The final presentation offered today is another variation to the versatile push-up. However, in this version there is a very strong need to incorporate continuing adaptations to instability with core, upper body and wrist strength inclusions.
For those of you who have followed Bodii, and the numerous principles offered in this and previous series and blogs, you will understand that I am a firm believer in also placing all aspects of posture under as much progressive loads as is imaginably possible, and to then complete movements which seemingly have very little to do with initial positioning and exercise purpose.
To sum up this set of exercise movements (and by definition, Bodii), I cannot stress enough how important and integral core strength is to all manner of positions, both static and dynamic, and how totally synonymous a loaded posture is with sound strength & fitness applications and desired outcomes.
Hello and welcome to the second last exercise I want to present in this special series of Bodii training innovations. The purpose of each exercise offered, has been firstly for a bit of fun, and secondly to show what can be achieved with some "out-of-the-box" thinking. The exercises you have seen over the past weeks exhibit many of the concepts and techniques already included and expanded upon in previous blogs on this site.
The two ball bounce in particular is a very good example of required inclusion and intensity as described in the "Phases of Engagement" Blog. Very deep core and posture, where participants are able to both initiate required impact/load, and also maintain strong exercise form/balance as fatiguing impact/loads are applied. A very necessary component to all competitive contact sports. It must of course be firstly acknowledged that it is the core which is the key player in these impact/load distribution activities, and that in fact, it is the core where the impact/contact loads are most directly absorbed. Thereby making it vital to all athletic pursuits for core strength & stability training to go to ultimate levels.
It's that time of the week again to share with you another Bodii "gem". This exercise has three points of included instability, and a highly adapted set of skills to be able to be performed successfully. I have been asked, over the developmental stages of these programs, why is it necessary to be able to perform such complex movements. My reply is always the same, it is about the acquisition of multi-dimensional functionality, and while adaptations to exercises as complex as the one demonstrated here are unlikely to be required in normal day-to-day activities, everyone has those times when situations are outside the norm, and so it is necessary to prepare beyond expected functional limits. Furthermore, functional adaptations are as diverse as the number of available lifestyle choices. For elite athletes, the physical requirements are greatly more intense, and therefore strength & fitness training must go to the nth degree to prepare athletes for what difficult/impossible scenarios may present. And if you have followed Bodii to any extent at all, you will understand that the core, and how it's associated systems cope with progressions of increasing instability and load is paramount to success.
Today we have quite an interesting variation to the much "loved" push-up. It has three points of instability, and just as the standard push-up has strong core involvement, this version has twice that need. When viewed realistically, the push-up is merely a more inclusive progression of the plank/hover. It should be noted at this point, that the exercises presented in this series are not necessarily offered as options for readers/viewers to perform, but more as general information as to what innovative lengths certain standards can be taken, and how core training needs to challenge participants beyond existing one-dimensional comfort levels.
Clearly, prior to attempting this move on the two forward placed/upper body medicine balls, this movement should be perfected to the stable floor/ground position. While as a dedicated strength & fitness enthusiast I enjoy and embrace a strong "willingness to fail", safety and natural progression/adaptation is uppermost in all my training concepts and techniques. For that reason, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to make contact. I am always happy to discuss ideas that I put forward, and which I have now been practicing for almost a decade.
This week we will look at the Calf Raise/Hamstrings Stretch. A multi-faceted exercise, which once you have studied the Bodii system, you will come to understand as a complex movement, where it’s vital inclusions and progressions are quite possibly the most important in the entire Bodii range, especially in terms of its applications to modern sporting adaptations, and their resultant benefits.
