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How to Make Four Great Exercises Even Better

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In some cases, any movement is better than none. In most cases, however, combining imbalanced and misaligned movement with resistance eventually leads to discomfort and injury. As a health and exercise professional, you can help your clients avoid this pitfall by knowing how to cue both inner-body awareness and outer movement when guiding your clients or participants through a workout.

The plank, row, deadlift and squat are four of the most popular and effective exercises. Here, several top health and exercise professionals offer tips and suggestions for ensuring your clients achieve the most benefit while reducing their risk of injury:

Plank

Having a strong core is essential for every movement performed in sports and exercise, which is why planks are a part of many fitness programs. Assessing and progressing properly into planks is crucial to preventing injury and musculoskeletal imbalance.

“The majority of the population experiences musculoskeletal imbalances that can affect the position and condition of the skeletal structures involved in performing the plank (i.e., hips, pelvis, rib cage, shoulder girdle and spine) and the function of the muscles that control these areas during this particular exercise,” explains Justin Price, creator of The BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist Certification program. “As such, recommending clients perform a plank without first conducting a complete musculoskeletal assessment to identify their areas of weakness and dysfunction will likely set them up for pain, injury and further dysfunction.”

One way to screen someone before doing modified or regular planks is to test transverse abdominis (TVA) activation. Even though we only have seven abdominal muscles (compared to 21 hip muscles and 11 spine muscles), the stronger muscles tend to overpower the weaker ones.

To assess TVA contraction, instruct your client to curl the fingers into the medial part of the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). Exhale completely while drawing the navel toward the spine. As soon as the TVA can be felt tightening under the fingers, stop contracting, as any extra effort will cause the obliques to contract and potentially override the TVA. Next, attempt to contract the TVA without exhaling, while still monitoring the ASIS, and then assess if it is contracting when doing basic supine core work, like knee marches.

Performing this assessment and progressing slowly into planks can help ensure maximum benefit and minimum risk. It may take longer to get to planks, but creating a solid foundation is worth the extra

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