Improve your Running Technique with Marching and Skipping / Part Three

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This is the third blog post on improving your running technique with Marching and Skipping. This 28 day challenge has a new variation that you perform each day and is meant to be done in order. If you missed Part One and Part Two please click the links and go back and perform those variations first.

By now you should be noticing the benefits of daily marching and skipping and why it’s such a great idea to include in your daily training for improved running form. Not only does it build tremendous coordination between the upper body and lower body, it directly improves the rhythm and timing needed for powerful and safe running. It also builds elasticity in the lower leg tissues which is an adaptation all runners need. So whether you are an endurance runner or short distance sprinter, the variations I have included in this 28 day challenge will make you a more complete and robust athlete.

The 28 different variations will also help improve your physical literacy, which essentially means you will be more well rounded and capable of tolerating more movement variation that the average person. With increased physical literacy comes smoother and more efficient movement which is something all athletes need to strive for.

I hope you enjoy the final 8 variations, (days 20 through 28). Have fun with them and as always, remember that quality trumps quantity. Less is more. Perform any where form 3 to 5 sets of each daily variation.

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Improve your Running Technique with Marching and Skipping / Part Two

The Marching / Skipping Challenge continues.  Improving your marching and skipping will improve your running or sprinting technique which will lead to faster times and a reduced chance of injury. The best runners and sprinters in the world have honed their marching and skipping technique and so should you.

Here are days 11 through 20 of the 28 Day Marching and Skipping Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to perform a new variation each day. That means you have 28 variations that will help you improve your movement skills making you a better athlete. The cool thing is that you also build some decent elastic properties in your lower legs making all running and jumping based activities potentially more powerful.

As with any skilled movement, more is not better. I would do 3 to 5 sets of each variation always realizing the quality trumps quantity. When in doubt, do less.

Enjoy these variations.

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Improve your Running Technique with Marching and Skipping / Part One

Why I sprint

Marching and Skipping have long been used to increase athleticism and movement competency. One of the best things every person can do is to add marching and skipping to their daily exercise practice. The benefits of doing these movements is plentiful as I have been having clients do these variations for many years. The main benefits of marching and skipping are:

  • Improved coordination between upper body and lower body.
  • Marching and Skipping are similar to crawling and thus help integrate both brain hemispheres.
  • Improves running and sprinting technique.
  • Better awareness of how the opposite hip and shoulder work together to produce rotational power and torque.
  • Marching teaches rhythm and tempo which improves motor control.
  • Teaches the importance of using the arms for increased power.
  • Teaches how the arms control the legs and not the other way around.
  • Marching allows you to focus on driving force downwards into ground.
  • Marching and Skipping can improve walking and running technique.
  • Skipping teaches you how to get off the ground quickly and increase stiffness in the lower leg tissues.
  • Skipping is great prep work for sprinting and improves intra and inter-muscular coordination.
  • Skipping, because of the lower amplitude, allows almost all people a starting point to begin power work.
  • Skipping allows you to experience quick ground contacts and helps you discover why you don’t want a big surface area to hit the ground.
  • Skipping is fun and will make you smile. It’s fun.

Here is a 28 day challenge I put together to help you become a better, faster and more skilled runner.  These videos are the first 10 days of the challenge. I recommend doing  3 to 5  sets of each daily variation. As with any form of skilled movement, more is not better. Only do what you can do in excellent technique and if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, skip that variation.

Enjoy these variations.

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Bullet Proof Your Spine with the Bird Dog Row

This Bird Dog Row is an excellent exercise for increased spinal stability and enhanced hip and shoulder function. For those of you that suffer from lower back pain this may be a movement you will want to spend some time getting good at.

Many of you may already be familiar with the traditional Bird Dog exercise (extend opposing arm and leg in the air, lowering slowly to the ground and then alternating limbs). The opposing arm/ leg movement required for the traditional Bird Dog, emulates the natural GAIT pattern and consequently almost everyone can perform the Bird Dog without a problem. If performed with intention you can achieve great activation of the primary CORE abdominal muscles including:

  • Transversus Abdominus
  • Multifidi
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles
  • Diaphragm
  • Interal Obliques
  • External Obliques
  • Spinal Erectors

 Plus it works the primary movers of the upper and lower body:

  • Psoas Major
  • Illiacus
  • Hamstrings
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Adductors
  • Quadriceps.

Connect the X: Lats and Glutes

The lats and glutes are designed to work as a team or what some rehab experts call a “Force Couple.” This Bird Dog variation works the entire body with a huge emphasis on the Gluteus Maximum and Latissimus Dorsi musculature working together as intended. Adding the rowing component encouraged activates of the poster oblique sling (latissimus dorsi and opposite gluteus maximus).

Think  of the lat and opposite glute pair as a giant “X”. The lats and glutes work together in creating stability in the lumbar spine. If you follow the orientation of the fibers you can see that the lat and glute muscle fibers practically merge into each other via the white portion which is called the thoraco lumbar fascia. 

