Human Optimization. It goes beyond simply training and gradually increasing your fitness for a certain athletic goal. It is about maximizing your ability to be the best human possible. Having the ability to say YES when a friend asks if you want to compete in a trail run or obstacle course race on short notice. Having the basic movement skills to play a fun match of tennis on a whim while on vacation. Help a friend in need, spread 100 bags of mulch on a weekend. Having the muscular endurance to eat the pizza they bought to" pay you " for your hard work. I jest, but you get the point.
There are 7 Primal movements: Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull, Bend(Hip Hinge), Twist and Gait.
Today we will look at the SQUAT and how it relates to endurance sports and Human Optimization.
Squat: the basic of the basics. When infants or toddlers need to get something off the floor they immediately drop into a deep squat, often times maintaining that position while they examine or play with the item. They have great core strength, hip stability and T-spine mobility. As adults we begin to lose these basic fundamental abilities. Mostly from sitting for long periods of time. Simply standing however will not reverse the process. For the human optimization part we will tackle this via mobility or reversing the lack of mobility. Endurance training wise the angle will be How & Why the Squat is a must in our training year round.
Regaining Mobility: Squat, Posterior Core, & T Spine
1. I have found as a coach(prior to editing this said couch....lol) the best way to teach our body on how to get into a proper squat is by holding an assisted isometric squat. Think of it as re-programming muscle memory and combining it with a nice long stretch. Simply grab a moderate weight counter balance. Example, I use a 14kg Kettlebell. Then drop into the deepest squat you can currently get into. We are now going to execute 3 different movements. First while holding the KB handle, for balance, execute 10 circles both clock wise and counter clockwise. to loosen up the position. Relax and sink a bit deeper into the squat.
*NOTE: At the beginning you may find this very uncomfortable. Feel free to stand up and 'shake it off' then return to the squat. Our long term goal is to maintain a squat for 10 minute.
Next, hold the KB close to you and rock back and forth, and side to side, with your arms and elbows driving your knees apart. You will feel a nice stretch in your groin and adductors. 10 rocks each direction will work just fine. Again, try to sink deeper into the squat. Finally, try to maintain a nice deep squat with a proper upright posture with the assistance of the KB on the ground. I use the handle for balance and push my self up off the handle as well. This will help cue in that nice upright posture, think of how a toddlers posture looks while they are in a squated position. Start with 4-5 minutes total and build to where you can do this relatively comfortably for 10 minutes. This needs to be done daily (nightly). You will see some great results after only a month of committing to this 10 minute drill.
2. Posterior Core. Most people think of a plank as anterior (front) core, the Abs. However, when done correctly the plank can target and super charge our posterior core as well. At the bottom of the page there will be a link to a video that works you through all of these Mobility routines. So if it gets a tad confusing DON'T WORRY!
a. Screw your hands into the ground
b. Shoulders & Scapula back and in a neutral position
c. Straight line from your head to your heels
d. Core/abs contracted as though you are bracing for a punch to the stomach
e. Screw toes into the ground and contract your Glutes
f. Breath deep into your diaphragm and imagine you have a thick belt on. With your entire core, all 360 degrees, you are trying to bust it off your waist with the expansion of your torso. Hold that core contraction and then begin to do slow and controlled breathing. Start with a 1 minute goal then build to a 2 minute hold
3. T-Spine. Assume a kneeling position with your feet pointed straight back. Sit back on your heels. They will stay there the entire time. Using 1 arm reach forward and place your palm on the ground with a locked elbow. Slide your arm forward until your glutes want to come off off your heel, and STOP. With the other arm. Place that hand on the back of your head. Rotate your elbow(hand on head arm) towards your opposite knee and under the down arm. Lead with your eyes and really stretch as far as you can. Next reverse the motion aiming your elbow for the ceiling or even slightly behind you. Again lead this movement with your eyes. Repeat 4 more times on that side and move to the other side. I like to pause for about a second on both ends of this to really focus on my T-spine stretching.
How does the Squat relate and enhance endurance sports performance. More specifically Cycling and Running.
The squats main movers are the Quads and Glutes, but they also incorporate the Hamstrings as well. Because we are all either Cycling, Running or both, lets focus today primarily on the Bulgarian split squat.
A version of the squat that isolates each leg independently. While the BSS offers the same benefits as a traditional 2 legged squat we are also able to target propriocepton (balance), muscular imbalances and thus bolster injury prevention while building performance based strength. As it relates to cycling, the squat improves the ability to produce FORCE to the pedals. Why is this important? Force just happens to be one half of the power equation!
POWER = FORCE * CADENCE
For the runner, the squat improves propulsion or energy to drive you forward. The squat will also make you a hill running machine!
The variations of the squat are almost limitless. With varieties to suite your specific needs based on where you are at in your annual training plan. Bottom line, if you want to be a more proficient athlete and an optimized human.....then you need to squat. And squat frequently!
Please use the videos as a visual resource and if you have any questions do not hesitate to EMAIL ME RIGHT HERE Use the subject title SQUAT QUESTIONS.
I usually take on 1-3 NEW clients per month. If you are interested in my On line Coaching: Triathlon, Running, Cycling, Strength or Weight loss. Just shoot me an email and I will get back to you ASAP!
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But WAIT there is more....said in a cheesy sales voice....seriously though.
Cheers again, Wes