Tag Archives: yoga tune up

The Ball Fucking Harder Challenge

I am really excited by how the #stretchfuckingharder challenge went last month.  So many people played along and posted pictures.  Even more people told me that they loved the stretches and did them and had their friends and clients doing them too.  Before I lose momentum, I am issuing another challenge: The #ballfuckingharder challenge. For the next 30 days I will be posting a new myofascial release/ball rolling technique each day.

If you want to play along I recommend getting some Yoga Tune Up® balls to roll on.  The large majority of the techniques I’m going to show will utilize the Classic, Alpha and Coregeous ytuballs but I will also show some techniques using other props as well.  The Yoga Tune Up® balls are soft, grippy, pliable and affordable.  Unlike lacrosse and tennis balls, ytuballs are designed for self massage and will greatly increase the effectiveness of the techniques.

The rules for the Ball Fucking Harder Challenge are easy.  All you have to do is post a pic or video of yourself doing the technique and tag me (@coachpanda).  Use the hashtags #ballfuckingharder #30daypandachallenge #supplepandas #pandiculation.  The challenge is even better when you share it with friends so tag your friends to play along.

Day 1 of 30.  The Foot Schmear.  We are on our feet constantly and, if you are an athlete, you are running, jumping, kicking, squatting and generally applying high amounts of force through your feet.  Additionally, wearing shoes all days pretty much laminates your soft tissues into a tight mess.  The Foot Schmear will unglue your feet and make you feel refreshed and relaxed like a good foot massage.  As a bonus it will also improve your flexibility.

Check in/Check out: Bend down and try to touch your toes with straight legs.  Notice how far you get and notice how tight your hamstrings feel.  You should feel looser in your hamstrings and be able to stretch farther after rolling your feet.

The technique:  Place a Classic Yoga Tune Up® ball under the sole of your foot.  Step on it like you want to flatten it and then drag your foot slowly from side to side.  You want to imagine you are schmearing cold cream cheese on a bagel with your foot.  A new ytuball will be a little stiff, but after doing this technique a few times, you will break-in your balls and they will get nice and soft.  Inhale as you press down on the ball and schmear as you exhale.  You want to do this for 2 minutes on each foot and try to get every inch of the sole of your foot.

Day 1 of 30. The Foot Schmear from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Day 21 – Prasarita Padattonasana

This classic straddle stretch is called Prasarita Padattonasana. There are a lot of variations choose the one that allows you to stay in this stretch for about 2 minutes. You can start with the hands on the floor, grab your ankles, and eventually walk your hands through your legs. You can also add some resistance to this by taking a light weight behind your back. I’m using a training bar, but I recommend starting light by sliding a small weight over a pvc pipe. My favorite variation is to wrap a band around a post and grab it between your legs and lean forward. This mimics a stall bar stretch. Try to keep your feet pointing straight ahead and keep your legs straight. Breathe slowly and deeply and try not to tense up your neck and shoulders.

Prasarita Padattonasana from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Here are the rules for the 30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge. Each day do the deep stretch, post it on Instagram and tag some friends to do it with you. Post your stretch with the tags: #stretchfuckingharder #supplepandas #30daypandachallenge Tag me @coachpanda. Come back here to my website or vimeo channel to see more details on each stretch and modifications and scaling options. Try to stay in each stretch for at least 2 minutes per stretch per side. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply and start gradually and move deeper over time. Back off if it hurts.

Day 15 – The Dip Stretch

Face it your chest and shoulders are tight and that means you need this stretch.  I call this the Dip Stretch because it puts your shoulder in the same position as a deep dip: shoulder extension, internal rotation and elbow flexion.  I used to do this with straight arms but this bent arm version takes the slack out of your shoulder and delivers a way more intense stretch.

The focus of this stretch is the chest and shoulder that’s on the ground. Don’t get too worked up over the top arm. I’m grabbing my foot to multitask and get a little quad/hip flexor stretch, but don’t feel like you need to do more than just breathe and lean back into the stretch.

