Shrugs are a staple in most athletes’ workouts. Why? Because you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t want bigger and more intimidating traps. Technically called the trapezius muscle, this large muscle travels along your mid and upper spine and attaches to your shoulder, covering a large portion of your mid and upper back. When you do Shrugs, you specifically target the upper traps, which are the portion that sits just above your collarbone and moves into your neck.
But is there a better way than performing old-school Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs? I’ve been experimenting with Shrug variations and have found the following two exercises to be quite effective for developing a set of imposing traps.
As we know, the core is the foundation if we want to achieve movements efficient and effectively; therefore, targeting the core musculature from different angles and through various means can give you the best bang for your buck.
Although many enjoying performing movements from a position of standing, lying and/or sitting we should make sure, we attack and/or program everything from a dynamic perspective, which relays to a specific sport.
In this case, we build upon the various chop progressions, which are regressed and progressed appropriately from the half-kneeling to the tall kneeling and its dynamic to target the core, its structure and being stable through every press, pull and rotation throughout the movement.
What is important is that we take some steps back to address situations where athletes cannot get into kneeling positions, more importantly in a therapeutic session where there might be trouble in the knee areas, etc. We can easily divert back to performing these chop exercises (half and tall kneeling) from the deadbug position.
WHY FROM THE SUPINE (DEADBUG) POSITION?
Performing the chop variations from the supine position is a great anti-extension, flexion and rotation progression because with the half and tall kneeling chop variations many who do not have good stability throughout the core will rotate, flex and extend. This position is also great for those who sit all day, and performing these Deadbug progressions along with other Deadbug progressions, can equipoise the sitting down on a regular basis (of course along with other factors).
More importantly, due to the specific demands of sports today athletes requires a strong and efficient core for optimal performance of any movement; more so those that involve throwing, swinging an apparatus, etc. As your core rotators get stronger, you’ll be able to more effectively transfer force between your upper and lower body, and ultimately throw faster or kick harder, which gives reason to advance core progressions more appropriately.
Building core rotational strength also improves your ability to withstand various methods of contact. Athletes normally get hit away from the center of your body, causing your torso to rotate. Increased strength in the core musculature is important because it stabilizes your spine despite various methods of contact.
Just like the Half and Tall kneeling exercises, the Deadbug Kettlebell Chop is a multi-joint exercise that develops strength and power throughout the shoulders, core (stability), while synchronizing the obliques, hips and glutes. It also gives one the challenge of keeping a strong grip while performing the movement, which helps those who swing apparatus maintain appropriate strength throughout the movement. GREATLY USED IN ANY PREHAB, MOBILITY AND/OR THERAPUTIC SESSION.
The Deadbug Kettlebell Chop is a slight variation of the half and tall kneeling stability chop exercises. If you are looking to take your core training to the next level, try these.
Dead or dying insects assume very familiar poses: lying on their back, legs sticking up in the air; however, it is not in one (or the same) sequence. This telltale position is actually a symptom of an ailing bug’s decreased coordination and failing nervous system; many would say it is a lack of blood flow along with other factors. Either way the bug is about to die. Consequently, if a bug is knocked onto its back, it can use its sides until it brings itself into proper position.
That is where we come in with the Deadbug exercise, which is NOT A COOL exercise but one of the most beneficial if implemented properly, along with regressed-progressed properly. It is somewhat doubleminded to say that we perform the deadbug progression to help with stabilizing the spine, enhancing the core and addressing motor control issues; ultimately outlining various imbalances. However, when bugs die, they are trying to gain but slowly lose their motor control issues that we are trying to address.
Nevertheless, in taking a closer look at the kinetic chain and various exercises that correlate within biomechanical principles we need to work positive posterior pelvic tilt mechanics to make instrumental impacts throughout the core musculature to make sure everything is firing correclty in relation to one’s sport.
We’ve had so many great progressions done in the past, but things change and they are always evolving’ therefore, we must have a “fresh” perspective on core training and the various progressions to address unique functions of the core and manipulate training principles according to one’s sport. The goal in many core-training programs/progressions is to fundamentally resist motion by stiffening the core and using your limbs to create motion with a neutral spine. However, sometimes in real life situations and/or on the playing field we canot just think about creating a nuetral spine. Therefore, we need to practice additional methods that might come into play during competition.
