As a former strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate level addressing deficiencies is definitely a need, but it is too often a fairly quick process. Many athletes lack adequate mobility and core stabilization and the majority of these issues aren’t being addressed. This is due to the fact that most of the training focus for athletes is optimal sport performance in terms of strength and power, and we as coaches tend to sacrifice emphasis on mobility and core stability in lieu of performance. Another problem is you are typically coaching groups of 20+ athletes at one time, and it’s very difficult to slow everything down and make sure everyone is correcting what they need. Sure, we addressed deficiencies on the fly, but we didn’t actively spend the time to teach proper stability and breathing techniques to enhance optimal mobility. To get the maximal benefit from resistance training, whether it is strength or power, any individual needs to learn how to do two simple things. Stabilize and breathe. These two make a world’s difference in general living and performance. Get good at stabilizing and breathing so this doesn’t happen!
- Stabilization: Many individuals and athletes fail to move properly and have some limitation that needs to be addressed. It is normally either stability, mobility, or sometimes even both. Too many times failing to achieve a range of motion is corrected with stretching, when the real problem is stability. The least of your worries is muscle length. Keeping a stable core and maintaining a neutral spine is of paramount importance. Part of creating core stability requires an individual to pinch the shoulders back while forcing the scapula down. This creates optimal thoracic stability. Along with the thoracic stability, the hips need to be slightly posteriorly tilted with the glutes highly activated, while pulling the ribs down with bracing of the abs. Once the core is braced and scapula is retracted and down, focus on the feet. Try and shorten the foot by pulling the ball of the foot towards the heel. This should occur without curling of the toes and will create a stronger arch to help grip the floor providing even more stability. Mastery of the latter will definitely improve your life in the gym. The Chinese Weightlifter Lu Xiaojun below has unparalleled core stability, allowing him to maintain a neutral spine through very high threshold movements, which allows him to explore weight no one his body weight has ever done in competition.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: Something as simple as learning to breathe through the diaphragm is a quick fix to a lot of gym goer’s problems. A lot of people only utilize their rib cage and intercostal muscles when breathing. In other words, when they breathe their chest rises all by itself, which isn’t optimal for proper function. Chest breathers are out there so beware. Next time you’re in the gym look around and observe how the typical gym goer is breathing when lifting heavy weights, running on a treadmill, or even resting. Learning how to breathe properly can help make drastic improvements in core stabilization, which is a primary factor in mobility imbalances and corrections. To teach this have your client or athlete lay on their back with their feet up. Have them put one hand on their belly and one on their chest. When breathing, their belly should rise first and their chest afterward. Once they have mastered that technique, have them breathe all the air possible in and rapidly exhale. This is a power breath. Power breathing is a great tool to learn and teach how to brace properly. Maintaining that brace while proper diaphragmatic breathing can increase stability drastically, particularly when doing any resistance training movement. With proper breathing and power breaths, training goals will be achieved in no time! A great example is Jean Claude Van Damme who has mastered both stability of the core and breathing to maximize elite mobility. Who wouldn’t want to look like Jean Claude?
The techniques discussed above are undoubtedly vital for every individual to master, regardless of the end goal, and will improve your mobility without performing a single stretch. If I could go back, I definitely would apply some of these modalities on athletes at the collegiate level instead of trying to increase range of motion through stretching. Here is a promise, practice these for 5-10 minutes before your next few training sessions and let me know how much of a difference it makes. If you any questions feel free to stop by Halevy Life or hit me up on Twitter @rosstcurtis.
by Ross Curtis
Ross Curtis is a Staff Coach at Halevy Life.
Ross holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, both of which were earned at University of Northern Iowa. Ross is not only an accomplished athlete in weightlifting (Olympic Lifts), track and field, and football — but also a highly qualified coach, holding both Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and USA Weightlifting (USAW) certifications.