There are various ways to mount the forward ball, and many ball size variations and combinations. In the demonstrated video I have chosen to jump onto the 25cm medicine-ball. Once settled into this position, which has two points of specific instability (and here I remind readers/viewers that ALL Bodii exercises have at least one point of instability) the basic Calf Raise action is completed. However, and this is critical to the exercise and its dominant purpose, it is the eccentric contraction which has greatest importance. Why is this the case? Because in the traditional approach to strength movements, it is the concentric contraction which gains most attention. In Bodii, the principle objective is not to gain mass per se, but to gain functional strength, through elongated range, with total inclusion of the participant’s core strength/stability centres, and also with full regard for individual ability to maintain sound postural considerations. In this exercise, and consequently all it’s variations and progressions, it is entirely about the posterior chain, from Achilles to Cervical curve, and the very important effect this unified system has on the potential of exercise and sport specific strength training adaptations to alleviate and manage many on-going sporting injury dilemmas.
Hello again, this week we have the second instalment in this series of some moderate to advanced Bodii exercises. Although, it could quite rightly be considered that the entire range of innovative Bodii exercises fit this description, we we will look at the Three-Ball Lift and Dip/Two Leg Mountain Climber combination.
This is an exercise which requires significant core strength/stability, and as a result, heightened body awareness and balance. A close look at exercise execution will reveal an acute focus on each of the four Bodii vital inclusions. It should be noted that the demonstrated movements are a result of increasing lower levels progressions. While many “experts” will consider the examples presented in this series to be non-functional “tricks”, I remind everyone that functionality is relative, and that true strength & fitness training extends beyond a participant’s perceived functional limits. The presented exercise has very strong implications in the area of sporting proprioceptive/neuromuscular adaptations.
Over the next couple of months, I will highlight a number of Bodii exercise videos which I think/hope you find interesting. They each take time for adaptation, exercise understanding and performance confidence. I would be very happy to get your feedback, and any constructive criticism you might want to offer.
Leading us off is a very cool exercise that will test your capacity for core engagement strength, and core co-contraction endurance. Position is initially assumed between the lumbar curve/mid back or lower abdomen/base of the sternum. Thereafter, small rotations are activated, until participant position arrives at the alternate 180 degree starting position. Rotation process is continued until a full 360 has been completed up to the original starting point. Further 360 turns follow until multiple reps have been performed. Can be done on fitballs of reducing sizes as introductory lower level progressions. Co-ordination of leg positions are also critical to exercise success.
Do you ever wonder where local, or for that matter, worldwide strength & fitness trends are taking us? Does genuine innovation truly exist? And when it presents, is it recognised and embraced? Or do we still prefer the convenient options, and cling to old standards? As a long-time dedicated Fitness Professional, one who has lived the “Fitness Industry” and seen trends come and go, and then come again, these are the burning questions confronting us today. Of some of the recently recognised advancements, most have turned out to be passing fads ("Slide" training for example), and in many instances are a "re-jigging" of what has been tried before. The mountain climber’s exercise is one of these. Once upon a time, during the "fitness revolution" of the late 1970's early 1980's, they were known as single-leg treads. Even today's "HIIT" classes, are simply a re-branding of the common gym run circuit classes of the same era. Whilst alarmingly, many of the most inspiring, relevant and beneficial strength, fitness and range/motion techniques like Yoga and Pilates, are even now not included within the context of everyday gym programming, even though they have been employed with overwhelming success for a great number of years, and as such remain on the periphery of accepted mainstream practices.
Similarly, the Bodii system has been forged on alternative strength & fitness training principles, which deliberately oppose the traditional obsessions with support and stability, so as to better deliver unique strength, fitness, balance and range/motion outcomes. Cutting edge training advancements focused on graduated “progressive adaptations”, which are derived from strategic applications of load, based around thoughtful adjustments to the participant’s posture and position, through constant variations to included instability. Not, as is the case in traditional strength training, where the singular determinant to improvement is increases in applied weight. Often ill-considered increases at that. And as logic will tell you, eventually something has to give, and injuries will and do occur.
