Many in the field of strength and conditioning would agree that movement quality is or should be the basis for athletic development, especially with the novice trainee or younger athlete in mind. This same premise would be agreeable to many sport coaches as well.
Whether you are a sport coach or a performance coach, we are all after the same goal – movement mastery. The path to such can vary, shaped by whatever methods, drills, etc. chosen by the coach. Many methods can work. But ultimately, it is a proper teaching progression that can facilitate a smooth movement learning process.
Today I will discuss a component of the teaching process that has helped me teach my foundational movements at various level; a method that I can Movement Links.
In the athlete movement education process, I first try to establish the handful of foundational movements that I deem to be important. For the high school or novice athlete, I tend to focus on the following three:
- High Plank
While these certainly are not the only movements that are in the program, they are chosen as the first priority for a reason: they help lay the framework for further movement development.
In other words, by first teaching the basics of the Squat, Hinge, and High Plank, I can use what the athlete learns as a link to more movements and exercises. In this way we can effectively expand their movement literacy by helping the athlete discover common “links” between movements – i.e. “Movement Links”
Let’s dive into some examples…
PHASE I – TEACHING THE FOUNDATIONAL MOVEMENTS
Early in the movement education process we start by teaching the foundational movements – the Squat, Hinge, and High Plank.
SQUAT – The athlete should expect to learn…
- What a general squat stance looks like –> “Feet a little wider than hip width; toes out at 1 o’clock and 11 o’clock”
- How to create tension in the hips –> “Screw the feet into the floor; spread the knees to make room for the torso”
- How to breathe and brace properly –> “Deep breath in through the belly… hold… exhale forcefully”
HINGE – The athlete should expect to learn…
- The “power position” –> “Feet right underneath the hips; toes straight ahead”
- How to hinge at the hips and posteriorly shift their weight –> “Soft knees; hips back; feel the hamstrings stretch”
HIGH PLANK – The athlete should expect to learn…
- How to use the “stance” and tension to create a stable platform –> “Shoulders over hands; feet pushing into floor; glutes engaged”
- Proper trunk alignment (neutral spine and hips) –> “Belly button to spine; glutes on; big chest”
- Active scapular protraction –> “Push the floor away”
- How to differentiate segments of the trunk/spine/hips
Some common themes that should be visible from the above three movements include stance, tension, and a general awareness of joint positioning. These are our first “links” and they can be made between the three foundational movements.
- There’s the juxtaposition of stances – the Power Position vs. Squat Stance;
- There’s also the feel for pelvis position and lumbo-pelvic control – the posterior tilt to neutral needed for most in the High Plank vs. the anterior tilt to neutral needed for most in the Hip Hinge
And, through repetition and reiteration, in combination with appropriate loading and speed, these links can foster rapid learning of the foundational movements.
But, if done right, these links aren’t only made between the foundational movements, they can also be made to other exercises/movements to foster further movement education.
PHASE II – LINKING TO NEW MOVEMENTS
Because the foundational movements are such complex multi-joint movements/positions, many of their pieces and intricacies can be used to help teach new movements. In other words, they can create even more Movement Links.
For example, some next-level exercises that I prefer to teach are the 1-Arm Dumbbell Row, Pallof Press, and Deadlift. Let’s examine some of the links that we can create from the foundational movements to these three exercises.
When I teach the Dumbbell Row, I prefer a 3-Point Parellel stance, whereby the athlete hinges at the hips (with both feet on the floor in a parellel stance) and props one hand on the bench.
Through this position, I make it very simple… We walk up to the bench, set up in the power position, then hinge down to the bench. They should feel the hamstrings stretch. They should have a big chest (relatively neutral spine) and should push the bench away with the down arm in order to create scapular protraction.
These are all links to the foundational movements!
In order to have a strong base of support, we move to a more athletic position, about the same width as the squat stance. From there, we screw our feet into the floor to create tension in the hips. With the band/cable/etc. in hand we then push away from our body to protract the scapulae, further enhancing core activation. Finally, as we hold we actively breathe through the belly.
More links to the foundational movements!
In my opinion, the first key to a strong and safe Deadlift is a quality set up. In order to teach the set up, we start by getting into the power position. We have to differentiate the Deadlift from the Squat, thus stance and hip height are very important. Just knowing the difference between a Squat and Hinge is vital – and we covered this in Phase I! From here, we hinge as low as we can down to the bar, feel the stretch in our hamstrings as we posteriorly shift our hips in order to get our shoulders over the bar. Finally, we lower our hips slightly, get a big chest, then go.
These Movement Links aren’t a groundbreaking or new concept. Rather, they are simply a way to view a path for developing the most effective flows of movement education. By creative Movement Links your athletes can more easily understand the movements you are trying to teach, and more readily feel the appropriate positions as well.