New Warm-Up: Keiser Flow

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Today’s guest post is brought to you by Boston University Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach, Jill Zeller.

I started training and making cameo appearances at BU two or so years ago when one my good friends, Dave Rak, was a GA there. He left (now a S&C coach at University of Washington), and the staff at BU were nice enough to let me continue to stop by. I’m sort of like that character Milton from the movie Office Space who just continues to show up to work despite technically no longer being an employee.

Without the stapler fetish of course.

Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful facility and the staff is fantastic.

As it happens, Jill and I were discussing “flow” warm-ups recently and she had a nice idea on how to incorporate a Keiser system into the mix. I asked her if she’d be interested in writing about it, and this is what she came up with.


PS: if you don’t have access to a Keiser system, no worries! You can just as easily use a standard pulley system.

In the last few years many coaches have been discussing developmental patterns that challenge people to breathe and crawl to increase their movement quality. The term Flow has been used by many strength coaches to describe a series of drills that effortlessly seem to blend together while constantly challenging the athlete to stabilize and mobilize.

Note from TG: Fun, random Tony fact (and my apologies to Jill for highjacking her article). When Lisa and I first started dating she had mentioned that one of her favorite books was Flow, written by renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 

In it he describes the “optimal experience,” and that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is the state of consciousness called…….flow.

During this state, Dr. Csikrerweufushjahkswqoiojfsyi describes people as typically experiencing deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.

Examples include people who enjoy cooking, gardening, tinkering with their car, or for the more geeky of us, engaging in a full blown Magic the Gathering marathon. Whatever the case may be, we’re in it…with laser like focus.

The day after our first date, I bought the book as a way to prove to Lisa “see? I was listening!! I like you so much that I bought your favorite book from Dr. Whateverhisnameis. We should totally make out!”

Um, yeah, that book is still sitting on my bookshelf unopened. Someday I’ll crack it open and give it a go.

This FLOW warm-up follows the ground up approach incorporating an upper body push, pull, core and lower body squat and hinge pattern.

The Ground-Up Approach

Starts with some form of diaphragmatic breathing because this is the number one pillar you need to master before any other movement. Once you can exhale longer than you inhale, push your rib cage down towards your hips and engage your pelvic floor, you can begin.

Photo Credit: Supremedalekdunn

The first movement is a dead bug, which we all know Tony is obsessed with. It’s actually kind of creepy.

This is a supine core exercise. We start supine because if you cannot master your lumbo pelvic position supine you have no business moving into quadruped, half kneel or any other positions against gravity that offer a lesser base of support. Do 10 reps each side.

Note from TG: this ground-up approach highlights the SFMA’s 4×4 Matrix and serves as an excellent framework for customizing corrective exercise as well as programming considerations in general.

For example a 1-1 would be a supine glute bridge with a band wrapped around the knees (for proprioceptive feedback). A 4-4 would be something like a traditional squat or deadlift.

While rules are always meant to be broken, when you’re dealing with clients or athletes who exhibit stability/motor control dysfunction, the 4×4 Matrix acts as a foundation for addressing things through progressive postures, loads, and reflex activation.

NOTE: full video demonstration ALL the moves below.

From supine we have a smooth transition into the next core drill….Side Plank Row.

This is anti-lateral flexion exercise compounded with a one-arm horizontal pull. This is stability, mobility and strength in one exercise. The whole kinetic chain is working as you stabilize your core and row with your top hand using your rotator cuff muscles and rhomboids. Repeat 10 each side.

We progress into the quadruped position for Bird Dogs.

Bird dogs are a level harder than a dead bug because they challenge the base of support through your anti-rotary muscles and lumbar stabilizers. Repeat 10 on each side with a one second pause at end range without any lumbar movement. (Ladies: Make sure you’re far enough from the keiser that your pony tail doesn’t get caught in it..Just saying).

