Hip Conditioning Help – Quarter Squat with Band

This is a great exercise for anyone needing glute activation, hip stability, or core stability: It’s a functional exercise that hits all three – very high bang for buck! This is thanks to the limited knee movement and high hip range of motion. You can control the level of resistance by using a heavier or lighter band. Unlike many other exercises, this has a relatively limited depth through it’s effective range.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand with the band just above the knees, and step back half a step with one foot.
  • Keeping all your body weight on the front foot, sit down and back slightly with the hips – no more than a quarter of your full squat depth.
  • Keep a neutral spine as you squat, allowing your chest to “bow” forward.
  • Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes. Another way to think about this is trying to reach the back wall with your bum.
  • Keep both hips facing forward; don’t let the “back” hip rotate backward.
  • Push through the front heel and squeeze glutes to return to starting position.
  • Push both knees out slightly into the band as you squat and return to standing.

 

Check out the video to see it in action!


Lean middle age man trying to open a jar

What is Functional Training?

The short answer: Functional training is exercise that mimics and prepares you for the movements you make in everyday life.

The longer answer: Will depend on who you talk to! Functional training can have as many definitions as there are trainers.

In exercise science, functional training refers to an exercise or training program that will keep you physically capable of meeting the demands of daily life. Programs are designed around your day to day activities and include exercises that develop strength, endurance, and mobility in the same movement patterns that your daily activities use. As an exercise physiologist, I see functional training programs as those meeting your physical needs, whatever they are, which of course leaves a lot of room for variation. For instance, the program for an avid runner might include specific exercises to increase running speed, or to help the body better absorb impact. A program for a stay-at-home parent with young kids might be focused on maintaining good hip mobility to help with getting down and up off the floor, and on building upper back strength and core strength to help balance out the changes in posture that happen when you carry kids around. In other words, true functional training is really specific to YOU.

How does this mesh with functional training programs provided by different gyms and personal trainers?

Functional has been a fitness industry buzzword for a while now, but it’s often not clear what you might get in any given functional workout. Early functional training programs were focused on neuromuscular training exercises, generally involving moving with your eyes closed or balancing on a stability ball to challenge balance or reaction times. One might think of this training as developing the finer points of physical coordination and movement.

More recently, Crossfit and other fitness and training companies like F45 have grabbed onto the “functional” term, though these workouts have moved far away from challenging the finer points of movement. I’d argue that this current crop of functional training providers actually provide cross-training, as the workouts are changed on a daily basis with an emphasis on developing a broad base in strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance. These are all elements of fitness that are needed for high quality functional movement and for good health in general.

When I compare them to the movements of daily life though, I find them somewhat lacking – from a true functional perspective. Heavy squats, battle ropes, box jumps, chin-ups, sprints, and other exercises are common components of these workouts. But when in day to day life do you find yourself needing to jump up onto something as high as your knees?

How much do the differences between functional personal training or gym programs and other functional programs really matter?

They might not matter at all. It really depends on how much you feel like you need a specific, individualized exercise plan. Some people will be fine with the generalized, cross-training style “functional” training, namely those who already have a moderate level of fitness and good movement control. True functional training provided by an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer with significant additional training in movement assessment and movement quality is the right choice for you if you:

  • Are starting physical activity or exercise for the first time, or after a long period off
  • Have a history of joint pain or injury
  • Have a long-term health condition, especially if this impacts your movement ability and physical capacity
  • Want to refine your movement technique to prevent injury and maximize progress

You will always be the best judge of what will work best for your lifestyle and your body. If you want to focus on functional training that supports your everyday activities, think about what movements are required, and look for exercises (or professional guidance) that will help you replicate those movements with just a little more intensity.

 

 

HealthFit Coaching provides in-home personal training and exercise physiology in Brisbane. HealthFit Coaches specialize in providing individualised functional training for general fitness and long-term health conditions. Contact HealthFit now for an obligation-free phone call to find out how we can help you be healthy, fit, and happy.


At-Home Exercise: Incline Pushup

Push ups are an excellent way to build upper body strength.

Push ups are also hard, especially if you are doing them correctly.

Incline push ups are the right way to work your way down to the flat-on-the-floor traditional push up. I prefer this incline version to the from-your-knees version. The technique and body alignment is closer to the traditional and will make it easier to progress to the floor (if you so choose).

The key to getting the most out of this exercise is to keep your entire body involved. The main movement is still produced with the muscles of the arms and chest, but holding your body in a straight line means maintaining active muscles all along the back of the body too. Think tight glutes, squeezing the shoulder blades down and together to activate the muscles of your back, and keeping your abdominal muscles braced. All of a sudden, this is a full body exercise!

