Lunges – Common Mistakes And Correct Technique

The lunge is one of the most common exercises.

Being able to lunge means you have strong stability muscles, glutes, quads, core muscles, and so on.

People practice lunges for different reasons, some for rehabilitation, recovering from injuries while others want to have a toned butt.

When working with a physio for example, they ensure the technique is impeccable.

When we do it in the gym, with weights, and only for the purpose of fitness and toning up so we look good, technique is forgotten or ignored, or not even known. We just lunge around without even thinking about what we are doing. We just know the lunges are good for glutes and burns calories so it’s good enough. Or is it?

But it’s not your fault. Probably no one spent the time showing you how to actually do it.

Straight to the point, many people who lunge don’t know how to lunge.

 

Common mistakes in lunges

  • lunge is too short or too long
  • feet are on the same line (less stability)
  • front knee collapses in
  • front knee is shaky
  • front foot is unstable on the ground
  • leaning forward or back
  • jerky movements (particularly when stepping back but not only)
  • back knee is too low and the leg doesn’t have the necessary strength
  • body weight is wrongly distributed
  • aggressively pushing against the ground (particularly when stepping back)
  • stepping heel first
  • front heel coming off the ground
  • knees going over the toes
  • poor posture

Do you do any of these mistakes?

 

Consequences of incorrect lunges

  • knee pain (very common)
  • ankle pain
  • foot pain
  • back pain
  • shoulder pain
  • promoting poor posture
  • not training the right muscles, and straining others

 

Solutions for lunges mistakes

I don’t yet have a video with lunges technique, yet. So I will give you just a few technical point to focus on at your next training session.

  1. Have space between your legs to help with balance (you can place them on the same line later)
  2. The length of the lung is about 2x hip width (if while lunging your front heel comes off the ground the lunge is too short; if you have to lean forward to step the lunge is too long)
  3. Front foot is always on the ground, with the whole foot rooted on the floor (read about The Tripod here)
  4. Keep your body straight at all times – no leaning forward or back when you stand or step
  5. Front knee stays behind the toes

 

If you are having trouble with these elements then you need to do something before: lunge with the back heel on the ground. We need to strengthen stability muscles before doing a lunge with back heel off the ground in the correct way. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Have space between your legs to help with balance (you can place them on the same line later)
  2. The length of the lung is about 2x hip width (if while lunging your front heel comes off the ground the lunge is too short; if you have to lean forward to step the lunge is too long)
  3. Front foot is always on the ground, with the whole foot rooted on the floor (read about The Tripod here)
  4. Front knee stays behind the toes
  5. Place the back heel on the ground
  6. Bring the back foot right next to the front foot – keep knee bent, keep height the same and both heels on the ground
  7. Bring the back foot back and repeat

See picture attached to this article.

When the lunge with back heel on the ground becomes easy you can start the walking lunges. Alternatively you can hold onto something to perform the exercise and as you get stronger you can do it without holding.

 

I promise a video to attach to this article.

In the mean time if you are unsure about the technique contact me, there is no charge at all, we get on a call and I help you get these lunges done properly. Contact me here.

 

Keeping Fit On Holiday

Christmas is here so there’s a lot of food around, and drinks and, for some of us very little physical activity. It’s all awesome, this is what Christmas is for, to spend time with our family.

And you know what else holidays are good for? Keeping up with your training.

The usual excuses are related to work and time. Well, although you might work to prepare everything for Christmas, you are not going to the office.

The truth is that if you take a “break” for a few weeks your cardiovascular capacity with begin to drop, more than that and you will witness a decrease in strength and of course mobility and flexibility.

Besides feeling full and lethargic. So let’s not lose everything you have been working for over the past 12 months. Keep it where it is or even progress.

You can always, always make time for a 30 min run. There is time for what you want to do. You don’t want to exercise during holidays then you will not.

