Movement is just an accepted part of our lives. But what if it wasn’t? So much of what we do is move around to take care of everyday tasks – going to the store, getting to the bathroom, going to see friends – it all matters.
How come when we train everything is in a stationary spot? Pressing, Pulling, Squatting, and most of our accessory movements either stay in place or live in a 3 foot box. This also isn’t a blatant dismissal of the purpose of those patterns. Strength training is THE essential key to longevity and activity to maintain life.
*STRENGTH FROM A MUSCULAR STANDPOINT
*STRENGTH FROM A MENTAL STANDPOINT
*STRENGTH FROM A RESILIENCY STANDPOINT
But at a certain point this strength we acquire needs to be used towards a specific action – outside of the gym. I compare it to saving up money for years and years and years to never spend a dime. What’s the point? The point of this currency is to use it when we need it. Our strength is the same currency we can use in our movement to make life easier between the doors, meaning when we travel. Applying strength to your movement could be the key to unlocking your true Pain-Free potential.
We don’t discount how important our posture is when we stand. I have had clients for years coming in to work with me specifically because they weren’t thrilled with their posture for health and perception reasons. Poor posture is when someone LITERALLY looks weak. These slow adjustments to your mechanics will make small details become large problems when not addressed.
The spine has natural curvatures to accommodate our skulls remaining on an upright body. These curvatures vary within the structure of the spine to make sure our center of gravity remains with as straight a line as possible between the top of the skull and the middle of the pelvis. We weren’t originally supposed to be standing creatures, we adapted into this.
From our origination as quadrupedal animals, our spine had different demands to allow movement since we were working on all four limbs. Once we started to move into upright positions, the spine had to adjust its direction to essentially balance out the system. These curvatures are labeled as:
LORDOTIC – Curvature from a side view bending in towards the anterior side of the body. (Cervical and Lumbar Regions)
KYPHOTIC – Curvature from a side view bending away from the anterior side of the body. (Thoracic Region)
Because of the interconnectivity of these three areas, small adjustments to one region inherently will lead to that adjustment translating UP and DOWN the path. With each curvature and adjustment that means loading mechanisms can be shifted. We are only talking about the adjustments of 3 cm in a standing posture now. Imagine how that can be amplified with a 315lb barbell on your back moving through a squatting pattern. That can be a disastrous combination.
The Lordotic curve we see in the neck region is the body’s way to straighten out the line for the skull to sit in a level position. Always remember posture is a product of small adjustments lasting over time becoming changes in the system. In an era where texting and excessive phone use is an absolute requirement, the upper portion of the cervical spine where the skulls tilting mechanism lives takes an absolute BEATING.
The musculature available in the neck and facial region, whether we are discussing sternocleidomastoid or the upper trapezius, are not there to assist in long duration flexion or extension moments. Our muscles are developed for short term movement assistance rather than long term support.
Before you wear a bun in your hair for a long road trip, before you sift through Tik Tok for 4 hours watching the latest viral videos, think twice about how that is going to affect you for the rest of your life.
1 ° MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE
You may have heard the comparison that 1 degree makes all the difference. At 211° water is just really hot, at 212° its boiling. This is where we need to look at long term torque on the body or the subtle damage of a simple shift. Our centerline is to maintain bone stacking and optimal position but what if there is a simple shift to the system. When evaluating someone’s posture, a 3° shift to their right side over their left can make a chain reaction causing joint dysfunction, muscular strain, and pain that could have been avoidable.
These shifts aren’t only side to side but from front and back as well. As a coach, there is an easy way you can evaluate small shifts to the body with your iPhone and $2 sticky dots from Staples.
FRONT SIDE VIEW – You can place dots on areas 1,2,3,6, and between 8-9 to evaluate the front side. This represents the Temples, AC joints, ASIS, Mid Patella’s, and between the Medial and Lateral Malleolus.
BACK SIDE VIEW – You can place dots on 1,2,4,5 and 8 along the side. This will represent Ear, AC Joint, Greater Trochanter of the Femur, Lateral Knee, and Lateral Malleolus.
Rather than having a goniometer present, this can be an easy snapshot of your clients posture where they can visually see the difference instead of just an open snapshot from the outside. Images are processed quicker in the brain than verbal cues. This will hopefully LITERALLY connect the dots between your clients posture questions and how 1° of difference every hour, or every day, will cause trouble.
People generally care about their posture so what I hope for you to take away from this article is seeing your Loaded Carries and Locomotive movements as your Dynamic Posture. How do you carry yourself through space and does the movement aide in health and aide in dysfunction? If there is a way to train this, it only makes sense as a practitioner to prioritize this towards the overall health of the person we are working with.
How we stand is a longer conversation to the overall adaptations to the body we asked it to make. How we move through space, whether it be the way we carry out bags, the amount of weight we are willing to move with, or how we stride our gait patterning – that is the magic that makes an immediate difference
PROGRAMMING LOADED CARRIES
So understanding how delicate and important our posture is, it seems reckless to just throw exercises at someone and hope it sticks. We aren’t in the business of random chaos, we are in the business of calculated chaos. Every move you choose should have a reason and a specific outcome you are looking to achieve by inputting that into their program.
