While there are hundreds of fitness technique tips that we utilize throughout each week when training our clientele, there are three that are of particular importance across the board. The tips featured this week will concentrate on muscular strength training skills/drills. Knowing where you are in space and time, understanding the purpose of the exercise, choosing the correct load, and understanding tempo of movement, are all critical aspects of performing muscular strength training skills/drills.
However, these three tips focus upon the micro-elements of muscular strength training technique. Check these out and integrate these tips into your current muscular strength training program. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Top of the head to the tailbone, straight as an arrow. This is a good rule of thumb for the vast majority of muscular strength training exercises. For example, during straight leg dead lifts, it is imperative that the entire spine is lengthened and there is not any rounding of the thoracic spine as this may lead to serious detrimental straining of the lumbar spine. This tip also applies to exercises such as squats/lunges and exercises such as bent over rows for the latissimus dorsi. In order for the muscles, which can only pull on a bone to mobilize or stabilize it, the bones must be in the proper position to create mechanical advantage. Therefore, go through a thorough postural checklist prior to each set with this tip in mind continuously.
Slow and controlled performance of your repetitions. In general, unless we are training for power, which is very specific and not the topic of this discussion, when your primary goal is to improve muscular strength, the repetition tempo should be slow enough so that you are able to complete 8-12 repetitions within 30 seconds (i.e., time under tension). If you are able to complete 15-20, you are probably moving too fast and may not have enough load, which is another issue. If you are unable to complete at least eight repetitions, you may be moving a little too slow. Therefore, establishing a consistent rhythm for each set is advisable. Of course, if you are performing with very heavy loads, you may need to perform multiple sets of 3-5 repetitions with longer periods of active recovery. Consequently, it depends upon the specific purpose of the training program (i.e., muscular strength increases, hypertrophy, etc.) as we train clients differently depending upon their specific goals/objectives.
Depth of squats and lunges is very individual. What is most critical when performing squats is that you are hinging from the hip joint, with the tailbone aiming for the wall behind you. The depth is quite individual. Some clients are able to safely squat deeper than others and this will depend upon lumbar spine limitations, nose to toes core stability, general muscular strength of the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes/hip abductors/hip adductors, and hip joint mobility. Therefore, it is important to note that you are basically “sitting in a chair” during the down phase of the squat and then standing completely erect during the up phase. The most critical component in a lunge (i.e., front/back), is to make certain that the front knee tracks over the front heel. The tibia should land perpendicular to the ground on the down phase and the knee joints should both fully extend on the up phase, back heel lifted throughout.