In the tall kneel position we transition to doing a One-Arm T with a Press. The tall kneeling position challenges our lumbo-pelvic position. The T forces us to have proper scapula stability and abduction. After abduction we add another horizontal press for an extra anti-rotary component.

Do 10 each side.

From a tall kneeling position we narrow the base of support to come into a ½ kneel position or an in-line position. To reiterate, it’s important to be cognizant of where our diaphragm and pelvis are in this position. Are we locked in?

Here we perform an anti-rotational press, the Pallof Press. Do 10/side.

We are finally approaching a standing position.

Hold the keiser handle at belly button height and have the athlete squat. By holding the keiser distal from your body you’re slightly pulling your thoracic position into flexion so you have to use your core stabilizers to maintain proper spinal alignment through a squat pattern.

Do 10 Core Engaged Keiser Squats.

The last exercise is a Single Leg Deadlift to Row. This teaches the hip hinge in a unilateral fashion. It’s a great regression when teaching an SLDL because the tension on the keiser allows you so sit back into the hip on the ground while extend and slightly internally rotate the hip moving through the sagittal plane. At the top we row to exaggerate hip extension upper body pulling.

The objective of this warm up is to go through many movement progressions within one seamless action. I.e., flow.

Athletes can appreciate the difficulty of each movement tier but still see the final outcome. (A standing position).

Lets See the Whole Thing in Action!

Repeat this twice and you have completed numerous core exercises, two upper body pulls, two upper body presses, one unilateral, one bilateral, a squat pattern, and a one leg hip hinge pattern in about 5-10 minutes.

You’ll definitely break a sweat and be more prepared for your subsequent training session. Plus, it serves as a nice change of pace and breaks up the monotony of most warm-ups. Give it a try today and let me know what you think in the comments section!

About the Author

Jill Zeller is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach at Boston University as well as one of the Head Strength and Conditioning coaches at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning.

She loves to deadlift. And give high-fives.

You can check out Jill’s Facebook page HERE, and follow her on Twitter HERE.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Minna

    Love the natural flow of the flow (pun intended) and the third shoutout to the creepy obsession with deadbugs- hurrah! They are indeed wonderful. Also, props for the Office Space reference :)

    October 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Alan

    fantastic, definitely trying this, Q- should the deadbug be opposite arm & leg moving (like your deadbug KB video) or does it not matter greatly?

    October 24, 2014 at 4:33 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      You can perform them either way Alan.

      October 24, 2014 at 9:08 am | Reply to this comment

      • AlanDKeith

        Thanks Tony, apologies for not introducing myself earlier. I'm a fitness trainer from Scotland UK, have been following your blog for a few years now but my question above was my 1st comment (have now registered on Disqus so promise to to be more active from now on!!) I was more of cardio guy when younger(cycling & triathlons) & then got interested in Crossfit about 6 years ago, thought it was the best thing ever & really enjoyed the training & reading up on training principles as much as i could, but felt i was being, not quite brainwashed, but that probably describes it best. So, I felt that I needed a broader spectrum of fitness knowledge, found a few sites that I frequent but always read almost all of your posts, reading your blog over the last few years I seem to have become less CF focused & you seem to have veered towards CF with a slightly more favourable opinion- we've met in the middle so to speak. Thanks again Tony, keep up the good work. ps- i've made it to Boston once, sadly it was just landing at Logan, pick up hire car & straight to VT for snowboarding, great fun though!

        November 22, 2014 at 6:59 am | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          If you're ever back in Boston, our doors at CSP are always open! Thanks for reading, and hope to hear more from you down the road! CrossFit: I still have my "beef" with them, but I also recognize that CrossFit has done more to get people excited to lift weights than anything else in history. There are shitty coaches everywhere - including in "regular" strength and conditioning - so it's just a matter of expectation management. More and more awesome coaches are venturing into CrossFit and that's a good thing.

          November 23, 2014 at 8:39 am | Reply to this comment

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