“I’m tired of my low back pain. My shoulder is killing me. Why does my neck hurt?” You may have heard comments like these from clients more than a few times. Whether it’s their back, neck, shoulders, hips, or some other body part, it’s likely the result of bad movement habits they’ve developed over time.

Even something as simple as sitting at a desk all day can alter posture and change how someone moves in other areas of their life. All the while, their pain gets worse, and their risk for chronic injury goes up.

While it’s important to balance programming between upper- and lower-body movement as well as between push and pull, the most successful trainers know it doesn’t end there. Training programs should also reduce injury risk. It’s a trainer’s job to look at posture and movement patterns throughout every session and spot movement dysfunction as soon as possible. With that said, here are some movement issues that could be causing your clients aches and pains.

The problem: upper-trap dominance
Hunching during rows, shrugging during pullups, and driving the chin forward during planks — these are all signs of upper-trap dominance. Overactive traps can lead to weak or underactive deep neck flexors and scapular stabilizers, putting the neck and shoulders at risk of injury and pain.

To fix it, go back to basics. If you notice your client is elevating their shoulder too high or dumping their shoulder forward during rows, decrease the weight. If they’re doing pullups and they can’t control their movement, have them use a resistance band to decrease the load. Use mobility exercises and soft-tissue work to relieve tension in overactive areas. This will help correct posture. Then, use stability exercises to retrain the body.

Corrective exercises to try: soft-tissue work on the pecs and lats, DNS posture – prone 3 month, DNS posture – prone 8 month, sidelying arm bar with kettlebell, downward dog, and overhead press – standing 1 arm with kettlebell

Even something as simple as sitting at a desk all day can alter posture and change how someone moves in other areas of their life.

The problem: scapular dyskinesis
Picture a bolt and a wrench. If you push straight down on a wrench to tighten a bolt, the resulting action is rotation because the bolt is in a stable place. This is called a force-couple relationship. A similar action happens between the scapula and the shoulder. For example, if your client puts their arms overhead, their shoulder blades should have upward rotation and elevation. When this rhythm is off, that’s scapular dyskinesis, and it puts the shoulder joint at risk.

Ask clients to hold a plank. Their shoulder blades should sit mostly flush over their rib cage. If their shoulder blades poke out, that’s known as winging, and it’s not a good sign. Because they’re directly linked, you may also notice a lot of the same signs of upper-trap dominance such as hunching and shrugging during rows and pullups. Nothing happens in isolation. If you correct one dysfunction, the other is likely to improve as well, and many of the same corrective exercises for upper-trap dominance also apply to scapular dyskinesis.

Corrective exercises to try: soft-tissue work on the pecs and lats, DNS posture – prone 3 month, DNS posture – prone 8 month, sidelying arm bar with kettlebell, downward dog, and overhead press – standing 1 arm with kettlebell

The problem: quad dominance
Say your client distributes too much weight through their toes during a squat and lifts their heels. That’s one sign of quad dominance. And yes, that can strain the knees. But contrary to what many believe, it’s false that the knees should never go over the toes during a squat.

What actually leads to injury in this scenario is an incorrect distribution of force into the ground. If your client distributes weight evenly through their big toe, little toe, and heel in each foot, their knees can safely travel past their toes if they have enough ankle mobility. An even distribution of weight between the glutes and the quads decreases chances of straining the knees.

In the reverse scenario, if someone excessively squats through the heels and lifts their toes, they’ll increase strain in their low back. The solution is the same. They should engage the ground with their big toe, little toe, and heel to create a base of support. If they do this with adequate ankle mobility, it sets them up to be much safer through the quads, knees, and low back.

Corrective exercises to try: soft-tissue work on the quads and glutes, DNS star pattern, shin box to hip extension, and 2-inch lift with kettlebell

Shoulder blades that wing during plank could be a sign your client is over-relying on their upper traps to power their movement.
A safe and effective squat requires an even distribution of weight between the big toe, little toe, and heel in each foot — heels and toes stay grounded.
The knees can safely travel past the toes in the squat position as long as a few other actions occur: proper ankle mobility and even distribution of weight in the feet.

If you can train clients to breathe better, proper movement is often a natural next step with the help of the right mobility and stability programming.

The problem: low back dominance
People love to ask: What’s your favorite low back stretch? But it may take a lot more than just a low back stretch to ease tension in that area. The most prominent hip flexors, the psoas, are attached to the lumbar spine. That means if someone carries excess tension in their hips, it can also affect their low back.

Pelvic stability plays a role, too. Without it, clients are more likely to arch their lumbar spine any time they try to flex and extend at their hip. We see this often during quadruped opposites. Ask 100 people to do the exercise, and I would bet most arch their low back down as they raise their leg. When that happens, they create an anterior tilt to their pelvis, and they’re using their low back to power what should be a hip extension.

A combination of glute strength, lower abdominal strength, and motor control — simply telling themselves not to arch their back — can help clients correct the movement and decrease strain in their lumbar spine.

Corrective exercises to try: soft-tissue work on quads and TFLs, glute bridge with core assist, 1 leg glute bridge, half-kneeling stability lift, and squat with heel lift 

The problem: breathing dysfunction
Last but not least, don’t forget about breathing dysfunction. A good breath should see the chest stay relatively calm and level, shoulders down and away from ears, and the abdomen expand.

There are several ways to assess and correct breathing, but if you see the shoulders shrug or the chest raise, try having your client pretend there is a tire around their waist and they’re breathing into a 360-degree space. You can also have them place one hand on their stomach and one on their chest, and keep them aware of which hand raises as they breathe (it should be the hand on their stomach).

But how exactly does this help correct bad movement habits? In one way or another, all of these areas — the upper traps, shoulders, low back, quads, and hips — are affected by the diaphragm and vice versa. It’s actually the first issue you should check for in every scenario above.

At the end of the day, you can throw all kinds of trendy movements at your clients, but if they aren’t breathing properly, they’re still likely to develop dysfunction and feed aches and pains. If you can train them to breathe better, proper movement is often a natural next step with the help of the right mobility and stability programming.

Share this idea:

MORE ideas
you might like

Contact
Our Team

Send us a note.