Common Exercise Injuries To Look Out For

One of my passions lies in sports medicine, specifically Athletic Training (hence the ATC/L credentials).

Today’s post features a topic that is near and dear to my heart. This is because one of my passions lies in sports medicine, specifically Athletic Training (hence the ATC/L credentials). With that being said I want to remind everyone that I am not writing the content of these email, but merely sharing tips and tricks of the gym. So I feel I must say that what you are about to read is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone’s specific problem, and if you have any specific questions please visit your doctor ūüôā
Okay lets get to the heart of this weeks topic EXERCISE INJURIES!!! Growing up without an ATC at any of my sporting event I had to do a lot of self assessment and treatment which is why I got my undergrad in Athletic Training. This post was written by Linda Melone on theprevention.com website, and features one of my favorite people to follow Dr. David Geier. It is very well written and features 8 injuries that I have seen/treated/experienced many times with excellent suggestions on how to avoid them.
1. Patella femoral overuse syndrome
Also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) and Runner Knee, this common problem manifests as pain under the kneecap that worsens when running, going down stairs, or sitting for long periods of time with knees bent. Tips to avoid this issue include strengthening the quadriceps muscles, as well as hamstrings and calves..
2. Rotator cuff tear
This injury involves damage to one of the four rotator cuff muscles that keeps your shoulder socket in place. Avoid repetitive overhead motions, and consider seeing a doctor if you modify your workout to minimize pain without improvement for a few days.
3. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear
This issue is more often than not a non-contact injury. It tends to happen when you land awkwardly from a jump, stop suddenly, change directions rapidly, and slowing down while running. There are many prevention programs, and bio-mechanics experts (cough cough) that can aid in preventing these injuries. However, preventative steps include always trying to land softly on your toes with your knees bent.
4.¬†Boxer’s fracture
“Even if you’re not a fighter, participating in boxing classes or other training programs where you punch pads held by a trainer or you pummel a heavy bag can result in a boxer’s fracture.” I see these injuries more often in novice “punchers” and frustrated teenagers who punch the ground. Easy preventative steps include¬†proper protection on your hands and again proper bio-mechanics.
5. Hamstring strain
Also known as a pulled muscle, these injuries can take as little as a few days or a week or two to heal or as much as six to eight weeks or even more! Prevention includes warming up thoroughly and knowing how/when to stretch.
6. Ankle fracture
These nasty injuries, along with ankle sprains, happen when¬†you land awkwardly and invert or “twist” your ankle. Having proper proprioception (hand eye coordination) and¬†making every effort to avoid landing on uneven surfaces are good strategies to avoid these problems.
7. Labral tear (shoulder)
I have had the unique pleasure of suffering, and getting surgery for, this injury myself! Although my injury was from a stiff arm during rugby, the author sums the core issue well as “Falling on an outstretched hand during a cardio class, a sudden pull trying to lift a heavy weight in CrossFit, or trying to stop yourself from falling can all result in this injury, defined as a tear of the cartilage bumper within the socket of the shoulder.” To avoid this injury, use a proper weight and, notice the common theme, use proper bio-mechanics.
8. Stress fracture
These tricky injuries also known as hairline fractures, often happen due to repetitive stress and usually take time to develop. Stress fractures are largely preventable if you stick to a plan that never increases your exercise by more than 10% per week and has varying routines.
I hope this post was informative, and if you want some more detail please read the article by clicking here.

All About Shoulder Strength & Stability

How to maximize your shoulders’ ability to move in a safe and injury resistance manner.

You have a choice. You can either move around in almost any direction, but be at a high risk of injury, or you can be strong, stable, and at a low risk of injury, but you can only move around a little bit. Which choice sounds better to you? Well, if you’re the joints of the hands and feet you chose the latter. But if you’re the shoulder joint, you chose the former. Being such a dynamic joint with a very low level of stability, the shoulder is ¬†naturally very prone to injury. That’s why today’s post is all about how to maximize your shoulders’ ability to move in a safe and injury resistance manner.
How It Works
There‚Äôs a lot of moving parts¬†when we talk about getting the arm overhead. There are 12 ribs and their spinal attachments, 10 of which have attachments at the chest. You also have scapular motion through 3 dimensions (to the side, to the front, and rotations), humeral rotation and alignment within the glenoid fossa, AC and SC joint motions or limitations, spinal motion of, at minimum, the 12 thoracic spine segments, and¬†24 muscles that attach through the thoracic spine, scapula and humerus. In total,¬†there’s motion from 38 joints, making for a whole lot of potential for things to get¬†wonky. By simply raising your arms overhead, a trained eye can tell a lot about what’s going on in the upper body. Take a look at the table below, or¬†this video, to see how important it is for the muscles and the joints of the upper body to be in sync (1).
Inline image 1
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
One thing that drives the issues seen above is the ever-growing tendency for us to sit! Putting other health issues aside, sitting is bad for us because it drives poor posture. Sitting drives the head forward and bends the spine in a way that makes it difficult for the shoulders to allow the arm to get overhead. It also decreases the flexibility of the big Lats and reduces the strength of the lower traps, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior (2). You may not care about those muscles, but what you probably care about is the fact that these issues can cause problems that include subacromial impingement, rotator cuff tears, glenohumeral inferior instability, sternoclavicular joint pain, acromioclavicular joint pain, glenohumeral osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder syndrome, scoliosis, lateral epicondylalgia, kyphosis, thoracic outlet syndrome, headaches, neck pain, and upper crossed syndrome (3,4). YIKES! 
 
