5 Skills You Need to Master


Heidi Kettlebell

Our philosophy at The Training Room is one of self empowerment. We aim to provide our clients with the knowledge and tools to lead a strong, healthy and active lifestyle. Training at the TR is a process that combines movement education with practical skill acquisition. We believe that everyone who walks through our doors should fundamentally understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.

The five key concepts outlined here form the platform upon which all other training programs are built. Mastery of these skills will not only ensure ongoing progress in TRAC, classes and personal training at the TR, but it will also help gain confidence and independence when working out at home, on the road, or outdoors.

I tell my clients that learning the basics is like building a stable foundation for a new house. You need to take the necessary time to build a strong stable foundation before adding weight to the structure. Without the stable foundation your structure will develop cracks and the possibility for damage will only increase over time. – Maren (TR Co-Owner)

Key Concept #1 – Bracing & Neutral Spine

The ability to brace allows your limbs to work from a base of stabilization provided by your trunk or core. Think of your core as a cylinder that includes not just your abs, but all the way around – including your back and intercostals on the sides. We start with deadbugs in a supine position, using the floor as feedback to maintain a neutral spine, then progress to quadruped shown below. Further progressions include bracing in half kneeling, tall kneeling and standing positions.

A – Deadbug

Depending on the individual and equipment available, there are three versions we commonly use for the deadbug: wall pressing, hands free, and overhead cable resist. Inhale through your nose, exhale as you lower your leg and brace “down” by tilting your hips backward and pressing your entire back flat against the floor, shortening your abdominals in the front.

B – Quadruped X-Hold with Exhale

The contralateral challenge to stabilize is quite evident here. The midsection must brace in order to keep the hips neutral. The more advanced x-hold with knees up then progresses to a bear crawl.


Key Concept #2 – The Hip Hinge
The hinge pattern is often one of the most incorrectly performed movements seen in a gym setting. Ego can often outweigh the desire to execute this movement properly, and too often heavy weight will be hoisted with a compromised spine. Put form first and save your spine by working on “grooving the pattern”. Practice makes permanent.

a – Kettlebell Deadlift

b – Trapbar Deadlift

c – Kettlebell Swing

Key Concept #3 – Shoulder Positioning

The ability to “pack your shoulders” and properly engage your lats is paramount for proper deadlift execution, row variations and general shoulder health. I wrote in a previous article on the importance of gaining and implementing this skill.

Key Concept #4- The Squat
Understanding the difference between hip dominant and knee dominant exercises is the first step toward differentiating the deadlift from the squat. The squat is a knee-dominant exercise with a greater degree of knee flexion than it’s hip-dominant cousin, the deadlift. The squat is performed in a “taller” position with a more vertical torso angle than the deadlift. Front-loaded squats or goblet squats promote the correct squat pattern and are frequently used in our programming. Remember: Goblet, not gobble.
*Depending on your level of mobility, the Mobility Matrix or the Toe Touch to Squat may help to achieve a better squat.

a – Goblet Squats

b – Double Kettlebell Squats

Key Concept #5- Proper Pushups
A good push up is a full-body exercise with huge benefits. It is one of the best movements a person can learn to perform. Set the foundation with hands positioned under the shoulders, spine neutral, and core braced. From there, “spread the floor” as you descend to the bottom and push away hard using both feet and both hands.

a – Pushup with Yoga Reset


A “yoga reset” can be incorporated into a beginners routine to emphasize the importance of resetting to a neutral hip position.

In our new class “TR Essentials” we emphasize the skills mentioned in this article. Attending this class will enable you to approach more classes and lifts with the confidence that you are doing things correctly and building that solid foundation as you move forward with your training.
TR Essentials Class Description:
This class is highly recommended for all new TR clients. Regardless of your fitness level or training experience, TR Essentials breaks down the way we coach the fundamental lifts at The Training Room. We believe that mastering the basics creates a solid foundation for building strength while reducing the risk of injury. Basic lifts include the deadlift, squat, kettlebell swing and Turkish get up. A comprehensive understanding of these lifts is required prior to TRAC participation. This is a workshop style class, and is not limited to these four lifts. TR Essentials is also a skills class, where you can expect feedback and coaching on any exercise. The size of the class and the needs of the individual participants will determine the focus of the class each week. Email any questions to info@thetrainingroomboston.com.

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