When using your limbs with Deadbug progressions, the limbs do not have to work extended and/or flexed in the same motion each time. Like when a bug does, the limbs go in various directions.
The uniqueness that can be presented regarding the core has been untapped where, we in the field wait for the “experts” to develop a progression for us to follow. However, these progressions are built on a scientific foundation to link with the anatomy of the core. According to Dr. Stuart McGill in some sports such as cricket, bowlers, and gymnast, those athletes suffer high rates of spine, joint change and pain. Therefore, how can we change the dynamics of core training but provide the same benefit that will assist our athletes in their sport?
More importantly, according to Dr. Stuart McGill to progress in effectively in exercise/program design we must:
(1) Implement corrective and therapeutic exercises.
(2) Grove the appropriate and perfect motions and motor pillars.
(3) Build whole body and joint stability (mobility throughout the joints, hips, and maintain stability through the lumbar/core region.
(4) Increase strength, endurance and build strength.
Once regressed/progressed effectively we can then incorporate various/different dynamics into our training programs that will ultimately influence the sport.
I can go into the eight essential components of stiffness according to Dr. McGill; however, you can read it for yourself: àhttps://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Articles/NSCA_Classics_PDFs/Core%20Training%20Evidence%20Translating%20to%20Better.pdf
By now, you should know the correct way to perform the normal Deadbug progression. If you do not, please check out Tony Gentilcore’s article: http://tonygentilcore.com/2013/10/deadbugs-the-what-why-and-how/ on what and what not to do concerning the Deadbug exercise.
More importantly, you should know how to perform the Pallof Press and Pallof Press Cable Tight Rotation 2.0. If not, it is no need for me to reiterate it here when you can just read it (Tony Gentilcore and Nick Tumminello do a great job here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/the-ultimate-pallof-press-guide.html and http://nicktumminello.com/2010/05/pallof-press-new-pallof-press-exercise-variation/.
Moving forward in my last two articles, I extolled the creation of the Pallof Press and Pallof Press 2.0 Cable Tight Rotation DeadBug variations: https://camsportsperformancetrainingblog.com/2016/07/28/dead-bug-pallof-press-2-0-cable-tight-rotation/
In outlining my latest progression of the Pallof Press (Single Arm) DeadBug variation, the goal was to progress effectively but add some difficulty to a routine progression. By working the Deadbug progressions and adding some difficulty to the progression, the goal was to address the pelvic tilt, along with other factors while sitting at work, in conjunction with strengthening the core musculature. As you can see from the diagram, the Deadbug exercise is the same setup as when sitting and it is easy for your pelvis to tilt while sitting.
Therefore, the Deadbug in general can help decrease the spine loads and disc pressures through various fluidity of movements, loosen up tight hamstrings and hip flexors. The exercise can also decrease and correct the anterior and pelvic tilt when performed with a neutral spine can assisting in the control of lumbar lordosis commonly seen in fitness professionals, their clients and the world in general.
The preceding Pallof pressing variations along with the Pallof Press (Single Arm) Deadbug progression can aid to correct the flexed position we normally find ourselves in on a daily basis.
This single arm variation works the same as the regular Pallof Press because depending on the level of tension, your body will want to rotate and flex with the opposite leg movement, correlating with the pull. With this progression, its requires isometric core contractions with concentric and eccentric limb movements where the directional force vectors vary. However, this progression works more of the shoulder in conjunction with the hip complex to target static and dynamic stability, which is not challenged when sitting but challenged in the daily competition of life and sports.
There is more that can be said about this progression, the benefits, etc. But your goal should be to jsut try it and give me some FEEDBACK.
Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention: Stuart McGill, PhD Spine Biomechanics, Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Tony Gentilcore: DEADBUGS: THE WHAT, WHY, AND HOW.