To help you I will share with you this video with a min full body exercise routine. Please watch and read the instructions before you begin so you know what you are supposed to do and not just throw some random exercises. I am not a fan of crunches but to make it easy for you there are crunches there:

Of course you can add to this routine and make it more interesting, for example you could:
  • sprint for 30 sec in between sets
  • run on the spot or jumping jacks between sets
  • stretch between sets, 30 sec (maybe stand in a box split, a high one, you don’t need to go very low)
  • use some weights
  • pull ups or chin ups

And much more. Get creative and remember safety first. Never go beyond your means and if you are in pain stop the exercise. If you are unsure please contact me asap. 

Shin Splints – Causes And Prevention

Over the past 3 years I have coaches over 100 people. Some of them are still around. Shin splints was one of the problems some of my clients came to me with.

Shin splints is a term used to describe pain in the front of the lower legs, the shins. They are over-use injuries

 

Shin splints possible causes

  • running on hard surfaces
  • incorrect running technique
  • striking the ground aggressively constantly
  • running with the wrong or worn shoes
  • overweight
  • weak ankles
  • tight calf muscles
  • over pronation (foot rolls outwards when it lands on the ground)
  • intense periods of exercise when your body is not used to it
  • incorrect use of the body (technique when training and how you use your body daily)

 

Shin splints self care

Running or exercising through the pain can be dangerous. It may not be very painful at the beginning but it can get worse.

  • rest, take a break from the activity that causes the pain (you can still do low impact activities or cross training) – this will help you recover faster
  • stretch your muscles
  • avoid training and running on hard surfaces (I take my clients on the ground when we run and are able to)
  • build up your training gradually (throwing yourself into intense training all of a sudden is a recipe for injuries)
  • work to improve your ankles strength
  • stretch your Achilles tendon and your calves – gently
  • mobility and flexibility (essential for a fit and strong body)
  • foam rolling calves – gentle (it works for some people)
  • ice (no more than 10 min at a time and not on direct skin, 3 times a day)
  • replace worn out shoes

 

Shin splints prevention

Here are some guidelines

  • avoid running on hard surfaces all the time
  • make sure your shoes are correct for you
  • change shoes when they worn out
  • stretch Achilles tendon and calves muscles
  • stretch your whole body in fact
  • foam rolling – calves, glutes, quadricepts, hamstrings, everything, it’s good to release tension in the body
  • variation of movement – don’t stick with the same routing for months, practice different activities to train your body from different angles
  • correct training errors – you need an experienced Coach for this; the way you use your body not only when exercising but throughout your day can, in time, lead to overuse injuries (here is an example)

 

These are just some general guidelines. I hope this will help you. Leave a comment below if they did.

Things for you to try and see how they work. For some people some things work while others don’t. If you seek advice I’d be more than happy to talk to you. Message me here. 

Of course if the pain gets worse or swelling gets worse see a doctor, it can be more serious.

Exercises For A Strong body

This article builds up on one of my other articles related to muscle isolation, why not to isolate. 

I gave you the reasons why not to isolate and now I will give you some example of exercises to do, with videos and instructions.

I like exercises which work the whole body. Some of them emphasize a certain area more than others but then we balance it out with other exercises.

I also like exercises which challenge mobility and flexibility. Because to be ready for anything your body has to strong and flexible in the same time. Not excessively flexible, that’s not good either. There is a balance.

Your body is as strong as your weakest link, thus we have to think not only about the obvious muscles, such as thighs and biceps, but also about:

Foot muscles – balance exercises, very simple; get creative and think safety first

Glutes (butt muscles)– they are stabilizer muscles; strong butt muscles are important for hip stability and preventing lower back pain; practice squats

 

Can’t go all the way down? Place a book under your heels (a stick or stand on an incline with toes facing downhill) and practice until it gets easier. Then change it with a thinner book and so on until you do them all the way on flat ground.

Core – it’s called a core for a reason, that is where everything comes from (even hiccups); practice crawls (or alternative locomotion); they strengthen the core without compromising posture, straining next muscles and lower back and they are fun as well. Here’s the basic one to start with: The Panther Crawl

Upper body – lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, they are day to day movements; your body needs to be strong, in its natural, healthy and balanced state. Use a bar for this exercise (skip the balance part, just do the leg lifts). This exercise will work the core as well.

