Unilateral Squat and Reach

This test can actually be used to assess a variety of things all at once. First off, it can give you a lot of information about the flexibility of your hips and calves. It can also uncover potential strength imbalances between the muscles that act on the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) aspects of the knee joint. Finally, it can also be used to see if you rely too heavily on your quads (front thigh muscles) during squatting-type movements. Besides which, it's a nice way to keep your ego in check, which makes it all the more fun to prescribe.

To begin, select an object that is no more than about 10 to 12 inches high, like a light dumbbell standing on one end or a couple of phone books stacked on top of each other. Place the object on the floor approximately 12 to 18 inches in front of you

(if you've got long arms, stay closer to 18 inches; short arms, stay closer to 12 inches), and stand on one leg by bending the non-working leg 90 degrees as shown. Here's where the fun starts: Begin to simultaneously squat down and reach forward to touch the object. In doing so, you should make sure that you're sitting back onto your heel as much as possible, and your knee is staying in line with your hip and foot. It's also okay to round your back slightly because you're not working with a heavy load; just be sure to pull your abdominals in tight toward your spine.

If you're able to descend all the way down into a parallel squat with your knee in line with your hip and foot, lightly touch the cone, stand back up, and go on to the next test. If you can get down to the bottom, but your knee either pinches in, bows out to the side, or extends well past your toes, give yourself 1 point. If you immediately start to feel

Incline bench press

your heel coming up off the floor as you descend, give yourself 2 points.

An inability to squat during this test without your heel coming off the ground signals tightness in your hip flexors and calves. Obviously, this means you've got some flexibility work to do. Assuming that you are able to get down to the required depth but you notice your knee "wandering" in places it shouldn't, you've got some strength imbalances to correct. If you see your knee shooting forward, well past your toes, and feel most of your weight on the ball of the foot, you're relying too much on your quads. The fix here is some targeted strengthening for the glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors, a.k.a. the "posterior chain."

Strengthening these muscles will make a dramatic difference in the loads you'll be able to handle when performing squats and deadlifts. A knee that pinches inward could possibly signal weakness in the hip abductors (muscles on the lateral aspect of the hips), or a weak VMO (vastus medialis obliquis), the innermost of the quad muscles right next to the knee. Whereas a knee that bows outward could indicate weak adductors (muscles that act on the medial aspect of the thighs). In either case, specific strengthening exercises for those areas established as weak links can often lead to tremendous improvements in knee stability. You'll see more about how to address these specific problems in the sample workouts at the end of this chapter.

Incline Bench Press/ External Rotation

This is a fantastic test we got from renowned Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. Having worked with some of the biggest and strongest athletes in the world, Charles knows a thing or two

Unilateral external rotation

about proper strength ratios. And seeing how many guys fall prey to shoulder injuries brought about by poor muscular balance, we figured this would be a good test to include. The first thing you're going to need to do for this test is find your 1 repetition maximum (1RM) on the incline bench press, 1RM simply being the maximal amount of weight you can lift one time. See Chapter 4 for information about establishing your 1RM on specific lifts.

Once you've determined this value, the next thing you'll need to do is calculate 9 percent of it. So, say you had a max incline press of 200 pounds, 9 percent would be equal to 18 pounds. What this means is that you should be able to perform eight reps of the single arm external rotation exercise pictured above.

Exercise description: Sit sideways on a bench with your right foot up on the bench and your leg bent 90 degrees, and your other foot on the floor.

Holding the dumbbell in your right hand, place the inside of your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. Sitting up as straight as you can, begin with the working forearm facing down toward the floor. Using the elbow as a hinge, slowly rotate your forearm up until it is perpendicular to the floor. In doing so, be sure you don't extend your wrist back; keep your hand lined up directly over your forearm. Once at the top, pause momentarily, and then lower back to the starting position. If you were able to complete eight reps as described, go on to the next test. If you could only do a couple of reps, give yourself 1 point. If you couldn't even get the weight through the full range of motion, give yourself 2 points.

As mentioned previously, weak external rotators can place you at risk for potentially serious shoulder injuries. By de-emphasizing chest and lat work and taking the time to actively strengthen the

Slowsitup muscles that act on the posterior aspect of the shoulder, you may find that once you do go back to pressing exercises for the chest, your weights will actually increase due to your improved shoulder stability.

Unanchored Situp

Yeah, yeah, we know all about situps being "bad" for your back. The thing is, though, like the much-maligned squat, it isn't situps per se that are the problem; it's the way most people execute them. We freely admit that if you anchor your feet under something and jerk your head and neck forward like you've just been rear-ended, there's a good chance you'll hurt your back. But if you don't anchor your feet and are forced to come up at a significantly reduced pace, all of a sudden, the focus shifts from your back to those all-important core muscles. Unlike crunches, which "isolate" your abs through a minuscule range of motion, situps require you to use your abdominals, hip flexors, and spinal erectors as one functional unit, the way you do in real life.

To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent approximately 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your arms down at your sides, begin by slowly rolling your torso up toward your thighs, taking a full 5 seconds to reach the top position. Once there, pause for a second, and take another 5 seconds to lower yourself back. Be sure not to use any momentum by thrusting your arms forward on the way up; keep your fingers sliding along the floor the whole way up. You also have to keep your feet glued to the floor throughout the exercise. If you can complete the exercise as shown, go on to the next test. If you made it up, but your feet came up ever so slightly off the floor, give yourself 1 point. If you barely got your shoulder blades off

the ground before your abs "locked up" and you had to stop, give yourself 2 points.

The ability to sit all the way up at this slow speed without anchoring your feet under something challenges your core musculature in a manner much different than most abdominal exercises. It requires you to activate your TVA (transverse abdominis), the deepest and arguably most important of your abdominal muscles. This corset-like muscle helps increase spinal stability, yet despite its importance, goes largely ignored in most abdominal training programs. The other thing the full situp does is force your abdominals to work through a much larger range of motion than the overused crunch. Seeing how few of the movements you make in daily life will require an isolated contraction of the abs through such a short range of motion, full situps have far more functional value.

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

Keep Your Weight In Check During The Holidays

A time for giving and receiving, getting closer with the ones we love and marking the end of another year and all the eating also. We eat because the food is yummy and plentiful but we don't usually count calories at this time of year. This book will help you do just this.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment