"But I'm not ready for the barbell!" Part 2
In Part 1 of this article we talked about getting ready for the barbell.
As we said, it may not be appropriate for you to do barbell work just yet. Eventually, it will beg the questions, “Then when will I know?” It’s as easy as you’ll know when you know…well, maybe not so easy after all. It takes a lot of self-awareness, maybe humility or the opposite, courage. Aside from that, let’s talk some simple benchmarks:
1) Squatting to parallel with tall chest
In the world of Power Lifting they call the squat the King of all Lifts, and for good reason! No other exercise requires more total body strength or as much muscle engagement as the squat. It works your entire body, not to mention it is the most basic movement in life. Think back to when you last saw a baby first walk; before she stands she pushes herself to her feet, crouched, her head comes up, her chest is all and she balances herself in the bottom of a squat then...stands! Aside from crawling it doesn’t get any more basic than that!
But somewhere along the way, because of 8 hours a day sitting in school then work, the removal of recess and busy lives, followed by sitting in front of the TV all night, we lose the ability to squat. But it’s time to get it back!
First, practice squatting onto a tall box, chair or bench with an upright chest, looking straight ahead.
Second, try standing a lot more often, throughout work, at home etc. This will open up the hips and help them stay open.
Third, the couch stretch! The single greatest mobility drill for lifters and humans alike. Thanks Dr. K. Star!
2) Deadlifting position with neutral/flat back
Another movement lost to too much sitting is the deadlift, or simply being able to pick something up off the ground. I recall a baby coming into my gym one morning, and while talking to his parents we noticed him walking over to the medicine balls; he stared at a 12lbs one, squatted in front of it, threw his arms around it then lifted his hips about 15 degrees, before standing with it. Somewhere in between him grabbing it and standing his mom made a move to stop him, clearly afraid he’d hurt himself. I stopped her and said with a smile, “he’s totally safe”. Why? Because he hasn’t learned how to move improperly yet, but rather he’s moving instinctively, or more to the point, how he was designed to move.
So let’s achieve this movement as well, little by little:
First, continue with the couch stretch. Do it for as long and as often as you can.
Second, let’s open up your glutes and hamstrings with a pigeon pose, again for as long as you can handle it.
Lastly, begin trying to get into a proper position (flat back, tall chest) using a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. If you can’t get low enough with good form, then raise the “bells” with a plate underneath. Work on getting lower and lower with good form so that when you are strong enough, you will be able to use barbell staying in a good position/good form.
3) Push-up with thin band with elbows in
Recalling the baby from the discussion on the squat; how is that baby getting into that crouched position from its belly? A push-up. Because it’s another basic movement everyone needs to be able to do. So how do you get this back? By far the simplest, BUT the longest road.
Buy band (or one of each color) double it over so it’s in a figure 8, slide your arms into the band up past your elbows and try a push-up: elbows in/by your sides and without our legs touching the floor. If you can’t do it with that band go to a thicker one until you find one that is doable but challenging. Work on accumulating reps with this band then once you’re strong enough go to the next band down, and so on and so forth until you no longer need a band!
You may be thinking, surely there must be something else I can do to get stronger while I work on this mobility and these basic movements! You’d be right, because you know we wouldn’t leave you hanging. September 30th, we’ll be releasing our first e-book, “K.I.S.S. Program” for FREE! That’s right, 4 weeks of workouts that are simple and short, just for you. Be on the lookout!