Modern strength training attitudes can only compound this very serious issue. A compulsion to lift more and more resistance, and to "smash-out" PBs has become the manic norm. A movement which has developed around the so-called "big three" power lifts of bench press, squats and deadlifts, that has now become the in-thing. A tendency, this presenter believes, brought about by a decided lack of innovation in an industry crying out for something genuinely new, but which at the same time is somewhat sceptical that anything new is even possible. After all, as a huge percentage of naïve fitness professionals would have you believe, most likely because they believe it themselves, what else can possibly be out there waiting to be discovered? Unfortunately, the old adage of “you don’t know, what you don’t know” is very much in play in this situation.
The ascendancy of the “big-three” lifts is in reality a "bit odd", as even in traditional circles, powerlifting itself was once upon a time on the periphery of standard practice, and was only followed by a select group of strength, 1RM fanatics. A group which often included dominant personalities, who over the years, have acquired higher profiles, enabling them to exert some influence over the direction strength & fitness would follow. And is not a focus necessarily based on sound industry progression and practice. Consequently, this about face is quite possibly the reason why the power lifts gained their impetus towards industry saturation. All recognised commercial strength training facilities will currently have an area devoted to the 3 lifts, amongst other popular current movements (sled push, box jumps) and are most often referred to as the “Functional Training Zone”.
Lifts labelled as "functional", a conclusion based on the effects they are reputed to have on the core and balance/stability outcomes, but which on closer scrutiny simply don't stack-up. As indicated in the immediately preceding blog on this site entitled “Core Strength & the Phases of Engagement”, the core can be subjected to differing levels of inclusion/activation, which in turn elicit varying outcome possibilities. Therefore, just because the core is in acquired mode, as it is at a minimum in each and every move we make, doesn’t mean that it is going through a strengthening process, and that the core is gaining real strength benefits. This can be likened to sitting down to a meal, where just because I am using my upper body muscles to cut up the food and deliver it to my mouth, doesn’t mean these upper body muscles are actually increasing in strength. They are in “acquired” mode. A situation which is identical to the role the core plays in the so-called big 3 lifts. Furthermore, the degrees of functionality can be best assessed by diligently employing the following criteria:
So, let’s now examine each of the lifts themselves:
Mainstream core training techniques do not differentiate between the demands placed on the core relative to the activity or sport being undertaken. To date there has been no general discussion regarding the phases of engagement to which the core may be subjected. It is accepted traditional core engagement practice, that no matter the activity or sport, Transverse abdominis can only be engaged at a singularly co-contracted level.
On the basis of a physiological preference for functional adaptations in strength, rather than any non-functional increases in mass, the Incidental/Deliberate Inclusion Cycle, originally offered in Program I, clearly illustrates this to NOT be the case. What we are about to explore are the long-term advantages arising from consideration of the distinct relative depths to which the core is compelled to engage throughout the full range of general movement and sporting possibilities.
The following phases of engagement will reveal, when it comes to participating in activities and sports where contact, impact and volume intensities differ, core engagement depths will also differ. It is neither appropriate nor relevant for athletes involved in high contact and high impact, and/or high repetition and high volume sports, to train their core employing the same principles as individuals not involved in either high risk or explosive athletic pursuits.
Is it reasonable, or even logical, to expect a rodeo rider, a rugby player or an Australian
rules footballer to develop their core using the same methods as a golfer, tennis player or cricketer?
1. The Acquired Core.
Acquired Core involvement can be seen in those daily routine and sporting activities where the core is involved, but because it is so routine and incidental, there is neither an awareness of the core, nor the want for its conscious inclusion. Any incidentally occurring physiological acquisition can be compared with the most basic automatic characteristics of breathing. It is not something demanding constant attention, as it can be controlled by automatic centres in the brain, and like the core, it can be deliberately regulated, even though it is normally a process which continues regardless of any thought. Fittingly, for this layperson's comparison, it is right and proper to describe the core as having similar crucially important automatic functions, where the core initiates movement, while breathing sustains movement. Consequently, if no appreciation is given to the development of core strength, or equally on improving breathing efficiency, acquired phases of both functions will deteriorate.