Flexibility and mobility – you have to have both; without mobility strength is useless; imagine slipping on ice and having no mobility or flexibility, your body will not be able to respond.

 

If you avoid isolation and practice complex movement such as crawling, running, jumping, squatting etc you develop the body as a whole. Isolate and you will probably miss the smaller stability muscles.

 

Why You Should Avoid Isolation Movements

What is muscle isolation

Definition:  Isolation exercises are movements that involve one joint or one muscle group rather than multiple muscles and joints.

First of all, there is not real isolation. We must understand that the body is not made up of individual pieces, like a robot, but it is build and suppose to function as one whole unit.

If you tried to drive your car (which is designed to function with 4 wheels) on only one wheel what would happen? There is no balance, you can’t. If you train for it you might be able to, sure, but your car was designed to work on 4 wheels. Or driving it without the engine, no matter if everything else is perfect, your car will not go anywhere.

So why do you think that flipping a tire without using your hips (tire flipping doesn’t come from the shoulders), punching that bag without putting your body behind it (all the way from the back foot) or run without using your upper body (including your arms) as well, is the “correct” way to do things?

It might be fast, but the body is not designed to work like that. And that’s where many injuries come from.

Weak muscles?

There are instances when certain muscles become weak so we are advised to isolate and train that specific muscle. That’s not a bad thing of course.

But the question is why did that muscle weaken in the first place? Leaving aside situations such as fractures which lead to weaker muscles, muscle dystrophy, In many cases it is the incorrect use of the body.

If we don’t use the body how it was designed to function, as one whole unit, certain parts of the body will grow weaker.

Sabotage!

Your body will always, always try to find ways to sabotage, to make it easier for itself.

Example #1:

Many people walk with lumbar lordosis (excessive inner lower back curvature). Why is it that we feel more comfortable doing that?

It is easier to just “sit” on the vertebrae, which just stack up and support the body as a pillar, than using the core muscles (the mid section of your body) to keep a correct posture. The body looks for finds ways to make it easier.

The result:
– weak core muscles – they don’t work anymore (which makes it more difficult to keep from curving the lower back)
– poor posture – as a result of weak core muscles and poor habits
– lower back pain – again core muscles
– shoulder pain – poor posture because of weak core muscles
– injuries from lifting and carrying – because of weak core

And the list can go on as the body is interconnected. You body is as strong as your weakest link.

The links I made here are just scratching the surface. There are other muscles which don’t work as they were designed to.

Example #2:

If every time we stand, walk and run we distribute more weight on the right side then that side will work more (and also wear out faster) while the left side will gradually grow weaker.

Again the body is supposed to work in balance and as a whole unit.

Strength vs technique

Using strength to flip a tire or do monkey bars is impressive. But it’s just the surface. We don’t see what actually happens with the shoulder, the deltoid muscles, scapula, shoulder joint.

There is a lot of tension and strain if we don’t put the body behind it: abdominal muscles, hips, legs (in tire flipping). You see this all the time, as so many of us focus on flipping many times and fast. We forget to actually pay attention to what we are doing.

Throughout the hundreds of articles I wrote there is a pattern, a common element. That is: Go Beyond The Surface.

Once you get it right they you can go for quantity and speed.

To truly be strong and powerful train and use your body as one whole unit.

Knee Pain And Body Weight Distribution

Do you have knee pain?

Many people feel some type of knee pain throughout their lifetime. It’s like lower back pain, it’s pretty common.

Knee pain can either be structural (i.e. ligaments) which may need surgery, or less severe injuries such as runner’s knee which usually recover using ice and stretching.

There are many reasons we get knee pain. Many people suffer from knee pain when they run, jump, practice sports in general, or no sport at all. There is the case of osteoarthritis but this is not the topic of this particular article.

