Key Muscles and Movements

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This post is inspired by my coach and mentor Julien Pineau from Strongfit. I am thankful for all that he has taught me over the years.

I am naturally an extreme introvert, I don't apologize for this. Its how I am, I can’t change this. I can act like an extrovert, but its very draining to me. Yes, I know it may seem like I chose the wrong career path. But it puts me at a unique advantage, I am not very good at interacting with people, but I am very good at watching people move. In fact, I love to “people watch”. I am fascinated by the human body, how each is different, and how people perform basic movements differently. I am also naturally inquisitive and wonder why people move differently. I apologize in advance for this article, I tend to write a little differently, more of a brain dump. I will probably end up editing this article and eventually have several smaller articles.

There are some common movement pattern faults I see very often which lead to a lot of pain and dysfunction in people. It's the lats/teres and the obliques. Not exactly exciting muscles like the six pack, pecs, or biceps. They seem to get all the attention, in the media, and in peoples training. I am first going to explain some basic movement principles, why the muscles I chose are so important, and what you can do do help fix them.

First up it’s the lats/teres, to get technical, the latissimus dorsi and the teres major. This is the second biggest muscle group of the human body, biggest in the upper body, and muscle group responsible for all your pulling power. Unfortunately most people do not use these muscles correctly. Many people have no idea how to even properly activate them, either using their traps or biceps to do all the pulling. These are relatively small muscles and will lead to shoulder mobility issues and pain. I remember being at a Strongfit seminar with coach Julien where they were talking about how many people, especially women, tend to be trap dominant, and not use their lats. A lady in the audience disagreed and stated she was a national level kayaker and definitely knew how to fire her lats properly to make it to a national level sport that is predominantly a pulling sport. She was promptly called up in front of everyone to asked to fire her lats, she proceeded to turn her back to the audience and shrug up her shoulders. All traps and not a lat in sight. You have probably also seen many people going HAM on the airdyne and in a slouched over position, head down, using nothing but traps. The trap raise the shoulder in the joint, the lats pull them down. This shrugging motion ends up changing the motor pattern when the arm is overhead with the inability to fire your lats/teres to provide shoulder stability, instead, relying on the trap to provide this tension. The traps is also a muscle that many people carry their tension in, shrugging up their shoulders, leading to improper movement patterns and constant trap activation.

Here is a list of exercises to help you find and strengthen your lats. The goal for these exercises are to teach you how to properly use your lats/teres, bringing awareness to the muscle group and learning how to use them properly. If you’re an addict to volume, feel free to perform these exercises as much as you wish.

Cable Pull Down - This can be done in either internal torque for teres major or external torque for lats - https://youtu.be/ssd4YnAMnMo

Hand over hand sled pull - If done properly, this will provide maximum blood flow to the lats/teres and you will definitely feel them - https://youtu.be/0eq9YkdCxTI

Bent over barbell rows - Ensuring that you are pulling down to below your navel and not shrugging. A supinated grip is best as the majority of pulling in crossfit is done in a pronated position. - https://youtu.be/mOAEDvCEPFk

Dumbbell Row - Probably the most common lat exercise, often done incorrectly. This can be performed in IT or ET. In IT - https://youtu.be/24Kh7IJgrhg and also in ET - https://youtu.be/XoTtb4HwHug

 

When people think of core muscles they often think of the flashy six pack, or rectus abdominus. This one always gets all the attention. Unfortunately, the obliques, are not used by most people. In fact, many people have no idea how to fire these, even with tactile feedback. These muscle group are essential to learning how to brace and protect your back.

Oblique Opener - This helps to bring awareness to learning how to fire your obliques. This is the first step - https://youtu.be/uihlk3ki78M At first you might have to hold your breath, eventually, you should be able to breathe normally while maintaining tension in your obliques.

Oblique Opener with Leg Raises - It’s time to learn to hinge properly - https://youtu.be/uihlk3ki78M This should be done while able to b

1-Arm Bench and Flye - This helps teach you to keep your internal torque chain engage with the obliques. Perform this slowly and correctly. - https://youtu.be/mPZH89kZTk4 Once you master this, try doing a 1 arm flye with a kettlebell on your stomach with feet raised off the bench similar to the oblique opener for a real challenge.

Deficit Deadlift - This is an excellent movement to teach you to keep your obliques tight and prevent extension of your back. - https://youtu.be/rq8ZJkBZwSY Try breathing out hard before you start the deadlift to help engage your obliques.

Sandbag Carries - This is a horrendous exercise, but works very well to learn how to not extend your back and brace your core. This provides tactile feedback to keep your core tight, as well as a forward pull keeping your back in an isometric contraction. It also works wonders for your cardio -  https://youtu.be/vUlN6Hz0vv0

Lat and oblique full range of motion activation drills. These are humbling exercises which will teach you to keep tension in your lats and oblique

T-spine opener - This will help with your overhead position, teaching you to maintain tension in the overhead position. You will discover that most people will have a very reduced range of motion. - https://youtu.be/lONjflzDsu8

Single Arm Sloth Press - This is a very hard exercise, I have seen some very strong pressers unable to press even a 10# dumbbell like this. Once you think you have this mastered, now try pressing a slam ball overhead to add balance and prevent you from using your strength to muscle it overhead. Basically sit in the active squat, with a dumbell in one hand, and press it overhead. Start with your thumb pointing behind your back, rotating inwards towards your ear as you extend your arm - VIDEO COMING SOON, if this is too difficult, start in a higher squat, do not twist, and remain active with a tight core.

If you made it this far I’m impressed. Thanks for spending the time to read this. Feel free reach out if you have any questions or want further details or how to combine some of these into some awesome workouts.

Yours in health,

  Coach Everett

Crossfit Bytown