Moreover, if we concede most individuals have some concept of the core and its role in specific movement, they will have no understanding of the core's vital role in general movement. A common deficiency preventing the majority of individuals from knowing how to channel existing core strength to best advantage, and is possibly the most basic cause of localised fatigue and resultant pain in recurring functional activity and exercise situations. If there were a healthier respect for the principles of core involvement, and therefore the processes of core engagement, such issues as back pain would no longer instil the community with the same prevailing attitudes of avoidance and paranoia.
Everyday instances of when the core is acquired:
a) Sitting, standing - however low in intensity these positions may seem to be, it does explain how postural fatigue and back pain can set in when these so-called relaxed states are undertaken, and no consideration is given to even the simplest display of core & curve inclusion.
b) Walking/cycling, either for functional/recreational/exercise oriented motives.
c) Picking up, carrying, and putting down items of moderate size and weight, again requiring no special inclusion focus.
d) Any and all traditional strength and fitness exercises.
2. The Dynamic Core.
The Dynamic Core is demonstrated in activities containing clear core inclusion, but again where participants may or may not recognise this as being the case. Most often reflected in situations where something is felt, but participants incorrectly identify it as working the abs. The dynamic core is also seen in specialised core training, sports participation, and the more demanding daily chores.
Even though the performance of mainstream core training does require some level of strength and skill to complete, as the principles of Bodii have continued to evolve, substantial doubts as to their absolute validity as an across the board solution to core weaknesses and adaptation ideals have been uncovered.
Familiar instances of when the core is dynamic:
a) Strength and fitness training containing stability and core strength apparatus such as fitball, Bosu and balance/wobble boards.
b) Sporting actions like bowling a cricket ball, hitting a tennis ball, kicking a football.
c) Vacuuming or gardening.
d) To this point, each exercise contained in Bodii Program I are examples of the dynamic core.
Specifically: Basic Bodii exercises using 25cm core-ball.
Anaerobic endurance: mountain climber progressions.
Strength: single arm row progressions.
Flexibility/mobility: calf raise/hamstrings stretch progressions.
Observation A - It is of course possible, and in many scenarios highly probable, that demands on core engagement will carry-over into deeper and lesser phase inclusions as intensities increase and/or decrease. An example can be seen in a hypothetical analysis of a walk/sprint progression:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint.
If it is accepted the core is included in a sprint, it is not logical to assume it is suddenly not involved to some degree, once sprinting ceases, or even before it begins.
3. The Ballistic Core.
In many sports, the ability to engage and maintain even a dynamic core does not afford athletes with the core inclusion sufficient to handle the forces exerted on the body generally, and absorbed through the core specifically. This is especially true in sports with high intensity and high volume body contact/impact, and is a concept not highlighted simply in an athlete's ability to accept the contact/impact and play on, but most particularly in the athletes ability to accept the contact/impact, absorb the forces incidentally through an enhanced core capacity, and to repeatedly play on with no residual effects. An outcome possible only through biomechanically superior inclusions, and physiological adaptations that are able to:
a) Minimise the effects of inevitable contact/impact, injury and the debilitating consequences of fatigue through core strength conditioning, which across ballistic core specificity considerations, transfers its relevance to the individuality of all sports.
b) Prevent premature elimination from sporting competition, due to resulting contact/impact and/or injury outcomes.
An athlete’s ability to incidentally absorb high intense contact/impact is an example of ballistic core engagement, and as such any effective core strength training must be able to simulate the forces experienced at the moment of contact/impact.
Contact/impact simulations have been a standard component of the general training and skills regime peculiar to each sport. However, it should be noted, that in the performance of these general training and skills activities, the intent has never been to strengthen the core, rather it has been used to condition the athlete against the accepted rigours of that sport, while also increasing the athlete's endurance.
For athletes to properly prepare for any sport, it is most beneficial to
train all associated aspects beyond any expected performance thresholds.
