We normally associate exercises with something that you can load, something that you can lift.  However, exercise can also be things that bring mobility to your joints, or give you a better way of doing things.  I’m sure you’ve seen articles with similar titles.  “The One Exercise You’re Missing,” or “Exercises You’re Not Doing But Should,” and often they highlight exercises that alter the positioning of the load, or a different form of squat or lunge or press.

Yes, we are aware that a sound program has a mix of loads and some sort of mixture of push, pull, squat, hip hinge, etc.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve highlighted those movement patterns in past articles.  Today I want to move away from loaded exercises and turn attention to 3 exercises that will have you moving better, feeling better and have you in less discomfort.

There are a myriad of ways to load an exercise that will change how your body reacts to it.  For example, a squat can be loaded with a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, bodyweight, medicine ball, Powerbag, ViPR. Said load can be placed over head, on your back, in a front rack, unilaterally loaded, loaded in the arms (zercher), or in a goblet position.  So, yes I could easily just point out that you’re probably not doing single arm overhead kettlebell squats, and you should do them for such and such a reason.  Also, that would be because they look badass!

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No, seriously I want to highlight 3 exercises you may actually use and that will actually benefit you.

The 3 Best Fitness Exercises

  • Breathing

  • Crawling

  • Thoracic Rotation

 

Breathing

inspiring quotes_2Breathing is an essential part of life.  You may even be telling me, “Chris, I breathe every single day, without it I’d die.”  You’d be right, you do need to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide or you would in fact die, or at the very least pass out.  However, it’s way more than an inhale and an exhale.  Short, hard power breaths can trigger the abs to fire quickly, much like you’d see in martial arts, long deep breathes can help relax and calm you much like yoga, or even holding your breath, known as a Valsalva maneuver, can aid in exercise like the deadlift or squat.

The more I delve in the world of exercise and read up on what other people are doing, the more I see breathing as being highly important.  The more I watch people breathe during exercise, the more I realize people don’t know how to breathe.  Did you know the diaphragm is part of your core musculature?  It makes the top part of the cylinder or box or whatever shape you want to give your “core.”  How often during a plank or similar exercise do you hold your breath?  All the time, some of the time, or never?  My guess is at the very least, some of the time, but in most cases, the go to is to hold your breath.  So try to breathe.  When doing core exercises, I usually cue my clients to get in a good inhale followed by a forceful exhale.

Two of my go to drills when it comes to breathing is laying in a 90/90 position and focusing on deep, expansive breathing and “crocodile breathing” where you lay on your stomach and try to feel your stomach lifting your body off the ground.

Crawls

When was the last time you crawled on the ground?  I guess if you have kids, you may do it often as I know mine want horsey rides.  But were you comfortable in that position?

I’ve mentioned crawls in passing on a few articles, most notably how they correspond to ab exercises to add to your program. In reality, crawling on the ground is much more than an “ab exercise.” It’s a full body drill that requires coordination, finesse, strength, endurance and good motor planning.  What else does it require?

Keeping a neutral spine!

What else do we need to maintain a neutral spine for? Just about every other exercise.  Deadlift? Neutral spine.  Squat? Neutral Spine.  Pushups?  You betcha!   So not only can crawling help improve core strength and coordination, but it can help to teach you that positioning that carries over into every other exercise you might do in the gym.

My go to drill for clients?  Crawling while maintaining either a ball or a yoga block on the back.  Sounds easy, but I can assure you, that it is not.

Thoracic Rotation Drill

Thoracic mobility is important for back health and this rotation drill is perfect for improving that.  Often, if there is low back pain or shoulder pain, you need to look at the joint above or below.  Which brings us to the T-spine.  If you lack necessary mobility in the T-spine, something else has to pick up the slack.  This is why some version of thoracic rotation and mobility is in our warm-up.  If you think about it, most occupations have employees sitting at a desk for multiple hours per day.  What ends up happening is the body creates tension and patterns along lines of stress. Sitting in certain ways for extended periods of time forces the body to adapt.  The body adapts in a way that will reduce pain and make it more efficient.  Efficient is not always optimal however.

Even shifting away from common day to day behaviors towards gym disciplines.  When you press a bar overhead, if you lack requisite thoracic mobility, you may end up compensating with the lower back, or alter your shoulder mechanics and that presents a problem. Try one of these drills to increase your T-spine mobility and you’ll likely see an improvement in low back issues, shoulder mobility and posture. Practice these exercises and feel free to let me know how it goes and offer any comments.

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