Training Acuity – It’s Often What You Can’t See that Matters

It sometimes takes me a while to narrow and simplify the direction I want to go with something I can attack from such a variety of angles. Something as simplistic as the title, ‘Training Acuity-It’s Often What You Can’t See That Matters”, can be broken down into such complex analysis addressing things from our biological, physiological, neurological, environmental and lifestyle factors. I consume a lot of different information and am constantly theorizing. With that being said, I have chosen to take a simplistic route for those who may have certain perceptions of their training, may not understand the value in having a watchful eye, or who may be doing things they are not ready for or may not even need to do. That last one…one of my favourite topics for people over the years.

I will use this image I posted on my Instagram of two of my clients with very common training forms that I see that may be holding you back, you may not need, may actually injure you in the long run or aggravate current issues: 

The plank is a very popular core exercise for stability via isometric strength, and with good reason. The issue is as with most things that become very popular, they can be misused for the goal or the timing of the goal at hand. Before I breakdown on a basic level what the ‘slights’ are in the images, I will give you an example of what a plank should generally look like here (although you do need to appreciate that there are also several derivations to even this depending on the current goal at hand and the body):

The second set of images with the hex bar/trap bar deadlift includes the correction so I have left that be.

Image One – Plank

In the first attempt at the regular plank, you can see that there is a rounding of the upper back (thoracic spine). There are many reasons that may be causing this if you recognize yourself doing this, but for most, especially women who have not done a lot of strength or resistance training, it is due to a lack of upper body strength and stability. Aside from not having the ability to hold oneself up with that much shoulder joint strength, there is a lack of shoulder girdle stability via thoracic musculature strength, serratus strength or activation etc. etc. The rounded position also appears to be a compensatory behaviour to protect the lower back, especially in those with an uncontrolled lumbar injury when coupled with the aforementioned strength, stability and activation issues. There is a much greater leverage advantage in the second image (the high plank or pushup position) plus it appears to help to activate the serratus when cued with “press” into the floor/engage your palms into the floor/push through the floor.

While the plank is a great exercise, it may actually be something you should spend some time progressing up to, as one of your core exercises from simply the high plank done with the appropriate isometric effect and cues.

Image Two – Hex/Trap Bar Deadlift

Image used from Physio-Pedia.

In the first image, I was asking my client to come to full stand, to completion of the deadlift. As you may or may not see, she is actually not fully engage in a good neutral pelvic position so that her glutes are actually engaged and she is a state of good posture. While you can’t actually see the femoral shaft/head and greater trochanter (essentially the top of the leg and where it is sitting in the pelvis/hip bone) her arms should be in a finishing spot that is lined up where that is.  You can see this full stance and glute, core and upper back/lat engagement in the second image. There are a variety of reasons that this error can occur, from tight hip flexors, muscle imbalances, upper back weakness or fatigue, unawareness, and it can be very important for you to know if you want to be sure to be engaging your glutes so to that you may lift for many years without any serious injury,

It really is quite astonishing the simple things that you can tweak to make things help make you better. Next time you train, not only should you be sure to pay attention to what is going on with you, be mindful in your training, engaged, involved, but have someone there with you or video yourself for assessment. Having someone with a level of training acuity to help you, or developing your own is crucial for long term training success, health, fitness, and prevention. If you are local to Toronto, I would love to work with you. If you are not, we can still work together remotely and I would love to help you. There are so many things that we often cannot see that matter most 😉

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