Do you remember to balance your bootcamp drills?
This common mistake by bootcamp trainers can lead to muscle imbalances, which causes an inability to activate certain muscles, and as a consequence – injuries.
As we know, the last thing you want from your clients is to have them injured – you don’t get paid when they can’t train, and they get annoyed at being injured and unable to train.
Balance is something we tend to forget/ignore when programming our bootcamp classes. I am not talking about stand on one foot with your eyes closed type of balance, I am talking about the types of exercises used in your programming, making sure you don’t over train some muscle groups while largely ignoring others.
Too much pushing
Generally speaking, most bootcamps and outdoor training programs have 2 main imbalance problems:
1. A ‘push’ focus with upper body exercises.
The main upper body exercises used (with limited equipment) are push ups, shoulder press, tricep dips, etc. All these 3 movements are ‘push’ focused, (using our chest, shoulders, triceps) which need to be offset with ‘pull’ exercises (using our biceps and back muscles).
An over reliance on push exercises can cause significant postural issues, as well as shoulder impingements/injuries.
2. A ‘quad dominance’ with leg exercises.
A lot of people over use their quadriceps, and have trouble activating their glutes and hamstrings (in fact the entire posterior chain tends to get ignored).
Most leg exercises we give are some variation of a squat or a lunge. The main muscle used in these 2 exercises is our quadriceps, while it is just as (or even more important) to use our glutes and hamstrings while training our legs.
Unfortunately, outdoor group training lends itself to these issues for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the most common bodyweight exercises that we all give our clients contribute to these problems. Push ups, tricep dips, squats, lunges, etc. are the staple exercises for a bootcamp, but ignore a lot of muscle groups. Training outdoors we have limited access to equipment like barbells, heavy dumbbells, etc. which would help, so we stick to the same exercises we always use, which makes the problem worse.
The second reason is, that our bootcamps are taken as a group of clients at once – from 10 to 15 to 20+ people.
Some of the exercises that help balance out our client’s training either require more equipment, or are more difficult to complete with a proper technique. Both of these issues make it harder to administer these exercises in a group situation, as opposed to in a 1 on 1 situation. So we give our clients exercises that are easier to complete (especially when considering differing fitness levels), which contribute to the problem.
Now if your bootcamp doesn’t have these issues, great! Having a balanced program is an awesome thing, and will help your clients become well rounded athletes and avoid the chance of injury.
If while reading this you do see an over reliance on these exercises, then read on below for some solutions.
Here are some exercises that can help offset these muscle imbalances.
1. Pulling Exercises
If you have a fence around your park/field, with a pole and room to lay down underneath them, you can do this exercise. Lay on your back, and grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width, with an overhand grip (palms over the top). From here lift your body up, aiming to bring your chest up towards the pole – not your chin or waist. To make this more difficult, straighten your legs, and for an easier version, bend your knees. When you lift your body, bring your hips up with the rest of your body – regardless of where your feet are.
b. Bent Over Rows (dumbbells)
Stand with knees bent and upper body bent over roughly 45 degrees to the ground. Keep the back straight (not hunched over), and with an underhand grip row the dumbbells in to either side of your body towards your ribs.
c. Lat Pullovers (dumbbells)
Laying on your back, hold one dumbbell with both hands (or two dumbbells depending on the weight) with arms straight above your chest. Lower the weight above your head, keep your elbows in close to your ears and arms straight. Make sure you have no bend in your arms, as this will activate your triceps, keeping your arms straight will use your lats instead (latissimus dorsi). Pause at the furthest point, then slowly bring the weight back up above your chest.
d. Bicep Curls (dumbbells or exercise bands)
Stand with feet hip width apart, holding weights by your side with palms facing forward. Curl the weights up to your shoulders, keeping your elbows locked in at your hips. On the way down, make sure you straighten your arms completely at the bottom, and try and avoid swinging the weights to get them up, keep your torso still. This can be completed with resistance bands too, by standing on the middle of the band and holding a handle at either side.
e. Band Rows (exercise bands)
Link a resistance band with a partner’s. Both of you step back until the band tightens, and face each other with one handle in each hand. Slightly bend your knees, and at the same time both you and your partner row the band handles into your armpits, pulling your elbows behind your body. Slowly release at the same time until your arms are straight. If you don’t have a partner, this can also be done with your band linked around a pole/fence.
f. Kneeling Dumbbell Rows (dumbbells)
Kneel with your left knee on a step/bench, your hand in front also on the bench, and your right foot on the ground. Keeping your back straight – parallel with the ground – lift a weight with your right hand, and row it into your armpit. Bring the elbow up high, then lower the weight until your arm is straight.
2. Hamstring/Glute Exercises
a. Weighted Deadlifts
A conventional gym exercise. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs (can also use a barbell if you have access to it). Bend your knees and stick your bum out at the back, slowly lower the weights in front of your knees, but keeping them as close to your shins as you can. Keep the back straight and avoid rounding out your shoulders. Then reverse the movement to stand up, focusing on lifting up with the glutes and hamstrings, instead of solely using the lower back.
b. Glute Bridges
lay on your back, and bring your heels right in close to your bum. Activate your glutes, and lift your hips up off the ground as high as you can. Keep the glutes engaged and hold your hips at the top for 5 seconds. Slowly lower and repeat. For advanced, you can progress to a single leg bridge (one foot on the ground and the other leg straight out on front), or hold the bridge longer at the top.
c. Body Lowers [Glute/Ham Raises]
Kneel on the ground, with a partner either standing on your feet, or holding your legs down by your ankles. From here, keep your hips extended (don’t stick your bum out), and slowly lower yourself forward into a pushup position. This is a good hamstring exercise but is quite difficult to do. Most people will have to drop themselves and catch their weight in the pushup position. Bend at the knees to come back up and repeat. You can also do a dynamic pushup and use your hamstrings to bring your body back up. Modifications to make it easier are bending at the hips slightly, and dropping your hands down to an elevated point (on a box/step).
Balance on your right leg, with left leg in the air behind you. Keeping your back straight, stick your bum out and lean forward, bringing your hands down in front of your chins. Like a regular deadlift, keep your back straight, without your shoulders rounding forward. Go down until your hands reach the bottom of your shins, then slowly come back up. You should slightly bend your right leg as you drop down. Try and complete 10 or 12 on the one leg, keeping the other leg in the air the whole time. Advanced can hold a dumbbell in either hand.
e. Sea Turtles
Start in a prone superman on the ground. Keeping your arms straight, move them in a circular motion parallel to the ground back by your sides. Squeeze your scapula muscles in this position. Simultaneously while your arms are moving, move the feet apart into an inverted ‘V’ shape squeezing the glutes. Return to the superman position and repeat.