Where I Went Wrong

Where I Went Wrong

Tom Morrison

 

The non-negotiables from the “Where I Went Wrong” ebook 😄 Take these in and implement them and you will run into a lot less problems in training, and life:

 

1. Move your neck every which way every day!

Look left, look right, look up, look down, look side to side and every variation in between. People do not move their necks enough and this leads to trap tightness, weakness in the arms and just generally your head becoming fused to your upper body. If you start to lose the ability to physically LOOK ABOUT, your body will start to move slower and less confidently. Trapped nerves and all that jazz can happen just because you aren’t moving your neck regularly enough – and don’t start thinking it’s your pillows fault or the way that you sleep, you can sleep upside down and sideways if you want provided when you are awake you are feeding your body with good movements regularly, ever pulled your neck from just turning to the side? You’re not just unlucky (or getting old) you potentially just haven’t been moving your neck enough for YEARS and it feels weak and immobile and it’s scared Incase your head falls off, you need to earn the right to be able to make a sharp turn with your noggin, and it comes with regular practice.

 

2. Do something for your upper back every day!

If you make a habit out of opening up your thoracic spine daily, a lot of potential shoulder issues like impingement and having “bad posture” just float away. Through improving your thoracic extension your shoulder blades will be able to move better, your ribs will move better, you will breathe better, you will feel less stiff and the options you will have for upper body training open up a lot more. A lot of people get caught up with wanting to have perfect posture but it’s a flawed venture, you’ll have to be sitting in certain ways or sleeping etc and outside of that you should be moving, never static so provided you are improving your extension to the other extreme of having a rounded upper back, you will happily meet in the middle and offset all of that constant sitting or slouching – there is NOTHING wrong with those things provided you have balance. The secret to better thoracic extension is to use thoracic rotation, lock your hips in place and focus on rotating your upper back as far as you can one way then take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, rotate further until you feel the stretch intensify, 3 breaths is good then repeat on the other side – the zenith rotation is a good way to learn this but you can effectively do it anywhere, even just sitting in a chair, it’s the principle that’s important not a specific exercise.

 

3. Understand what core strength is!

It is very important to start looking at core work as more inclusive of protecting your spine and moving well rather than just sit ups for rock hard abs. Core strength needs to fall into your awareness of how to brace correctly for lifting anything, how to create intra abdominal pressure – you don’t need to deadlift but you should know how to do it, being able to lift from your hips without compromising your spine is an incredibly valuable skill. Also the movements that your spine can do, there are discs between each vertebrae which gives your spine the ability to twist and bend like a whip made of chains (pretty cool right?) you should bend yourself laterally, forwards, backwards and all little combinations in between, don’t over think it though, yes pick some exercises that do those things and train them but never underestimate the power of just dancing about like a kid that’s had too many sweets for a few minutes – NEVER be afraid to move your spine.

 

You also want to have a base level of knowing how to resist being pulled out of a position by an external force, be it with partner exercises or using a resistance band to try pulling you in different directions, you want to have the ability to create and maintain tension in any position you can move yourself into, this concept travels into total body also, it’s no use being able to move in a certain way if you have no ability to have some kind of tension there to be strong, that’s how you can get easily hurt.

 

Lastly core strength also falls into your proprioception, your hand eye coordination and agility and balance all take part in creating a stronger body that moves better, if your body is extremely confident in your ability to not fall over, it has less reason to slow you down – relaxed play like catching a ball with a partner while balancing on one leg may seem silly but it’s exactly this relaxed unorganised unscripted chaos that causes your body to learn how to react faster, create the stimulus for your body to have to learn and think for itself instantaneously and it will give you all kinds of good things in return.

 

There are 4 principles I break core strength down in to, isometric, rotational/moving, anti rotational/moving and reactive – have a healthy balance of all 4 and your core training will be complete, where most go wrong is that they put an unholy amount of attention into planks, which is only one element, you need all 4 for a complete training effect.

 

Move your spine like a spine and it won’t turn into an immobile stick on you.