Nick Tumminello: Pallof Press – New Pallof Press Exercise Variation! – Vertical Pallof Presses
Photo credit: Behance.net and http://www.123rf.com
“Leaders relentlessly upgrade their teams, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build confidence”, Jack Welch, Winning.
Articulating a clear vision and strategy, problem solving techniques and continual coaching is a must for development of today’s coach. Today coaches are depending on talent; however, it won’t create enduring success.
Quintessential Leadership is the ability to build trust and trustworthiness. Outlined in “The Kiely’s Company” blog on the “Portfolio of Leadership and Training, are 5 Intelligences of Quintessential Leadership, which are outlined below.
While all of these qualities are important for every coach, I personally believe the two below have not been effectively touched on within this profession:
In todays society, its seems as if Leveraging Personal Styles are very uncommon, especially upon fitness professionals within various circles. Often apparent are those in our circle with the same personality types because it satisfies their methods, causes, and will push the same program methods without change.
More importantly, those within our staff/organizations and sometimes teams, we have embraced people who carry the same qualities, which are Logical, analytical, data-oriented, Organized, plan-focused, detail-oriented, Supportive, expressive, emotionally oriented, Strategic, integrative, and idea-oriented, which can sometimes set up your organization for trouble.
So how can we leverage the varying personality styles within our organization training staffs, teams, etc? Please see the list below:
On Monday morning, take an inventory, look around at your staff and athletes, the wonderful diversity that is portrayed. Although diversity in its essence is beautiful the lack of understanding of Cultural Differences can be the downfall of one’s organization and program. Let’s be honest, cultural norms can sometimes get in the way of daily interactions; therefore, we as professionals must learn to understand the differences and raise sensitivity levels to the cultural norms and create ways to effectively include cultural differences in one’s atmosphere.
I believe applying these simple Quintessential characteristics along with other leadership characteristics we can change our leadership styles as coaches and set our programs and athletes up for a successful future.
References: The Kiely Company, LLC
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been posting videos on specific Dead Bug variations I like to add into my program for variability; especially when I have successfully mastered one exercise, in such cases as the standard Dead Bug progression.
There are great exercises out there (sexy some might call them), where every professional and athlete have exercises and programs in the palm of their hands; however, how successful are the athletes in performing and mastering those movements before moving to the next level in their training?
Therefore, every professional must ask themselves these questions. How can you benefit from the exercise, and why should you use it in your program, how can you make it better, and how will it benefit you in the long run. By having those answers, it should be easy to program for your athletes.
Consequently, here is one progression I would like to explain more in detail and how we can easily progress it to make it an awesome progression to put it on your toolbox.
Exercise #1 – Dead Bug Pallof Press (Anti-Rotation)
The Pallof Press by itself is an awesome exercise. With this progression you are targeting the shoulder and hip complexes (moreso, the entire core musculature). This anti-rotation movement challenges the stability of your body.
To perform the Pallof Press, you want to set your body up in a nice standing position core musculature tight, feet under your hips and press your arms out and in doing so in a controlled manner from your chest, hold briefly and return to the start.
However, the Pallof Press is such a great exercise, that pairing it with a regular Dead Bug exercise trying to keep the core tight, while pressing and coordinating movements with the alternating limb movements is hard to think about not only do.
Therefore, to provide more anti-rotation progressions for people to stop doing crunches, etc., here is a difficult but nice variability you can add to your Dead Bug progression: ↓
Exercise #2 – Dead Bug Pallof Press 2.0 Cable Tight Rotation
I got the name and idea from my buddy and mentor Nick Tumminello, who named it this by setting up the same way as the Pallof Press but instead of pressing the band from the chest out, you are moving the arm/band in between the shoulders and not moving the hips.
Check out the video here for complete on how to perform: https://youtu.be/0UeD7T0U1gY
In advancing this progression the Dead Bug setup is the same; however, its about control… not the load.
During this contralateral movement think about just moving the arms back and forward in without rotation and moving the leg simultaneously with the band movement (asymmetrical load – although very light). For example, as you pull the band to the right, the left leg will be lengthened (extended) and vice versa. You can see and feel there has to be lateral lumbo-pelvic control and lumbar spine lateral control for successful completion of the movement.
