I love eating.
I have it listed as a valuable skill on my resume.
One of my favorite things to eat is meat, specifically a nice steak. Sorry vegetarians, Poppa loves his dead animal flesh.
“Did he just refer to himself as Poppa? What a douche.”
I mean, is there anything better than a filet cooked to perfect medium rare? Especially if you buy that cut of meat from a butcher who knows what they’re doing. A good butcher could slice and dice a bunch of things for you exactly to your specifications, just how it should be done.
However, if you go to a butcher who has no clue what they’re doing, they could end up giving you a steak that looks like it was just violently stabbed to death. Not exactly a cut of steak that makes you salivate.
And you know what, there are things that I see in gyms on a daily basis that are just like that horrible cut of meat. Exercises that people just straight up….butcher. (Zing!)
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some common exercises that I see people butcher on a weekly basis, and how to fix it.
- The Box Jump
Ok, ok, so yes, there is no doubt about it. Jumping onto a 60 inch box is impressive. Buuuuuuuuut….
Did you just punch your screen in disgust? Call me the dumbest mother f*er to ever write a blog post? OF COURSE ITS ABOUT HOW HIGH YOU CAN JUMP CHRIS, WHY ELSE WOULD YOU DO IT?
Force production and how high you jump are without a doubt important to completing a box jump, but only to an extent. If you’re not able to stick a box jump in a solid and soft landing, your jump height is irrelevant. Let me elaborate.
So let me know if you’ve ever seen this. Someone sets up a 50” box, gets a running start, jumps, and then lands like this.
BRO I MADE IT. MAD HOPS FOR DAYS. BUNNIES SON.
Kindly, shut your face hole. While this guy did in fact make the jump, his landing is not the greatest. Take a real close look. This guy’s hips are not even above the top of the plates on which he’s trying to jump. During a box jump, force production comes down to how high you can elevate your hips relative to your starting position. There will come a point where your jumps will reach a max height, and how high you can elevate your hips will peak. So, in order to reach a higher box, what do you need to do?
You’re going to tuck your knees to your chest. It might seem like you’re jumping higher, but you’re really just elevating your feet higher and higher. So in all reality the higher the box, the more box jumps become a test of hip mobility than they do true power production.
This is an incredibly easy fix. Leave your ego at the door. Don’t worry about impressing people with your 48 inch box jump with a crappy landing. Here are the keys to a good box jump.
- Jump as high as humanly possible, regardless of the box height. Jump like you are trying to jump through the ceiling.
- Land as softly as possible. If I can hear you land, your landing sucked.
- If your hips drop below 90 degrees on your landing, your box is too high.
- Leave your ego at the door.
- STEP down from the box.
A soft landing is just as important as a big jump. Learning how to eccentrically control your landing will not only lead to more strength gains, but it will also help reduce the likelihood of sustaining an injury in other aspects of your training. This is especially important to athletes and anyone with higher performance type goals.
Also, don’t jump backwards off the box that you just jumped onto. The whole point of jumping onto a box is to take away the stress of landing from the jump. That’s why its usually a low level or introductory plyometric exercise. Step down from it please.
2. The Pushup
An exercise so common, yet proper form is not all that common it seems. I tell my clients all the time that pushups are just as much of a core exercise as they are an upper body exercise. So it really breaks my heart when I see someone doing a pushup that looks like this.
This screams to me lack of anterior core strength. Her core is not strong enough to prevent her hips from sagging down to the floor. When people do pushups like this, it just looks like they’re awkwardly trying to hump the floor. Not really a good look.
Another way a lot of people will unknowingly cheat during a pushup is something called forward head posture. As they lower themselves to the ground, their head will shoot forward towards the ground.
