One of my roles as a GT12 instructor is to make sure that members are not harming themselves by moving incorrectly during the session. In this post, I will go over the 5 common form mistakes I see in GT 12 and a few ways to help fix some of the said problems!
1. Lack of pelvic control
One of the most common problems I notice is the lack of pelvic control for stability and mobility. The main reason this can become troublesome is how the pelvis connects to the lumbar (low back) and probably compromising the knee complexes as well. When a pelvis becomes unstable and/or immobile, then the surrounding structures in the low back and knees can become compromised.
Looking at the Lumbar first, when a pelvis becomes distorted from neutral, a few things can occur:
- Pelvic tilts occurring forward (anterior): with the appearance as if to be sticking ones butt out (or an over arched low back).
- Pelvic tilts occurring backwards (posterior): this comes with what looks more like tucked hips (like when a dog tucks his tail). Sometimes accompanied by a rounded lower back posture and constantly bent knees.
- Hip shifts (left or right shift): these appear as shifts in the height of ones forward facing hip bones (roughly felt two fingers below belly button and over the centre of your thigh at rest).
- Hip rotation (torsion): it is when the hip complex become twisted out of line in both front-back (anterior-posterior) and left-right (Medial-lateral) shifts, with each hip side independently shifting.
How to fix it?
A mix of both stretching and strengthening the muscles at the hips will aid in improving stability and mobility. One stretch that you can try to help avoid the backwards tilts is with a foam roller: place it just under the lower portion of your shoulder blade, and then relax feeling a stretch in your abs.
To work on avoiding the forward pelvic tilts you can do some exercises to strengthen the front muscles (e.g., hanging leg raises, lying leg lifts, banded leg raises, and/or any other hip flexing variation)
For correcting the hip shifts you can use corrective exercises that strengthen the muscles at the side to which there hip is shifting (i.e., during a squat hips shift right, strengthen the right side hip muscles independent of the left).
This can be done by using a band (light-medium) in a lunge position with the band around the front leg and pulling the knee inwards towards the opposing leg. Then trying to move the knee away, stretching the band while doing so. In combination with these, for the opposing side you can stretch the muscles by crossing the leg to the other side and pushing your hips in the opposite direction.
2. Lower back movement
The next most common problem I notice and that should be assessed for improving posture during exercise is movement through the lower back (lumbar). Because the pelvis itself connects with to the lower back, problem associated with one can often affect the other and vice versa.
For example, a strong forward tilt of the pelvis can manifest as low back pain. Low back issues can also be caused by a weak core. This can be dangerous to your long-term health as it can lead to compensation and changes in moving, ultimately causing low back pain.
How to fix it?
To strengthen the muscles associated with low back stability/mobility, you can perform exercises such as Jefferson curls (with body weight). This exercise focuses on flexing each vertebrae down the spine from top of the neck to the lowest portion of the low back then and then to, under control, extend them in reverse standing straight up at the top.
You can also try any bracing exercise like the plank and its variants (side planks, long planks, etc). Also, through rotational, or anti-rotational movements like a wood chop, or a Pavlov press. Training large compound movements with proper bracing and control will allow for equal strengthening of the core muscles (if done safely with correct form and weight).
For stretching the muscles, if they feel tight, use light to no load and go through the very basic strengthening exercises to the very end range of motion and relax under control. Another good corrective stretch is to perform a spinal rotation stretch by lying on your side, with your shoulder tucked under your chest and chest up. Then to bend the knees about 90 degrees and bring the knees about 45 degrees to your chest. There you can open up your arms and reach across to touch the top hand/arm to the floor beside you, having your chest face upwards.
3. Upper back stability/mobility
The upper back, sometimes thought of as the mid back, is better defined as the top of rip cage to the bottom of your ribs and incidentally the vertebrae attached to each of them. Control here is important for overall posture through many lower body exercises and almost every multi joint upper body exercise.
The largest muscles that play a role in upper back stability and mobility are the rectus abdominus, and erector spinae group (because they start at the very top of the spine and intertwine themselves all the way down to the very bottom of the spine). The erector spinae group works to open up the upper back and “puff up” one’s chest, while the rectus abdominus work to pull the rib cage down towards the hips, lowering the chest to the floor.
How to fix it?
