If you’re like most people there are certain movements that are more difficult than others to perform. For some people this may be an overhead squat. For others this may be doing a wall slide. And for others still this may be simply getting their own body-weight off the ground.
The question as to why people can’t do overhead squats, wall slides or get ups is too varied to address in a single blog post. But with each of these movements there are common mistakes many people make. And with each of these mistakes there are better ways to correct.
For example a person doing a wall slide may extend through the low back and tilt their rib cage up in order to keep the hands in contact with the wall. And to correct this you might hear a coach simply say ‘hide your rib cage’ meaning don’t let it tilt up towards the ceiling. And while this is not a bad cue there are better options.
Before we get what a better option might be to correct this movement let’s talk about movies for a second. Hopefully some of you are old to remember the Karate Kid. And I don’t mean the one with Will Smith’s son. I’m talking about the original Mr. Miyagi.
Now do you remember how Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-san how to do karate? He had him do all his chores. Wax on, wax off…ring a bell?
Mr. Miyagi didn’t use any words related to karate or body parts. Instead he used an analogy of doing a particular chore to simplify the process and get in quality repetitions.
Fast forward a number of years to last month. I had a proud moments while taking my Level 1 Ski Instructor Course.
But it wasn’t anything I did that made me proud. It was one of our clients and friends, Tricia Eggeling. During the course we watched a video of a skier with poor technique riding the tails of their skis and sitting back too much.
The instructor asked Tricia what was wrong with the technique the skier was using. And she answered correctly.
Next came the tricky part…how do you fix this flaw in the skiing technique?
The common answer many in the course were providing was to push the shins forward into the front of the boot. And this would be correct and help rectify the flaw in technique.
But Tricia went one step further and said she would tell the skier there was a marshmallow between the shin and the tongue of the ski boot. Right now the shin is so far back the marshmallow is falling down the front of the boot onto the top of the foot. Her cue was to ‘press but don’t crush the marshmallow into the tongue of the ski boot’.
The instructors all looked at one another and then smiled. They all agreed this was a suitable cue to help someone improve their skiing technique.
But it goes further than this. Tricia’s example used an external cue with an analogy. External means it refers to things outside of the body such a marshmallow and the tongue of the ski boot. And her analogy of pressing something soft and malleable, like a marshmallow, into the tongue of the ski boot, helped convey the point of not only how to do this, but how much pressure to exert i.e. don’t crush the marshmallow.
From that point on in the course this was the cue everyone in the course was using to correct skiing technique that was sitting too far back and not balanced.
And this is exactly how we coach at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. We don’t say ‘I want you to decrease the amount of extension in your lumbar spine’. Instead we would say ‘spill some water out of the back of the bowl’.
By removing body parts, muscles and anatomical nomenclature from the process we eliminate much of the distraction and confusion that happens when people try to perform a new or different movement pattern.
Getting back to the drill of performing wall slides where the rib cage lifts up we could imagine the hips as being a bowl of water and the trunk a box. To perform this correctly we want to ensure we aren’t leaking any water out of the front or back of the bowl. Next we want to ensure the box is sitting squarely on the bowl. When the ribs flare up this is similar to a box falling backwards off the bowl. Look to have the box sit squarely on the bowl then perform your wall slides.