(picture courtesy of tonygentilcore.com)
This is your body’s way of tricking itself into thinking you lowered yourself way more than you actually did. Since your eyes are closer to the ground, you feel like you’re getting a fuller range of motion. So your brain is telling you ‘hey great job on that full range of motion’, but I’m over here watching you like…
Lastly, and this one isn’t so noticeable, but locking your shoulder blades in place while performing pushups is a great way to develop some shoulder issues over time. Although ‘down and back’ can be a great cue to use during numerous exercises, locking your shoulder blades in place all the time is not a good thing. Proper functioning shoulder blades need to move freely along the ribcage during a bunch of upper body movements, like the pushup. When you lower yourself, you should be able to feel your shoulder blades retract, or move closer towards your spine. When you push yourself up, you should feel them protract, or move further away from your spine. A good cue to remember is to push yourself as far away from the floor as possible at the top of every rep. Couple this with a 45 degree angle of your arms to your body, and you’re all set.
So here’s your ‘good pushup’ checklist.
- Squeeze your butt and stomach throughout the entire movement.
- Tuck your chin throughout the movement. A good cue is to make a double chin.
- ‘Corkscrew’ your hands outward into the floor throughout the movement
- Tuck your elbows in so that they are 45 degrees from your body.
- At the top of every rep, push yourself as far away as possible from the floor.
If you suck at pushups, start on an elevated surface like a box or bench. Master the basics listed above before progressing down to the floor. And then eventually you can start doing those advanced pushups that make ladies go, ‘OOOOOOH have my baaaaaaby”. That happens right?
3. Bosu ball ________’s
Ok, so you’re doing an exercise on a Bosu ball. This is an easy fix across the board.
Stop doing it. The end.
The Bosu ball, in my humble opinion, is one of the most overused pieces of equipment in all sorts of unnecessary situations. The main reason people love this half blue sphere so much is because it gives the user the opportunity to perform all kinds of exercises in an unstable environment. Unstable surface means stabilizing muscles work harder which makes your overall core strength and stability better, right? Eh… no. Not really.
While that last statement is true (unstable surfaces WILL make your stabilizing muscles work harder), blindly applying this to any and all exercises is dumb. Because you’re focusing so hard to stay balanced, whatever exercise you’re performing on that Bosu ball basically takes a backseat to you trying not to fall and bust your ass. You will not be able to use the same load on an unstable surface, which means you will not be able to push yourself appropriately to see any type of appreciable strength gains. And do you know what really makes people unstable? Being weak. And it should always be a priority of yours to get as strong as possible.
Yeah but Chris, there’s no denying that training on a Bosu ball will make me more stable. It’s the ultimate training for balance. It’s super functional.
Answer me this, Mr Overusesthetermfunctionaltraining. On a daily basis, how often are you on an unstable surface performing physical tasks? Let me answer this one.
Never. Or very rarely.
The floor at your house and job are stable. The stairs you take are stable. The grass you play on with your kids and dog is stable. We live in a stable world. So how in the hell will becoming better at training on an unstable surface translate over to performing tasks on a stable surface?
Bosu ball lovers, please send all your hate mail to CSanchez2@lifetimefitness.com 🙂
So there ARE a few instances were Bosu balls can indeed serve a purpose.
- In a physical therapy setting, where increasing motor control at a specific joint is the goal.
- Progressions to plank variations.
- Pushups (the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, which coincidentally also makes it incredibly unstable. The added instability of a Bosu ball will force you to really control any and all movement at your shoulder, while still allowing you to perform a pushing movement with some challenge.
However, adding instability just for the sake of making something unstable, and thus “harder” is not really the best way to go about a strength training program. I don’t really recommend doing any of the following on a Bosu ball.
- Deadlift variations
- Direct arm work
So to those of you performing single leg bicep curls on a bosu ball. Just stop. For the love of all that is holy, just stop. There are more efficient ways to train stability. Offset exercises, unilateral work, direct core work (in the form of planks, dead bugs, rollouts, weighted carries) are all much more ‘functional’ ways of making you more stable.
No exercise is inherently bad. But how you perform them can definitely change that. So take these few pointers, apply them, and get better.