Pushing Through Only the Heel is DEAD

I always say a mistake isn’t a bad thing unless you don’t learn from it. Well, today you’re going to learn from MY mistake. I’ll take one for the team on this one.

Long story, short: Today, I shattered my big toe by dropping a barbell on it. I mean, it’s awful. I can’t put much weight on it, it’s completely bruised up, swollen and I would love to upload a picture of that so you could see how crazy it looks, but my feet are hideous so I’ll pass. Trust me.

I’ll live. I once got my foot (same foot) crushed by a 1999 Honda Civic, so compared to that this is basically nothing. The bright side is that this is going to be a teaching moment, and a very timely one.

Today, I’d like to teach you my thoughts on foot position during popular exercises like back squats, split squats, deadlifts, etc. This is something I picked up a while back from a coach named Mike Robertson. I added it into my training, my clients training and tried to make adjustments to make it even more successful during exercise.

I’d like to start off by saying that the concept of pushing through only your heels on an most lower body lifts is dead. It’s faulty, it doesn’t work and it might even make you weaker – in my opinion.

You do still need to feel the heel, though, along with two other regions of the foot – the first and fifth metatarsal heads. In other words, you need to maintain ground contact and exert force through the heel, the padding just under your big toe and the padding just under your pinky toe. Think of that as a triangle of force, with 33.333333333333333333333333333333333% (haha or one-third) of your “push” coming from each of those areas.

foot

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about foot position after posting some Instagram split squat videos. So this is actually great timing.

You may have heard me tell you to find your heel, grip the ground or push your foot through the floor when you’re squatting, lunging or any other exercise. Those are just simple ways to help you put your foot in the right position based on what I see. It’s very important know that you need to use your whole foot when exercising, not just the heel like many people may believe.

Why?

If you put all the weight in your heels, you’re shifting your center of gravity. Let’s say you’re squatting and you overload the heels. You’re going to lose some ground connection in the upper half of your foot. You may not feel that happening, but it is. Worst case, your toed lift up from the ground and you fall backwards! On the fly (you won’t notice this either), your body is going to adapt because the human body is amazing. More than likely, you’re going to excessively arch your lower back, tip your pelvis forward and cause detriment to the activation and/or mobility of your entire lower body.

Another huge reason something called proprioception, which is basically your ability to sense your body positioning and movement. Your feet are your first contact with the ground. If you aren’t gripping that floor with your entire foot, you lose the ability to sense where you are at any point in a given movement. This affects strength, power, speed, mechanics, posture, balance – everything.

I’ve done this so many times. Everyone has. Eventually, you will feel the accumulation of that poor movement pattern and I don’t want that for you! But when you nail the right foot position, and a lot of my clients naturally nail it, you’ll feel ten times stronger. Seriously. I have legitimately seen people make drastic improvements in 30 seconds just by changing this one small detail.

So, to wrap it up; My toe being broken is actually really sad for me. It’s going to limit my lower body workouts a lot for the time being! But on a good note, I got to share some thoughts with you guys and hopefully help out anyone who may have been making this mistake. Continue to lift with the exact same form you do on everything, but implement this one tip and I guarantee the movement will be easier to achieve based on your foot position.

3 Grip Mistakes Undermining Your Bench Press, Deadlift and Lat Pulldowns

The stronger the grip, the stronger the man (or woman). Grip strength is one of the most overlooked aspects of training, yet it’s far more more important than people realize. Numerous studies have found that grip strength is a powerful indicator of one’s overall health. And several top strength and conditioning coaches use grip tests to analyze an athlete’s recovery speed when coming back from an injury.

When you are lifting, your grip can enhance—or ruin—your ability to perform an exercise. Slight tweaks to the positioning of your hand, wrist angle or thumb can dramatically affect your movement during an exercise, and the weight you can use during it.

In my own training, I’ve see a lot of exercise grip mistakes, but three seem the most common. The good news is that they are all pretty easy to fix, and that correcting them will pay huge dividends. Don’t let your own hands be the thing that holds you back. Fix these three issues today.

