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Last Friday I had my arse handed to me on a plate.
I joined in the gym's boxing class, hoping for a fun way to end the week and get a sweat on.
The session usually ends with body sparring, which is just a bit of moving around and throwing shots to the opponent’s body. It’s pretty knackering without any real worries of injury.
Just a giggle.
Until I partnered one chap who suggested we throw in some light head shots.
I had a gum shield in and couldn’t really see how I could say no.
My gloves were up and ready. I watched him like a hawk, ready to spring with my lightning reflexes and cat like guile.
In the meantime he hit me in the face.
How could this be? My gloves were surely protecting me tightly.
Even so he punched me in the face again.
Apparently the position I imagined myself to be in, wasn’t the position I was actually in.
My gloves were low and I basically had a target painted on my face and large neon arrow that said “hit here”.
Luckily I wear glasses that disguise my black eye a little…..but not enough to prevent some long term clients getting to have a laugh at my expense come Monday morning.
Sometimes a bit of physical feedback goes a long way in making us realise that maybe we weren’t doing things as well as we’d previously thought.
This can be very true when it comes to exercise.
You can be doing an exercise for years (literally) and be missing a slight nuance that transforms the entire exercise.
One adjustment can immediately switch an exercise from a run of the mill, thinking about what you’ll have for dinner type of affair, to one that makes your eyes twitch and your head appear as if steam were about to burst through the ears.
And it’s not until you actually feel the change in the exercise that you realise there was anything wrong with your old technique.
As Exhibit A, I present for you the Single Leg Deadlift.
It’s a fantastic exercise for developing hip and ankle stability, hamstrings, glutes and a strong link between hip and opposite shoulder.
When performed well.
It’s a surprisingly technical exercise. The movement looks really simple, but there is so much stability required that many people start following a compensation pattern without even realising it.
There are a few common errors that crop up again and again.
Let’s check out the rear view.
Here you can see a lack of lumbopelvic stability - or in other words the lower back and hips not stabilising very well.
The pelvis tilts towards the side of the working leg, so that the shoulder and hips are running in opposite direction to each other.
The body weight also shifts over the supporting foot rather than staying beneath the hip.
This is all part of the body yelling that it doesn’t feel stable and trying to finds ways to solve this problem.
When it comes to the side view I’ve got to put my hands up and admit that the video probably doesn’t give the clearest demonstration, but the problems are usually again all down to a lack of stability and control.
The body can pivot over the supporting leg, almost like it’s balanced on a fulcrum, rather than getting the feeling of getting “back” into the hip. Finding a position in which the glutes actually feel like they are being loaded.
The upper back will start to round forwards. The movement will often start with the upper body bending forwards, rather than the upper and lower body working in sync with each other.
So what do you do?
Sometimes, the person may just not be ready for this exercise yet and need a general increase in strength and core control.
But often, it’s a case of helping the body to get into the position you’re aiming for. To give the brain and body some context as to what the hell it is you’re trying to achieve.
Enter the Bench Supported Slider Single Leg Deadlift or as I like to think of it, the BSSSLDL.
(Hmmm, perhaps the name needs working on).
How much better does that look?
Where did I pinch it from?
Tony Gentilcore, a strength coach who’s blog I’ve been a big fan of for many years now.
What does it do?
Well it mostly seems to make people pull funny faces and get a little twitch by their eye as their glutes fire and fatigue in a way that may have never done before.
(For once I’m not exaggerating).
It also helps to guide the body into the perfect SLDL position. The brain and body start to get some all important context for the exercise and begin to learn how to own the position.
Using a val slider to extend the leg allows the hips to stay level, if they start rotating the foot will move of the bench.
Hold a light weight or medicine ball (I’ve been using a 2.5kg plate) to reach forward as the hip extends really helps to get the feeling of sitting back into the hip and getting the glutes to fire.
Things often start to click into place as you get to feel where the stress is meant to be and what it’s like to have your body move through that plane of motion.
Keep this in your workouts for a few weeks, then see (and feel) what the difference is when you return to traditional SLDL.
If you don’t have a slider then a towel will do, or even popping your shoes off and letting your socks help you to glide.
Just make sure you give the bench a good wipe after as your fellow gym goers may not fancy lying down in your toe jam.