A good corrective exercise to strengthen these muscles is again the Jefferson curl and/or a back extension. You can directly focus on the upper back muscles by attempting to keep your low back neutral or arched while taking your upper back through a full range of motion.
This method works well to become in tune with moving each section individually and can be used on either low or upper back strengthening. For strengthening the muscles at the front of the abdomen, you can perform a crunch by laying on your back with your knees bent at 45 degrees, attempt to hold your hands against the ground and slide your hand to your heels.
For corrective stretching for the front muscles you can place a foam roller under the bottom edge of your shoulder blade and relax backwards. If the stretch is too severe you can shift the foam roller higher up your back to lessen it.
For the back muscles to be stretched you can perform a Jefferson curl again, as the exercise can strengthen and mobilize the area. Also you can perform an array of any spinal flexion movement that best suites you.
Another area that I see most commonly being injured is the shoulder girdle (scapula-humeral complex). They can be broken down into several groups, humeral (upper arm bone) Internal/external rotators, scapula (shoulder blade) retractors/protractors, scapula elevators/depressors and shoulder vertical/horizontal flexors/extensors (there are more however will not be discussed upon).
How to fix it?
Muscles involved in internal shoulder rotation can be stretched by using your hip as a leverage point to rotate your upper arm bone (humerus) outwards like a door hinge. To strengthen these muscles one can perform a cable or banded rotation of the upper arm bone towards their opposing side. However, most people do not need to strengthen their internal rotators because most proper pressing and pulling will strengthen the lats and pecs which can allow for good internal rotation.
Moving on to the external rotator muscles, they can become stretched placing your arm behind your back and leaning backwards on your elbows against a wall. For strengthening these muscles, you can perform a banded pull apart with a light back or cable. Where both arms are tucked closely to your side and remain there while you rotate your upper bone outwards (imagine your arm a door being opened).
The next group of muscles involved are the scapula retractors, you have the trapezius and the rhomboid major and minor. To strengthen these you can work on any pulling movement where you pull horizontally towards your chest (i.e cable row, dumbbell row, barbell row, etc) and to stretch can pull the desired arm across the body relaxing the shoulder attempting to pull the scapula off the back of the ribs. As well any lightly loaded “row" motion where the feeling of stretch may occur.
You can also work on the large array of muscles that perform vertical/horizontal shoulder extension/flexion. These muscles can be strengthened through any horizontal pressing pattern (i.e bench press, push ups, etc). And the anterior deltoid more targeted through vertical pressing patterns like the overhead press and any other like. To stretch these muscles, you can find a corner in your gym and put both arms up at 90 degrees (elbows and torso angle) and gently lean into the two converging walls until a nice stretch is felt. As well as performing a standard door way stretch.
Finally, horizontal and vertical extension of the shoulder. For the most part the large muscles at play in both horizontal and vertical extension are the latissimus dorsi, teres major and posterior deltoid. All can be trained through any pull pattern, vertical (pull ups, lat pulldowns, etc) and horizontal pulling. For stretching these muscles, you can perform a lat stretch by kneeling on one leg and reach across your body using your arm to anchor yourself against a ledge and lightly fall backwards and away from your arm. If you experience a stretch from your shoulder to low back you are doing it correctly!
5. Foot stability/mobility
Foot mobility and stability is the final point I will be going over. The muscles that cause your foot to arch are very important in any loaded movement. The largest reasoning is that when the foot is weak and weight is loaded onto you it can cause the arch in your foot to collapse, this in turn can rotate your shin bone (tibia) and creating a rotational force (torsion) at your knee, which over time may prove dangerous/painful.
How to fix it?
To strengthen this muscle, you can (without shoes) try and bring the ball of your big toe to the hell of your foot. As well as curling and pinching your big toe. Recommend you do this if you have flat feet or feet that collapse during a loaded exercise. You can also sit on your toes in a kneeled position. In conjunction with this, if you cannot get your knee 5-6inches in front your toes without your heel rising or your foot collapsing, you should also implement a calf stretch.
Either leaning against a wall with you back leg outstretched and pushing your ankle as far forward as you can without the heel rising or with your front leg bent and applying the same knee-ankle movement. Perform the one that feels like it’s being stretched the most, if both feel tight them perform both.
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