Don’t be alarmed by the large kettlebell.  I just use it as a spacer.  If you don’t use a spacer, your arm will naturally pull itself closer to your body and you won’t get the stretch you deserve.  Try to find something to put in there to keep your arm perpendicular to your body.  If it’s super tight you can lower the arm slightly or just not turn as deeply into the stretch.  Also notice I have a rolled up sweatshirt as a pillow.  You’re going to be here for a couple of minutes so get comfortable.

Day 15 of 30. The Dip Stretch. from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Here are the rules for the 30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge. Each day do the deep stretch, post it on Instagram and tag some friends to do it with you. Post your stretch with the tags: #stretchfuckingharder #supplepandas #30daypandachallenge Tag me @coachpanda. Come back here to my website or vimeo channel to see more details on each stretch and modifications and scaling options. Try to stay in each stretch for at least 2 minutes per stretch per side. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply and start gradually and move deeper over time. Back off if it hurts.

Day 13 – Hip Stretch No. 1

This is another twist on a classic yoga pose. Skritheads call this supta padangusthasana. My teacher, Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up, used to refer to this as “Leg Stretch No. 1” and has since renamed it “Hip Stretch No. 1.” Most of you just know that this as your standard supine hamstring stretch. I use two bands and a block which add a lot of cool features to this stretch.

  • The band around the lower leg creates a closed kinetic chain and creates greater proprioception in the hip joint.
  • The band around the lower leg also cues the athlete to keep extending the knee of the lower leg by pushing into the band and helps keep the toes pointing up.
  • The band around the lower leg also wraps over the top of the stretched leg at the hip joint to create a distraction force that both creates more space between the Anterior Superior Illiac Spine and the Femur thus allowing greater flexion and depresses the right Illium which aligns the hips.
  • The band around the foot of the stretched leg lets the athlete deepen the stretch by placing the band in the elbow crease, the athlete can relax their head, neck and hands and stay in the stretch longer without fatigue.
  • The block under the Sacrum puts the athlete in global extension and creates a gentle stretch of the hipflexors.

Leg Stretch No. 1 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Here are the rules for the 30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge. Each day do the deep stretch, post it on Instagram and tag some friends to do it with you. Post your stretch with the tags: #stretchfuckingharder #supplepandas #30daypandachallenge Tag me @coachpanda. Come back here to my website or vimeo channel to see more details on each stretch and modifications and scaling options. Try to stay in each stretch for at least 2 minutes per stretch per side. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply and start gradually and move deeper over time. Back off if it hurts.

Day 11 – Suspended Dolphin

Dolphin pose often shows up in yoga classes as a preparation for forearm stand.  It’s extremely challenging for people that lack shoulder flexion and external rotation, that makes it the perfect pose for CrossFitters.  I found it very difficult for  long time because of the tightness in my shoulders.  Now I enjoy it.  This variation is especially nice because the band traction takes some of the load off your shoulders so you can stretch longer without fatigue.  If you are especially tight and cannot keep your forearms parallel, place a yoga block or abmat between your hands to space them out.  Also try wrap a band around the elbows to keep them from flaring out really wide.  In this variation, you also get the additional benefits of a deep calf stretch and some relief in your lower back.  Give this a try and tell me how you like it.

Here are some key points to focus on:

  • The band is at the top of the thigh pulling you back and up.
  • The feet are hip width
  • Legs are straight
  • The heels should hover slightly off the ground but you should rock back into them slowly to get a stretch
  • The forearms are parallell or as close as you can get to parallel and shoulder width apart.  If you need help, place a spacer between your hands like and abmat and/or tie your elbows together with a band so they can’t go wider than your shoulders.
  • The shoulder blades should feel like they’re wrapping around the side of your rib cage.
  • Relax your neck and breathe slowly and deeply.

