4 Foundation Exercises for Weight Training
Foundation Training itself is about using your body weight to create more mobility and ease of movement which in turn helps with muscle strength. It is a solution for the way we live today—a lifestyle characterized by being hunched over computers and cell phones, thus weakening our posterior chain muscles, which make up the back of the legs and support the spine.
Before industrialization, we used these muscles all the time; now, because we don’t use them as often as we should, many of us suffer from back pain and are more prone to injury. The beauty of foundation training is that it can be used to help heal a current injury and create support to keep you safer and in less pain in the future.
Foundation training is good for everyone. One of the most famous foundation training workouts was actually developed for Lance Armstrong after a long career of high performance in a sport that didn’t require much lower back movement from its seated position.
Foundation exercise strength training is especially great for improving mobility in weight training, which becomes much more effective when our range of motion allows us to manage the full extent and, therefore, reap the full benefits of any specific movement.
Here are four fitness foundation exercises that will improve your weight training.
1 | The Founder
The founder is the core movement of foundation training; all other movements stem from the postural positions you’ll learn here.
First, stand with your feet about hip-width apart while bending your knees slightly and sitting your hips back. Keep your weight in your heels. (You should be able to lift your toes and maintain this position.)
Don’t let your knees inch in front of your feet. Your shins should be completely perpendicular to the floor. If they’re not, sit into your heels and press your hips back even farther. You might want to do this in front of a couch or bedside the first time just in case you totter over.
Lift your chest and keep your shoulders open. Engage your core. You should have a natural arch in your lower back, but be careful not to let it extend beyond that natural position. You should feel those lower back muscles activating here.
From there, lift your arms forward while maintaining this posture. If you’re a yoga fan, you can think of this as a modified chair pose. Try to reach your arms as high as possible without disrupting your position. If this doesn’t feel available to you yet, reach your arms behind you with your palms facing the floor. Take about 10 seconds of deep breaths here.
Next, you’re going to reach down to the floor with your hands while keeping those knees nice and bent, your hips back, weight in the heels, and back flat. When your hands touch the floor, continue to keep that weight back in your heels as you create length in the back body. Take another 10 seconds of deep breaths.
To come back up, put your hands on your shins to support your body, extend your spine, and look forward as you bring your shoulder blades together and use the muscles in your legs to come up to the initial posture. When your back feels braced, let go of your legs and reach your arms back behind you or above your head for ten more seconds of breaths in the initial founder posture.
Finally, stand up straight and bring your arms down. That is one full founder.
2 | Prone Decompression
For this exercise, get on your stomach. With your legs extended, tuck your toes under your feet.
While squeezing your knees together, bring your hands down to your sides with your palms facing the floor and your pinkies next to your torso. Squeeze your shoulder blades together so your elbows are sticking up behind your back. Your head should come up a few inches off the floor, and you should look straight down with your chin slightly tucked (don’t look forward). Take three deep breaths here, making sure to keep your hips anchored to the floor.
In the next movement, bring your hands forward so that they are palm-down with your thumbs touching the outsides of your shoulders. Keep squeezing those shoulder blades together. To paint a better picture of how this might look, if you were to put your hands down, you would be in the bottom of a push-up position. Hover your upper torso, keep looking down, keep anchoring that pelvis, and take a few more deep breaths.
Now, reach your arms forward and allow your fingers to reach the ground to support the rest of the arms, which should be elevated. Keep your knees together, toes tucked, and pelvis anchored. Keep your gaze to the floor while tucking your chin and pulling your head up toward the ceiling. Take a few more deep breaths here.
This makes up a prone decompression. From here, you can repeat the movements once or twice, taking those long, deep breaths throughout.
3 | 8-Point Plank
The 8-point plank is going to get your core nice and strong while maintaining that supportive back body.
You’ll start this one stomach-down on the floor. Bring your elbows and hands to the ground in front of you. Your elbows should come out just a little bit in front of the shoulders. Keep them at shoulder-width apart with your hands shooting straight forward from there. In yoga terms, this will look kind of like a sphinx pose with your elbows slightly forward. These are your first 4 points of contact with the ground: two hands and two elbows.
The other four points are the knees and feet, which should stay at hip-distance apart with those toes tucked under. At this point, your belly should still be on the ground.
Next is getting into the plank. Start inflating your spine from the top down. This looks like lifting out of the shoulders and engaging the back and core muscles to create that raised position. At the end of this inflation movement, you’ll be in an 8-point plank with your hands, elbows, knees, and toes supporting your body. Don’t let your lower back arch; keep that straight spine.
Take a few deep breaths and come on down.
4 | Anchored Bridge
If you already do activities that require bridges (think yoga and pilates), suspend everything you know about them for this exercise.
Laying flat on your back with your legs out, bend the knees slightly so your heels are touching the ground and your toes are sticking straight in the air. Keep your knees and feet glued together.
Using the point of contact in your heels, lift your hips off the floor. Keep your back flat and your arms by your sides. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to lift your hips as high as possible (they should only come a few inches off the floor) but to engage your entire back body.
Try maintaining this position for 20-30 seconds and keep breathing deeply before gently lowering down.
As you can see, foundation workouts are multidimensional, creating movements that support your back body and make moving through the world an easier, less-painful experience. Add these workouts to your exercise program (and it might take a couple of weeks to adjust to them) and watch your body reap the benefits. You can try foundation exercises at any of our locations. Stop by today to see what the Dynamic Difference is all about.