"Red Light / Green Light" (Blog #67)

For almost the last decade I've had the privilege of training hundreds, maybe thousands of amazing people. The one thing that I know for sure is that if you can't control ever inch of the range of motion in any given exercise, you are at a much greater risk for injury. I see it everyday with my students and rookie clients alike; moving through a movement to get it done and mastering a movement are two completely different things.

Many people (rookies and vets) move with no real control of their bodies. This is a lack of eccentric control: ECCENTRIC PHASE of a movement is when you're in the lengthening phase - For example: In a Push Up, the eccentric phase is on the way down to the floor - In the Pull Up, the eccentric Phase in on the way down away from the bar - In a Squat, the eccentric phase is on the down to the floor - In a Lat Pull Down, the eccentric phase is when the bar is traveling upwardly away from your chest - You get the point!

There are 3 Main Phases of a Lift/Movement:

The Eccentric Phase - When the muscles are lengthening

The Transition Phase - From Eccentric to Concentric

The Concentric Phase - When you contract and shorten the actin and myosin filaments (your muscles)

The best movers have total control during each and every phase. This creates a safe/safer environment for the Joints, Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons. Look at a Squat for example, many people go down fast, bounce into full knee flexion, ballistically slamming off of their tendons and ligaments using no control what so ever. This will 100% lead to knee, hip and low back issues in the future. The same can be said for any movement that you don't have full control of - It's vital that you take a step back, drop the weight and control every inch of your movements.

Here's a great way to accomplish this:

You've probably been lunging for years, but can you Isometrically (tension without movement) Hold a Split Squat position for at least 30 seconds? Good side and Bad? Surprisingly, many cannot! Same can be said for the Push Up, can you go half way down maintaining neutral hips and head, elbows tight, abs, glutes and quads contracting and hold the half way position for 1 Minute? Try it....

I have a little game I like to use to really make people fully grasp how out of control their movements are; I call it "Red Light, Green Light". Yep, just like what we played when we were kids. Basically, I have a client get in the starting position of a movement and have them Eccentrically lower themselves very slowly, and when I say Red Light, they must stop and hold. We repeat that for a couple times each rep and it's amazing how quickly one will clean up their movements.

This simple drill along with Isometric holds will not only make you move better, but they can elicit more strength and power because now your stabilizers are allowing your primary movers to do what they need to do when they need to do it.

Try these at home and see how you do:

Iso Split Squat (knee doesn't touch the ground): 30 Seconds each Leg

Iso Push Up Position (1/2 way down): 1 Minute

Iso Hang (chin over bar / shoulder blades back and down): 1 Minute

Iso Parallel Squat (not too deep / 90 Degrees): 1 Minute

You will feel the burn and feel what good depth and Range of Motion is. After the Iso holds, try a few Red Light, Green Light movements with your self and be strict. You will get stronger and decrease the risk of injury.

Enjoy guys, let me know how it works out for you...

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