The shelter in place order has changed the landscape of the world forever… By world I mean my house and by landscape I mean my living room that has been recently filled with fitness equipment. I’ve had to adapt accordingly since we’re no longer allowed to venture to the gym but we all still want to remain functionally fit. If you’re stuck at home there are three exercises that you need to be a part of your functional fitness routine.
Now you may be asking “what is a functional fitness routine and why is that different from a regular fitness routine?” Well just like Dr. Strange I saw the future where you asked this question and I have the answer. A fitness routine can be described as generic; it gets you in the gym, keeps you active, but there is no deep “why” behind the “what.” A functional fitness routine has the ability to restore or progress function so you remain functionally fit. Functionality is an integral part of being a healthy human. So if you haven’t yet already, get on a functional fitness routine.
These three exercises will ensure you don’t back track as far as strength gains and will help you remain functionally fit. In fact once you regain access to your gym / old stomping ground, performing these movements weighted will go a long way with regards to gains.
1. The Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian Split Squat is truly a favorite of mine. It allows you to target the legs unilaterally like a lunge pattern but you can travel through a bigger range of motion (ROM). That bigger ROM equates to more strength and bootylicious aesthetic gains over time. I mean, who doesn’t want to be bootylicious?
A lot of people have movement dysfunction and suffer from low back pain. The Bulgarian Split Squat helps correct some of this function by not letting you favor a side, like you would in a bilateral movement such as a squat. Also, by having your back leg elevated it takes stress off of the lower back and simultaneously provides a nice hip stretch.
There are two common ways this movement is performed. The first is with a hinge at the torso allowing for the individual performing the movement to recruit more posterior chain (think deadlift). The slight hinge will also help people keep their core engaged easier. The Bulgarian can also be performed with the torso completely upright. However, this is a much more difficult variation. Being completely upright will cause a larger stretch on the hip that isn’t performing the movement and may accidentally cause you to throw into your lower back if you’re not careful.
2. The Turkish Get-up
This exercise can be classified as an all in one movement. It challenges both strength and stability. In addition, it integrates elements like core rotation and spinal flexion (extremely important for health and performance). If you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life to keep overall functional health, this would be it. The Turkish Get-up is also unique in that it can be broken up into steps/phases.These steps can also be used as regressions of the movement when you’re just learning. As with most movements, it's important to master one phase before moving on to another.
A lot of people have qualms with the Turksih Get-up because of the lack of versatility or variation with the movement. Off the top of my head I can name about five squat variations: back, front, goblet, zercher, and steinborn (told you I could do it!). All the aforementioned squats change the way the movement is loaded, the stance used, and the desired outcome. The Turkish Get-up doesn’t have versatility in that sense. However, there is an array of tools that can be used to supply different loads which would elicit different adaptations.
When performing the Turkish Get-up I’ve used SandBells, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, & more. This movement can also be performed unweighted and still be challenging. Next time you’re wanting to focus on balance and stability, try performing the Turkish Get-up with a shoe balanced on top of your closed fist. Though the movement isn’t load bearing, the level of focus and stability required to complete the movement makes it pretty challenging. I suggest experimenting with loaded and unloaded variations.
3. Full Shoulder ROM Push-up
Now when reading this you may initially be thinking “I do push-ups all the time and they’re easy, why would this be essential?” Well that's because you skipped over the Full Shoulder ROM part. When most people focus on the push-up they focus on getting their nose or chest against the ground as one end range, and arms fully extended as the other. Well those individuals are actually missing out on some major shoulder gains.
The scapula (scap) is bone that sits on top of the rib cage and supplies stability to the shoulder joint, by itself the shoulder isn’t a very stable thing. The scap can move in four different ways. It can be depressed, retracted, elevated, and protracted. Being able to control the scap in all those ranges is essential for a healthy shoulder. Normally when most people do a push-up they may depress and retract their scaps, meaning that they’re missing two other ranges of motion.
To perform a full shoulder ROM Push-up you have to add a little extra scapular motion in the middle and at the end of the movement. After fully descending to the ground (chest should be touching) attempt to lift the hands off the ground with a hand release push-up. Doing so will force the scaps into a depressed and retracted position causing your back to engage. Hold this for three seconds then push against the ground to come up. When you get to the apex of the push-up keep pushing until the spine rounds and you feel your lats flare. It is here that you’ll work scapular protraction and elevation.
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