Monday, February 14, 2011

The Squat- are your shoulders holding you back?

I love to take on new clients.  I actually like to take on "untrained" new clients rather than people who have had an inefficient trainer.  Reprogramming dysfunctional movements and reteaching just about everything when it comes to form and technique is a pretty grueling task. More times than not, that is the situation when it comes to previously trained clients.

A very important part of our job is to help correct movement patterns, assess deviations, and determine what needs to be done to make a person "feel" better.

MY BETTER CONTINUUM: Once a client moves better, they will feel better, and when they start increasing the intensity of the training they will perform better, and once they start eating right they will look better. Everything goes hand in hand, but it starts with movement. 

One of my new clients, who was working with another trainer for around 2 years, was in the middle of his movement prep / dynamic warm-up when I noticed that his shoulders looked extremely tight and incredibly uneven.  Basically, he had protracted shoulders, with very limited flexibility.

After discussing the type of training sessions he was going through for the past 2 years, I came to the conclusion that his previous trainer "loved to push".  Every exercise was pretty much geared toward pressing, and as far as any type of movement prep, it was completely ignored. 

Bring on THE SQUAT, actually the box squat.  I find box squats a pretty basic introductory exercise for new clients with adequate hip mobility and lower body flexibility.  The box squat teaches the trainee to get their hips back, keep their knees somewhat neutral, and serves as a good measuring point for squat depth.

My client looked good on the first few reps, but then he racked the weight and started complaining about the pain he was experiencing- shoulder pain.  He told me that he really never did squats because he always had this type of pain.  His other trainer just threw him on the leg press and ignored the problem.

I put a stop to the workout and began implementing some shoulder mobility work. Some of the exercises that I incorporated during our "shoulder activation" series were:
Wall Slides
Find a wall, place your back against it, slide your arms up and down for 10-12 reps 

 Band Pull-aparts 
Grab a band, Pull apart for 12-15 reps 

Y T W L Shoulder Series 
 *there were some other exercises used and some foam rolling for t-spine and lats but the above exercises were the main areas of focus

After a few more sessions of incorporating these exercises combined with some single leg work and front squats, we attempted the back squat again with MUCH success.  The pain was gone, my client was amazed how much better the movement felt, this was the first time he ever completed a set of squats without pain.

Along with the lower body workouts progressing at a rapid pace, my client was more impressed with his strength increases on his upper body lifts.  His bench press increased 20 lbs. in two weeks (work sets from 115x5 to 135x5).  Of course, like most high school kids, the bench press is what really counts....

It's not rocket science.  If a client has a faulty movement pattern, don't ignore it- that will only lead to more problems down the road.  It's kind of like ignoring your check engine light and trying to drive for a few more  thousand miles.  It's only a matter of time before something breaks down and usually will lead to a big repair bill.  All because the problem was ignored.  Like many great coaches and trainers have said "If your not assessing, your guessing".

*for more info on anything shoulder check out Eric Cressey's stuff - definitely the "go to" guy when it comes to shoulder health and performance.

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