Prone Ys, Ts, cobras, and rotations

When it comes to corrective movements, many people and certifications have different beliefs and opinions. So here’s mine. I like to stretch and roll in order to loosen up tightness and then activate underactive muscles. Mobility drills do a little of both.

The following exercises will activate the rest of the shoulder stabilizing muscles. They should be performed prone or on the stomach face down. I like to use an incline bench or supported row machine. It puts less pressure on the sternum and makes it easier for proper breathing. Place your sternum or low part of the chest on the pad. The chest should be up, and the shoulder blades should be pinched together. If you have trouble with the positioning, have a partner place his index and thumb on your collarbone and lift up gently while pinching your shoulder blades together. The head should be neutral during all the exercises.

Ys should be performed by putting the arms straight out in front of you with the fingers fully extended and the thumbs up. Raise both arms as high as you can without breaking posture. Don’t force your arms up. Make sure your arms stay locked at the elbow. For each repetition, try to lift higher and higher. Go out of your range of motion—not what you think the height should be. At the top, pause for 1–2 seconds and slowly lower your arms back to the starting point.

Ts should be performed with the same set up as the Ys, except instead of raising the arms to the front, the movement should be to the side or to the rear. The thumbs should face out and the palms should face forward throughout the entire lift. Be sure that the hands and elbows stay in a straight line with the shoulders. Top position will look like a “T.” Squeeze at the top, pause, and then slowly lower the arms down to the starting position.

Cobras should be performed with the arms straight out in front of you with the palms facing the floor. The start position should look like you’re Superman. Swing your arms down until they reach your hips. The palms should now be facing the ceiling. Keep the fingers extended for the entire lift. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lats tightly. Slowly bring your arms back to your start position.

Rotations should be performed with the arms in a field goal post position or at a 90-degree angle between each wrist, elbow, and shoulder. The fingers should be extended throughout the entire lift. During the exercise, the fingers and wrist will try to curl up. Don’t let them. Rotate downward at the shoulder, keeping that 90-degree angle between the hand, elbow, and shoulder. Rotate until your hands are as close to parallel to the shoulder and then go back up until the hands reach the starting point.

The four shoulder activation exercises are great for getting all the stabilizing and rotational muscles ready for work. Perform 1–2 sets of 8–10 reps for each exercise. This should do the trick.

Active hip stretch

The active hip stretch is done in a lunge position with the knee on something soft such as a towel or mat. It doesn’t matter. You don’t want to ruin the stretch because the knee is in pain. Start by setting the kneeling knee on the pad directly under the hip with the foot pointing to the back of the room. The hip should be tucked forward. There should already be tension on the hip, and the upper body should be straight. The other leg should be a little greater than 90 degrees between the hip, knee, and ankle.

Place your hands on the hip, take a deep breath, slowly push the hips forward so the stretch increases, and try to get the knee over the toes. Hold for a few seconds and slowly exhale. Then, keeping the hip pushing forward, contract the glute and pull your self back to the start position while breathing in deeply through the nose. Don’t let the hips push backward. It will release tension on the hip. If the foot made it to the toes, slide the foot forward more and repeat. Do about 10 on each leg. This will greatly increase flexibility with each rep and will start to get the glutes firing if done properly. Breathing is going to greatly affect the stretch. Make sure you’re breathing deep and with control. This is a great stretch to do when you’re having trouble hitting depth on your squat.

Inverted glute bridge

The inverted glute bridge can be performed on a stable bar or using rings/blast straps. You can do it on pretty much anything that can support your weight hanging from it. The set up is the same as the start position of an inverted row or fat man pull-ups. Start by getting the bar (or rings) at a good height. It should be so that you can grab the handle from a seated position. After you get the height set, get under the handles, grab them, and set up your shoulders right under it. Next, bend your legs and set your feet about a foot from your butt. From here you should still be able to touch the floor. Now you’re set up to perform a glute bridge.

