The other day I was helping a new member through their introduction series for our gym. We were covering basic hip-hinging movements; squat, deadlift, box jump. This is generally the first thing we teach new clients. Squatting helps to alleviate a lot of low back and knee pain if done well and is fundamental to proper athletic development. He was having some trouble sequencing the air squat correctly. This is the same kind of issue we see in 90% of our new members. He was bending his knees too early and squatting with a weak, muted hip.
I gave him some drills (see above) to help him start practicing the movement pattern so it would eventually be nothing more than muscle memory. As he was leaving I told him that I would like him to do some ‘homework’. I saw the thought process, “Really? Homework? Thats why I come here, so I don’t have to do this crap at home.”
I asked him to do some squat work every day. He then asked me the inevitable “How much?” question. My reply to this question, I don’t care.
I mean that too. You can do one air squat if you want. It is probably one more than you did yesterday. Will this help you as much as doing ten? No, but it is absolutely better than doing none. This follows a thought process similar to something called ‘food displacement’. The idea is, you trade one item in a meal that you know isn’t that great for you with something that is and you are one step closer to an overall better diet. Do this with enough of your meals, adding better food each time, and before you know it, you have a well rounded diet. So why should movement be any different.
Yes, this is similar to the ‘take the stairs’ approach. But I am suggesting one more step. Take a few minutes every day of this month and focus on one movement, mobilization, or position and work on it. Before you sit down on the couch to watch tv do some squats. Don’t be lazy. Do them well. When you wake up in the morning spend 3 minutes deliberately moving all your joints and stretching. I guarantee you will feel better. The list is infinite.
Build on this displacement, come up with new ideas and fill your day with them. They will have a direct correlation to your success in the gym and an even bigger effect on your quality of life.
1. Stand in a squat stance, feet are hip width apart, toes pointed out.
2. You want to position yourself about 4-6 inches away from a wall.
3. While maintaining a neutral spine reach your arms forward and drive your hips back. Notice how shins are vertical and knees are bending BECAUSE your hips are traveling back. At this point your butt should be touching the wall. If your butt is not touching, you may be too far away. You should feel a slight ‘pull’ in your high hamstring.
4. Fault 1: Make sure to let your knees bend. You may be able to get your butt against the wall without the proper bend in your knees. Notice how the shins are no longer vertical.
5. Fault 2: Do not lean or sit against the wall. Notice how the hip is still muted and torso is vertical.
6. Fault 3: Don’t drive your knees forward. In this image hips are muted and the knees are doing all of the work. Her quads are taking over and not her hamstrings like we want.