Suspended Dolphin Pose. Day 11 of 30. from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Here are the rules for the 30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge. Each day do the deep stretch, post it on Instagram and tag some friends to do it with you. Post your stretch with the tags: #stretchfuckingharder #supplepandas #30daypandachallenge Tag me @coachpanda. Come back here to my website or vimeo channel to see more details on each stretch and modifications and scaling options. Try to stay in each stretch for at least 2 minutes per stretch per side. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply and start gradually and move deeper over time. Back off if it hurts.

30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge.

Stretching. static1.squarespaceWe all know we should do it, yet most of us don’t do it.  Then we all have the excuse, “I’m not flexible enough to go to yoga.”  Bitch please!  Maybe you like to use the “I don’t know how to stretch” excuse.  Perhaps you are just totally defeated and think, “I will never be flexible.”  Cut that shit out!  You’re better than that.

This month I’m doing a 30-day stretching challenge.  It’s as much for me as it is for you. I know how to stretch because I taught yoga for over 10 years but I still find it hard to make myself just sit there and stretch.  I decided I’m going to challenge myself (and all of you) to stretch deeply every day this month.  Flexibility loves company so please join me.

Here’s how it works.  Every day I’ll post a new stretch to my instagram account @coachpanda and I’ll post some videos here at forcedistancetime.com explaining them in further detail.  You can also go right to my vimeo page and watch the videos that will have more instructions.  For the super tight people there will be modifications and for the super supple there will be some challenging variations.

Use cautio162311n and common sense when stretching deep, remember to take your time to watch the video and read the instructions.  Start slow and work yourself deeper into the stretch over time.  Breathe slowly and deeply through the nose. If you are holding your breath, then you’re probably going too far.  Back off until you can breathe deeply and slowly resume.  Spend at least 2 minutes in each stretch on each side.  If you find it was easy, then stay there longer, or go deeper, or try a more challenging variation.  If it hurts or feels “sketchy” or you go numb, then stop.

Since it is a “challenge,” I want to introduce you to some stretch variations that you might not have seen and use some props you might not have used.  It’s going to be an adventure.  Join me!

Here are the rules for the 30-Day Stretch Fucking Harder Challenge.  Each day do the deep stretch, post it on Instagram and tag some friends to do it with you. Post your stretch with the tags: #stretchfuckingharder #supplepandas #30daypandachallenge  Tag me @coachpanda.  Come back here to my website or vimeo channel to see more details on each stretch and modifications and scaling options.   Try to stay in each stretch for at least 2 minutes per stretch per side. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply and start gradually and move deeper over time.  Back off if it hurts.

A Stimulating Review

Electric Stimulation: Should I get a Marc Pro or a Compex?

What is E-Stim? By now you have seen a pic or two on social media of crossfit athletes with little electrode pads hooked up to them getting zapped by a tiny little machine. What is the deal with these things? Is it all hype or do they really work and should you get one?


I am not expert on these matters and I don’t have any strong scientific evidence to base my opinions on. I have been playing with the Marc Pro  and the Compex unit for the last month and will tell you what I found. In my opinion, both machines are excellent and worth the investment but both machines are different and serve different functions. I give several examples below of instances where I have had success with one machine or the other. Depending on your particular needs, figure out which situation sounds most like you and choose from there.

The two most popular machines are the Marc Pro and the Compex. I have had the opportunity to try both of them and here’s what I found.

What’s in the box?

I have had the Mobilitywod edition Marc Pro for over a year and really like it. It comes with the base unit, charger, 5 packs of electrodes, cables, instructions and carrying case. It is the simplest of machines. You connect the electrodes to the cables and plug them into the base unit, attach the electrodes to the areas you want to work and then turn up the knobs to the desired intensity: zero to nine (Oh how I wish it went to 11!). There is nothing else to do. If you like complicated gadgets, then the Marc Pro will disappoint you. If you want something you can set and forget, then this is the unit for you.

