The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back with groundwork.

This is part six of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside of the gym. If you’ve missed the previous articles, click on the links below.






Part six – Groundwork

Part Six – Groundwork

There is more to groundwork than lying on the ground and crunching like a mad man. But being on the ground is how we learned to move as infants and returning to the floor can help you reactivate neglected movement patterns such as squats, pushing and hinging.

The ground provides you with stability, balance and feedback and is an ideal place to start your warmup before lifting. Or you can incorporate this into your resistance training for some added spice and sweat.

Groundwork exercises cover a wide spectrum that includes core work, rolling, crawling, rocking to the Turkish Get -Up. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into all types of groundwork exercises.

The moves below are the ones I program for my clients and myself regularly.  

These exercises will help improve your technique with squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls as well as improving your stability/mobility and the ability to burn fat. These moves may get you some strange looks, but you will be the coolest person in the gym.

Trust me, I am a trainer.

1. Deadbugs

With all the big compound movements (squats, pressing pulling, carries etc.) you’ll require good core stability and the ability for your core to resist movement while your extremities are moving. Trust me your back will thank you.

This is where the deadbug comes in. The low back and your anterior core should remain stable when you’re moving your arms and legs. Doing this at part of your warmup for 6 reps on each side is a must.

2. Push up plank

Front planks are not the sexiest exercise and are usually avoided by a lot of people because they suck.  Experienced exercisers often think they are “too advanced” for the plank because they feel other core exercises are more effective.

However, before brushing this exercise off, here is a little challenge for you. If you can hold this plank for 2 minutes, then go ahead and train your core with all the other cooler exercises. If you cannot, you’ve got some work to do.

3. Six-point rocking

This exercise is like a squat except with your toes, knees, and hands all on the ground. That’s why it’s great to include in your warmup before you squat or to do to restore your squat to its former luster. If this feels great and you can get your heels to your butt, then squat to your little heart’s content.

But if it doesn’t, you need to do this exercise with some more mobility work to bring back your squat form. I’m bring squatting back. The mother……… don’t know how to act.

Doing this as part of your warmup for 10-15 reps is a must also.

4. Crawling

Although crawling on the floor makes me feel like a child (sometimes I act like one too), this movement ties together perfectly your hips, core, shoulders and helps in grain our natural contralateral movement (opposite arm/opposite leg) pattern that is needed for walking, running, and sprinting. 

You must really work to be able to breathe, keeping your head up while keeping the contra lateral pattern of crawling. It’s tougher than it looks because it is a subtle form of strength training. Doing 20 steps forwards and backwards as part of your warmup works well. Pairing it with a strength exercise will have you rocking.  

5. Rolling

This is how we used to move as infants and has real benefits for grown-ups, too. Rolling combines the upper body, core, and lower body in a coordinated way to move from your tummy to your side and to your back while being safely on the floor.  

There are many movements that require the coordinated use of our arms and legs, which is why this is a great movement to include in your warmup or training.

Rolling will help improve your shoulder/hip mobility and will help roll out those sore spots without a foam roll. Doing 3-6 rolls to each side for the rest of your life is non-negotiable.  

6. Getting up and down from the ground

Here is a little test for you. Stop reading now and sit down to the ground and then stand back up without trying to put your hands and knees on the ground. It sounds simple but there’s a catch. You will subtract a point from 5 each time you use a hand or your knee during this test.

For example,

Get down  (- 1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Get up       (-1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Total         (Your score, up to 10)

If your score is 8 or above, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you score 7 or below, you have some work to do, so keep practicing. This exercise is great to insert into your warmup or as an alternative for traditional cardio. Don’t believe me? Do it for 2 minutes straight and then check your pulse.

Wrapping up

Rolling, rocking and crawling on the floor may seem a little nuts. People may look at you funny and you may feel like your one-year-old without the diapers and drool. But none of that matters because you will be improving your strength, mobility, stability, and your cat-like reflexes.

If you’re looking for an exercise program to start after a layoff or if you’ve never lifted weights before, I have a 6-week program called ‘Get Back In the Saddle’ that will give you a fantastic exercise foundation to build on.  Check it out here.

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