Breaking down the T-Spine

Have you ever struggled with shoulder mobility issues…either with yourself, or with some of your clients? If so, the thoracic spine should be the first place to check. When we see limitations within shoulder mobility, one of the first things we need to do is to screen out the T-Spine. This will give us the information to help guide our programming. I’m going to write a different program and choose different exercises based upon my findings, so this additional information can come in to be extremely valuable when you’re developing a program.

 

When I’m looking at the T-Spine, I want to see a few different motions and see what it can and can’t do. I’m going to check to see how well you can flex your T-Spine and go into a flexion pattern. I’m also going to address extension and see how well the T-Spine tolerates extension patterns. Finally, I’m going to see how well the T-Spine rotates. The combination of flexion, extension, and rotation give you a complete snapshot of what’s going on with the spine. The screens I’m going to show you below will help you breakdown the T-spine and dial in your upper body programming.

 

 

In the videos, I talk about the range of motion you should be able to see within the spine. First things first…we need to find out if we’re dealing with a mobility issue, or a stability issue. If we find limitations, we’re going to address either the mobility or stability problem that’s limiting the spine to move well. Review the videos above to find out more about how to identify if it’s a true mobility issue, or if the limitation is coming from a stability or motor control issue. These findings will help guide your programming. Check out the videos below to see how we address both mobility and stability. These are a few of our favorite exercises and drills to help improve the way the T-spine moves:

 

Mobility:

Foam Roll TSpine

Tennis Ball TSpine

Bench TSpine Ext.

Assisted Lumbar Locked Reachbacks

Stability:

Prone T Spine Ext.

What’s That Back There?

Upper Rolling Prone to Supine

Quadruped Reachbacks

Kneeling Rotations

 

Getting the Most out of Your Medicine Balls

Medicine balls are one of my absolute favorite training tools out there. I use them all the time, and I use them with just about everyone. Since the medicine ball is one of our most popular training tools we use in the gym, understanding a thing or two about them comes in handy…especially if you’re training groups or have minimal equipment to choose from.

 

Size Doesn’t Matter

If you’re training for general fitness and not looking for any specific speed adaptations, choosing the ball size is simple…It Doesn’t Really Matter. Using some basic physics equations, you’ll quickly be able to see that we can get the same power output with two different size balls. Let’s look at a quick example:

 

Power = Work / Time

Work = Force x Distance

Power Equation

I’m going to make up a quick scenario to help explain:

John uses a 10lb. medicine ball to do some overhead slams, and Will does the exact same exercise as John…only he’s using a 5lb. ball instead. John and Will are about the same height, weight, and pretty similar in strength. So, if John and Will are using different size medicine balls, are they both able to develop the same amount of power?

The answer is YES!

 

Let’s do the math real quick.

Since we need to know what Work is to determine Power outputs, we’ll start there.

 

John

Force = 10lb. medicine ball

Distance = Let’s say the ball travels 5 feet while doing the exercise

10 x 5 = 50

So…Work = 50

 

Power = Work (50) / Time

Let’s say the medicine ball slam took 1 second to complete

Power = 50 / 1

Power Output = 50

 

Will

Force = 5lb. medicine ball

Distance = 5 feet

5 x 5 = 25

So…Work = 25

 

Power = 25 / Time

Let’s say the medicine ball slam took half the time since the weight is cut in half, so .5 seconds

Power = 25 / .5

Power Output = 50

Even though John and Will are using different size medicine balls, they’re still able to generate the same power output with this exercise. So, if you’re working with groups, encourage your participants to grab different size medicine balls as they go through each round. If they used a 10lb ball the first round, have them switch to a smaller ball and encourage them to move the ball quicker.

 

Choosing the Right Ball

Medicine balls come in a variety of shapes and sizes. I definitely have a favorite, but the two common types of balls I use on a regular basis are:

 

Dynamax or Perform Better Padded Medicine Balls

 

PB Med Ball

 

These medicine balls have less rebound and are softer to the touch. Not only are these medicine balls softer to the touch, the larger size typically makes them easier to handle. This comes in great if you’re using medicine balls for partner exercises. The softer they are and easier to catch…the better.

 

Non-Padded Medicine Balls

If you take away the padding, you’ll typically get a ball that has lots of rebound. These medicine balls are great for long tosses into a brick wall, or they also help improve the speed of the rebound effect. If you’re dealing with a coordinated individual, this quick rebound can come in handy to promote a completely different training effect over what a padded ball can do.

 

Most of our clients use the padded balls above. However, I’ll specifically give some people a non-padded ball and work on tempo slams to give them a different training stimulus.

