Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 63
Written on May 12, 2015 at 9:13 am, by Eric Cressey
Today's five tips come from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.
1. Get a training partner!
Having training partners helps TREMENDOUSLY with respect to improving your ability to lift more weights, get huge, and keep focus. They can:
a) Give objective feedback immediately after lifts. This feedback allows you to understand how you can improve from day to day.
b) Push and motivate you.
This is probably the most likely reason for grabbing a friend and hitting the gym. Hiring a trainer is similar to this, but lifting alongside other strong individuals who are striving towards the same goals is what makes this a distinctive reason.
While lifting weights may be an inherently self-driven purpose, if you have a slight competitive edge between friends and partners, you can not only help yourself grow, but allow your group of friends to grow as well.
This is something I’ve done instinctively when dancing - find the best dancer in the area, and hang around them. By seeing what is possible, or how they troubleshoot difficult issues, you can improve two-fold or more the next time you practice or have a lifting session.
c) Have fun.
Here are some of the late night lifting shenanigans that happen when Tony Gentilcore and pitching coach Matt Blake start practicing basketball drills after some heavy bench pressing.
This kind of environment helps to lighten up the mood in between crushing PRs in the gym and on the platform.
2. Supercharge your sleep.
Whenever I ask the athletes that come into our facility how their sleep has been, I always get one response: “good.” More prying often reveals tossing and turning, staring into the dark abyss for about 30 minutes before actually falling asleep, and hitting the snooze button multiple times. Is that truly “good?”
Many schools of thought promote the opening of airways in order to elicit better oxygenation to the brain and muscles, but the thought of improving airways during sleep had not occurred to me until recently. After being told I snore like a bear, and finding that snoring may equate to airway obstruction, I opted to take action by using a simple nasal strip to open up my nose!
In fact, leading up to the weeks of my recent powerlifting meet, I improved my sleep tenfold by incorporating these strips. I didn’t need coffee as soon as I woke up, just for the mere fact that I had much more energy from getting quality sleep.
While research from McLean et al. (1) indicates that nasal strip as an intervention for sleep apnea and snoring is highly variable from person to person, if you purchase this and attempt to use nasal strips, and it doesn’t work, you only lose $6-10 tops. If you do use it and it helps get some Z’s in, well then it was worth the effort and money!
3. Alter equipment based on leverages.
If you told me a few years ago that levers would impact the difficulty of the exercise, I wouldn't have bought in to the legitimacy of the "tall vs. short" person discussion.
In fact, this statement may hold true for more youth athletes the more I’ve worked with the younger generations. When you have 12 year-olds that are 6’0” tall, and other 12 year-olds that are 4’0”, leverages and height come into play.
It is for this reason that barbell front squats may not be beneficial for someone, but double kettlebell front squats to a box may be more pragmatic. The same arguments can be made for several other exercise variations.
4. Replace coffee with green tea.
Tea has a whole host of benefits that can help improve your day to day activity levels, along with many other health benefits.
While not immediately noticeable in terms of energy spikes like coffee or various energy drinks, there is a subtle amount of caffeine in some teas, for those that do not enjoy weening off of coffee. Not to worry, because at the end of the day here are a few of these benefits if you were to make the switch:
• Reduction in various cardiac functions, namely reduction in atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and reduction in cardiovascular disease (2)
• Increase in energy expenditure (2)
• Inhibited free radical from oxidative damage (2)
• Reduction and prevention of various cancers (3)
I personally enjoy brewing tea, but for those that are on the “go”, utilizing teabags is also one way to still get a few of these benefits.
5. Utilize a head rest in warm-ups.
A forward head posture may be common in those who are also likely candidates to have a flat thoracic spine.
Implement a head rest such as a mat (a rolled up hoodie or sweater also works) in order to reverse this posture, albeit temporarily.
As you can see, Tony sits in a little cervical extension when laying supine (top left image) - and there is nothing wrong with that. Giving him some directions (chin tucking, or “packing your neck”) will give him a little bit more anterior neck activation (top right). According to Thomas Myers, this will help to activate the deep front line - which consists of the abdominals as well.
In the moment, adding a slight elevation underneath his head when laying down (bottom left image) will theoretically allow your neck and other accessory respiratory musculature to relax during some low threshold exercises, such as glute bridge, dead bugs, or other warm-up drills.
Further enhance the position of any of these exercises by instructing the individual to look down through their skull (to help introduce a flexion based strategy for reducing cervical extension), which can be seen in the bottom right image. Note the position of his jaw line in the bottom right compared to the top left image - drastically different.
About the Author
Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found at www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.
*Note: the references for this article will be posted as the first comment below.
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