You are not strong

Don't tell me about your 5-day per week exercise routine. I don't care about your spinning, Zumba, your half marathon, or yoga. Your hundreds of poor quality squats and lunges during Insanity or BodyPump Class are probably making the problem worse. Your lower back, IT-band, knees, or feet are taking a beating for a reason.
You are not strong

Could it be that despite your lofty efforts, you are not strong? What's that? No, I'm not talking about anything close to Powerlifting or otherwise competitive fitness. You don't believe it? Allow me to show you.

Try lifting this modest weight off the ground without your spine bowing. Lift with your legs, not with your back? Well show me your version of what that actually looks like. Hold that same modest weight in front of you with both hands, and show me how you step up 12 or 16 inches. Show me even one good squat with chest tall, hips sitting back, heels on the ground, knees and trunk not buckling inward 


Despite all the time and energy invested in exercise, you remain weak. Don't get me wrong, your routine is probably great for your heart, for burning calories, and for maintaining the blood flow to the brain that keeps you mentally sharp. Those benefits are truly priceless. But your bones and joints are suffering, and I'm pretty sure that I know why...

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The tone here is intentional. Yes, this is me from behind the barrier of these flickering pixels:

When I'm anywhere other than Internet Land, I'm learning to be careful how I say it. I've noticed that certain words can be quite offensive to someone who takes the time and effort to train, who takes pride in their body and exercise routine.

So then.

"Your hip abductors are not doing their job."

"You're not recruiting the core muscles."

"It's challenging to do it in that specific manner." 

"Your brain is not use to this movement pattern."

In the end, these are all gentle versions of the same statement. Yet the problem remains. There may be flexibility or structural issues. Less than optimal movement patterns are almost always implicated. And more often than not, you're plain...Well, ya'know.

There was a time when physical therapists and other health professionals were taught to test strength by attempting to isolate individual muscles. This book by Florence Kendall was (and still is?) the Bible of strength testing. I still use these when such isolating may provide pertinent information. But I've found it far more revealing and quickly obvious to both myself and the client to simply use a handful of functional tests.

Some functional tests involve jumping or acceleration type movements. I usually reserve these for a young or athletic population. But nearly everyone gets some variation of a functional squat test, lung test, and step up test. They reveal far more than manual muscle tests ala Kendall.

Try a few for yourself.

1. Deep Squat - described briefly above or look it up.

2. Lunge - There are many variations. I usually have clients hold a light weight and lunge backward, checking for the rhythm of hip and knee bending that allows the heel to stay down, the shin to stay vertical, and the torso to remain upright.

3. Pick things up - Pick something up from the ground without rounding your back, lifting your heels, or allowing your knees to jut together or far out in front. Hopefully you find your hip hinge!

Possibly why your lower back, hips,or knees are hurting.
4. High Step-Up Test - hold a light load in front with both hands and step up 12 to 18" (depending on your body height) by pulling up with the lead leg and not pushing off the floor. There should be no side to side movement of the knee or side tilt of the pelvis.

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