02-24-2015

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

Today I want to talk about proper exercise form. A friend of mine just joined Crossfit and was telling me about an incident. Now before I start, I’m not bashing Crossfit. But I am bashing personal trainers who don’t teach proper form and who don’t modify exercises for beginners.

The Importance Of Proper Exercise Form

My friend is someone who is new to lifting…I personally don’t think she should be thrown into a barbell deadlift right away, but she was. The next day she was telling me how her back was killing her and she couldn’t even stand up straight because she was so sore. I asked her how much weight she did. She said she asked one trainer who said, “Ummm…just do 95 lbs,” which she knew would be too heavy, so she asked another trainer who said 70 or 75 lbs, I can’t remember.

There are some major problems here. One being, why is she doing a barbell deadlift as a beginner as opposed to learning proper form with lighter weights first? Two, what are those weights??? And why are these trainers just throwing around random numbers?? She sucked it up and did it, and then couldn’t walk up-right for a few days because her lower back was killing her, which usually means proper form was not used during the deadlift.

This actually happened to me once too. I went to a group bootcamp class and one of the exercises was a barbell deadlift. The trainer made it heavy enough for the strongest person in the class but it was way too heavy for me, which I expressed. But he told me to try it anyway. So I did (and couldn’t go down far enough either but he kept telling me to go all the way down), and I couldn’t walk for a few days because my back was killing me.

I’ve written about proper form cues for deadlifts before, but I want to talk about it again. Yes, the deadlift does recruit lower back muscles, but your lower back shouldn’t be that sore afterwards. You should mainly feel it in your hamstrings and glutes.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • As you lower the weight, keep your core tight, which will keep you from only using your lower back.
  • As you lift the weight back up, focus on squeezing your glutes.
  • Keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
  • Keep your neck neutral, don’t look up and crane your neck. Look a few inches ahead of you or down – whatever keeps your neck in line with your spine.

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a lighter weight or modifying exercises. And that’s what personal trainers are for!! That’s what this rant is about. The trainers in the experiences above should have realized that the weight was too heavy, and also been there to provide form cues for my friend so that this didn’t happen. It makes me nervous that as someone who is a total beginner to lifting (she’s only really done exercise DVDs) she’s thrown into barbell exercises and Olympic exercises.

Here are a few glute/hamstring exercises that you can do as you build up to a full deadlift:

  • Glute/hip raises –> make it more challenging by adding a plate or barbell onto your hips
  • Romanian dumbbell deadlifts –> progress it by increasing dumbbell weight until you feel comfortable with this exercise
  • Romanian barbell deadlifts could be the next step from the above exercise.
  • Trap bar deadlifts are a good way to take some load off the lower back.

I’d say my favorite would be Romanian dumbbell deadlifts. Easy to progress and you’ll really feel it building strength in your hamstrings.

If you don’t have a trainer, just do some research on how to progress. Trainers I follow with great tips are Tony Gentilcore and Bret Contreras (“The Glute Guy”).

If you do have a trainer, make sure you hold them accountable. Speak up if you’re afraid something is too heavy or too challenging for you. There is no shame in that! Better to be safe than injured. Ask them questions about the exercise. What muscles should it recruit? Where should you feel it? What’s the point of doing it? What are some modifications?

Okay, rant over ;)

If you’re a Crossfitter, how does your gym help those who are totally new to lifting?

Have you had a bad personal trainer experience?

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04-18-2014

5 Things Your Personal Trainer Wants You To Know

How many of you have a personal trainer? I’m actually a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. I got certified in 2010 and re-certified last year with a focus on fitness assessment. Fitness and health are my passion, clearly…hence my blog!

I wanted to share with you all a few things we personal trainers want you to know when you’re in sessions with us. Some of them you may do already or know about already, and some you may not. I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are!

Things Your Personal Trainer Wants You To Know

We hate the word “tone.” “Toning up” doesn’t exist. What people mean when they say they want to be tone is that they want to lose body fat so you can see more muscle. Muscle tone actually refers to whether a muscle is at rest or contracted. From my experience, it seems women use this phrase more, and don’t want to refer to it as building muscle, but that’s what it is! Ladies, don’t be afraid of admitting you want to add muscle and get lean…nothing wrong with that! You won’t “look like a man” I promise.

You need to do the work outside of sessions with us. Just coming to 1 or 2 sessions per week with us won’t make much of a difference. You also need to be doing something those other 5-6 days a week. If you’re not sure how to plan a weekly workout schedule, just ask us! Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we love answering them! If you’re not sure what a certain exercise is for or how it will benefit you, don’t be afraid to us. We love to answer questions and start talking about muscles and science-y stuff :-P If we don’t know the answer to a question, we also love doing the research. We are here to help and will gladly find out as much as we can for you.

If something hurts, even a tiny twinge, speak up. If you’re doing a bench press and your shoulder hurts a little, tell us! Don’t wait. We know modifications for every exercise and can modify things depending on what hurts or bothers you. Don’t feel annoying by asking us to do this.

Confidence is key. Be confident when you’re lifting! I can’t tell you how many times I give a client a weight and they say “I can’t do that!” and they end up going through 3 sets no problem. Be confident and you can do it. A lot of it is mental. Which is what we are here for as well, to give you coaching cues and make you confident as you’re lifting. So when you’re lifting alone, remember those cues. When I lift, mentally I am telling myself things like, “Drive it up!” “Chest up shoulders back” “Explode!” Try it – it really helps.

Do you have a personal trainer or work out alone? Do you use mental phrases to help you?

What’s one question you’d like to ask a personal trainer? (hint: might have a Twitter chat on this soon!)

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10-16-2013

Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

Do you ever have one of those blah days? Where you just feel blah but don’t know why? I’m feeling like that today…but at least it’s Wednesday!

Here are your health links for today:

Do you like spaghetti squash? What’s your favorite fall vegetable?

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