Learning New Moves – Breaking It All Down
The other week on Redefining Strength I talked about how the incline push up is a better regression to progress yourself toward the full push up from the ground than the modified knee push up.
The reason the incline push up is better is because it teaches you the correct form for a full push up and makes your body work in the exact same way.
While knee push ups may make your upper body stronger, they don’t force your whole body to work together and move together in the same way it will have to during full push ups.
HOWEVER, maybe if you do a variety of planks while strengthening your upper body, you will get there. But you need to regress the move and target the weak points.
When you regress and break down moves so that you can do something more advanced, you need to work your body in a way that will actually make you stronger for the advanced move.
Sometimes when we regress moves, we don’t actually work toward the move we want – sometimes we just make ourselves stronger at the regression.
And while stronger is always good, if you truly want to earn that advanced move, you need to pick the proper regressions or even break the move down into pieces and strengthen the pieces.
Take for instance, the pull up.
In my “Do More Pull Ups Workout,” I break down the move and target the common weak spots to get them activated before the workout. Then I force you to do a regression of the pull up while doing some extra work to make sure all of the pieces are getting stronger.
I use a few different moves to help you progress toward the pull up, including the pull up itself (you aren’t going to be able to do more pull ups if you simply do the lat pulldown machine no matter how much weight you can do on it).
Have you been using the assisted pull up machine for ages now, but just can’t seem to be able to do any real pull ups?
Maybe it’s time to mix it up instead of just repeating the same thing that isn’t getting you there over and over again.
Maybe it’s time to attempt pull ups with no assistance.
Try eccentric only pull ups. Jump to the top and lower yourself down as slowly as you can. Those eccentric only pull ups will force you to work with your own body weight. They will make you stronger.
You should probably also add in some holds. Have trouble getting your chin above the bar when you lower the assistance?
Try a pull up and hold! Breaking down the pull up and working on the weak points will help more than doing full pull ups with the same assistance over and over again.
Struggle to even move from the bottom when you’re hanging?
Work on pressing your chest out in the dead hang. Really focus on activating the lats!
Shoot…if you even have a hard time activating your lats, try a towel pull down or a scapular wall hold.
Break down the move and regress it as needed.
Don’t just stick with one regression if it isn’t getting you there!
When you want to earn a new, more advanced exercise, you need to consider all of the pieces of that move and ask yourself a few questions before just throwing together some regressions.
Ask yourself…Where are you currently? What muscles are strong? What muscles are weak?
Where do you struggle with the move? What gives out? How is your form? Do you suffer any pain when doing the move?
Then ask yourself, “What will it take to get me to the advanced move?” And maybe even ask yourself, “What have I been doing to get there that HAS NOT helped me?”
You can then pick the proper regressions and supplemental exercises to get yourself there.
The pistol squat.
So many people will use the top down approach. We will use single leg squats to a bench. And then we will use a single leg squat with a TRX strap or even a weight to counterbalance.
But for many that won’t develop the mobility or strength needed to get all the way down to the ground.
For some it will definitely work. But for those it doesn’t work for, instead of giving up, instead of continuing to do something that doesn’t work, why not try a bottom up approach.
Or why not focus on where the problem is.
Is it mobility?
To get low in a squat, you need good hip mobility as well as good ankle mobility. (A lack of ankle mobility has a lot to do with how low you can squat…Actually ankle mobility limits A LOT of things!)
Is it core strength? Or glute strength?
If it is one of those, why not work on different one leg balancing activities to strengthen your core? Why not do some step downs to work on your glutes in a similar unilateral manner? (Remember while doing any exercise to strengthen your glutes is good, ones that help put your body through a similar range of motion will be best for strength that directly translates.)
Why keep doing the same regression over and over again if it isn’t getting you there?
There are lots of ways to get there, you just need to focus on where you’re at.
Just because you have the same goal as someone else doesn’t mean you’ll take the same path to get there.
Today take a look at where you want to go. Are you getting closer? Or just getting stronger at the regressions?
You are only as strong as your weakest link…So strengthen it!
NOTE: Any move is possible if you systematically work toward it. If you casually do an exercise or two every once in awhile, you aren’t going to get there!