In early October I got a neck injury that put me out of Krav for a few months. This presented a perfect opportunity to try out Tim Ferriss’s pre-hab regiment in his 4 Hour Body. It’s a set of exercises meant to help build core balance in unstable positions designed by trainer extraordinaire and athlete recovery expert Gray Cook.
There are four basic exercises to the routine: Chops, Lifts, Single Leg Deadlifts, and Turkish Get-Ups. After an initial check, if there’s an imbalance, the weaker side gets three extra sets. The routine is performed twice a week. (Note: I also did snatch practice without weights and body-weight squats.)
A month later, I’m really happy with the progress in some areas and realize I need additional work in others. Keep reading for tips, tweaks, and mistakes to avoid.
– Huge improvement in Chop and Lifts and body balance
– Higher weights require proper form for Turkish Get-Up
– Avoid weight on Single Leg Deadlifts before achieving proper balance, muscle activation, and range of motion
– Engage and strengthen your core with simple exercises like front and side Planks
|Nov 3: Test||Nov 23: Test/Workout||Nov 29: Workout|
|Single Leg Dead Lift (2 weights)
|Notes||I had a lot of trouble with balance, especially on the C&L-D and the 2SDL. I think the comparison testing was only needed for the C&L.||Tested only C&L. 2SDL still shaky. Dropped TGU to 17.5lb, then increased 2.5lb each workout. For C&L added 3 extra sets on left side.||Nice jump in in C&L–doubled in one month. Also TGU feels much better. Struggling with 2SDL.|
It’s really hard to cheat with the TGU with higher weights. With 25lb, I can bend my elbow or have my arm pointed a bit off of straight up, but at a higher weight it’s really hard to hold the weight without the right form and it’s as if the weight forces you to do it right. When reviewing the videos at the end of this post, I noticed I was not properly turning my leg in the kneel position–glad I picked this up before hurting my back.
For the C&L, sometime last week it got a lot more in control, it feels like my balance is a lot better even in the narrow stance and that my muscles are all working together, and the exercises feel a lot easier to do. Things that helped: block under lower knee, activation both arms/sides during initial pull, and having a mirror to look at to check form. I also noticed that I feel a lot more balanced when I do pull ups, with shoulders more even than before.
I didn’t improve in 2SDL. Although now is much better than the initial test, I don’t have correct form or balance yet.
Last night I was talking about the trouble I had with the 2SDL with a friend who is a physical therapist. I showed her my form and she almost flipped out.
“You need to do it with no weight until you have the balance, range of motion, and proper muscle activation.”
“I see. I’ve been doing that with this snatch movement from this CrossFit class I took a few weeks ago.”
Seeing how I arched my back, now she really did flip out:
“If the trainers that showed you these didn’t correct your form, they are doing you a disservice! See how your back arches? It can’t support weight like that. You’re going to get hurt. You need to work on your core. There are plenty of simple body weight exercises that can really help. These fancy things you’re doing are going to injure you.”
(Note: CrossFit trainers did give similar corrections, which is why I’ve been practicing snatch without weight. However, her feedback shows the importance of making corrections under supervision of experts.)
Activating Your Core
She went over activating the core:
1. Glutes should be active. (Pinch your butt cheeks together.)
2. Suck in the abs. (Don’t push chest up) You’ll know they’re flexed if the soft part next to the hip is flexing.)
3. Spine should maintain a natural arch, not over and reversed.
It was still a struggle for me though.
I asked, “What can I do to learn to activate and strengthen my core?”
She answered, “Get in push-up position.”
There is a simple exercise that really activates the core and helps you stabilize the entire body: the plank.
Here’s the plank progression she suggested:
Side plank with hip drop/raise.
Front plank lifting one leg without arching the back.
Front plank lifting one arm.
Start with reps of 20 seconds and increase.
If that’s too hard, try on the elbows.
– Removing 2SDL weights until balance, flexibility, muscle activation there.
– Removing snatch movement practice until core alignment there.
– Adding planks 5x20s (front, sides), try to increase time by 2s/day. Once reach 60s, try the additional exercises.
– Article series on Chop & Lift by Gray Cook on Perform Better
– Video of Chop with Bar
– Turkish Get-Up breakdown by Mike Boyle and Anna Tocco on Stack.com. Really cool tip about leg rotation on the way down.
– Turkish Get-Up videos with corrections from Average to Elite: Allysa Chang Overview and Jordan Vezina’s Corrections
– Single Leg Dead-Lifts from Core Performance. For each rep, I pick up from floor, then stand with both, put both down, then stand up without them. Example of a modification using a bench from Nutrex.
– Plank videos from Core Performance: Pillar Bridge Progressions – Lateral, Arm Lift Progressions.
For the original routine, check out Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Body and Gray Cook’s Functional Movement.