December 19, 2016

Happy Holidays and The Low Bar Squat

Happy Monday!

Well, the Holiday Season is upon us.

For some, that means Santa’s elves are very busy packing the sleigh for the long trip. It just so happens that all the hard work and long hours results in a slimming down period for Santa, without which, he’d be hard pressed to get down all the chimneys.

For others, Santa may not be visiting their homes, but they have their own ways of celebrating and sharing love, and for all, the New Year is upon us.

It is a great time to celebrate the spirit of sharing, and the abundance we do have in the world.

The world is really one big family who comes with all the challenges experienced in the dynamics of any family.

At the end of the day, it’s all about working to grow ourselves a little each day so that we have something authentic to share with others.

I’m grateful for all that I have in my life and family, and see great opportunity arising for all of us as we enter a New Year, where focusing on the dynamics of our Big (world) family is now becoming more important than it possibly ever has been.

I hope you feel the same way.

In my blog today, I will share:
1. The Low-bar Squat
2. Show-N-Tell With Paul

The Low-bar Squat

My video blog today explores the difference in position for the high-bar versus low-bar squat.


In my vlog today, I highlight the dangers of the high-bar squat position in regards to the health and function of the cervical spine.

I use a skeleton to model the differences in the two bar positions so you can easily see the landmarks.

I share that I had quite a severe neck injury, and had to switch to a low-bar squat position in order to keep squatting.

For me, even when using optimal high-bar squat position, the load on my cervical spine was too stressful.

Cervical spine pathology is very common among the general public and exercise population, much the same as low back problems are.

The cervical spine is much more fragile, and has much tighter tolerances for optimal function than the lumbar spine due to the greater range of motion and the complex weave of nerves, veins, arteries, lymphatic vessels and the spinal cord.

Those without good posture (who should correct their posture before any form of heavy lifting) will be much safer using a low-bar squat position if they are going to squat with any intensity.

In my video below, I show how the low-bar squat position more effectively distributes the load through the scapula (shoulder blades) and rib cage than the high-bar squat does.

One consideration when using a low-bar squat that is important to remember: Lowering the bar changes the center of gravity of your body. When lifting, your center of gravity is altered because the weight becomes part of you. Therefore, as the bar goes lower on your spine, your torso needs to bend forward more to keep the combined center of gravity (you and the load on the bar) balanced between the balls of your feet and heel.

I talk about this in the video and give you a tip for learning how to find the “sweet spot” for your squat movement.

Keeping optimal spinal alignment from the low back all the way to the head is even more critical in the low-bar squat because the additional forward bend of the trunk the exercise demands tends to magnify faults in lifting form, such as rounding of the low back.

For every pound you add to the bar, there is increased spinal compression, torsion and sheer created to the degree that form isn’t optimal. Unfortunately, that’s what keeps orthopedic surgeons busy operating on “strong people” every day!

For those of you who want to learn A LOT more about squatting, including proper form, a comprehensive assessment of squat technique and many other tests of spine, hip and core function as necessary for healing from or preventing back pain, my Scientific Back Training correspondence course is loaded with practical instruction in relevant anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and both corrective and strength exercise instruction.

You can enroll in the Online e-Learning course here: Scientific Back Training

I hope you enjoy my vlog on the low-bar squat position, and exploring it in your training sessions for optimal performance and minimal injury risk.

Show-N-Tell With Paul

My mother (Meera) has always been a source of creative inspiration for me. She is a master spinner and weaver, knits amazing clothing and sweaters, is a fantastic cook, works as a master potter and sculptor, and does much more.

My mother specializes in sculpting people who have devoted their lives to creating peace in the world. Her work is in museums, libraries and Native American ceremonial locations.

Below, you can read a beautiful (short) article about a woman’s experience of meeting my mother at one of her sculpture exhibits.

You can also visit my mother’s website, see her many amazing sculptures of peacemakers and order her book if you’d like at this link:

Keep up the great work Mom. You are still amazing to me and I love you dearly!