I believe that people will never tackle their back pain issues if this relationship between the lats and glutes is not enhanced. Geeking out on functional anatomy is not required to get the benefit of this movement (leave the geeking out to me), but it does help to educate yourself on WHY you should do this movement. Simply put, if you take your time and progress slowly, I have found that all movements in your life will be enhanced if you can focus on this posterior sling relationship.

What you will need:

  • A bench.
  • A kettlebell or dumbbell.

Technical Cues

  • Minimize rotation in the body when lowering the weight.
  • Extend your leg back, not up (imagine toes pointing down, leg parallel to the ground).
  • Maintain a neutral spine. (Do not hyper-flex or hyper-extend any portion of the spine).
  • Eyes are looking down towards floor.
  • Row the Kettlebell or Dumbbell towards the hip.
  • Firmly grab the side of the bench wit an extend arm, hand directly underneath shoulder.
  • Focus on maintaining a smooth tempo.
  • Exhale as your row the weigh towards you and inhale as you lower the weight back down.

 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions is a great place to start.

In conclusion, I believe all people will benefit from the Bird Dog Row because of the strong activation of the lats and glutes and getting them to work as team. Give this movement a go and let me know what you think. 

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The 80/20 Principle and Why It’s Important for your Training Success

As a student of principles and how they impact our lives and the choices we make I want to share with you one of the most profound principles that guides my everyday thinking. This principle validates my minimalist approach to training and productivity.

The 80/20 principle was popularized by Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto in the late 18th century and states that 80 percent of your results in any endeavor will come from 20 percent of your actions and behaviors.

This concept is vitally important when considering your strength training regime. Selecting your most efficient and effective movements (unique to each individual) will channel and enhance the bodies response and results. Not all movements are equally beneficial for all people. One person’s exercise can be very healing while that same movement can be destructive for someone else.

I have been training people for over 23 years and coincidentally figured out I was applying the 80/20 principle to all my clients. I started seeing trends with my clients in that most of them responded well to specific movements and focusing on those movements we were able to achieve higher levels of strength, fitness and fat loss.

So let’s say hypothetically a client does 6 to 8 movements per training session, if you apply the 80/20 principle you will want to spend most of your time focusing on one or two of the movements.  That doesn’t mean you won’t do other movements, it just means you will prioritize the essential ones.

You may be asking, “how do I really know which movements fall into the 20 percent?”

If you find that you are consistently getting stronger in one or two particular movements compared to other movements, you more than likely have found your 20 percent.  If you are not making great gains with a movement or it consistently injures you, that may be a sign that that movement is not in your 20 percent repertoire. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t perform it but it’s probably not going to be the movement to help you best achieve your goals.

In the world of strength training your top 20 percent lifts will allow you to:

  1. Safely load your entire body and get maximal activation of your Central Nervous System. You don’t want to aggressively load the movements that are not in your 20 percent and may cause you injury.
  2. Increase intensity in speed and/or load. This will ensure that the body constantly has to adapt to incremental changes over time which will lead to optimal hormonal health.  
  3. Capitalize on your natural anatomical individuality.

For example: Some people have longer femurs and longer arms which gives them a mechanical advantage for the barbell deadlift. A person with shorter arms and legs can still be awesome at the deadlift but might find that the Squat pattern feels better for them and allows them to use more load.  Same thing rings true for bench pressing and pulling movements. It’s hard to deny that some people are born with anatomical gifts that allow them to excel at a given movement.

Most people will naturally gravitate towards either be a hinge dominant or squat dominant person. Being one or the other doesn’t mean anything negative, it just means your body is better designed to excel at either hinging or squatting. Some rare individuals will be excellent in both. Regardless of your genetic make up, you still want to be able to hinge and squat well.

Hinge Dominant People 

  • Tend to have longer legs and shorter torsos.
  • Longer arms.
  • Will tend to gravitate towards the hinge movements because they naturally feel better with the hinge.
  • Tend to have stiffer ankles and less hip mobility (but this is not always the case).

Squat Dominant People 

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  • Shorter legs and longer torsos.
  • Shorter arms.
  • Will tend to gravitate towards squat like movements because they feel better and enjoy the movement.
  • Tend to have more mobile ankles and hips.

Do you think you are better at hinging or squatting?

Do you have a history with excelling at one particular movement?

Has one of these movements consistently injured you?

Examine your training history and it should shed some light on which movements fall into the 20 percent for you.

I recommend still training your weaker movement but don’t spend as much time on it as your stronger 20 percent movements. Spend more time perfecting what comes naturally to you (20 percent) and you will accelerate your results. That is smart training in my book.

The goal of training should be to stimulate the body, not inhibit it or kill it. Keep your volume sensible and don’t let your training today ruin your training for tomorrow. Quality and minimalist routines trump complicated training plans and overtraining. Focus on the vital few and watch your training success go through the roof.

In the coming weeks I will be expanding on how to find your 20 percent movements and how to use this in programming your training to best reach your goals.

Your questions and feedback are always welcome and I would love to hear what you think about this important training principle.

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