Count your breathing rate, not seconds, while stretching

In everyday life, many individuals finish their workout, look at the time, and completely avoid the stretching section of their workout routine.  For those that do implement a stretching session, the feeling of being rushed and moving on to the next task of the day still lingers.  FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO STRETCH, OR AFTER READING THIS ARTICLE, CHOOSE TO IMPLEMENT STRETCHING INTO YOUR ROUTINE, I have something for you to try.

While going through your normal stretching routine there are factors and thoughts of; pain, strain, discomfort, whether you did the laundry, and what practice you are picking your kids up from that night.  But what if I introduced you to a way that eliminated all foreign thoughts and actually allowed you the opportunity to implement meditation into your stretching routine.  WHOA, HOW?  It’s simple, just breathe, and use your breathing rate in place of the 20 or 30 seconds you count per stretch.

You’ve finished your workout, and you don’t want Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) to kick in the next day or two.  You know, that feeling where you can’t even sit on the toilet or even reach to that top shelf where the sweets are located..  So the main solution and prescription is stretching.  As muscles are exerted during exercise, toxins are created within the fibers of your muscle.  Stretching, in a sense, cures this problem by pushing those toxins out of the muscle and into the bloodstream, where they can be broken down.  Along with the toxins, there are other well-known factors that also builds up in the muscle, and those factors are known as stress and tension.  This is where the breathing and meditation takes over.

From the beginning of your stretch to the end, you need to take all outside factors and flush them away.  Time is not a factor during stretching, and is now replaced by breathing rate.  Concentrating on your breathing rate, during stretching, will not only give you a moment to relax your mind and clear your thoughts but will also allow the muscle to release that added stress and tension you built up during the workout.  How many breathes should I take with this new technique?  A typical inhale to exhale duration will take 5 seconds, depending on how deep you are breathing in.  Do each stretch for 5-10 breathes, and eliminate all thoughts about time!  Worry more about releasing that tension, clearing your mind, and for just a moment let your mind and body go into a state of relaxation.

For information on stretching routines, or types of stretches you should perform after certain workouts, contact me by email: connor@1andonlyfitness.com

3 Ways to Make Any Exercise Harder Without Adding Weight

Want to get stronger, leaner and more powerful without increased risk of injury? It’s a common misconception that you have to keep loading on the weight to make progress in the gym. Yes, it’s definitely beneficial to lift heavy weights but there are also tons of alternate methods to make an exercise more difficult!

This is especially helpful for people with injuries, no spotters or inexperience with lifting heavy. The find out the BEST 3 ways to make an exercise harder without adding a weight, keep reading below!

Bulletproof Your Core With 3 Advanced TRX Exercises

Ditch the Crunches, Sit-Ups and boring Planks. Stop doing “ab exercises” that fry your hip flexors instead of working your abdominal muscles.

When it comes to training the core, you have to think outside the box. In this case, the box is your rectus abdoninis—the “six-pack muscles.”

The TRX core exercises featured below are some of the best bang-for-your buck exercises. But first, let’s talk more about the “core.”

There is so much more to the core than a set of washboard abs and taking a selfie in good lighting. The core is vital for athletic performance, general health and most of all, the safety and well-being of your body during exercise.

When you train your core, think “everything from your glutes to your neck, 360 degrees around your body.” With this mindset, you can bulletproof your body and build a sturdy foundation for powerful athletic performance and a healthy life.

Here are three TRX core exercises that will strengthen, stabilize and bulletproof your core.

Why You Shouldn’t Ice After A Workout

If you step into any sports training facility, you might see some exhausted athletes lying in a tub of ice after a workout. The ice bath has been around for years, but lately it has become a hot trend in recovery techniques.

Some facilities specialize in cryotherapy, which is the use of hyper-cool temperatures to speed up the healing process in soft tissue and joints.

These techniques are especially popular among athletes, and it seems that icing after workouts has become a standard method of recovery.

But what if I told you that using ice after a workout is the exact opposite of what you should do to speed your recovery? What if I told you that icing after a workout actually slows down and directly interferes with your body’s natural healing process?

Click here to read more on why you should never ice sore muscles and injuries!