Start by lifting your chest up and pulling your shoulder blades into the sockets or pull your shoulders toward your butt. Your body should be supported by your shoulder blades. Now begin to raise your hips and squeeze your glutes. Keep lifting until your body is parallel to the floor and your hips are locked out. Hold at the top position. Focus on contracting your shoulder blades. Make sure your elbows are locked out. Keep your glutes tight and flex your abs. Hold for 5–10 seconds and then lower yourself all the way to the floor. Let your shoulders round and completely relax on the bottom position. Rest for a second or two and then repeat. Two sets of five reps with an isometric hold of 5–10 sets at the top will get all your posterior muscles firing properly.

The naked get up

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for—the naked get up. There are six main phases to get up and then six to get back down. I will go over each step to get up. The way down is the same thing in reverse. After you learn each step, hold for three seconds. Then repeat the movement five times. After five reps, return to the start position and then move on to the next step. Lastly, you’ll perform the movement in its entirety to reassess your movement.

Phase 1: Lay on the floor with one arm in a floor press position and the other one at 45 degrees. Bend the leg on the same side as the pressed arm. The leg should be a few inches outside the shoulder. The other leg should be straight and a few inches outside the shoulder. Keep your eyes on your press hand the entire time. Push your press arm to the ceiling as you roll your body on to the elbow. Hold on your elbow and pinch your shoulder blades. Make sure the bent knee isn’t caved in and keep pushing it out. This part is tough on the T-spine, so people with poor flexibility will try to rush through it.

Phase 2: Next, push the hand into the floor and come up off your elbow. Lock your elbow and support your weight with it. Cork screw your arm into the shoulder socket and keep the shoulder blades pinched. The bent knee should still be pushing out. Don’t lock the elbow. People with poor shoulder flexibility and stability will try to avoid locking out. Also, watch for poor hip flexibility. Some people’s knees will buckle in.

Phase 3: Here is the glute bridge. Support all your weight on your locked out arm. Lock out your straight leg, thrust your hips as high as you can, and try to lock out. Make sure your shoulder blades are pinched together. Most people have a hard time locking out here. A good glute activation trick is to literally kick them in the butt, not hard but light enough to get them to clench it up. (The best way to get anything to tighten is to physically abuse someone.) You may even cramp up or get a Charlie horse. This is normal. Push through it, and you’ll be fine.

Phase 4: This is another tough part, especially for those with poor hip mobility. It’s the leg sweep. You’re to get the straight leg to sweep through the bridge so that the knee is right next to the supporting hand. This will set you up in a lunge position. Make sure your hips aren’t pushing backward. Keep the tension in the hips. Watch for the hell on the bent leg. Don’t let it come up. Most people will have a hard time doing this, so I will make them start from phase five and work their way back. I’ll explain in the next phase.

Phase 5: Now the hard parts are done. Now you’ll transition into a lunge. If your foot is off to the side on your kneeling leg, get it in line with your knee and then lunge up. People who have a hard time with the leg sweep should start from this position. On the way down, most people place their hands behind them and break hip alignment because their hips are tight. This is the same reason why they can’t sweep the leg. So start from here. Place the supportive hand as close to the knee as possible and push your hips to the side, not to the back. Keep the hips tight, support your weight, and sweep the leg through the bridge. Hold the bridge and then sweep the leg back through. Nine times out of 10, this will fix that problem.

Phase 6: Lunge up to lock out. This is the only time that you’re to look straight ahead. After you make it to lock out, it’s time to get back down. You initiate the downward process with a reverse lunge. Come down with the leg opposite to the pressed arm. From there, move into the phase five position, and the rest is history.

Make sure to hold each down movement for three seconds. Don’t rush the movements. I can’t stress that enough. Now it’s time to reassess. You should do 100 times better than when you did it cold. Your hips should feel like a million bucks, and your shoulder should be stable enough to hold the world on your shoulders.

Here’s a good way to master this movement. I learned this from Master RKC Andrea Du Cane. She taught us this method at my RKC certification. Place the sole of a shoe on your knuckles and balance it there throughout the get up without it falling. It’s tough but will make you do it properly and slowly.

The get up will bring out everyone’s weak points. It’s a great assessment tool and corrective movement and also one of the greatest full body strength exercises. When you master the movement, a good workout is to use a 53-lb kettlebell and do as many as you can in ten minutes, alternating arms on each repetition. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.