Today, you reluctantly shut off your alarm clock, groaned and stretched, swung your feet over the edge of the bed and into your faux fur slippers and started your day. You walked, jogged, pushed, pulled, lifted, carried, balanced and twisted your way through the day until you were able to swan-dive your way back into that bed for a well-deserved slumber. All in a day's work.
And throughout that day, whether staying still or in motion, you were in contact with the ground. It is an often overlooked yet unforgettable part of training, because due to our friend gravity, we obtain all our force and stability from it. No matter what we do, the ground is there, pushing back at us and giving us a reference point for all we do. Ground-based training is the fundamental principle in functional exercise, so as you sit, lay, stand or move your way through today's workout, keep in mind some of the following points.
Always be mindful of your interaction with the ground:
Regardless of whether you are a grandmother of four in a PACE class or an elite hockey player performing off-ice conditioning, understand how the ground reacts to the way you brace against it. Movements that are up and down are easy to transfer through the ground, since they are linear with gravity, while horizontal movements that are forward/backward, side/side or twisting require more balance and stability, as they occur perpendicular to gravity. Watch the online video in which we illustrate the following example: Performing a flat bench press requires very little balance or stability. As the bar moves up or down, you must only brace yourself vertically by pushing your back into the bench and your feet into the ground. A similar movement, the standing cable chest press, requires you to push your feet into the ground (vertical force) and transfer that force into a chest press (horizontal force). This requires a great deal more stability, engages more musculature and is infinitely more functional than a bench press. If you want to push as much weight as possible to get a huge chest, get down on the bench. If you want to create functional strength and movement patterns, stand up!
More contact equals more stability:
It may seem simple, but increasing your contact with the ground will give you more stability and control. Example: Performing an exercise on all fours (hands and knees) in a tabletop position is still a ground-based exercise, but the difficulty has been reduced because you are in contact with the ground at four points. Simple. Standing on a single leg and performing an exercise means all your force is being driven into the ground through one small point of contact. Challenging.
Ground-based training progressions:
While standing to perform functional exercise might be your goal, it might not be appropriate for your current level of fitness and movement ability. Progression is the key to all training models, so don't feel bad if you start with simple exercises and slowly add difficulty by reducing contact (remember the point above) to increase the challenge. Here is a sample progression of ground-based positions in which many exercises can be performed. Floor (tabletop, or on all fours); kneeling; half-kneeling; standing. Watch the video online to view exercises performed in each of these positions.
Your key to ground-based training is your awareness and mindfulness of your interaction with the ground. It can help you avoid falls on the ice outside this winter or help you perform and avoid injury on the court or field. My key to have you doing things properly and understanding these principles is the video. See you on the interweb.
Tim Shantz is a certified athletic therapist and trainer.