The muscles worked are:
In human anatomy, the levator scapula is a skeletal muscle situated at the back and side of the neck.
The levator scapula originates from the posterior tubercle of the transverse process of cervical vertebrae one to four. The muscle is inserted into medial border of the scapula extending from superior angle to junction of spine and medial border of scapula.
The levator scapulae may lie deep to the sternocleidomastoideus at its origin, deep or adjacent to the splenius capitis at its origin and mid-portion, and deep to the trapezius in its lower portion.
When the spine is fixed the levator scapulae can be easily stretched in a combination with other muscles within that region.
The above taken from: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levator_scapulae_muscle)
Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com
As a reminder, the Dead Bug has many regressions/progressions but can be evolved to benefit your clients. Dead Bug variations are great to channel the squat patterns with reduced load; however, the specific concentric and eccentric actions of the limbs increases core activation than specific variations of regular ab workouts.
Consequently, this progression stemmed from the great responses we had from the Dead Bug pressing variations. More importantly, for athletes to get more positive feedback in the overactive upper body (neck/trap) region we found it would be good to include the two movements together (stretching the levator scapula) while moving the external limbs (like bugs and babies). *Side Note: There are many coordinated and uncoordinated movements of babies and bugs when lying on their back; normally with babies its learning efficient motor control and moving through space. The bug on the other hand is loosing life- decreased coordination and failing nervous system* On the other hand, when bugs tip over they use a variation of coordinated movements to roll themselves back over.
Hopefully you get the picture: ↑
Performing the levator scapula stretch in conjunction with the corresponding limb movement it is truly an anti-rotation variation; because if not careful you will easily find yourself rotating through the movement (like a bicycle ab workout). Therefore, ensure the core musculature is tight and engaged throughout the movement.
To perform correctly:
Every professional must find new ways to fix biomechanical weak links that are apparent through movement.
There have been many progressions by awesome professionals that have performed the Dead Bug exercise with the band pressed (isometric hold), which is great for anti-rotation.
Rotary stability is the ability to control rotational forces during activities like throwing, swinging, striking, kicking, and sprinting. Rotary stability is needed to resist rotation through the torso during arm and leg movements, which is represented here.
This variation is a great exercise with the band press because your body will want to rotate (depending on the level of resistance) during the press and opposite leg movement; therefore, resisting rotation (anti-rotation) is the key. With this progression its requires isometric core contractions with concentric and eccentric limb movements, and the directional force vectors, which can vary (Bret Contreras). The muscles of the Hip Complex get some great work as well.
While getting in some mobility work in and working on my posture before training today, I usually get in some Dead Bug and Bird Dog variations, along with some stick mobility, and band work, which gets my muscles primed and oiled for that task at hand.
Some key things we need to know about the Dead Bug progressions, which is great for the core or abs, obliques, lowerback, etc. development.The standard Dead Bug progressions are great for those who have an extended lower back, or lordosis, problems. This is a core exercise that can teach individuals to keep a flat, neutral back, which will assist in keeping tension and stability throughout the whole core. Usually when the back over extends or gets too much arch the individual will lose stability and the ability to create force from their core and the hip flexors will take over doing most of the work; which should be avoided. If you can perform the standard movement without making the simple mistakes, I would like for you to try these progressions.
In thinking and watching babies (looking at old videos of my son and bugs – outside (LOL). The Dead Bug variation is one that consists of a (Anti-Rotation) Single Arm Band Press, which is great because you already have performed the Resistance Banded Dead Bug progression.
When you look at a baby play and reach for their overhead toy, they are pressing and pulling down and legs moving out in different directions (for strength, mobility and core strength – all developmental). On the other hand, when bugs die, they do the same thing… legs and arms go in various directions (because of decreased coordination and failing nervous system).
Like a baby this progression works on maintaining a:
THE PRESSING MOVEMENT PERFORMED IS GREAT; HOWEVER, I AM GOING TO PERFECT THIS, TRY KEEPING THE BAND OVER YOUR CHEST. EXTEND THE LEG A LITTLE FURTHER. ACTUALLY YOU CAN PERFORM THE PRESSING MOVEMENT IN VARIOUS DIRECTIONS OVERHEAD.