I have had a Compex Super Elite on loan for the last month and it comes with the base unit, 4 cables, 4 square pads, 2 rectangular pads, a charger, belt clip, instructions and pad placement guide as well as a carry tote. The tote doesn’t offer any protection and is too small to hold all the accessories. Despite that, the Compex is more compact than the MarcPro, feels more substantial and the pads are thicker, stickier and last longer. Also the pads have convenient snaps that are easier to connect and disconnect. By contrast, the marcpro pads have male to female connectors that are harder to connect and disconnect.

Based on craftsmanship the Compex wins. The Compex has more settings than the MarcPro. The settings are set & forget, but the Super Elite model has: potentiation, resistance, endurance, strength, explosive strength, recovery, recovery plus. It’s overwhelming and I couldn’t find a clear explanation of the differences. Each setting varies in time and intensity and the contraction algorithms are all different. Additionally, the Compex has 4 intensity buttons to raise or lower the intensity of each pad.

Based on output strength and the potential for unpleasant surprises, the Compex wins. You can quickly find yourself experiencing profound levels of discomfort as the Compex goes through various algorithms and zaps the heck out of your muscles.

But when it comes to whether or not to buy an E-Stim machine, it’s all about the results. I will share some great results I have had with these devices.

You want to prevent soreness.

I have been finding that if I do a healthy dose of self-myofascial release immediately post workout, I can prevent much of the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) I usually get. That being said, sometimes it is simply hard to squeeze in 30 minutes of rolling on my Yoga Tune Up® balls immediately after working out. Sometimes I find myself on a long train or plane ride post workout and rolling is a challenge. The Marc Pro has been a lifesaver. I can put the pads on and flush the lactic acid from my legs and avoid the DOMS.

For example, I did a workout that involved a LOT of squats (“Bring Sally Up”) with my 6pm class, then I taught 2 more classes and took an hour long train ride. When I got home at 11pm, I placed the electrodes on my quads (per the included placement guide) and then ran it for about an hour. It totally prevented the usual DOMS that comes 48 hours past a brutal squat session. If you have a schedule where you cram workouts in where you get them and don’t always have that optimal time to roll and stretch, then the MarcPro is a great investment.

You have pain and swelling.

Inflammation is part of the bodies natural healing process, and we want to help it along. Ice actually delays the healing process. The bodies lymphatic system is stimulated by movement. Traditional coaches will tell there athletes to keep moving after long, painful efforts. After a long run, a cool down walk assists the lymphatic system in moving the waste products out of the muscles and keeps the oxygenated blood flowing into the area. This is another reason why some self-myofascial massage is also beneficial after a strenuous physical effort. However, there are times when more movement just hurts or the area is painful and tender. This is another instance where the MarcPro excels.

For example, I did a strenuous gymnastic session that involved pull-ups, swinging on the rings and other hanging exercises and my hands hurt really bad. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night with my hands throbbing and feeling swollen. I got out of bed and grabbed the Marc Pro and placed an electrode in the middle of each palm and one further up my arm (as shown in the placement guide). I kept the intensity low and rested. After around thirty minutes my hands felt normal again and I regained fine motor control. I was able to fall back asleep and woke up and my hands felt great.

Healing an injury.

Occasionally you have an injury that requires you to remain immobilized for a period of time. You have to reconcile this with the fact that movement is the best to heal injured tissues. In these instances there are a few things that work well to aid in the healing process. Voodoo Floss compression bands are great for ankle, knee, shoulder and elbow injuries. A tight wrap around a swollen joint will often blunt the pain signal enough to allow the athlete to gently move through a range of motion (passively or actively) and assist the healing process. Some self-massage around the injured area (NOT ON the injured area) will often help increase circulation. As you guessed, some e-stim around the area helps tremendously.

I have an injured collar bone and doing heavy clean and jerks left me bruised and unable to move my shoulder without pain. I placed the pads on the sternoclavicular joint, the pec minor, the levator scapula and the high pec/subscapularis, essentially surrounding my injured collar bone. I set the marcpro to a low intensity and took a nap. The pain and swelling was reduced and I was able to move without pain after a few sessions.

