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Your Body on Sabbatical

Updated: Jan 4

This is a guest post from Andrew Johnston. Andrew is a guest in Series 5 of the Modern Husbands Podcast. Our founder and his son also use Andrew for nutrition and exercise advice.

For more information or to schedule some time with Andrew:


Three key areas of the body you aren't using, but should

You probably know where your glutes are. Thanks to your job, you have extensive knowledge of the seated workplace environment. But just because you sit on your glutes when you work doesn't mean your glutes work when you sit. In fact, working your ass off is a phrase which was probably motivated by the detrimental effects of the workplace environment. Sit on those cheeks long enough, and it won't matter which one you turn. You won't find either of them, because sensory motor amnesia has put them on a permanent lunch break.


Access the video tutorials of each exercise.


Sensory motor amnesia is a term first used by Vladir Janda to describe a muscle which no longer works. Via either pain or disuse, the muscle has "forgotten" how to function. And the longer any muscle is turned off, the harder it can be to turn back on. But before you get your panties in a wad--oh, can't since your butt is purely hypothetical at this point. So maybe you won't even be phased to hear that your ass is likely not the only part of your body on sabbatical.

Unlike most muscles with two sources of innervation, the abdominals have NINE sources of innervation. The last two, from the umbilicus down, are the iliohypogastric nerve and the ilioinguinal nerve. Together they are what is termed the "lower abdominals". Most people have excellent upper abdominal function from years of sit ups, crunches, and leg lifts. In contrast, the lower abdominals are often fast asleep as evidenced by the little roll so commonly found on people's bellies, even in those who have good upper abdominal definition.

The usual suspect for turning the lower abdominals off is sensory motor amnesia. You haven't used it, so you lost it. But many other factors can contribute to this abdominal amnesia:

  • A tight psoas group which not only put the pelvis in a position of excessive anterior tilt but also holds the abs in a stretched position, effectively inhibiting them.

  • Intestinal inflammation from medical drugs, food intolerances, alcohol consumption, etc. can keep the lower abs from working since pain inhibits function

  • Poor form/improper training techniques which facilitate the upper abs and/or the psoas so that these muscles activate preferentially and even steal the neurological drive intended for the lower abdominals.

How to fix the problem

So what's the fix? For most it's learning how to actually activate the lower abs. Because if you can't turn the muscle on, you cannot train the muscle. The first in a long series of abdominal exercises is the easiest to perform but the most difficult to learn. It requires complete focus and precise neurological control. It's called the pelvic tilt or lower abdominal #1.

Do at least one set a day (you don't need to rest 48hrs between sessions as the movement is not intense enough to cause muscle damage--so don't expect a "burn") of 20-30 FOCUSED reps. The moment you think you can do this exercise and whistle Dixie, you're probably doing it wrong! So concentrate instead of crunch. And watch your lower abs finally show up for once.


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Scapular adductors may be testing the limits of your anatomical knowledge. These are a group of muscles which, as the name implies, adduct your scapulae. When you stand up straight, lift your chest, and externally rotate your shoulders, these are some of the muscles responsible for that action. Unfortunately, most people don't stand up straight, lift their chests, or externally rotate their shoulders. Thus, the majority of folks, even if they can locate these muscles, will find that they're inhibited.

How do we bring these three key areas of the body back on line? Well, the first step is simply to touch them. Palpating a muscle helps you become aware of that muscle. When I'm working with a client who cannot fire a particular muscle, one of my strategies is to continually tap the inhibited muscle while they perform a movement involving that muscle. If the client actually gains awareness quicker than I annoy the absolute crap out of them, then the potential to fire that muscle increases exponentially. And once the client can activate a muscle, then we can finally work the muscle. It's kinda like the brain in that respect: use it so we don't lose it.

Video tutorials

The three exercises below should help you get your body back to work:

Reinforcement of Glute Max: Click for the videos

  • On back in sit up position with knees bent and feet flat, shoulder width apart.

  • Rotate pelvis posteriorly to flatten back.

  • Push through heels to raise pelvis off floor, trying to initiate movement with glutes.

  • Return toward start position until lumbar spine touches floor--butt shouldn't touch much if at all if you're properly maintaining posterior pelvic tilt.

  • Repeat for 20-50 reps of each version (legs shoulder width apart, feet together/knees together, feet together/knees apart, knees together/feet apart).

  • Lying on your back with a blood pressure cuff or your hand placed underneath your low back at belly button level.

  • Bend your knees to 90 degrees with feet flat on floor. Pump the cuff up to 40mm/hg draw your belly button inwards and slightly rotate your pelvis backwards which will flatten your low back into the cuff.

  • Rotate your pelvis to the point where the pressure in the cuff raises to 70mm/hg. If you do not have a cuff rotate your pelvis until you feel a light pressure on the floor.

  • Keep hamstrings RELAXED.

  • Repeat for 12-20 reps x 1-3 sets.

Butterflies: Click for the video

  • Lie in prone position with arms at side, just above the parallel and palms down. Chin or forehead can be on the ground or even one ear if you prefer--simply switch to the other side at the halfway point.

  • Posteriorly rotate pelvis.

  • While keeping head, chest, and feet on ground, lift palms up as high as possible, aiming for amplitude and quickness of movement.

  • Repeat for designated number of reps.

Andrew Johnston biography

A former professional cyclist in both the United States and abroad, Andrew is currently a CHEK Master Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach Level 3 as well as one of fewer than 150 Certified ELDOA Trainers in the world.

Andrew is a Leukemia Survivor since 2004 and the first (and only) Leukemia Survivor to compete at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, win the Overall of an Iron Distance Triathlon, and complete the Race Across America (RAAM).

Twice voted One of the Top Trainers in America by Men's Health, Andrew has authored two books (Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon and Spot On: Nutrition) as well as been the subject of the award-winning documentary Living is Winning.


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