When it comes to fitness, we appear to have become obsessed with numbers – how much can you squat? How much can you bench press? How many pull ups can you do in one minute? Technique, however, is often overlooked.
As fitness professionals we measure and keep a log of our client’s numbers as it forms a key part of tracking their progress, but we do not judge the efficacy of a program exclusively by those numbers.
If a prospective client could back squat double their body weight with poor technique, and after working with us for 6 months could only back squat their bodyweight with optimal technique, on paper they would appear to have regressed, but in reality, they’ve made tremendous progress. Numbers can be deceiving if it’s the only measure of progress being used.
As fitness professionals, it is our duty to promote optimal technique at all costs. Oftentimes that requires reducing the load, and we get it, light weights or reducing the load has somehow become associated with weakness, but we don’t believe there’s any room for ego in exercise. We believe in focusing on the fundamentals to promote longevity and prevent injuries. The foundation of every exercise program is sound mechanics.
Of course, every exercise cannot be performed with optimal technique every time, and that’s not our expectation, but attempting to perform an exercise with optimal technique should always be the priority. “I’m able to back squat my bodyweight 10 times with optimal technique on a regular basis” sounds a lot better than “once upon a time I managed to back squat double my bodyweight, but I injured my lower back due to poor technique and I haven’t been able to do a single pain-free air squat since”.
In order to perform most exercises safely and with sound mechanics, core stability is crucial. If you’re struggling with an exercise, it’s very likely that poor core stability is a limiting factor, if not the limiting factor.
“Strengthening a stabiliser (such as the abdominal muscles with crunches or the lower back erectors with endless hyperextensions) will not cause those muscles to necessarily stabilise more effectively. Core stability is the synchronous action of the abdominal muscles along with the muscles of the back, hip, pelvic girdle, diaphragm and surrounding fascia. When working together they keep the spine in a safe and stable position while we move. Therefore, core stability has nothing to do with how many crunches you perform … The essence of stability is based on two things: timing and coordinated recruitment.” – Dr. Aaron Horschig
How do we stabilise our core?
One way is through intra-abdominal cavity pressure. Think of a can of Coca-Cola (think, not drink!), before the can is opened it is rock solid. The pressure inside the can makes it virtually impossible to change its shape. This is the same type of pressure that we want to create before we perform most exercises, and we do this by bracing the core.
There’s two easy ways to brace your core. Simply cough, and as you do you will feel your core tense up. Or, imagine that someone was about to punch you in the stomach; the moment they’re about to punch you, you will tense your core. That tension is what we want to maintain throughout the exercise – you’re still able to breath normally, but now the midline is stable, and our lower back is locked into a good, neutral position. We’re effectively creating a natural weight belt.
Core to extremity
“Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements—i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects.” – Greg Glassman
Regardless if we’re performing an air squat, clean and jerk, or pull up, the starting point is always bracing of the core.
Thank you for reading this post
We truly hope that you found this post valuable. If you have any questions or if you’d like to work with one of our experienced personal trainers, please feel free to contact us