EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: THE DISH
HOW TO DO IT
Lie Down – On the floor, maybe with a mat or something.
Knees in Tucked Position – This is the place to start. Here it’s easiest to set the correct position in the stomach.
Toes Pointed, Thighs Squeezed together – Do this now, or you’ll neglect it once you start battling with gravity.
Palms pointing up, arms reach past your hips – This is important. You want to reach down the room, feel your Lat muscles contract, stretch your fingers and keep your arms completely straight. Your shoulders should be off the floor, but, the bottom of your shoulder blades should still be on the floor… this ain’t no Ab Crunch.
Suck your belly button in towards your spine – We are strengthening the lower abdominal muscles and deeper muscles such as the pelvic floor with this. We should feel a slight posterior tilting movement of the pelvis and a drawing in of the belly button. Practice until you can feel this happening.
Extend Your Legs Up and then lower them until you find the sweet spot – Once you have the belly button drawn in and the lower back flat on the floor – which is essential and will happen if the pelvis is in the right position – once you have all that, extend your legs until you find the point that is hard work, but you can control.
Hold for a long time – For starters, we want to get our legs just a few centimeters off the floor and be able to hold it there for a minute. Then we add other drills and progressions.
If you can’t do that straight away (not many can), I suggest building to 3 sets of 20 seconds in whichever position you can hold successively. Then work your legs to a lower position over the coming weeks. Once you can hold 20 seconds with your feet just off the floor without losing your spinal position, and then build time. Slowly and systematically.
This exercise can feel fairly torturous. You may well find that the work (the strip or belt like feeling of work in the lower stomach) can offer you quite a bit of ‘feedback’. Keep going with shallow calm breaths, and you will find that despite the severe torture – you can actually hold these for quite a long time.
HOW IT GOES WRONG AND HOW TO FIX IT
Your Back Arches – You’ve lost your dish, lost control and buggered it up. This happens a lot at first. Figure it out, was it strength or do you just need to practice the exercise more?? If it was strength, be patient, back off and don’t take your legs so low until you’ve adapted. If it was a motor control issue – great. You have an opportunity to improve quickly, but you have to practice a lot and get to know the movement. Make sure you truly understand it, then practice in different positions until you get the skill.
*If you have a naturally anteriorly tilted pelvis, which is very common in the ladies as well as handsome athletic gentlemen like myself, posterior tilting of the pelvis can be very tough at first. Be patient, practice a lot, and you will get it.
Lower Back Hurts – If you have any back issues, this may help, but please get checked out by an expert first. I’m not really talking about you here…If you have no back issues, but your lower back starts to hurt you mid Dish, it’s usually that you’ve lost position and are trying to continue anyway. Or, it could just be that your abs and ‘Dish Musculature’ are fatigued, aren’t doing their job, and the back is over-working and getting involved as a consequence.
If this happens to you, stop doing Dish for the day, next time stop before you start to feel the back take over and build up slowly and mindfully. You should get better, and it should disappear over time. If it doesn’t, if you don’t, see a coach or a physio and get some help.
Too Much Lift Off – Keep the bottom of the shoulder blades on the floor I said! It’s very common you want to lift up to a position of less tension. Don’t do it. If you can’t do it right after 3 seconds, then so be it. Rest and come back stronger next time.
Too much abdominal tension – Everybody wants a six-pack; I get. It’s easy for me because my six-pack is so ripped you can see it through my T-Shirt. But it doesn’t mean you have to tense your Abs as hard as you can. Not on this, but people tend to do it here. Folks get frustrated because they can’t get the position right, and then they over do it trying to hold with brute force from the wrong area. Naughty! Just pull in the Lower Abs and relax the upper portion. Your six pack will come, but not from this.
Greed/Lack of patience – Its classic seeing people mess these up trying to get their legs all the way down before they are ready. If you lose position, regress slightly.
Poor Programming – My Handstand coach (coached me for a while anyway), Sammy – made us do this for warm up. He’s a bit of an asshole, and they are really hard. But he is smart. If you do these too late, or while you’re out of breath, you may well struggle. Don’t do these in the middle of a circuit. Do them in a calm and focused manner.
Mind not on the job / Lack of motivation – These take focus. You can’t ‘just do’ them. You gotta get inside the muscles, feel them work. If you don’t feel the right stuff, stop staring at the handsome stranger across the gym… focus! Why are you doing this, how should it feel?
Stop Mid-Stream – Not too graphic for you I hope. Try it, your stomach will suck in, and you’ll feel ‘The Dish’ musculature get excited.
Squeeze something into the floor – If your lower back refuses to cooperate and keeps coming off the floor, imagine you’re trying to flatten a sponge into the ground with your lower back.
Reach – Reaching and stretching your hands, arms and fingers will help you reflexively hold your Dish.
Breath! – This may look innocuous, but can be can feel like an all-consuming battle of life and death. Every now and then, when you push it, you will realise you’re holding your breath. Don’t. Naughty. Not breathing can have many negative consequences such as unnecessarily raising blood pressure, having a stupid red face, looking like a plonker and possibly even death. Short, smooth breaths will help you keep going longer.
If you struggle with The Dish (the only reason I can think of to switch it out), I would swap it for one of these two, and if that’s no good, I would just put more time and focus into the other parts of this month:
—> HOLLOW EXTENSIONS — the act of drawing your legs towards you sometimes helps to control the position of the pelvis and to feel the work in the right place.
—> LOW BENT KNEE L-SIT — a more integrated move, but one that can help train you to work the abs while controlling the PPT.
WHY DO IT
This is an exercise for the Stomach. Not so much for the six pack Rectus Abdominus muscle though, but lower, lower and deeper.
We do it for motor control, and for handstand prep. This is the position your stomach should be in during a perfect straight body handstand, and it’s hard.
A good Dish will help you on all exercises. You will have better ability to control your spine position, your pelvis, and your rib cage. All important to keep your body in good position whatever exercise you are on. That’s why it is one of our foundational activities, and you will be regularly prompted to ‘set your Dish’ on other exercises in this archive.
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