Blog Archives

Draw In & Squeeze!

Bridges & planks effective only when you draw in and squeeze

Push-up prep: draw in and squeeze

To maintain a bridge position: squeeze!

Single leg exercises or seated lat pull-down: keep that navel drawn in!
All photos by Lauren Bachner

Welcome to the last Workout Wednesday in June!

Whatever your workout includes today or any day of the week, I wanted to share two important cues that apply to virtually every exercise ranging from bridges to barbell cleans: draw in and squeeze. I say these four little words so many times during a session, my clients think I should just put them on a t-shirt and save my breath. So, what exactly do the cues mean?

  • Draw in signals activation of the “drawing-in maneuver.” This simple step involves drawing in your belly button toward your spine in order to stabilize your pelvis. (Go ahead, you don’t need to be at the gym to give it a try!)

This action ultimately activates the core muscles needed for stabilization. For you anatomy buffs out there, the six core muscles that fall into the stabilization category are: Transversus Abdominus, Internal Oblique, Lumbar Multifidus, Pelvic Floor Muscles, Diaphragm and Transversospinalis. Many studies indicate people who do not focus on stabilization of the core before strengthening the muscles that comprise the core’s movement category (e.g. Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Erector Spinae) can suffer from lower back pain. The research shows this happens because of unwanted motion of the individual vertebrae.

The benefits of the drawing in maneuver, however, reach beyond the core itself. That’s because the benefits of having a strong core reach far beyond the mid-section of your body. Remember, the core is the center of gravity for the body and the origin of all movement. Comprised of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and the thoracic and cervical spine, if the core is unstable or weak, the entire kinetic chain will be thrown off thanks to muscle imbalances. That’s when compensations occur and ultimately, you end up being a prime candidate for injury. It boils down to this: a strong core sets the stage for a strong body overall.

  • Squeeze is the one-word directive for contracting the glutes.

The glutes are some of the most powerful muscles in the body, but  most people simply don’t get enough glute work on a daily basis. For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume you’re doing all you can on the flexibility front to avoid compensations by overactive muscles that prevent the glutes from “firing” as they should. Now whether you’re moving on to “traditional” circuit training or a push-up Tabata derby, you want to make sure you keep the glutes engaged in your workout.

Remember, if the glutes don’t get to function as the prime mover on exercises like squats, not only does the butt-kicking exercise become pretty much ineffective for your tush, you’re also putting yourself at risk for low back pain and potential injury.

Don’t underestimate the impact a couple of simple steps can make in your fitness routine. Like so many other parts of life, it’s the little things you do when you workout that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Little Things Mean A Lot

You’ve probably heard this a few times in your life: the little things mean a lot. The familiar expression can easily be applied to fitness. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking the car a bit farther away from the entrance to the grocery store, the little things can add up and have a great cumulative effect.

Photo by Leslie Hassler

There is one important aspect of training that can benefit from two small technical maneuvers. I’ve already written about the importance of core training, and can promise it’s a topic that deserves re-visiting many times in the future. The core is the center of gravity for the body and the origin of all movement. Comprised of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and the thoracic and cervical spine, if the core is unstable or weak, the entire kinetic chain will be thrown off thanks to muscle imbalances. That’s when compensations occur and ultimately, you end up being a prime candidate for injury.

In order to train the core effectively, you want to first focus on the muscles needed for stabilization. (The six core muscles that fall into the stabilization category are: the Transversus Abdominus, Internal Oblique, Lumbar Multifidus, Pelvic Floor Muscles, Diaphragm and Transversospinalis.) There have been several studies indicating people who do not focus on stabilization of the core before working on strengthening the muscles in the core’s movement category (e.g. Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Erector Spinae) can suffer from lower back pain. The research shows this happens because of unwanted motion of the individual vertebrae.

The good news is there are two simple practices that can help you stabilize your pelvis properly before performing any core exercises:

  1. The “drawing-in maneuver:” Whether it’s a supine march, floor bridge, ball crunch or cable rotation, before you do anything, you want to pull your belly button in toward the spine. (Go ahead – give it a try right now!)
  2. Keep your neck in a neutral position: I usually tell people to try to imagine having an orange in between their head and neck so that you will look straight up at the ceiling when performing core exercises, like crunches. If you let your chin jut out, you can put extra stress on the cervical spine.

Don’t underestimate the impact a couple of simple steps can make on your core training. Like so many other parts of life, it’s the little things you do in your exercise routine that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,967 other followers

%d bloggers like this: