When you’re one-on-one with someone, you have more time than you know what to do with. You can test-retest, make up stuff on the fly, and think up new cues that you can use with later clients.
When you have 30 people in a big group, you aren’t doing any of that. sure, you can make up some new cues or whatever, but can’t really see it through like you can when your one-on-one. Do you know if it worked? Too late. It’s time to coach the next person.
Large group training has its difficulties, but it’s also a really efficient way to train certain types of people. If you have people who are out of shape and not in pain, get them in shape in a group. You build camaraderie, forming team through shared suffering. and even if they’re already fit, a group workout is a great way to keep pushing everyone together. Community is one of the best ways to build fitness inertia.
But, if you’ve coached for any length of time, you know that not everyone fits into these simple buckets. I can count on one hand the number of clients I have who don’t have some sort of chronic pain issue that they’re dealing with. I don’t usually recommend that they join these groups, even though and they’re free to take over here at Google and they have some very competent coaches.
There’s no bigger insight into someone’s behavior than the head and neck. But what drives the head and neck?
If you want to be a great movement coach, you need high empathy and knowledge of anatomy. What is someone feeling and how does that feeling affect the structures of the body?
I’m not even talking about empathy in the obvious sense of human interaction. Will it help you seem like less of a robot? Sure. Will more people like you? Probably. But the hidden power of empathy for coaches is in decision making.
Imagine the basketball coach who keeps telling a kid to stay low out of a cut. The coach repeats the same words — over and over — throughout the season, but the kid does not respond.
Most coaches would say this kid is unathletic, unteachable, or disobedient.
But what if that kid cannot physically move his body that way? Maybe he just eats too much food before practice and pops straight up out of a cut because his hip is impinging in the bottom. I say this with 100% certainty of possibility.
If this coach wants to improve, he should know basic nutrition, biomechanics of the hip joint, and the anatomy of the thorax and abdomen. And, perhaps most importantly, he cannot assume anything.
This example and the hip joint is a starting point, but what about the head and neck? It’s the same, just in a different part of the body. I make better coaching decisions now that I’m paying attention to my clients’ head positions.
If someone has a rib cage that’s riding up, I’ll look to see what’s happening at the pelvis.
If someone has a slight head tilt when moving their arms, I’ll look to see what I can change at their thorax.
If someone is constantly looking down, I’ll challenge them to look straight ahead.
If someone is popping up out of a cut, I’ll look to see if their head and neck can bend.
The complexity of the joints in the head an neck make this undertaking difficult, but the sternocleidomastoid is the best place to start. This is the single muscle with the greatest ability to affect the head and neck because it’s relatively thick and has huge moment arms. It is, therefore, a strong mover in all three anatomical planes of motion.
As if the physics wasn’t enough, remember that the brain is always preoccupied with what the head is doing. Don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of what’s on the agenda for today:
Movements produced by the SCM
Movements kind of produced by the SCM
The thorax during respiration
Forward head posture
Snapchat after workouts
My flourishing artistic abilities
Relative motion of joints
Basic angular physics
How the head can move the feet
…and a bunch of examples
I’m here to help you dissect this topic piece by piece. I’ve included references for those who want to dive deeper. Each section of this post is meant to lead into the next one, but I’ve supplemented the writing with many pictures in hopes to make this article clearer and more engaging. If you want, you could get away with skipping around.
I wanted to share an exercise that I’ve been using as part of my warm up for a while now. I love this thing. I call it Pistol Squat Walking.
Pistol– like the one leg squat.
Squat– it’s a full squat.
Walking– it alternates side-to-side, just like walking does.
This is a great exercise to use in your warm up. The weight shift from side-to-side teaches you to open up the back of your hips and being in the full squat position helps shut off your back.
1) Exhale, then round your back and reach forward.
2) Squat down, still reaching forward.
3) Straighten left leg off ground and reach forward with right hand.
4) Take a breath in the nose and out the mouth.
5) Switch and repeat.
6) Hold your hips underneath you as you stand up.
I usually do about five reps each side before I stand up.
There are two reasons I love this exercise so much:
It works the hip through full flexion range of motion without loading and moving too much. This saves my old person hips.
Walking is so important to humans. Being able to control side-to-side movement reinforces our ability to walk.
Now, I know the latter sounds weird. “I walk all the time,” you say, puzzled.
It’s important to understand that as humans, we’re built asymmetrically and tend to retreat to our right side. You might even say that some people have trouble getting off of that right side; they’re stuck over there. So sometimes, even though you’re moving, one side doesn’t look nearly the same as the other.
What this exercise does is it gives you an opportunity to make the right side and the left side look at little more similar. So when I’m squatting on my right foot, I need to find my right inside foot arch, then push my knee out. Otherwise, I fall too much to the right. Conversely, when I’m squatting on my left foot, I need to feel my left heel in the floor or else I get pushed back over to the right.
Experiment with it and let me know what you think!
P.S. Who is this NOT for? People who can’t get down there. I want you to maintain pressure on your heel at all times. If you’re forcing it, it’s not for you. Thanks for playing, try again later.