In another example, I made the classic mistake a crossfit coach makes and demoed some moves in class without warming up. All night my pec was killing me. I definitely strained it. I tried to roll and stretch during the next 3 hours in between coaching athletes but to no avail. I went home and attached the Marc Pro to my pec and left it on for 45minutes. The pain was gone before I went to bed. I woke up and I was sore but the pain was gone.


More fun things to try with the MarcPro

I have seen Brian MacKenzie do some interesting work with the Marc Pro (https://youtu.be/jTMDODkTZ8Q) for immediate recovery during interval workouts. Also I have seen him use the MarcPro to increase muscle activation and proprioception. I am curious to try some of his protocols for the Marc Pro in these contexts.

Generally speaking, I am huge fan of the Marc Pro as recovery tool. If you are someone that works out hard and suffers from extreme muscle soreness and pain, then this is a smart investment. That being said, it is not a miracle cure. I have had the best results and the best recovery if I do my rolling and stretching, keep my diet clean, sleep and use the Marc Pro after especially hard sessions. This is not a magic machine that will fix your shitty squat and lower your “Fran” time, but it’s a great investment if you are training hard and looking for a way to improve your recovery game.

compexThe Compex is a different animal altogether and a good compliment to the Marc Pro. It uses varying intensities and speeds and waveforms that are different than the Marc Pro. The Marc Pro pretty much just zaps you at a steady rhythm and you can adjust the intensity but not the speed or any other parameter. The Compex utilizes various algorithms that vary in speed, intensity and duration. For example, you’ll be sitting there all calm and suddenly the machine just zaps your muscle into an isometric contraction that immobilizes you and makes you feel like you’re cramping hard for about 5 seconds. It seems like it is a surprise every time it happens too. For all it’s power the Marc Pro takes advantage of a wavelength and algorithm that allows the muscles to relax and doesn’t leave them feeling fatigued. After a session with the Compex I feel like i just got a tiny workout in the area.

I tried both the ‘recovery’ setting and the ‘recovery plus’ setting, as well as all the other settings, and didn’t have the same result as the marcpro when it comes to preventing soreness. It worked but just not as well as the Marc Pro. So if battling soreness is a priority, I recommend the Marc Pro.

Although I didn’t get as good a result when it comes to soreness, I did get some other great results with the Compex.

Muscle Activation

I have pinched nerves in my neck and as a result my right arm is atrophied and weaker than my left arm. I have been using the Compex in conjuction with corrective exercises to stimulate my right arm and shoulder and have seen an increase in muscular size and strength in my right arm. For a person with similar injuries, I highly recommend getting a Compex to help your injury.

The Compex in concert with corrective exercises is a great tool for getting the right muscles to fire and can be used to enhance the athlete’s proprioception.

Muscle Relaxation

My right lat is always cramping which I assume is due to my pinched nerves and the fact that it has to compensate for my weaker right arm. Using the Compex on my right lat allows my right lat to relax and stop cramping. I have heard similar reports from people that say their backs are tight and sore all the time and they use the Compex to help the muscle release and relax. So if you suffer from cramping or muscles that always feel ‘locked’ or ‘tight’ then again I can recommend getting the Compex.

The Bottom Line

Do you really need one of these expensive machines? Chances are that you do not actually need to get one of these devices. If you are eating right, sleeping enough, doing enough myofascial release, then you are probably fine. If you are a competitive athlete training for an event, sitting/driving/traveling a lot, getting behind on sleep or diet or have some nagging injuries, then an investment in one of these devices is a good idea.

Which one you should you get? The Marc Pro is the clear choice for battling soreness and accelerating the healing process. The Compex is the choice if you need muscle activation and stimulation.

The WOD Doc!

I was so blessed to be on two episodes of the Wod Doc this week. If you aren’t following him on social media or watching his videos, then you are missing out. The Wod Doc, a/k/a Tim, and I go way back to when I did his CrossFit Level 1 seminar back at my old box, CrossFit Virtuosity. Now he’s coaching and putting out videos and changing people’s lives. Spending a few hours with him, I was really moved by how many people came up to him and thanked him for his work. I see him at Regionals and at the Games working on athletes and I know athletes are at home in front of the computer benefitting from his work every day. I have to take this opportunity to thank him as well. I can’t wait to work with him again and to hopefully beat him in a workout one day.

