle, the AGONIST, contracts, it sends a neural message to the ANTAGONIST, opposing muscle, to relax. The glutes are the antagonist to the psoas. So say you sit a ton, or love hip flexion exercises (think toes to bar, box jumps, even running), if not done correctly they will tighten your psoas.
You may really have strong glutes and be asking them to fire under heavy loads, but your neural anatomy simply won’t have it because your psoas is in a contracted state.
There are other postural problems that happen when your psoas is chronically tight. It creates an excessive anterior pelvic tilt. While this tilt may enhance your booty, it increases the lumbar curve of the spine and puts pressure on the anterior spine, squeezing the lumbar discs posteriorly.
How to help:
- Yoga as demonstrated above by Stephanie with Lunge pose and other Psoas specific yoga postures done in the CFH Yoga class.
- Mobility work! Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWOD.com is a brilliant resource for finding tons of great psoas-related mobility exercises. One of my favorites is this: lie down on your back, place a lacrosse ball inside your Anterior Sacro iliac Spine, and then mash it in with a kettlebell as you bend and extend the leg of the hip you are working. Make sure you breathe and find several spots between your iliac spine and your navel.
- STOP SLEEPING ON YOUR BELLY!!
- Sit less (possibly the most important thing you can do for your health and wellness)
- Practice regular back extensions
These two words, “rest” and “recovery,” have distinctly different meanings when applied to health, fitness or athletic contexts. Recovery can encompass many different behaviors and strategies, but it is fundamentally different than just resting.
Rest is simply the absence of effort or movement—the absence of exertion. Think taking a day off from exercise or sport, napping, chilling on the couch, rotting your brain with Jersey Shore or Lost reruns, and going to bed nice and early so you get adequate sleep. All of that is fine and good, but resting is only one small part of true recovery.
Recovery is the restorative process by which you regain a state of “normalcy”; healthy and in balance. (If your “normal” is not “healthy,” perhaps you should spend some time considering that.) Recovery is far more than just taking a day off from training. Genuine recovery includes adequate rest, but also must include the engaged, deliberate execution of a cogent plan to offset the (physical and psychological) cost of your training.
In his 2010 All Banged Up post, Dallas wrote:
“I see more sub-acute and chronic injuries resulting from inadequate recovery from exercise (especially with high-intensity programs), than resulting from an acute or traumatic incident. The primary fault lies with inadequate or improper recovery from exercise, not the type or intensity of exercise. (To put it another way, it’s not that you’re hurting yourself doing pull-ups – more often than not, it’s because you’re not properly recovering from those pull-ups.) I believe that a high-intensity exercise program is both effective and sustainable life-long only when combined with good nutrition and recovery practices.”
Merely taking a day or two off from exercise when you’re feeling overtrained (or All Banged Up) is, to put it bluntly, the slacker’s version of “recovery.” One of the many things that has been underscored during our training with Rob MacDonald of Gym Jones is that recovery requires just as much (or more!) discipline as training itself. Which means if you’re training hard, a case could be made that you should spend more time focused on recovery than you do on training itself.
Don’t have that much time in your busy, stressful life? It might mean a little less training and a little more time spent on recovery.
Still don’t think that’s really necessary? Maybe you just don’t realize how stressful your life really is.
You don’t get fitter when you are training. Whether you CrossFit, or Zumba, or swing kettlebells, or run marathons… you get fitter when you are recovering from that training.
Being committed to recovery means that sometimes you don’t train hard, even if you really want to, and even if everyone else is doing it.
A commitment to recovery may mean that you take ice baths sometimes.
It means that when all you want is pizza and a beer, you choose a nutritious meal instead.
It means that you put away the computer/TV/smartphone/video game and go the heck to sleep.
It means that you spend some intimate time with your foam roller, lacrosse ball, stick, ice pack, or other self-care tool/torture device.
It means that you watch and learn from Kelly Starrett getting his supple leopard on.
It may mean that you seek out a reputable practitioner of your preferred therapeutic approach: massage, Rolfing, acupuncture, chiropractic care, naturopathic or functional medicine.
It might mean that you use your noggin’ and take a pass on a race or competition that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of Your Life and Health.
It might even mean that you revisit your trip down Whole30 Lane.
“Aerobic” is not a dirty word.
If you’re passing on lower intensity, longer duration activity and exclusively working at a high-intensity, we think that’s a short-sighted perspective. For our clients, we recommend regularly spending at least a half-hour doing easy activity as part of your recovery practices. Riding the Airdyne, walking, swimming, or biking for 30-90 (long, slow, boring) minutes expedites recovery from hard training, improves metabolic efficiency (especially in folks on a low-ish carb, high-ish fat diet), and improves cardiovascular health.
Don’t confuse durations over a half hour with “chronic cardio” – the long duration, moderate-to-high intensity stuff that really nails you. To be clear, no one was ever harmed by a two hour hike or an easy spin on the bike with their kids. Keeping the intensity low is the key to recovery activities, and including some long, easy stuff in your routine improves health and recovery from hard training—which ultimately will improve performance in your higher-intensity sport or exercise program.
Regardless of how you choose to step your recovery up (perhaps, in part, by stepping your training down), it’s time. Summer’s activities are just around the corner, and if you play a sport, participate in outdoor pursuits, or simply like comparing your physical capacity to others (or yourself!), now is the time to invest in yourself. Now. Not tomorrow, or next week, or after a few more workouts. Now.
