Movement Mondays: The Block Squeeze & Your Piggyback Muscles

Welcome to another edition of Movement Mondays, your weekly movement inspiration to learn creative and functional ways of keeping your whole body healthy!

This week we are going to explore the balance between strength and mobility from behind. On average, most of the lifting we do with our arms is in the frontal plane- reaching forward, lifting up. The same goes for a yoga practice, arms are usually lifted to the side and in front and strengthening movements like downward dog and arm balances are much the same; rarely do we do lifting from behind. And of course, in an everyday natural movement type scenario, you aren't going to be picking a heavy object off the floor and holding it behind your back, it just wouldn't make sense. Yet some of your largest muscles in the body are behind you (Gluteus Maximus and Latissimus Dorsi) and they need love to. 

This week's movement homework looks deceptively simple but you will be surprised at how challenging it may be. Sound like fun? Try it with me:

Take a yoga block in your hands behind your back. Hold the block with just your palms without letting your fingers wrap around it. Squeeze the block gently between the palms and hold for 30 seconds up to a minute. Not too bad?

To make this even more fun and functional, hold the block behind you the same way and slightly bend your elbows and pull them towards each other. See if you can keep your elbows bent and reaching towards each other and while lifting the block away from your body. Not so easy, all of a sudden a super light foam yoga block feels like it weighs 50 pounds!

This block squeeze helps you move your arms into more external rotation, (get you out of those internally rotated computer arms and shoulders) asking the arms to be strong while working on mobility. Not only do the arms get the love but your Latissimus and Trapezius muscles get to join in the fun as well.

Functional Movement Benefits

I call this block squeeze an activation of your piggy back muscles. Those of you with small children know how tiring it can be giving a piggyback rides for an extended period of time. When I give my son a piggyback ride on a walk (which was the inevitable outcome of a walk until only recently, he is almost 5 now.) I always make sure that I am pulling my elbow towards each other a bit more to get extra benefit.

The combination of the block squeeze and a progressive weight increase as he gets older has made it possible for me to carry him on my back for quite a long time fairly easily. Try it out on your next family walk with your little ones. Keep the stroller at home and use the inevitable "up please" as an opportunity to work on your upper body strength and mobility in a natural and functional manner. Which means even if you make it one block or 1 km in 2 hours, at least you got some great extra movement in!

Whether you have kids or not, the block squeeze is an essential exercise you can do to build strength and improve mobility. Please share and enjoy!