Before I write anything else, Happy Almost-Birthday to my Mom! (It’s tomorrow.) We had a small family party for her last night and, out of 5 actual gifts (not counting cards), she received three bottles of wine.
I guess it must be stressful having me as a son.
Additionally, I had the opportunity to see the Wolf of Wall Street last night (finally!). It was a good movie, but the weird thing is that I can’t exactly put my finger on why it is a good movie. I think it would make more sense if I worked in the financial sector (or lived in the 80s).
As a last little side note before I begin, I bought my Mom a bottle of wine last night and got it wrapped with a little bow at the store. AND CATS LOVE BOWS.
Glute Med Training
This should be really quick. I think a common misconception is that the inability to resist knee valgus in single-leg exercises and even squat variations is directly attributable to glute med weakness.
Like, the glute max does all the extending and the glute med is the little brother that externally rotates.
But let’s get one thing clear: the glute max is a much more powerful external rotator then the glute med. But that’s not to say that the glute med doesn’t help. They work together to prevent knee valgus during exercises.
But that’s not the only thing that the glute med does. It also abducts the femur and even has fibers that help with internal rotation!
So by now, you’re probably thinking that in order to fully activate your glute med properly, you need to perform multiple exercises to abduct, extend, externally rotate, and internally rotate the femur.
But the answer, in my opinion, is much simpler. If you’re having trouble controlling your femurs during lower body movements, regress the movement!
Lunges are an advanced movement which require balance and coordination as your move your body through space. Bulgarians, skater squats, and pistol variations are even more advanced because of their literal single-leg nature. Start with split squats! If you can stabilize better in a split squat position versus a lunge, then you’ll be able to load the movement heavier and more safely.
Single-leg Training and Balance
And that brings me to my next point, single-leg training and balance issues.
A common example in Postural Restoration Institute material is the client who isn’t a high level athlete, but simply needs to improve or maintain their physical well-being in order to functionally handle Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).
And what are the most common ADLs? Maintaining an upright posture (standing) and locomotion (walking).
But when we train those with a higher fitness level, walking is generally a non-issue. However, it is not uncommon for many people to struggle to find balance during single-leg exercises.
When somebody has difficulty shifting into the left hip in a single-leg stance (e.g. during a split squat, Bulgarian, or pistol squat), they will frequently lose their balance. This may even manifest itself as perceived “strength” in the right leg, simply because their balance is better on that leg.
When you encounter a client struggling to find balance on the left side, they may need to reposition their hips, activate some of those internal rotators on the left side, or stretch the posterior/superior capsule.
Deprioritize Your Training!
I think this is becoming a popular idea, almost as a rebound to the recent fitness surge with apps like Instagram. And the movement is being led by trainers and coaches like myself!
It seems nowadays that either you should be obsessed with fitness or hate it altogether. You must either powerlift or confine yourself to monotonous cardio machines. If you aren’t eating “clean,” you must follow IIFYM and eat ice cream for breakfast. Nobody finds the middle ground because that’s not cool and won’t make you friends. If we all thought that radical polarization was the best way to live, we’d all run for office.
But it’s just not true.
Professional athletes don’t play sports all year round. They take breaks! And we know that they drink and some of them do drugs, even in season. Bodybuilders don’t stay at 4% bodyfat all year long. Fitness models don’t walk around looking like they just came from a photoshoot (unless they just came from a photoshoot).
You can enjoy working out, lift some weights, do some cardio, eat relatively clean, and still have some friends. You don’t even need a structured workout program all the time. You don’t need to workout 6 days a week and you don’t need to include “cheat” days in your diet. When people ask how often I cheat, I tell them that every day is a cheat day!
Now, this isn’t an excuse to be a slob. Dan John discusses the idea of park bench and bus bench workouts. The truth is, you need some bus bench workouts or you’ll never make any measurable progress. You don’t need to powerlift, but your weights should be heavy at least part of the time. Your cardio can be up to you, but I’d recommend complexes, sprints, or Tabata-style intervals. And you should be eating relatively clean. Can you have dessert? Yes. For every meal, every day? No.
But park bench workouts can be great too, even for months at a time. Dan John uses the 40 Day program as an example. Jim Wendler talks about working out 2 days per week during busy times.
Life is busy. And sometimes it’s stressful. The answer isn’t adding extra workouts to destress yourself!
The answer is to deprioritize your training. Know when to step on the gas and when to shift into neutral. Maybe that means not running a program. Or maybe you want to run a program during those times to keep things simple.
I’ll use myself as an example. I like to have a structured program all the time because it helps keep my head clear in the gym and I never have to think about what I’m going to do next. I drink over 100 oz of water each day. I get a couple servings of fruits and/or vegetables every day too. I keep my fats and proteins high quality, but I don’t go overboard with either. Fats, even of the healthy variety, are easy to overconsume. You don’t need to be assaulting your digestive system with 300 grams of protein every day to get stronger or build muscle. I eat clean carbs whenever possible. I like white rice and potatoes, but Oreos will do just fine. I play hockey once a week, so that’s the extent of my conditioning.
In no way do I prioritize training and nutrition in my life. I like to read, watch movies, and hangout with my friends and family, and that’s what I prioritize. Of course, I still manage to get stronger and stay lean, but I don’t need brown rice and fasted cardio to do it. I add fitness to my life without basing my life around fitness. Training/fitness/exercising, like life itself, is a marathon, not a sprint. But don’t forget to run sprints.