This first video is Panda Stretch which was made famous right here! Since Wod Doc saw it go viral he had to have me talk about it a little and give him a quick demo. Here we see how to bias that full hip flexion first and then pull length into the hamstring by slowly straightening the knees. We also talk a little bit about down regulation and trying to stimulate the para sympathetic nervous system by breathing slowly and deeply and letting the back of the neck relax.

In this next video I introduce you to the Panda Stick. It’s PVC pipe with a rubber super ball taped to the end of it. I showed Tim the “R Cubed” diagnostic: reach, rotate and raise. Lying in child’s pose you reach the arm straight ahead, externally rotate the palm to the sky and then raise the arm off the floor. In the prone position you are biasing a slightly flexed spine, similar to a hollow position, and capturing full knee and hip flexion (hopefully). This allows us to see what your shoulder is truly capable of without compensation from a downstream joint.

We used the R Cubed as our test and re-test and used the Panda Stick for a little scalene release. I show the “Pin, Spin & Mobilize” technique from Yoga Tune Up. It’s a great technique to use on a delicate area like the scalenes which are sensitive to a lot of compressive pressure.

Get Loaded Get Twisted Get Loose

Here is an advanced set of hamstring stretches that you should definitely respect. These are aggressive and awesome, but you should be aware of the contra-indications. Do NOT do this if you suffer from any of the following: herniated discs, hyper-mobility (including double jointedness, “trick” joints, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or a previous history of dislocating joints), low blood pressure, or are pregnant. Seriously, don’t mess with this stuff.

This series of stretches is for those of you that suffer from really tight hamstrings and are generally well-muscled. I wouldn’t recommend it to most people that don’t lift heavy weights regularly. Furthermore, I would NOT do this prior to a workout as static stretching like this can weaken the posterior chain in the short term. Do this when your muscles are warm after a work out.

This is a series of weighted forward bends. In yoga the pose would be called weighted uttanasana. This article will explain how to do it safely and show you some exciting variations that will stretch your hamstrings like never before. Here is what you need: a box or a bench to stand on, a very firm yoga block or one or two large weight plates (I have a 55lb plate in the pictures), and a relatively heavy weight (10-20kg for women and 20-32kg for men).

As a general rule, I would do all of the following exercises unweighted at first to get a feel for them and to make sure the equipment is stable. Once you feel comfortable with the movements, add weight. There is a sweet spot when it comes to how much weight you should use. These are passive stretches and you should be relaxed and breathing slowly and deeply throughout. You should spend a minimum of 30 seconds in each stretch and gradually work your way up to 2 minutes. A weight that feels light at first will feel a lot heavier at the end of 2 minutes. A weight that is too heavy will cause you to be tense and you will not be able to stretch as effectively. I recommend an unloaded barbell or a kettlebell to do these exercises. The barbell is nice because you can load it very gradually. However, the barbell takes up a lot of room and can roll off your box if you try to rest it there. A kettlebell takes up less room and doesn’t roll away when you leave it unguarded. However, you cannot adjust the weight of the kettlebell, so you’ll probably need to have a couple to choose from to find the correct weight.

The first exercise is called a “Jefferson Curl” or a “Weighted Roll Up.” Stand up tall with your feet together. Slowly roll your chin down into your chest, then roll your shoulders forward and start to round over one vertebra at a time until you hands are down by your feet and your head is in looking at your knees. Hold at the bottom for a few seconds and then slowly come up by tucking your tailbone under, stacking your spine up tall starting at the bottom until your shoulders and head come up last. Your hands should slide down and up your legs throughout the performance of this exercise. Most likely you’ve done this in some yoga class somewhere. Now stand on the edge of a box with your whole foot on the box but your toes very close to the edge. Hold the weight in front of you resting on the front of your thighs with your arms long and straight and relaxed. Perform the same exercise letting the weight slide down the front of your legs. Watch out for your toes and let the weight lower past the edge of the box as far as your flexibility will allow. Hold for a few seconds and then roll back up slowly. Perform 5 slow repetitions.

