When you have a great training session what is about the session that made it great? Was it that you hit a PB on a lift? Was it the people you trained with that made it memorable? Was it how well you moved and how the exercise felt?
Personally I know many of my all-time favourite training sessions were the ones where I lifted a new max or just had a lot of fun training with friends. But each of these would not have happened had I not been moving well.
You know what I mean?
I’m talking about the times when you get into a deep squat effortlessly or can hinge smoothly with great power. There are no tension spots or limits in your mobility. You can move in all planes and through complete ranges of motion. And when this is the case during the warm-up I almost get a little excited as I know a great workout will ensue.
And when I think about it if the warm-up didn’t go this way I probably wouldn’t lift a PB or have that much fun regardless of the company. For example, if my hip is pinching when I hinge I probably won’t add 10 lbs to my deadlift on that day. Or if I had some knee pain I probably wouldn’t enjoy going for a run with a friend.
So it almost goes without say that a great training session involves smooth, efficient movement. And that stems from a thorough & complete warm-up followed by a balanced training program.
Below are 5 Steps to Your Best Training Session.
1. Know Your Weak Links
If you’ve had an assessment you will know what areas to you need to work on. And I don’t specifically mean a strength training assessment. This can be from the perspective of a chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist or maybe a fitness professional using the Functional Movement Screen. Regardless of the background of the practitioner there is value to the areas where they are seeing weakness and compensation. For example, a massage therapist may comment on how tight a patient’s upper traps are. Or a physiotherapist might mention how the pelvis is rotated.
The next time you have an appointment with a health practitioner pay special attention to what they notice. And ask questions for clarity. When you are working with your health professional next time make sure to share this information with them.
2. Pay Attention to Your Breathing
When something is challenging for us our breathing becomes more laboured. Climb a flight of stairs or shovel the driveway after a heavy snowfall and we can appreciate this.
Our breathing also changes when go from a parasympathetic (rest and digest) to a sympathetic state (fight or flight). With the latter there is constriction of vessels, increased tone in muscles to help us survive an emergency and a heightened state of alertness.
When we warm-up for training and do some mobility work we want to pay attention to what is easy and relaxed for us. More importantly we want to know what positions and movements cause our breathing patterns to change. If a stretch causes us to lose our breath momentarily this may be indicative of an area that needs more attention and maybe a different approach.
3. Pay Attention to L-R Differences
If you’ve had injury you know how one side of the body can be deficient compared to the other. Something as simple as spraining your ankle can cause you hop around one foot. And then you may see the person hike their hip. And there may be side bending to the injured side.
Even once the injury is ‘healed’ there is scar tissue left behind. As well, the body may have learned new ways to move in order to get from A to B. In my case I had my R ACL reconstructed about 8 years ago. Only recently, and with much effort have I been able to get back to full flexion of that knee.
Make sure you pay attention to not only how far you can move your limbs on each side but also how well they move. Is it smooth movement with a soft end point? Or is it clunky with an abrupt end of the range?
4. Close Your Eyes
I don’t know if you’re like me but I find if I eliminate one sense the others are heightened. For example, if you had to really strain to listen for something would you close your eyes? Or imagine trying to back up a big truck with your stereo blasting. You might turn the volume down in order to better focus on what you need to see and do.
In other words when we can tone down the stimuli from one sense we can more clearly focus on the others. For example, imagine doing an overhead squat while holding a dowel. As you lowerself into the bottom of the squat close your eyes and pay attention to three areas of your body that you are aware of. On the next rep pay attention to two areas that are ‘talking’ to you. One the third rep what is the one area of the body that you are most aware of? Are your calves tight? Do find your hips are tight? Is your upper back restricted? Once you have narrowed this down to the most pressing area of the body spend a few minutes to stretch and foam roll this area. Then go back and squat again. Pay attention to whether it feels better and if your range of motion has increased.
5. Vary Your Movements
When I was in younger I would workout with a group of buddies. And everyday involved bench press. We would mix it up though and do incline, decline, with dumbbells and as many other variations that we could come up with. Soon we all seemed to have sore shoulders, poor rounded postures and bench press numbers that weren’t that impressive.
The point of my story is that we are creatures of habit. We all know ‘that guy’ at the gym who does the same thing every time he comes in for a workout. He not only does the exact same workout each time but he also does them in the same order on the exact same piece of equipment.
Now for people who lift and follow this type of routine they probably have some type of joint pain or muscular discomfort. This may be evident by their posture, by the way they move or maybe it’s even more obvious by the supportive sleeve they wear around the affected joint.
In order to move our best we need to have ample varied movement. If all I do is go for a jog after work I may turn an ankle when playing pick up basketball or pull a groin if I join a game of touch football. To prevent this make sure your training program includes movements in all planes, with level changes, at different speeds through all ranges of motion.
Not sure how to assess your own mobility? Or how to address the deficits you have? Connect with one of our coaches for a no-cost and no-obligation Strategy Session. You will soon be moving better and enjoying your best training sessions ever.