By Scott Sonnon
1. Decompress the specific joints to be used. Joint mobility is great. So is dynamic flexibility. Great warm-up activities. However, if you bring a scalpel instead of a pickax, youʼll accelerate your results and distill your warm-up to the exact movements you require. Whatever movement youʼre about to do, circle the joints to be used 10 times in both directions before starting. Smoothly and slowly. Tension to extension. Exhale into the tightness. Shave off the tension a little at a time.
2. Activate the core. Perform four 1-minute sets of front, side, other side, and rear plank holds after your specific mobility warm-up. Effort comes from the core outward (called proximo-distal trend by the neuro-geeks), so if you start with an exercise not to conditioning the core, but to “switch it on”, youʼll see greater output in your exercise. And with only 4 minutes, this guarantees that youʼll invest the time on bringing all of the body online for your exercise.
3. Vibrate the muscle pattern used during the exercise, in between sets. Donʼt stand around between sets of exercise. Turn off the muscles you just used to their resting length. A shortened muscle produces consecutively lesser force the more it shortens (remains tight). So in between sets, shake off and out the muscles you just used and get them (including and foremost, your facial muscles), so that you come back with greater strength on subsequent sets, rather than diminishing strength which is the norm.
4. Put effort into the technique, not into the repetition. This mantra isnʼt some cliche regarding focusing on “form.” Itʼs a very specific “structural alignment” issue from biomechanics. The goal isnʼt to get from point A to point B, but to increase the strength around the joints needing to be stabilized, so that the joints needing to move, do so with greater strength and precision. So, each time you begin a set, visualize what you want to strengthen, and if you donʼt know, itʼs usually the joints adjacent to the joints you want to move. (For example, instead of trying to curl a dumbbell, pull your shoulder blade down, fix your wrist in place and flex your lat and pec at the same time, as you exhale tightly. The dumbbell magically floats upward.)
5. Roll out tension like pulping a grapefruit. Okay, many people are starting to use foam rollers to remove tension, but most trainers miss the primary concept. Fascial density – the thick leathery straps which prevent nutrition from reaching the area that needs it, from giving you resting length (and as a result strength, see #3), and from allowing you ease of activity – doesnʼt just break up when you roll non-specifically. It only “pulps” when you extend the tissue to itʼs maximal length. So, whatever you want to roll out, stretch it and keep it expanded, then roll. For example, if you want to roll out your erectors, then arch forward rather than fall backward over the roller (and better yet, use a small ball rather than a roller… but thatʼs giving away some other secrets Iʼm about to share with you.)
Each of these nuances was hard-won. They sound so sensible, but unfortunately theyʼre “uncommon sense.” Many trainers will teach you not only the wrong way, but the wrong thing, because theyʼre thinking segmentally rather than systemically. The body doesnʼt have parts. It only has actions. Movements, not muscles. And thatʼs what Iʼm about to share with you. How do movements liberate your fitness? Frankly… you donʼt miss what you donʼt have, until you need it. We live such automated lives of convenience and predictability that when the inconvenient and the unpredictable happens… youʼre screwed, broken, and on the gurney staring into the eyes of an unamused medic.
We are sharks. If we donʼt move, we die a little bit every day. But there are tricks to bring it all back online, a library of secrets from different countries, from the classics to the greats, from East to West, North to South. Movements not only heal, because weʼre not always broken. Movements enable. Most people give up on themselves, not because theyʼre old. But because theyʼve committed motor suicide a little bit every day, and their nervous system tells them that should they even attempt said skill, a heavy price will be paid. I know too many people who evaluate a potentially exciting activity on how much pain theyʼll be in the next day. And then if the benefit is great enough, take the risks or accept the consequences.
I canʼt tell you that youʼll never be hurt again. Iʼve still been injured over the years. Fighting ainʼt tennis. But in my 40s now, Iʼm still winning world championships in new sports, still move with grace and power pain-free, and happily jump in a game of beach volleyball with the 20-somethings with no fear of the day after.