 

4. Do something that requires you to balance every day

Almost a crossover at this point which is nice as working on your balance will carry over to your reactive core strength but also your ankle, knee and hip stability. Prolonged periods of balance is incredibly beneficial for your body and basically how you create stability, with small micro movements you have to correct constantly and using fatigue to get an adaptation for your body giving it more endurance and strength to be able to endure harder forms of training. If you find balance challenging then you are never going to feel as loose or as “springy” as you could. There are many levels to this, for some it starts with being able to maintain balance one leg at a time for even just 10 seconds but eventually you want to find standing on one leg so easy that you could do it all day. Once you have reached a level that you find balance “easy” then it is up to you to find drills to make it harder again so that your body still makes gains, sprinting drills, closed eyes balance, limiting how much foot you are balancing on, wobble boards, whatever takes your fancy, just don’t get complacent when it comes to this skill, if you’re not finding what you are doing hard anymore then you are getting nothing from it, this is where I see a lot of mid level athletes get stuck as they assume because they are ok at a few things that they’re just unlucky with the aches and pains and stiffness they are getting but what actually has happened is that they have taken other skills to higher levels as they can see numbers or times change but they have forgotten to bring a fundamental skill with them. Balance should poke its head in every day and you should want to have movements you have in your training programs that require you to have to balance.

 

5. Rotate your rotatable joints, and rotate them often

It’s really really really strange that this needs pointed out so much. When it comes to shoulders and hips they have the capacity for so many different combinations of movements and yet people when they start to get corrective exercises they do the most LIMITED ranges of motion that borderline on the pointless. When you start to rotate your shoulders and hips more often you feed the joint what it wants, therefore giving you better stability and even muscle activation because it feels less like there is gaps and like it doesn’t know what to do in certain positions – when a joint confidently knows it can go up, down, left, right and sideways without hurting or catching or nipping then it performs a hell of a lot better than the external rotator exercise king.

 

Here’s my technical term for the best shoulder and hip movements:
I have seen myself replace multiple exercises in peoples programs for just 2 or 3 drills and they have felt better in a matter of weeks compared to YEARS of fancy over complicated warm ups and protocols. There is a place for certain exercises when you are talking about a fresh injury but at a stage it really comes down to just move your joints like joints.

 

You don’t need to be the international internal rotation champion either… provided you can do internal and external rotation to some degree and they feel relatively similar on the left and right sides of your body you’ll be alright, you can get caught up trying to create perfect joints with perfect ranges of motion and still get hurt and in some cases, you belief that you have these certain “weaknesses” that need improved on can REALLY hinder your strength. Make an improvement gradually over time as you would with anything but never think you are broken when you might be fine, only if you have a major difference between a left and right joint or moving a certain way then you would really want to take some extra effort in addressing it and potentially avoid heavier more strenuous exercises temporarily. If you are not already doing rotational movements in your warm ups and cool downs then you are missing out! You don’t know what recovery is until you add this to your life.

 

6. Look after the little guys

Feet, ankles, hands and wrists are the cause of so many whoopsies for people that it only makes sense to add some extra durability to them. Sure it may not be cool or sexy to be the person doing toe exercises and ankle rotations but you know what else isn’t cool? A sprained wrist or ankle, or plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. Your feet are the things that hold you up all day, if you devote time to making them stronger (and again through balance, multiple crossovers again! Woohoo!) then a lot of good stuff comes of it upstream! If you have weak feet then everything else has the opportunity to collapse on you. Move your ankles in all the ways it can move and even put a little pressure on them in unfavourable angles as you don’t want the first time you ever go over on your ankle to be… the first time you have ever gone over on your ankle with your entire body weight – having practiced “bad positions” a little you can potentially give yourself a bit of wiggle room that could mean the difference between a little sprain or a full blown snap. You’ll never be fully injury proof but you can give yourself a nice buffer by doing the right things often enough.