The Chek Family With Santa

Mana got to meet Santa for the first time recently, and it was really fun!

I was worried he’d pull his beard off because he’s fast as a cat and loves to pull hair, or anything else he can grab!

Mana also seems to be a bit afraid of people with hairy faces, as we found out recently when some of the men in my HLC 3 course tried holding him. He took one look at their beards and looked at me like he’d seen something scary and reached out for me to take him back.

That was a surprise to me because he generally loves being held and engaging with most anyone. So, I was quite sure it was the hairy faces that he reacted to, and so I was worried about how he’d react to Santa!

Mana did really well and didn’t get scared or try to pull Santa’s beard. We all had a lovely day, and we are SO excited for his first Christmas.

We have so many cool toys and learning gadgets for him, but what has us all most excited is his first, beautifully crafted wooden push-bike.

Our little guy is already an amazing athlete, with a Eugen Sandow body to boot!

Already, Mana has a push toy with all sorts of sounds and lights that he stands up and pushes all over the house with great joy.

He recently started walking behind this push toy at nine months all by himself, so he will probably start walking unaided some time in January, I suspect.

We are letting him go at his own pace, but believe me, this kid gets LOTS of exercise crawling around and climbing into anything and everything all day!

His latest big adventure is climbing into the dishwasher when the door is open and trying to take all the racks out.

It’s funny and fun to watch his little mind perpetually problem solving, which is almost always an issue of “how do I take this thing apart?”

He has really taught me a lot about letting go of my need for “order in my space.” I like things tidy so my outer environment facilitates order and balance in my inner space.

Sometimes when I come home at night, it looks as if a powerful tornado has swept through the whole house. That is Mana’s signature. I have a new nickname for Mana, which is “Monado.” I know when he’s around, a “Monado” is about to strike!

I have a beautiful stone fountain in my office. When Mana is here, he grabs everything he can find and puts it in the fountain.

One time, I picked up all my gemstones and figurines and put them in the large pot of one of my trees. It only took him about 10 seconds to figure out that if he stood up, he could reach them all!

And yes, by the time I figured out that he’d figured it out, they were all in the fountain.

I’ve come to be zen about it all, and just enjoy the show, after all, it’s only “stuff.” Mana is teaching me to value the joy of his being as primary, and “stuff” as, well, just stuff.

Movies We Enjoyed Recently

The Man Who Knew Infinity

In 1913, Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), a self-taught Indian genius, traveled to Cambridge where he forged a lifelong bond with his eccentric math professor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), while fighting a world that refused to acknowledge his achievements.

Based on a true story, this movie really touched my heart, as I’ve lived through my share of resistance from the professional, medical and academic communities throughout my career.

The saying, “You can always tell who the pioneers are because they have arrows hanging out of their back” is, sadly, very true, and this movie makes that crystal clear.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a very spiritual man, with a deep connection to The Divine, and he shows a clear example of the power of the inward path of spiritual development.

Though his devotion to math ultimately cost him his life, he did eventually get the kind of recognition he deserved, and the movie beautifully shows how his presence became a force of higher-consciousness for all involved.

If you’d like to watch a movie based on the life of a genius that is very well filmed and acted, with deep spiritual undertones, this one is for you! We were moved to tears at times.

The Music Of Strangers – Yo Yo Ma

My wife, Penny, was a cellist in her youth and turned me on to the incredible cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, early in our relationship.

I’ve always loved his music. Until I watched this movie about his life and efforts to create cultural healing through music, I didn’t know much about him.

This is a great movie. You will get to meet some of the world’s greatest musicians, and experience them creating awesome multicultural music for the benefit of humanity.

Musicians are amazing people. All of them have deep stories and painful life challenges they’ve had to work through to be the amazing people they are.

Even Mana was dancing to the music too!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog today.

My wish is that those of you who celebrate Christmas have a lovely time spreading good cheer and that everyone is inspired to share love, and get ready for the New Year.

Love and chi,
Paul Chek