July 12, 2013


Speed skater and Cossack squat combination

I uploaded a 13′ segment (so, a live-like-you-are-there, unedited segment) from a recent Monkey Gym 24-hour workshop run over four days; and I will get to a broader description in a moment, but in the meantime, you may watch the video HERE. For some reason I forgot to load it to Facebook (head slap).

I am certain that the combination of these two squatting movements is simply the most important combination of glute activation, and active mobility exercises for the hips and legs on the planet today, and active balance: this is a massive call I know, but I am in a position to offer some commentary in support of this, and I will be writing on side splits, in particular, in a forthcoming segment. Perfect execution of both of these movements (and especially if combined; do the SS first for time, then do Cossack squats to follow) will align your feet and activate the muscles of the arch and the posterior compartment in the lower leg more than any other activity that I have tried so far, apart from the single leg squat. For many though, the single leg squat is still a bridge too far and I can only do a single repetition on a good day—this tells me that I need to spend more time on the two exercises taught in the video above.

And I heard from Olivia while we were working out yesterday that Cherie Seeto has come up with a very nice two leg version for beginners, or people who are simply not strong enough or haven’t got good enough balance to work on one leg yet. I am going to video this today because when I saw it, it reminded me immediately of something I learned on a Steve Maxwell workshop recently that I want to share with you, and that is his approach to learning the hip hinge. And then (and this is no accident either) Anthony Linard, in his kettle bell section on the recent Monkey Gym workshop had a number of drills that stressed exactly the same movement.

I was practising this yesterday by standing square on to a bench (making sure that my shins were completely vertical and the front of my shins resting on the edge of the bench, and I was holding a short stick overhead). Now try to bend your legs: as soon as you do you will find that the hips hinge and move directly backwards instead of the knees going forward which is usual when you squat or dead lift. And this is the big part: the only muscles that are actively relaxing and contracting in this movement are the glutes and hamstrings, and the rest of the posterior chain is used to hold the spine straight. This hip hinge is the foundation of the kettle bell swing: when you see this done properly the hips move backwards and the shins stay vertical. It is a beautiful and economical movement and completely different to what the swing looks like when most people do it (it ends up as a partial squat plus partial hinge). If done properly, 100% of the force comes from the glutes and hamstrings only; there is zero quad involvement.

When my brother came round to pick up the projector he needs for his workshops the other day, he made the comment that the second tuck (what he calls the “double tuck”) in the glute–ham raise (sometimes called the glute–ham bridge) was the most important cue of all for this exercise and one that completely change the experience of doing exercise for him. The other cue that he thought was amazingly effective was to slightly try to straighten the legs in the final part of the action (you ‘slide the feet away from you) in order to activate quadriceps and turn off the hamstrings, if you feel the exercise too much there. I did teach this on the Monkey Gym workshop too, so I’m going to find that segment and make a YouTube clip  from it as well some time this week.

Finally, I have designed a push-up that is immensely difficult, and when I first tried it, I could not hold the start position for longer than 5″… you will love this one!

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