I’m not a mason, but I’m your dad’s age and sometimes my knees, back or shoulders hurt.
I think you’re on the right track with your emphasis on posterior chain/back work and trying to avoid flexion, squatting and pressure on the knees. This is a piece from a Dan John article about muscles that grow tight and shortened vs muscles that get stretched and weak as people age. I really jives with your thinking, even to the point of doing hip thrusts.
"### 2 – Muscles
From there we can take a global look at correctives by looking at the muscles. For that, we have to look at life and living. If there are indeed some rules, here they are:
- Most adults need to strengthen the phasics and stretch the tonics.
- Next, deal with a lifetime of asymmetry issues.
- Finally, deal with too much sitting and not moving.
The phasic muscles – the glutes, deltoids, triceps, and abs – are also the muscles that tend to respond best to strength training. Theodor Heittinger made this clear in The Physiology of Strength (written in the early 1950s) as these muscles – the glutes – respond quickest to strength training.
The tonic muscles – chest, biceps, psoas, etc. – are often overtrained in many settings. Bench press, curl, and lat pulldown workouts tend of tighten the muscles that need to be stretched back into place. The modern gym with its myriad of seated machines lock that poor, tight hip flexor and hamstring muscle into the same place it’s been all day while sitting, driving, typing, and in general, not moving.
Dr. Vladimir Janda came up with these two classifications based on those that tend to shorten when tired (tonic) and those that tend to weaken under stress or age (phasic). A simple chart:
|Muscles That Get Tighter (Tonic)
||Muscles That Get Weaker (Phasic)
|Pectoralis Major (Chest)
|Pectoralis Minor (deep chest muscle)
|Psoas (The hip flexors that get bad press)
Athletes make a Faustian deal when entering into the world of sport as it’s a rare sport that doesn’t end up causing massive asymmetries. Elite sport demands world class strength at the cost of ignoring other weaknesses and issues.
Over time, performance improves because of this focus, but it leads to long term issues. Randy Matson, former world record holder in the shot put, was once asked if he still threw at all. He answered, “I can barely pick up my brief case with my right hand.” That’s the deal with the devil elite athletes need to make to get to the top.
As such, we need to address the weakening and tightening of nature plus the effects of life, sports, and everything else when we address corrective work. So corrective work should be seamless with the entire program. I strongly discourage trainers and coaches from having a mobility section of training, a flexibility part, and a corrective part.
If because of injury, trauma, or life, you can’t do the big movements (bench press, deadlift, squat, and Olympic lifts), you should step back and do even more basic moves. I call these “regressions” and regressions are the best correctives .
Recently I had a group of elite Navy personnel doing pelvic tilts/hip thrusts for sets of 25. The next day, the head of the group told me, “From now on, I’m doing these – alone , mind you, but I’m doing these.”
Hip thrusts are your one-stop shop for stretching your hip flexors, building the butt, and giving you an insight about how you cheat on butt work in general (a condition characterized by Janda as “gluteal amnesia”). You need to get on the ground and squeeze those cheeks together.
Under load, you certainly may call these “hip thrusts” and I’m very interested in the work of Bret Contreras and Nick Horton in showing people the value of this movement not only for show, but for go. Nick’s Olympic lifters are using the hip thrust as a basic training move and making great progress.
This movement is what I call a regression and please don’t discount any of them. Use every one you can in general warm-ups or, as I prefer, during rest periods on other movements. It will keep the heart rate up and make sure things go well for you.
Of the five fundamental human movements (push, pull, hinge, squat, and loaded carries), the one that typically needs the most regressions is the squat.