You owe it to your Future You not just to rest, but to recover.”
The knee joint is meant to roll and slide. Nice and smooth, with all the muscles working together to reduce stress on the joint. When you get tight muscles surrounding the joint (even the joints surrounding such as the hips and ankle) the amount of compressive and shear force on the joint increase. Especially when someone is unable to use their glutes during a squat because this alters the muscle activity that helps to keep the roll and slide smooth.
4. Having a quad dominant squat (not sending your butt back) also places extra stress on the knee.
Key points to think about while squatting:
1. Standing Too Wide. Deadlifts are NOT Squats. If your stance is too wide, your legs will get in the way of your arms on each rep. You could Deadlift with a wider grip, but then you’ll have to pull the bar higher which makes the same weight more challenging. Simply narrow your stance to give your arms room.
2. Starting With Your Hips Too Low. You’ll keep hitting your shins and the bar will end up too much in front of your body (which is more stressful on your lower back and less effective for strength). Again, Deadlifts are NOT Squats – start with your hips higher so your shoulder-blades are directly over the bar.
3. Starting With Your hips Too High. The opposite of mistake #2. This, a Stiff-legged Deadlift, is more stressful on your lower back and less effective for strength because you’re not using your legs. Deadlift with your hips lower so your shoulder-blades end up over the bar.
4. Not Hitting The Floor on Each Rep. By doing Deadlifts from the safety pins of your Power Rack (these are Rack Pulls) or by not touching the floor on each rep (Romanian Deadlift-style). Either way, this mistake is like not hitting parallel on Squats or not touching your chest on the Bench Press: you’re doing partials. You will create strength only for part of your bodies natural range of motion. This can create muscle inflexibility and will lead to issues long term.
Some Deadlift bouncing the weight up, others let it rest for a second, but the bar should always touch the floor between reps. Again, it’s called DEADlifts.
5. Wearing Gloves. Gloves add inches to the bar which kills your grip strength. Worse, they don’t prevent callus formation anyway. What will: Not Deadlifting! But that would be stupid. SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP.
6. Rolling Your Shoulders. Guaranteed way to wreck your shoulders. Never roll them at the top of your Deadlifts. Just pull the weight from the floor, lock your hips & knees, and keep your shoulders back & down. If you want bigger traps, increase your Deadlift and eat more so you actually gain weight.
7. Hitting Your Knees. If you break your knees too early on the way down, you will hit them (which obviously hurts) and the bar will end up too far in front of your body for your next rep (see #6). Lower the weight by pushing your hips back firstand only bend your legs once the bar reaches knee level.
8. Curling The Weight. Starting with flexed elbows and then straightening them right before you pull is useless – there’s no way you’re ever going to curl what you can Deadlift unless your work weight is too light. Keep your elbows locked by squeezing your triceps so you don’t end up ripping your biceps tendon.
9. Deadlifting In Running Shoes. Any shoe with air or gel filling doesn’t work for Deadlifts because its sole is compressible – it’s unstable, causes power loss, and messes with your technique. Get shoes with hard soles like Chuck Taylor’s or Deadlift barefoot like I do (closer to the ground = more weight).
10. Looking Up. Usually to check your Deadlift technique in the front mirror (this is why we don’t have mirrors). Problems: your hips will end up too low (see #6), you can twist your neck, and the mirror only gives info about the front plane. Stop looking in the mirror, keep your head inline with your torso and check your technique by taping yourself.
11. Pulling Instead of Pushing. Deadlifts are a pull, but since you have to use your hip muscles it’s better to think of them as a push. So instead of pulling all the weight with your back, push through your heels, force your hips forward once the bar reaches knee level, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
12. Hyperextending Your Back. Repeatedly leaning back at the top is as bad as Deadlifting with a round lower back – you will get a hernia. And unless you’re competing and want to make sure that the judges see you locked the weights, there’s no need to lean back. Just stand tall with locked hips and knees, done.
“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak
A tremendous challenge it is, in a society so dedicated to comfort and being just adequate, to push yourself into a painful place; then, to continue to push even harder. However, it is only here that real psychological benefits are earned. Only here can the mind reverse the effects of a society so plagued with laziness, anxiety and depression. Feeling tired or sad? We have drugs for that. Anything to avoid confronting the issue head on. Comfort, like any addiction, can have detrimental effects on your mind and body. The more you accept it the more you need it. Consequently, the more helpless you become. Soon you become too “comfortable” to get up to go for that run like you used to- after all, its much easier to watch TV. The ironic thing about comfort, like any addiction, is that it betrays and then deteriorates the addicted. The body gets sloppy, ages faster, and the mind becomes weak: unstable and unhappy. Self confidence is lost and depression can set in. Many would consider it an unexplainable phenomenon that the most developed societies have a suicide rate significantly higher than countries that we in the United States would look down upon. Haiti, Jordan and Honduras had no suicides in 2003. The USA had close to 17 out of every 100,000 people. Crossfitters know the confidence and self respect that is earned during a grueling workout. You must push harder and faster every day. You must punish the body to free the mind. You will find few moments in your lifetime more gratifying then right after a truly testing workout, lying on the floor quivering with pain and gasping for air, knowing you just smashed your personal best score.
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