Bodii reaches beyond the scope of traditional strength, fitness and sports specific training by having the capacity to simulate high intense contact/impact situations. An achievement based on specialised ballistic core strengthening techniques, which can be used to prepare athletes in the pre-season, and to supplement general training during competition and in-season phases.
The successful performance of any exercise with ballistic core requirement, depends
entirely on the participant’s psychological, biomechanical and physiological capacity to
deliberately engage and sustain the vital core inclusions at specific intensities.
Observation B - Consistent with the probability of core engagement phases carrying-over within the context of a single series of progressions, the final progression of the hypothetical sprint scenario offered in Observation A of the dynamic core, could conceivably present as:
Sit - Stand - Walk - Jog - Run - Sprint - Fall/Bump/Tackle (receive/deliver).
With greater consideration and acceptance of the role played by the core in all levels of functional movement, the effects of this very common sporting scenario could be better understood, and therefore controlled.
In light of this presenter’s comments and opinions in earlier blog posts, it is appropriate at this point to discuss, in greater detail, the issues surrounding conditioning the Hamstrings for both day-to-day exercise requirements, and for the significantly more intense sports specific adaptation outcomes. These discussion topics are based on observations made as the various Bodii Hamstrings related concepts and techniques have emerged. They include the following.
a) The complicated, intersecting aspects of the need to:
i) Strengthen the primary core muscles and the structures to which they attach (Bodii Program I).
ii) Strengthen the secondary core muscles, which in turn help to stabilise the primary core (Bodii Program I).
iii) Increase contractile strength, range and endurance in the muscles of the peripheral core (which includes the vulnerable Hamstrings), thereby supporting advanced inclusive strength and stability in hips and pelvis, the structure in which the core lies.
b) The diverse range of incidental/deliberate primary and peripheral core inclusions, and the resulting benefits to lumbar and hip/pelvis strength and stability. When conditioning the Hamstrings, this is especially relevant, as the greater part of the hamstrings group originates from the Ischial tuberosity, an anatomical feature located within the hips and pelvis complex.
c) The importance of properly balanced strength, stability and mobility factors in the primary and peripheral core, the active lumbar curve, and the integral nature of their connection to the issue of Hamstrings tightness.
Assessing Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The following considered observations are extensions to the natural biomechanical and physiological roles and relationships of the structures strengthened and stabilised by the muscles of the primary, secondary and peripheral core (Bodii Program I).
It is the prevailing weakness and instability aspects of the Hamstrings and surrounding structures, together with unco-ordinated strength and flexibility/mobility training practices that are some of the contributing factors leading to common chronic Hamstrings tightness and weakness/injury concerns. Built around this observation, Bodii has developed methods to firstly assess Hamstrings tightness, prior to athletes becoming aware of this problem, and secondly provide some training/conditioning options to assist in minimising the incidence and severity of these tightness/weakness/injury problems.
In past, and even recent strength and fitness training history, upper body range of motion and Hamstrings flexibility, have been determined by an individual's capacity to bend forward at the waist and touch their toes. In spite of the physiological relationship between Hamstrings and the lumbar spine being an accepted principle, this is a determination still being made without due regard for the functional role of the lumbar spine/curve, an area clearly identified as vital to Bodii training principles. Bearing this in mind, it is perfectly reasonable to expect any assessment of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness to be conducted with complete regard for all aspects of the natural physiology and purpose of the spine, and its load distributing curves.
Strangely, in current flexibility assessment situations, even accounting for expanded bases of understanding, this is still not the case. An example is the traditional sit-and-reach test, a test where the subject to be assessed is required to sit on the floor with their legs together and locked at the knees. They are then expected to extend and hold their fingertips as near to or beyond their toes as they are able to manage. An action to be performed without the help of any upper body momentum or extrinsic assistance. No thought or instruction is given to basic postural function, nor of the necessity to also consider, include and maintain the spinal curves.
