Level it Down!

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Don’t risk it, level it down!

We love it when people come to the studio ready to work and ready to put all their effort into their training session. We love the dedication and the desire to improve. However, when that effort and dedication is combined with a lack of body awareness, lack of knowledge of form, and/or fatigue it can turn it into a bad thing. This is where form begins to fail or was never there in the first place. The moment that bad form happens, if it can’t be fixed it right away, taking a step down and moving backwards to reteach yourself a movement or lock in good form could actually allow you to get better results. No matter what we read or what we see on TV leveling down or performing a regressed version of a movement is NEVER a bad thing.

Like I mentioned, when someone works as hard as they can in a workout, form can start to go to the wayside. When this happens, it really doesn’t matter who it is that is doing the work or attempting the movement, when the body starts to fail at a movement it is time for a change. This is where forgetting your pride and adding a little bit of knowledge can come in handy. Level it down!!! Take the time to do it right and you will be SOOO much better for it. Consistently doing exercises in poor form just to pump out another rep or to protect your pride can be disastrous to your body. However, if you level down at the appropriate time you can prevent injuries and get better results. Leveling down an exercise goes so much farther than just physical aspect.

One experiment I like to do with my clients is a quick one. I’ll give you 5 seconds to think about the worst thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, GO!!! Ok, now think about the best thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, 5 seconds, GO!!! I have found that people can recall a bad memory faster and in more detail in 5 seconds than they can a good one. I’m not going to get all scientific, but think about that. What do you think happens when you attempt an exercise in poor form? Your brain remembers it, and it can become that much more difficult to re learn the proper version. These ‘bad reps’ are learned when we have either not learned properly or we have become fatigued during the back half of a workout.

In the same sense, doing an exercise improperly can in fact mean the difference between a quality life and painful one or a lack of results or one filled with great results. Even some of the strongest people I know lessen the weight they lift when they know it doesn’t feel right. The difference between them and the person doing that push up that looks like it may actually be killing them is the fact that they know taking a step back at that moment will allow them to go farther in the end. We are all about pushing yourself and doing your best at each training session. To us that means working your hardest while keeping good form through the entire training session.

Stop Winking at Me

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Every person that I know wants to have a glorious back side. Why? Because, they all want to look great in their favorite pair of jeans. They want to know how people like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez do it! So they search online and find the “best” articles they can on how to do the perfect squat. And what do you know, everyone starts squatting to get a little lift behind them. Here is the problem: most people either don’t squat down far enough OR they squat too far. Yes, there is such a thing as too far, especially when talking about a healthy spine. This is where we get what most fitness professionals call the ‘Butt Wink.’

No, no. Don’t be flattered. This isn’t the kind of wink that the guy or girl from across the bar gives you that makes your heart flutter. This is the kind of wink that can leave your lower back debilitated for quite some time. It occurs in your hips when you have gone past a certain range of motion in your squat. This ‘winking’ is when you drop too far into your squat and your hips tuck under causing stress on the disks in your lower spine. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it? If you answered “not at all” then you would be correct. Now the question is how do we fix it?

As we have all heard in the past, the key to fixing any issue is addressing what the problem might be. When talking about ‘Butt Wink’ there can be quite a few underlying causes, but for the sake of time, I’m going to only talk about the two most common causes. These two are tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hips) and a weak core that can’t help hold you upright. More often than not, when these two things begin to be corrected, squat form becomes better.

Now here’s how we can correct it. When hip flexors are tight, they can keep a person from being able to sit back into their squat, keep the weight in their heels, and ultimately prevent the muscles in their backside from engaging. We can remedy this by simply adding a heel lift. Squat with your heels on a pair of 10 pound plates and you will see a difference. The weights will displace your weight forward and allow you to lean back farther. It’s a simple fix. Now, you might ask, what happens when my core doesn’t turn on? Luckily, it’s another simple fix.  When your abs don’t turn on in your squat, it will have the same effect as tight hip flexors: you will lean forward. In order to get the core to engage, hold a weight in front of your body instead of behind your neck. This will not only act as a counter balance to make you sit back farther but your core will turn on as well.

Adding these two simple things to your squat can be a HUGE game changer. It can greatly increase the range of motion in your squat and allow you to get deeper without that ‘Butt Wink’. Will they keep you from ever winking again? No. Even while using these tools it is highly recommended to stand sideways to a mirror and watch your hips as you go down. If your hips tuck or ‘wink’ you have simply gone too far. My advice is to stop just before that happens. Stopping at that end range and adding these tools to your squat will keep you healthy and build that beautiful backside you’ve always wanted, or just use them to watch your squat numbers increase!