On the heels of my last post I thought it would be a good idea to show some exercises that I believe are beneficial to add into a program. With each of these exercises I asked myself the 4 important questions before adding them regularly to my own program.
- Do I enjoy the exercise? So many people say that you have to work on what you don’t like… I like to rephrase that to work on what you need to work on. (I know, it sounds like a 3rd grader came up with it but it works in my head). What I mean is that you don’t have to constantly use exercises that you hate in order to get better because there’s probably an alternative that you may like. To answer this question though is no I did not like these exercises right away because I was terrible at them but I have grown to love them as I have improved. Maybe I didn’t hate the exercise and more just the fact that I was so bad at them.
- Will this exercise get me injured while training? Probably not. All of them are easily scaled up or down for your needs and they are pretty low risk exercises when done correctly, providing you don’t have any injuries that may be exacerbated.
- Will this exercise increase or decrease my chances of getting injured at work? In my experience they would decrease your chances and I will explain why for each.
- Will these exercises improve my performance? I chose these 3 exercises for their injury prevention power. However, based on the muscles and movement patterns that each exercise is using these exercises will definitely improve performance.
That’s 4 positive answers and for me there is no downside to using these exercises in a training session either in my warm up or workout. Here they are:
- Bear Crawl
The Bear Crawl is an easy exercise in theory. It’s a progression from crawling on all fours, still on your hands but with your knees off the ground now. The bear crawl requires you to travel by moving your opposite hand and foot at the same time with minimal movement throughout your torso. This provides an excellent anti-extension and anti-rotation challenge. The bear crawl will also provide a challenge to almost every upper body muscle when the shoulders are “packed”. This can be done for long distances or in a small space by travelling back and forth, side to side or even in circles. There can also be a significant aerobic challenge with bear crawls. It’s not uncommon for your heart rate to get jacked up to over 170 after about 30 seconds. Bear crawls can be used during the warm up between mobility exercises, during a workout as torso training or a filler exercises and I have even used them as part of conditioning circuits and on their own for some energy system training.
- Cossack Squat
The Cossack Squat is an excellent exercise for mobilizing the entire lower body. It is quite challenging so if you lack the mobility to complete this movement in the slightest, start by shortening the range of motion. Also, eliminating the hip rotation that turns the toes up and keeping your feet pointed forward on the ground will help you mobilize the adductors to allow you to get a bit deeper before progressing back to the full Cossack squat. Key points are maintain a straight back and sit back into your hips.
- Inverted Row (Horizontal Pullup)
The Inverted Row is a great exercise for strengthening the pulling muscles that oppose the pushing muscles in the front that are generally shortened from every day posture and activities. In the video I am using a TRX system but if you do not have this piece of equipment you can set a barbell at about waist height in a squat rack and pull your chest up to the bar. You can also set yourself up under a table and pull yourself up to the table. To scale it back a bit you can shorten the lever by bending your knees or if you are using a TRX then you can face the anchor point and pull from a more upright position. In the video my hands are starting in a pronated position (overhand) and rotating to a supinated position (underhand). This adds a little more external rotation in the shoulder and the rotator cuff has to do some extra work.
These exercises are beneficial to add to any program, especially for firefighters. They mimic positions that are common in search and rescue, pulling hose and general lifting of patients and equipment. All three exercises also help to prevent injuries common to firefighters such as low back pain caused by poor hip mobility and postural compensations from wearing an SCBA and prolonged sitting . All three exercises can be done safely will on duty because they are low risk and will not leave you so tired that you cannot perform at emergency calls. A good place to start with each exercise is 2 sets of 8 reps. Next you can add a third set and then progress to 10 and then 12 reps, as that is a great progression for most body weight exercises. If 8 is too challenging then bring it down to 6 or 4 reps and add in an extra set or two at that low rep range to get to the same volume. There really is no right way to do it, just take your time, stay safe and feel your way through each exercise, stopping before you are too tired to maintain good technique.