5 Reasons Your Training Program is Failing (And How To Fix It)

Everyone has their ups and downs in the weight room. Sometimes those downs last longer than you’d like. If your progress has been stalled for an extended period of time, there may be some alterations you can make to get back on track. Here are the 5 most common reasons your training program has failed you  and how to make sure it doesn’t fail you any longer.

The Key to a Longer Life is… Spicy Food?

Apparently the Spice Girls are visionaries because they were certainly on to something when they said we need to spice up our life.

Literally, though.

A recent study published in The BMJ suggests that people who indulge in fiery foods are more likely to live longer, and have lower risk of death from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

The study collected dietary data from about 490,000 people, from ages 30 to 79, in China. The study subjects were enrolled in this project between 2004 and 2008, and had their health monitored for an average of seven years per person.

Over the course of the study, more than 20,000 people died. Scientists were able to pull data that suggests people who ate spicy food more than twice per week have a 14% lower risk of death.

To read the entire study, visit The BMJ here.

Exercise Tip of the Week: Box Jumps

Box jumps have been around for decades as one of the staple plyometric exercises in training. Whether you’re an athlete or a general health enthusiast, box jumps have a tremendous impact on your explosiveness and ability to generate power through your lower half. Both things will pay huge dividends in your exercise routine.

There’s one big problem…

Box jumps may be one of the most botched exercises out there.

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I could watch these all day.

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I see it every day, multiple times a day. I’ve been guilty of it myself plenty of times, but over the years I’ve corrected my own mistakes and talked to some great strength & conditioning coaches that were able to show me how to properly do, instruct and program an effective box jump.

First, let’s talk about what a box jump IS NOT.

  • A box jump is not cardio
  • A box jump is not a “more is better” exercise
  • A box jump is not a “faster is better” exercise
  • A box jump is not supposed to be heavily loaded

Here are a few common mistakes that a lot of people make on their box jumps.

 

Hey you… yeah, you! The guy doing 1-minute intervals of rapid fire box jumps on a 36-inch box that you can barely get your toes on… STOP!

It’s not safe or effective to perform box jumps like that. That is everything a box jump is not.

So, what IS a box jump?

  • A box jump is a great way to activate your central nervous system
  • A box jump is a great way to increase your explosiveness and power
  • A box jump is a low-impact exercise
  • A box jump is a bodyweight exercise
  • A box jump is an opportunity to achieve triple extension (ankles, knees and hips) and jump as high as possible without having to absorb the full impact of max-height jump (this is because you land on a box, instead of returning all the way down to the ground).
  • A box jump, when done correctly, will make you a better athlete

Below are some examples of what I consider to be good form. All have slight variations, so I’ve slowed the videos down and added a few notes.

Personally, I use box jumps as a part of my dynamic warm up. One coaching cue that has stuck with me is that “a box jump can potentiate the nervous system,” and that is how I prefer to use them.

With explosive, short bursts of power (like box jumps) I can give my nervous system a wake-up call. This will activate the rest of my body to be ready to handle increased amounts of weight throughout the duration of the workout. Technically, a box jump won’t build much new muscle for you, but when you use them to prime your body for an intense workout, that’s where the muscle magic happens.

As a part of your training program, box jumps can help you generate more power and explosiveness, which will allow you to become stronger, faster and bring you to new levels of badassness. Is that a word?


Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to box jumps

DON’T

  • Rebound (rapidly jump up and down the box)
  • Land with your knees caving in
  • Use a box that you can’t land safely on
  • Stomp your feet when you land
  • Add weight
  • Land in a deep squat

DO

  • Fully extend at the ankles, knees and hips
  • Use your arms and core for power and stability
  • Land in the same position you jumped from
  • Land soft and stealth (like a ninja)
  • Step down from the box, reset and repeat

Hopefully these tips help you the next time you go to perform box jumps. These simple tweaks can help you avoid a torn Achilles, torn ACL and countless bloody, scraped shins – all extremely common in bad box jumps.

Remember, you want to generate power with each rep. Keep the reps at 6 or below (per set) so you can explode on each jump. Inability to use your explosiveness due to fatigue will lead to poor mechanics and injury, so take your time and be precise with the jumps! Now go crush it!