True to Bodii principles throughout these programs, all assessments of Hamstrings flexibility/tightness should have equal regard for inclusion of the vital spinal curves. Based on this key notion, Hamstrings flexibility should never be assessed in isolation, but inclusive of upper body flexion ranges, and with the following criteria in mind.
1. Degree of natural/instinctive knee bend, when the participant to be assessed is in deepest upper body flexion.
2. Capacity of participant to include and maintain an active lumbar curve through upper body flexion, as the degree of natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
3. Capacity of participant to also include and maintain noticeable shoulder/scapula retraction, again through upper body flexion, and again as natural/instinctive knee bend is reduced.
4. When initiating upper body flexion, due to the lack of consistent efforts to stabilise hips and pelvis, there is an observed tendency under this flexion pressure among the majority of individuals to rotate laterally (external) at the hips. The reasons for this are twofold.
i) Because of its controlling influence, and its involvement in externally rotating the hips (Program I), Gluteus maximus tends to dominate in its hip rotation role.
ii) Resulting from the dominant Gluteus maximus, the intrusion of the upper body into the anterior space between the hips/pelvis, causes the legs to open and for hips to rotate externally. Biomechanically, this is the best means to accommodate this inevitably necessary physical compensation.
It is therefore imperative, in these assessments, to also determine the individual’s capacity to maintain strictly aligned adductors. A consideration that must encompass the degree of pronation and/or supination in each foot.
These criteria remain true and constant in all situations, and in all postures and positions. It is not the individual’s capacity to reach to or beyond their toes that commands foremost attention, rather it is the ability to retain the integrity of the spinal curves in their continuing context to recognised stabilising peripheral functions.
Strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues.
The strategy to relieve Hamstrings weakness/tightness arises from the above criteria. Its starting point is found in Program I, and has gradually evolved as the Bodii programs have developed. The principles of Bodii training are in accord with accepted practice, in that flexibility is a complementary, yet fundamental element to desired strength, fitness and mobility adaptations. However, this is only constant when due regard is given to safe and stable mobilisation of the body’s principal structures. Bodii strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility concepts have been built around this philosophy.
Flexibility/mobility, and continuing strength/stability adaptations around Hamstrings are best achieved through the increasingly incidental and simultaneous combination of the four vital inclusions.
1. Core engagement (incidental/deliberate): as this is the pivotal centre through which loads are referred, and upon which adaptations depend. Therefore, if Hamstrings tightness are an on-going issue, try to first strengthen and mobilise the structures and attachments of the primary and secondary core.
2. Deliberate activation of the lumbar curve: as the aspects of this inclusion are accepted as fundamental to co-ordinated Hamstrings/lumbar health.
3. Shoulder/scapula retraction: as the holistic attention to the integrity and inclusion of the spinal curves is paramount to overall postural strength, and the functional distribution of loads.
4. Hips and pelvis stability: as produced by the direct inclusion of the peripheral core muscles, ensuring stronger peripheral activation of a more stable hips and pelvis complex.
Any strategy to relieve Hamstrings flexibility/tightness issues should foster all of the above ideals, by producing the following adaptations:
1. Significantly advanced incidental inclusion of the primary core muscles, for greater absorption of impact/contact/load.
2. Increased relative strength in Hamstrings, and all aspects of mobility in the active lumbar curve.
3. Greater contractile range, endurance and flexibility/mobility in the entire posterior chain, and consisting Achilles tendon, calf, hamstrings, gluteals and Lumbar, Thoracic and Cervical curves.
4. Advanced and comprehensive flexibility/mobility at the Quadriceps/hip flexors overlap, through enhanced capacities towards hip extension.
5. Improved stability and inclusive strength of hips and pelvis during adduction, flexion, abduction and extension.
As these are extremely complicated biomechanical and physiological processes, individuals wanting to implement these strategies should realise that only a complete understanding of the involved methodology and specialised alternative strength, fitness and flexibility/mobility techniques will achieve the required strength, range, endurance objectives.