Weighted Uttanasana. Perform a Jefferson Curl but hold the bottom position now. Breathe long, slow, deep breathes. Five deep breaths is a good start. Eventually you want to put a stopwatch on the floor in front of you so you can check in. Gradually work your way up to 2 minutes. Most people cannot straighten their legs all the way. If you find it difficult to straighten the legs, bend your knees deeply, place your belly on your thighs, take a big inhale and as you exhale try to straighten your knees while keeping your belly on your thighs. Do not let the weight swing forward, keep the weight close to the box. It’s okay if it rests against the box (closer is better). Don’t rock your weight forward into the toes, be sure to keep your heels down. Be careful as you stand up, you might experience a head rush. I have my athletes work in pairs and spot each other. Try to do these somewhere that has mats and padded floors and somewhere that you can drop the weight if you suddenly feel lightheaded or off balance.





Weighted Asymmetrical Uttanasana. I learned asymmetrical uttanasana from Jill Miller. It is a great hamstring stretch but it also causes your femur to get pushed deeper into your hip socket (joint approximation) which feels amazing and helps your hips function better. I, of course, decided to take it to the next level and add weight to it because it makes it even more awesome. Place a yoga block (do not use a squishy foam block. Cork or wood only.) or weight plate on your box. The thickness should be between 2 to 4 inches. Place your feet parallel and symmetrically next to each other so both feet are pointed straight ahead and the toes line up with the edge of the box. Perform the Jefferson Curl with weight and hang down. Again breathe slowly and deeply. Initially, you will not want to put weight into the elevated foot, give it time. Slowly breathe and keep trying to shift your weight back and forth until you feel it is even between both feet. Bend and straighten the knees in time with your breath if you need to. The sensation of the forward bend changes entirely when you are asymmetrical. I suddenly feel it deep inside my hip joint and in my lower back (quadratus lumborum). Before switching sides test your squat or your deadlift setup (or both). You’ll notice the ability to squat deeper on the side that was elevated and notice that the elevated side feels much better in the deadlift setup and the hip will be further back. Repeat on the opposite side.



Weighted Asymmetrical Uttanasana with a Twist. Repeat the Asymmetrical Uttanasana now and while you’re in the bottom position let go of the kettlebell with one hand and reach that hand up to the ceiling, while turning your head and following it with your gaze. Hold this position and breathe and try to broaden across the front of your chest. After about a minute switch hands and twist in the opposite direction. One side will feel much more difficult because of the asymmetry. That’s okay. Keep breathing. Switch your feet and repeat the twists.





Take your time and try to accumulate about 5 to 10 minutes of total time playing with these variations. Bigger muscles require more work to stretch so use a little weight and apply pressure over time to make changes in those hamstrings. Consistency with these stretches will pay off.

Special thanks to my models: Samantha Star and Mike Aidala. Follow them on instagram @lithiumkitten @Mike.Aidala

Shoulders Up?

There is a debate that is still raging on about whether to push your shoulders up or pull them down. This is in reference to the overhead position seen in handstands and some weightlifting moves.  Many schools of thought say the shoulder, or more specifically the scapula, should be depressed when overhead because that is more stable. However, gymnastics and weightlifting coaches often cue “push the shoulders up into your ears.”

What is the correct answer? It depends.  I will examine this from several perspectives.

As an initial point of reference, I refer the reader to Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.  Khan was defeated in the end, because he suffered from two-dimension thinking.  Kirk was able to get the jump on Khan by using three-dimensional maneuvers.  In order to understand the shoulder we must think in three-dimensions.

