I know where you are right now. Don’t worry about the NSA tracking your phone; It’s simpler than that. I know where you are because I am here, too. That’s right, look over your shoulder. Nope, can’t see me. A little bit lower.
You’re sitting down, aren’t you? You’re at a desk, on your commute, taking a bathroom break and you must have your Twitter or quickly read an article in that. Don’t worry, I do the exact same thing. Making efforts to sit less are important, but it’s also important that we train to support our current lifestyle. If we’re slouching over our screens as we read this, getting a treadmill desk isn’t going to help that right away.
When we slouch we lose our optimal breathing position, and muscles that aren’t supposed to work very much while breathing go to town holding us up and helping us breathe. It’s quite common that as this posture and breath become habitual, they become our default breathing position. Are you breathing into your shoulders or your waist?
Let’s reset that breath and posture position with this one-two combo of a supported squat stretch and a deadbug. You can use these practically anywhere, and I’ll use the TRX for the squat stretch. Both exercises serve to reinforce a more neutral thoracic and cervical spines, so that we’re not doing the Keyboard Quasimodo that you see above.
Here Is the Squat Stretch
Using a TRX for support, assume a deep squat position. Unlike loaded squats, holding an extended lumbar spine position isn’t as important, and I appreciate a level of flexion, albeit without going to end range of motion. The TRX handles provide a point of leverage to pull the chest tall, so that you feel the rhomboids and mid/lower trapezius engaging. The middle of your back will be having a field day.
In your squat position, focus on smoothly exhaling as much air as you can, as if you’re using a single breath to fill a balloon. If you’d like to include neck nods, gently nod up and down, without losing breath. Inspired by the work of Tim and Geoff at Original Strength maintaining head control is important for resetting your movement. Most of us have no clue where our head is in space, and this can certainly help provide the necessary feedback. If anyone asks, you can always tell them you’re headbanging to a really slow song.
Continue to pull yourself down into the squat, use the TRX to create a tall chest and engage the upper back, and focus on a full exhalation with each breath.
Here’s The Dead Bug
Deadbugs are magic because of the tactile feedback from the ground. You feel your head, upper back, and sacrum on the ground, and can instantaneously feel undesirable movement while practicing the pattern. Set up in a supine all-fours position, taking time to feel your entire back in contact with the ground. Maintain this position while exhaling completely. That’s where we start.
Our first progression begins with arm-only movement. You should feel movement at your shoulder, and little elsewhere. Retain breath control; exhale as you lower your arms, and inhale as you return to the starting position.
Our second progression includes leg motion with the arm motion, and we’ll move from opposite sides our body, much like how we crawl or Bird Dog. Again, maintain breath control, and limit the motion when your lower back starts to arch away from the floor.
If you are nailing these two versions and want an additional challenge, let’s add a stability ball to the mix. Create some pressure on the ball between all upper extremities, and maintain that pressure while you reach. The breath should feel, look, and sound exactly the same.
Now It’s Go Time
After you reset your posture and your breath, it’s time to train. Nobody is in the gym to do “corrective exercise”. You’re there to train; to change the way you feel and look. Use these two drills and the diaphragmatic breath to turn on at the end of your warm-up before you train, or between your aggressive work sets, so that you can train smarter and train harder.
Both drills will make you better by resetting breath and posture so that you can do more of the things that you love to do. Let’s get after it.