Incline Push Up
  • Stand on the balls of the feet with hands on a bench, a bar or a wall, just outside shoulder width.
  • Keeping your body in a straight line by tightening your tummy and glutes, and keeping head and neck in line with the spine.
  • Lower yourself towards the bar or wall.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting point.
  • To make it more difficult, move hands to a lower position; to make it easier, move hands higher.
  • Aim to maintain the straight line with the hips and back in neutral (I can’t emphasize this enough). No sagging through the lower back or hiking the hips up.
  • You should feel this: “bracing” through torso/core, slight squeeze in glutes, work in arms and chest.

Incline Pushup

 


At-Home Exercise: Side Planks, Level 2

Ready for the next step? The Level 1 Side Plank is a great intro to this exercise, and though the positioning isn’t all that different, the effect sure can be!

It’s important to note that if you aim for this version before you’re ready, you can do more harm than good. The stabilizer muscles that work to support the spine and pelvis can fatigue easily and be overloaded if you try for too much work, too soon.  If this is happening, you’ll usually feel this as an aching or burning in areas like your lower back rather than through the “core” muscles that should be working. (It’s also helpful to note that many, many, many people will feel this exercise in the bottom shoulder more than anything. Our arms and shoulders are not used to supporting our body weight and they’ll be working triple overtime and complaining about it. No need to panic, this is normal and those muscles will be fine.) Pick the right level to start with. You’ll get strong and progress soon!

Remember from the post about Level 1 Side Planks that doing these correctly will result in better activation and strength in the muscles that provide support for your spine and pelvis. This is good: Stable equals pain-free and decreases risk of injuries, as well as allowing more efficient movement.

 

To really maximize the benefit of this exercise, it’s important to maintain the straight lines that you start with. That means that shoulders need to stay stacked (one directly above the other), as do hips. The hips also need to stay straight, so keep squeezing your glutes! Keeping your pelvic floor activated will also make a huge difference in the strength and activation. (Not sure what that means? Think about the last time you had to pee and had to hold it. That’s the same squeeze you want.)

Side (Lateral) Plank, Level 2
  • Start by laying on your side with your shoulders and hips stacked (one of top of the other) and elbow under shoulder
  • Legs are aligned straight down from torso – if you look straight down your body, everything should be in line
  • Brace through tummy and gently squeeze pelvic floor and glutes
  • Lift hips off the ground, pushing through your bottom foot and elbow
  • Keep top hand on hip, or reaching straight up in the air (this will help keep you aligned)
  • When at the “top” keep squeezing glutes to maintain straight line
  • Keep head and neck in line with spine
  • Hold for 10-12 seconds, then relax back to ground
  • You should feel: work/bracing through the core and glutes, and through the bottom shoulder

side plank core exercise


At-Home Exercise: Side Planks, Level 1

Do these. Love these. Your body will love you right back.

Doing side planks (correctly) will result in better activation and better strength in the muscles that provide stability for your spine and pelvis. This makes everything else work better, since with poor spinal and pelvic alignment we open ourselves up for a whole host of problems ranging from discomfort to major spinal disc issues.

To really maximize the benefit of this exercise, it’s important to maintain the straight lines that you start with. That means that shoulders need to stay stacked (one directly above the other), as do hips. The hips also need to stay straight, so keep squeezing your glutes! Keeping your pelvic floor activated will also make a huge difference in the strength and activation. (Not sure what that means? Think about the last time you had to pee and were not close to the bathroom. That’s the same squeeze you want.)

Level 1 is the easiest version of the side plank, though still challenging, both for the muscles of the hips and torso, and the shoulder on the “down” arm. It’s not uncommon to feel it there the most: Your arms aren’t used to holding up your body weight and will likely complain about it.

Side (Lateral) Plank, Level 1
  • Start by laying on your side with your shoulders and hips stacked (one of top of the other) and elbow under shoulder
  • Legs are aligned straight down from torso – if you look straight down your body, everything should be in line
  • Tuck the bottom foot behind the body so the knee is at a 90 degree angle (bottom knee should not move forward)
  • Brace through tummy and gently squeeze pelvic floor and glutes
  • Lift hips off the ground by pushing through your bottom knee and elbow
  • Keep top hand on hip, or reaching straight up in the air (this will help keep you aligned)
  • When at the “top” keep squeezing glutes to maintain straight line
  • Keep head and neck in line with spine
  • Hold for 10-12 seconds, then relax back to ground
  • You should feel: work/bracing through the core and glutes, and through the bottom shoulder

side-plank-level-1