What I would like to point out is that we can reduce the risk of knee pain and knee injuries. Nothing is bullet proof but doing this small thing will certainly make a big difference.

 

My story in a nutshell

I have changed the way I use my body over the past 3 years, and counting. A 12 years old I could not walk because of knee pain. In 2013, after an MRI scan, I was told I had grade 3 meniscus damage on both knees.

Two doctors recommended surgery. However I knew that surgery will not correct the mistakes I have made that lead to this lifelong injury (body misuse in my life as an athlete). So, together with my coach, we changed the way I walk, run, sit, stand, we strengthened stability muscles and so on. Today I can say that I am 95% knee pain free.

Something I thought it would never be possible. My knees never lock and I can run, jump and do pistol squats without pain. I do advise following your doctor’s advice though. This is the path I chose for myself.

 

So what changed? I was the tripod

Since practicing the tripod every single time I remember (and after years of doing it I remember almost all the time) I managed to run, walk, go up and down stairs, squat and pistol squat knee pain free.

There are many things I did but one of the key elements way to keep the tripod firmly planted on the ground.

 

What is the tripod

Good tripods means proper body weight distribution.

You have 2 tripods, one on each foot.

They are formed by your big toe, your little toe and your heel.

Keeping the tripod will also reduce pronation. But I will write about that in another blog.

The tripods are your base of support. If your camera tripod would have a leg shorter than the other two, it would lean to one side. And the side it leans on, that leg, will wear faster than the other. While the other one will weaken as it is less used.

Same with your tripods. If your big toe is not planted into the ground your arch would rise and you walk on the outside of your heel.

 

Tripod and knee pain

When you consistently have more weight on the front of your foot your knees and ankles are under more pressure. And doing this while standing, sitting, walking etc in time leads to a lot of damage. That simple.

The tripod, if the 3 points are planted firmly, will help distribute your weight evenly on the back and front of your feet, and also left and right.

Pay special attention to the tripod when you squat and lunge. Lunging in particular is very damaging and, in the gym, I used to see these mistakes every single day, as people were not educated about weight distribution and pushed hard for speed and quantity.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Ankle Injury

Ankle injuries, sprains and strains, are very common regardless of whether you exercise, practice a sport or simply walk down the street. Has it ever happened to you?

There are several ways to treat ankle injuries at home as NHS suggests: protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation.

But how about we learn how they happen and how to keep your ankles “fit” and reduce the risk of sprains and strains.

The most common ways to reduce the risk is to wear the correct type of shoes for the activity and warm up properly before workout.

But how many times will you warm up before stepping on the side of the road or twist your ankle while wearing high heels? As if you planed to do it.

Ankle sprains and ankle strains often occur if you change direction or speed suddenly, fall or land awkwardly.

To ensure your muscles, ligaments and tendons are prepared for “the unexpected” you can do a number of simple things…..throughout the day, no need to take time out of your schedule:

  1. Stand on one leg, balance – to strengthen the ankle and foot stability muscles; you can do this while talking to your friend on the phone or watching tv (make sure you are aware of what is around you, in case you lose balance and fall; safety first)
  1. Ankle rotations – for ankle mobility; may seem too simple but done regularly while you sit on the tube it can make a difference…..if you actually do it; turn off your facebook on your phone and use your time on the tube instead of wasting it
  1. Full squats – squat all the way down without any weights; squats will strengthen stability muscles, mobilize your ankles and they do so much more for your body and health

 

Fine, I said you don’t have to take time out of your schedule but you have to for the squats. Or do you? How many time do you sit and stand during the day? Many times. Use that to:

  1. Place your feet hip width apart
  2. Toes facing forward
  3. Back straight – chest proud – looking forward
  4. Stand up as if you are standing up from a squat
  5. Sit down in a squat

Sure, it’s not a full squat but it still strengthen your stability muscles and mobilize your hips,

This is a fast explanation of a squat. If you are unsure message me and I will ensure you do it the right way so you don’t develop incorrect habits. When in doubt contact me.