 

When it comes to the wrists at the start you just want to increase how much load you can tolerate gradually but eventually your need to do wrist specific drills can become unnecessary if you choose to do things like handstands and muscle ups, your actually training will be enough to give you better durability, trying to do it the other way around though could find you really aggravating your wrists so keep that in mind, yes do the mobility drills but eventually question yourself if they have become redundant due to the things you are now practicing. Too many times I have seen incredibly strong people being held back by their wrists, make sure to move them through flexion and extension and also radial and ulnar deviation and it also appears that ankles and wrists ROTATE!! So you know what that means… *see point 5*

 

Your grip is also an important thing to have a multiple position focus with, strong grip, strong person that’s just the way it works. Carry heavy things, make sure you can hold your own bodyweight for a relative amount of time, you don’t need to be so strong that you could crush someone’s skull with your bare hands but it’s pretty cool to think that you could if you had too…

 

7. Breathe

Take breathing more seriously, and I don’t mean just for your general oxygen. Actual breath technique for relaxing your body when you are stretching or even in pain. Learning how to breathe for your lifts for reps or maxes or even for cardio can be a refinement process that could see you make better progress than if you never bring any attention to it. When you are trying to improve a range of motion specifically with your body, if you are grinding your teeth and holding your breath your body is going to sense you are being resistant and resist further, relaxing your breath goes a long way to making your body feel safe and relaxing allowing you more range – a large part of your inflexibility comes from your body perceiving something as dangerous, and it should be hesitant to protect you if you have never done something before, but provided you’re doing it the right way, using your breath in your mobility work will double your gains in a much shorter time.

 

Someone that is under a lot of pressure, nervous or even paranoid about their weight and physical appearance can develop a habit of chest breathing all of the time and this can become very problematic, not only with how the person feels but also tightness in and around the neck and shoulders, a lot of people need to learn how to chill out more.

 

In my worst back injury days the only way I would have been able to get myself to be able to move during a bad spasm would have been a full 5 or 10 minutes of just diaphragmatic breathing, taking away the panic state was something I was able to improve on and decrease my reliance on painkillers. With there being many other benefits to reducing mental stress also, strengthening your relationship with how you breathe is very worth doing and one of the first things you want to check with yourself for most things – are you still breathing? Yes? Always a good thing!

 

8. Sit in to the deepest positions you can every day

It doesn’t need to be a mad intense life changing stretching session but just sitting as deep into your squat as you can daily, reaching up above your head as high as you can and touching your toes daily can be enough for you to start making an improvement on those things, maintaining those things or even catching them regressing for whatever reason, be it through training or inactivity, if you start to actively LOSE a way you move you want to reclaim it as fast as possible.

 

You’re not always on a mad race of becoming immobile so don’t freak out but the term “use it or lose it” is very applicable when you start to talk about perhaps not moving a certain way for a few years, and it can happen easier than you think, I meet people all the time that have no interest in overhead pressing or handstands or pull ups and their shoulders are in bits for it as they simply never have a reason to reach fully above their head into full shoulder flexion. When you don’t regularly sit as deep into your hips as you can with squats or lunges then your lower back will start to create more movement in order to help you pick things up or do day to day things, when muscles aren’t being elongated to their normal ranges (before advanced flexibility training) they get really crabby and basically just start grouping together making it harder for you to move and also giving you pain points in highly sensitive areas like the Piriformis muscle for example, it gets a tonne of flack from everyone because it is usually a site of pain, but until you can honestly tell me that you regularly move your hips through full extension, flexion, rotate them internally and externally and laterally and also challenge your adduction and abduction with core activation regularly then you don’t need a piriformis exercise, you need better complete hip mobility, and again, for multiple years I have used this approach and achieved greater results than a lot of other methods just because I made the entire joint better and again… how is your balance?? If you have stability and don’t ever train it, how do you expect any joint to move well or allow more range of motion.

 

The key thing with your “deepest ranges” is that it does not need to be fancy at all, you can hold on to a door frame and sit into your squat then put your hands up on the wall and lean your chest forward then touch your toes – done. The main thing is that you do it daily, that way you are going to be way more body aware and KNOW the second something starts to feel in the slightest way funky.

 

Your mobility does not need to be a training session and you don’t need to sweat, in fact those things are often barriers to people for doing stuff regularly, you don’t want to get all sweaty potentially if you only have a few minutes before you have to get ready for work and go out the door, but having a few things that feel great that you can do half asleep that set you up for the rest of the day? That’s something you can be consistent with and THATS the thing you need, it’s the thing everyone needs, you don’t need to be going 100% and sore in order to have made a difference to yourself physically.

 

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