Some loaded carries are more basic than others and some are far more advanced. In my experience, coaches are quick to pull the trigger on the most advanced option possible to cash in on the “that was intense” response. I don’t want “intense”, I want results. Lets look at some of our most common scenarios and when we want to use one carry over another.
When getting upright is the issue, adding weight along the sides to engage the shoulder girdle and lower trapezius can be a big help. Its also the most common issue we run into and the most basic implementation of loaded carries we see. Loaded the weight bilaterally helps pull someone down so they have to actively stand point. This is meant to create more tension in the system so you can walk with more purpose.
COACHING TIPS: Farmer’s Walks are all about controlling the movement. Can you move with the weight in your hand in a smooth and steady motion. This is where we want it to look like you are gliding on water and not lunking through the mud. Stand tall with the shoulder blades down and walk with confidence.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATIONS: The goal is to perform 4 rounds of 30 second duration carries with 100% bodyweight. If you are not there, begin lighter and slowly progress yourself up. The duration goal is meant so regardless if you a try and run as quick as possible, you have to maintain that grip for the same amount of time as anyone else.
TRAP BAR CARRY
COACHING TIP: The beginning is a traditional trap bar deadlift. Once you are standing, you can really load up the weight now that you are working with one piece of equipment. For a loaded carry, spinal stability should be the key focus. Make sure your movement is slow and controlled all the way throughout. To finish the move, go back to shoulder width stance and complete the downward motion of the trap bar deadlift.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATION: Start with 3 sets of 30 seconds duration with 50% of bodyweight. The goal is to progress to 100% bodyweight for a duration of 30 seconds in time to challenge grip and postural conditioning.
Slouching forward is a very common weakness we see but not far behind that is a side shift. A lot of people, maybe even including you, will tend to favor one side versus the other. This is natural as in the first 12 months of our lives we already choose our dominant side for activity. Adjusting a side shift will have us load either in single side stances or adjustable pivoting between the sides.
COACHING TIPS: Don’t overload this movement the first time you complete it. This is not a matter of weight but how much weight you can hold while STILL maintaining upright posture. Engage the obliques to solidify that core and walk tall with the eyes facing forward.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATIONS: Start with 25% of bodyweight in one hand and start with durations of 15 seconds or 40 feet. Ultimately you want to progress to 30 seconds time but focusing on a tall posture is the key focus. You may not “feel” it the first few times you try it. That is okay, it’s better to feel less engagement in the core than more engagement in your lower back.
VERTICAL GRIP TRAP BAR CARRY
COACHING TIP: The bar wants to rotate from side to side which makes this such a grip and shoulder stability dominated move. Start with a much lighter weight than you normally would because this new position will surely catch you by surprise.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATION: Start with 3 sets of 30 seconds with 25% of your Trap Bar Deadlift weight to begin. The centered grip is a challenge and you will feel this amplified through your shoulder girdle and forearms. The goal is smooth movement so focus on the quality of the movement over the weight you use.
LOW BACK STRESS
When the low back starts barking, you want to get comfortable front loading your carries. I am usually the most looked at person on a hike not because of my blindingly good looks and massive physique (I mean, its also not NOT that) but because I usually wear my backpack on my front. Front loading weight forces different muscles to get involved most notably more of your core stabilizers. As weight travels higher, the core has to stabilize more.
COACHING TIP: Offset carries can be done from a multitude of angles but I would suggest sticking with shoulder to hip offsets which are more similar to carrying a duffle bag. The overhead position is a possibility but for most people the risk:reward ration is too high for my comfort level. We are trying to get better, not walk the tightrope between cool and risky.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATION: Start with 3 sets of 30 seconds with 25% of bodyweight in each hand. Make sure to shift between sides for the amounts of sets you are doing. This means 3 sets with each combination for 30 seconds, not 3 sets overall.
COACHING TIP: The higher position means you need to upregulate the intensity of the hips, pillar bracing, and shoulder girdle. Keep the weights tight to the body to ensure this is a movement challenge and not a challenge specifically at the shoulder complex.
PROGRAMMING RECOMMENDATION: Start with 3 sets of 30 seconds with 25% of your weight BETWEEN the two arms. This is going to be a little more challenging so again, focus on quality of movement and stability over how much weight you can move through space. Once you can complete with ease, slowly progress in weight while maintaining the 30 seconds duration.
We knowingly acknowledge the important of proper posture. We also knowingly acknowledge the amount of movement we require on a day to day basis. Creating an urgency around training your posture should become a portion of your programming if it isn’t already. This doesn’t just mean standing tall in the mirror but learning to stand tall in space.
Just how we would train our other patterns we begin but finding out if we can brace the pillar with confidence. Once we know we can do that, we progress to see if we can brace the pillar with the presence of movement around it. This is where our locomotive training comes into consideration.
Honestly, most of your clients may not even see this as corrective work but as conditioning work. Due to the full body nature of the movement, its going to take the wind out of you if you aren’t working on full body demanded focus right now. Our goals should connect to making our everyday activity smoother – so why not do it in badass style?