Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dead Bugs for Abs

The Core Training for Smart Folks article found in the Good Reads section lists one of my few staple abdominal exercises: the dead bug. It's great for getting the pelvis tilted backwards [posterior pelvic tilt] for those with poor posture [anterior pelvic tilt] and creates stronger abs.

The article lists a set of progressions from beginner to advanced strength levels but I've found it to be a rather large difficulty jump in certain variations or outright awkward. I've played around with reps, sets, tempo, and ankle weights which has proven to help. However after extended use it can become a stale exercise.

Fortunately Sarah Rippel has created a video demonstrating other variations and progressions of the dead bug exercise. (More details and images can be found here.)

Single-leg lowering is much easier than double-leg
whether it's bent legs, marching, or straight legs.

One last piece of advice I'd like to offer is use a preceding exercise earlier in your session to groove the body for hard posterior tilting of the pelvis. The lockout in deadlifts is a perfect example. There's a big shift in the entire pelvic girdle when the hip flexors are extended and the glutes are contracted at the end of a repetition (think about "humping" the bar).

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Pull

Clockwise from top-left: Ilin Ilya, Lu Xiaojun,
(Click to enlarge)

The first pull in the snatch or clean is from the floor to the knee. Adequate strength and proper execution help ensure a better overall pull. The most common, and obvious, problem to observe is a lack of strength but there are also finer points to this portion of the lift.
1) Apply foot pressure against the floor from the midfoot area and balls of the feet.
  • Driving through the heels will force the bar to go around your shins and knees.
2a) Let the bar come off the floor by simply straightening your knees with a slight backward movement.
  • The result will cause the knees to move out of the way and allow the bar to stay close to the body as it passes the knees and begins to travel up the thighs.
2b) As your knees extend push them away from each other and really shove them outwards to the sides.
This cue can be hard to observe depending on an individual's lifting style - it's exaggerated by some, not so much by others (as illustrated in the above image). Feet externally rotated and wider feet placement allows for the knees to move apart further whereas toes pointed straight ahead and/or a narrow stance make it a subtle and less observable action.
  • This helps the knees move out of the way more and keeps the hips low until the second pull.
  • Placing a short resistance band around the knees, hip opening drills/stretches, and clams, can help promote and reinforce this cue during pulls.
4) The angle of the back stays same throughout by having a tight arch.
  • The back doesn't come into play until after the bar clears the knees. Early use of it will cause the bar to bang into the shins.
  • If back strength is the limiting factor supplement with snatch/clean pulls from the floor to knee and strict barbell rows from the floor to the navel. Any rep range of your own choosing can do the trick.
  • If technique is the problem supplement with light to moderately heavy snatch/clean pulls from the floor in a low rep range (1-3).
The first pull involves strength, coordination, and technical skill. Pull right from the start off the floor and you conserve energy and effort in the later moments of the lift.

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