Overhead we seek to create stability.  The body has two basic ways to create stability: active and passive.  Our body defaults to a passive stability all the time: when we lean our hip over when standing in line; when we rest our chin on our chest while texting; or when the arch of our foot collapses and rests on the ground.  A passive stability is where a joint moves into some end range where, because of bone-on-bone restrictions, it can no longer move and is therefore “stable.”  An active stability is created with muscles and bones working together to create position that is strong yet also has movement options.  For example, externally rotating the hips to create stability in the hips that also allows for strong stable hip movement.  See squatting.

The shoulder, much like the hip benefits from active stability through external rotation.  That’s why our rotator cuff is so important: the Teres Minor and Infraspinatus externally rotate the humerus to create stability.  That is not the only mechanism for stability.  The shoulder is a complex system made up of the humerus, scapula and clavicle.  The scapula and clavicle anchor themselves on the axial skeleton (spine and ribs) and, therefore, the core musculature must stabilize the axial skeleton for the scapula and clavicle to be secure and stable.  A weak core leads to a weak shoulder.

A cue is just a cue.  When you hear the cue “shoulders up”, you shouldn’t mistake that for complex anatomical discourse.  It’s merely a direction designed to elicit as certain action from the athlete.  For example, if I cue someone to lift their chest up during a squat, I don’t care about their chest.  I care about their back and that I see it rounding.  Asking the athlete to lift their chest can create a series of events by which they engage their spinal erectors and bring their spine back to neutral or at least stop the flexion fault that is occurring.  It is a very quick shorthand to fix a fault.  Cues can create other faults.  I might cue an athlete to lift their chest and a series of events might unfold where the athlete goes into over extension of the spine and rocks their weight forward onto their toes.  That is a cue misapplied.  it’s not the cue’s fault, it was merely the wrong cue for that athlete.

When I cue “shoulders up” what do I want and what do I not want?  I want my athletes to actively push against gravity.  Always.  I am strength and conditioning coach and overcoming gravity is the means by which people get stronger. In a plank position, I want my athletes to push down on the ground until the scapula protract and their upper back starts to look slightly rounded (kyphotic).  I also want them to externally rotate so that the pits of their elbows face forward.  So I verbally cue “push the ground down.”  I also might give them a tactile cue of putting my hand on their upper back and tell them to push their upper back into my hand.  I would also tell them to screw their hands into the ground to create external rotation.

When the athlete goes into a handstand the same holds true.  I want the athlete to push the ground down.  I want them to externally rotate.  This is optimal.  What we see is that shoulder flexion and external rotation are both necessary components but there is a tension that exists between them, however they are not at odds.  If I cue “shoulders up” it is because I see an athlete that is not pushing down into the ground and is lazy through the shoulders.  However, I do not want to see my athlete push their shoulders so far up that they internally rotate and lose stability.  As is always the case when working with humans, they are fallible and they can misinterpret directions.

What we see can be misinterpreted.  The eye is fallible.  We need to embody these techniques and it is impossible to understand lifting heavy without lifting heavy.  We can get away with a lot of things that seem right in theory but if that theory does not work when applied to maximal loads then the theory was wrong.

Here is what I see: when I drive my shoulder all the way up to my ear, my humerus internal rotates.  When I actively externally rotate, the humerus screws itself back in and the shoulder appears to drop slightly.  When doing this in the mirror, it looks like I am depressing my scapula.  Under load we might end up in essentially in the same place but the muscular action is quite different and important.  Under heavy load the need to tell an athlete to depress is obviated by the fact that A HEAVY FUCKING LOAD IS PUSHING DOWN ON THE ATHLETE!  The athlete’s job is to PUSH AGAINST THE HEAVY LOAD.  This action of pushing is tempered by the act of also having to externally rotate.   Thus the cue would be to “break the bar.”  The best analogy I can give is to that of a screw vs. a nail.  We do not merely hammer our shoulders up into position, we push up and screw in to create stability.  It’s important that we remember that we are working in three dimensions and there is not one simple cue that will fix everything.

Cueing the Overhead Position from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Overhead strength from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.