 

PB Med Balls 2

 

Slam Balls

These are another great option for the less coordinated individual. Since they are filled with sand, they will immediately die when they hit the floor. There will be little to no rebound, so if you are working with someone that has poor reactive abilities, this ball may be a good option for them. They’ll still be able to generate a lot of power with these balls, however, they won’t have to worry about the skill of catching a rebound. Slam balls are great, but they do require some mobility to pick up from the ground each time. If you’re having a tough time keeping good form to return the ball, simply try doing more kneeling medicine ball work with these. This will eliminate the repetitive bending of the spine or poor squatting mechanics to get the ball each time.

PB Slam Ball

If you have any questions about how to best utilize a medicine ball in group training, I’d love to hear it. Also, I’d love to hear some of your favorite medicine ball drills for group training. Feel free to post in the comments section below…I’d love to help or quite possibly get some cool ideas from you.

3 Tips to Become a Better Large Group Training Coach IMMEDIATELY

Over the past year, I’ve really been focusing on team development and trying to help the coaches at our gym continue to get better. I have no idea how many new coaches and interns I’ve helped coach up, but I can definitely say that it’s more than I can count on my fingers and toes. During our internship and new hire process, I always work on having new coaches work on three things specifically. These three things can be done by anybody, and they can be done immediately. You don’t have to get smarter, learn anything about form and technique, or take any time whatsoever to implement these three tips, and if you do…you’ll immediately become a better, more inspiring coach.

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  1. Project Your Voice – If you’re reading this article, I’m pretty confident you know exactly what I’m talking about. Whether you’re in the position to be training new coaches, or you simply think back to your first 10-20 group sessions you’ve ever coached, being quiet and timid is pretty darn common…especially if you’re having your supervisor or mentor sitting in the back scrutinizing your every move.

 

Being able to project your voice not only helps improve communication during the session, it also helps give the coach a sense of confidence that is noticeable to the clients. I’ve been coaching groups for a long time now, and being loud has become second nature. After you start to practice vocalizing and projecting your voice, the group sessions will have a new sense of energy, and the clients will know they have a leader helping guide the way. I can’t stress the importance of this. Get loud or get out! If you can’t project your voice, you won’t cut it at our gym. If being loud terrifies you, I’d recommend sticking to personal training.

 

  1. Be Conscious of Your Body Language – Believe it or not, what you say while coaching doesn’t matter all that much. The actual words that flap out of your jaw while rambling during the session aren’t even comprehended by a vast majority of the people that are training hard. Communication consists of three main components: body language, tone of voice, and actual spoken words.

 

The words you actually say during any conversation only account for 7% of how the message will be interpreted. I’m willing to go out on a limb and guesstimate that percentage is less than 5% if you’re in the middle of a training session. The other 93% come from body language and tone of voice. 93%!!! Body language makes up 55% and tone of voice helps make up the remaining 38%. If you’re playing by the numbers, improving body language should be of the upmost importance. If you can enhance your body language and project your voice, you’ve just became a much more effective communicator and coach. Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t cross your arms while coaching or talking to clients. This is a very closed off position and not very welcoming. Smile regularly. Use hand gestures and be a little animated. These are only a few things I want to see from all of our coaches. Work on body language and improve your skills in coaching with very little effort.

 

  1. Minimize the Quiet Time – Nothing kills the environment in a group training session more than quiet time. If the coach isn’t being loud or they’re not saying much throughout, the energy in the room can drop immediately. That cannot happen under any circumstance. A major component of the group-training environment is the high energy and competitiveness it provides. If the coach is continuously talking and making him/herself recognized, the session simply has more value. Your clients will work harder, the environment is just more fun, and your business will start to grow.

 

Girl making the sign of silence. woman with silence sign pop art illustration

Remember the percentages from above. It’s not really about what you say…it’s more about HOW you say it. I constantly talk throughout each session. If I’m not specifically coaching a client one-on-one for a brief period of time, I’m constantly saying something. So, I’m either fixing form or speaking to the group the entire time. The only time I shut the hell up is when I’m personally coaching somebody. It’s not really cool to yell in someone’s face, so I hold that for when I’m moving between stations and clients that need the adjustments.

 

If you have the systems in place to make a group training session that is replicable, understanding these three things will help you put out a better product, or session. If you’re using the Smart Group Training System currently, you should know exactly what I’m talking about. The SGT System has helped us put together an amazing training program that any new coach or intern can start to have major success with., very quickly. Even with our high standards, we’re able to put together pretty solid coaches within 5-6 weeks. The system takes care of the workout, so our new coaches need to learn how to run the system, which is extremely easy, and learn these three tips above.

 

If you haven’t checked out The Smart Group Training System, be sure to grab a copy today. The system we’ve created over the past 5 years has helped us tremendously and I’m confident it will help you as well. Check out the SGT System today!

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