Let me know what you think.
The Ab Rollout and its many variations are arguably some of the best core-strengthening exercises because they teach the abs to prevent extension of the spine, which is their true function. And like any exercise, at a certain point the basic move becomes too easy.
I’ve had great success with this type of exercise, and have made it a priority to develop new variations that challenge myself and my athletes. My latest variation might be one of the most challenging yet. It’s called the Tripod Ab Rollout, and it’s brutal!
Check out the article for more information on this great progression.
Hooverball is a FUN ACTIVE MINI cool down I had the guys do to perform more basketball specific movements… This active cool down was fun yet challenging because the basketball players needed to recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers as well as various engage various muscles of the body. *EXCUSE THE TALKING AND JOKING, HOWEVER FUN NEEDS TO BE PROMOTED IN ANY TRAINING SESSION*
Dumbbell rows are a great exercise to work the middle back, core, biceps, chest, lats and triceps. This movement also involves scapula retraction and depression, along with spinal extension and compression through the thoracolumbar region. In the plank position, this also acts as a core stabilization exercise through anti-rotation and anti-flexion.
I also love this exercise because it is very anti-rotational. In quoting Nick Tumminello, he made a great point that you do not want to rotate when pulling the dumbbells because you will be taking away from the efficiency of the movement. He also mentions you want to find the proper position to keep from rotating.
If you do the progressions the correct way, you will fill it in the core musculature as well as the other muscles mentioned above. If you are not strong enough, you do not want to use a heavy weight. However, if you are strong enough, you want a wider base than normal and you will get more stability and benefit from the pull when the hand is placed fervently in the ground. From the video, you will see I repositioned myself several times and that is what you want to do when finding the right place to achieve the movement correctly.
Now here we performed multiple dumbbell rows in sequence with multiple sled pulls. Therefore, we have a great pulling combination. The hardest thing to get everyone to understand is how you can successfully perform a variations of pulling movements (that are scientifically backed) without using the bar and/or cable machines.
How to perform is below:
1) Start in a plank position with your legs wider than hip-width distance; the wider stance makes you more stable. Hold onto your dumbbells, keeping your wrist locked to protect the joint.
2) With your core tight and your glutes engaged, exhale, stabilizing your torso as you lift your right elbow to row; feel your right scapula sliding toward your spine as you bend your elbow up toward the ceiling. (This might change depending on the weight you use)
3) Keeping your neck long and energized, return the weight to the ground and repeat the movement on your left side.
4) After you perform the DB Plank Row several times, be ready to pull the sled in succession to your body.
5) My head is dipping when I pull, which is a no no. However, I was playing around with them and I will clean that up.
This is great on all levels for those who love performing the DB plank to row and for those who love performing single arm sled pulls, etc. Fenwick et al (2009). Comparison of Different Rowing Exercises: Trunk Muscle Activation and Lumbar Spine Motion, Load & Stiffness. J Str Cond Res 23(5): 1408-1417.
Furthermore, core stability and injury, several studies have found an association between a decreased stability and a higher risk of sustaining a low back or knee injury. Subjects with such injuries have been shown to demonstrate impaired postural control, delayed muscle reflex responses following sudden trunk unloading and abnormal trunk muscle recruitment patterns. In addition, various relationships have been demonstrated between core stability, balance performance and activation characteristics of the trunk muscles. Most importantly, a significant correlation was found between poor balance performance in a sitting balance task and delayed firing of the trunk muscles during sudden perturbation. It was suggested that both phenomena are caused by proprioceptive deficits. The importance of sensory-motor control has implications for the development of measurement and training protocols. It has been shown that challenging propriocepsis during training activities, for example, by making use of unstable surfaces, leads to increased demands on trunk muscles, thereby improving core stability and balance. “The importance of sensory-motor control in providing core stability: implications for measurement and training. Sports Med. 2008; 38(11):893-916. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200838110-00002.”