Inline image 2
 
What’s The Best Solution?
The best solution always depends on the problem. So what’s your problem? Well, if you have to ask, you may want to seek out a professional to help you find out. In general, most people should work on a few things in particular. If you are fit and looking to do overhead or military presses to get big strong shoulders, you need to¬†work on technique¬†and¬†changing up your mode of training¬†(i.e. using resistance bands with dumbbells,¬†bottoms up training, or changing the plane of motion). If you’re not quite ready for that level of intensity, you should be working on some basics.¬†Essentially, you need to get some scapular (shoulder blade) positional stability and glenohumeral stability. Try to resist rotating the torso, and use a little bit of abs to hold it all together.¬†Here are some great exercises¬†to work on basic shoulder stability (5,6):
 
Inline image 3
 
Prone extension – Lie face down with the shoulders resting in 90¬į and raise the arms up off of the ground
Forward flexion in side lying – While lying on your side with your top arm straight, raise and lower your arm off of the ground
External rotation in side lying – While lying on your side¬†elbow flexed 90¬į, rotate your arm upward¬†with a towel between the elbow and trunk to avoid compensatory movements
Prone horizontal abduction with external rotation – While lying face down hands by your hips, raise your arms off of the ground and squeeze your shoulders together
Push up plus РWhile in a push up position against a wall or on the ground, perform a full push up and emphasis on an extra push once the arms are fully extended (bonus points for using an unstable surface)
Plank walking РHold a push-up position with the feet together and walk the hands sideways while keeping the feet in place making an arch
Bottom Line
To have healthy shoulders, good posture, and lower chances of upper body pain and injury, you need to work on the basics. External rotation exercises are underappreciated by almost everyone. Whether you like to lift heavy weights, or if you simply want to place a can of beans on the top shelf without pain, you need to be working on shoulder health. And while there are many ways to achieve happy shoulders, simply working on the muscles of the back is a good place to start. So, sit up in your chair, roll your shoulders back a few times, and take a deep belly breath. See how easy it is to get started?!
References
1. Howe, L., & Blagrove, R. (2015). Shoulder function during overhead lifting tasks: implications for screening athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 37(5). 
2. Weon, J., Oh, J., Cynn, H., Kim, Y., Kwon, O., & Yi, C. (2010). Influence of forward head posture on scapular upward rotators during isometric shoulder flexion. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 14(4), 367-374. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2009.06.006
3. Nagai, K., Tateuchi, H., Takashima, S., Miyasaka, J., Hasegawa, S., Arai, R.. . Ichihashi, N. (2013). Effects of trunk rotation on scapular kinematics and muscle activity during humeral elevation. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology : Official Journal of the International Society of Electrophysiological Kinesiology, 23(3), 679-687. doi:10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.01.012
4. Fayad, F., Roby-Brami, A., Yazbeck, C., Hanneton, S., Lefevre-Colau, M., Gautheron, V.. . Revel, M. (2008). Three-dimensional scapular kinematics and scapulohumeral rhythm in patients with glenohumeral osteoarthritis or frozen shoulder. Journal of Biomechanics, 41(2), 326-332. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2007.09.004
5. De Mey, K., Danneels, L., Cagnie, B., & Cools, A. M. (2012). Scapular muscle rehabilitation exercises in overhead athletes with impingement symptoms: Effect of a 6-week training program on muscle recruitment and functional outcome. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(8), 1906-1915
6.¬†de Ara√ļjo, R. C., de Andrade, R., Tucci, H. T., Martins, J., & de Oliveira, A. S. (2011). Shoulder muscular activity during isometric three-point kneeling exercise on stable and unstable surfaces. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 27(3), 192.

Serape Diem: Functional Core Exercise’s You Should Be Doing

How are you going to translate the force produced from those strong legs to the arms? By utilizing the Serape effect of course!!!!

Imagine your body is made up of two big blocks of meat. You have your upper body and you have your lower body. Now imagine you want to use both of those big blocks of meat simultaneously to do something like throw/hit a ball, dig a hole or golf , push a cart full of groceries, or punch a heavy bag. How are you going to translate the force produced from those strong legs to the arms? By utilizing the Serape effect of course!!!! The Serape effect is basically the use of the core to translate force from the lower body through the arms. There are a variety of “functional” exercises that you can, and should, be doing to make sure you’re not overusing joints which can lead to injury. So now that you have a little background knowledge, let’s dive into today’s post!

“Functional”

The term “functional training” is a bit of a buzzword garbage term. My favorite quote regarding this is from¬†James Fell¬†that says “It‚Äôs meaningless. Any time someone says an exercise is functional it means they don‚Äôt know what they‚Äôre talking about. All exercises are functional. Your mom is functional.” Funny and true. All exercise has function, and a variety of exercise is important to maintain function. For instance, if you exclusively use exercise machines, you may lose the ability to use those strong muscles in a rotational fashion. That’s where the¬†functional¬†aspect of training the Serape comes in. Broadly, the core ¬†can be described as being between the joints of the shoulders and hips.The muscles that attach the pelvis, spine, and rib cage perform many functions. Hip musculature generates the majority of power, then transfers it upward through the linkage to the arms through a ‚Äústiffened‚ÄĚ core, which creates¬†efficient transfer of forces, and is one of the keys to injury prevention. The Serape involves these features from both ends of the core in a spiral pattern (1).¬†It actually wraps itself around the¬†trunk of the body, perfectly designed¬†for rotating the hips and¬†shoulders in an opposite direction allowing the¬†hips to lead and the shoulder to¬†follow in many ground-based activities¬†such as throwing, batting, golfing,¬†or punching (2). Take a look at the pictures below and/or¬†this video¬†for a good visualization of how it works.

If you’re a nerd like me and want to know what exact muscles are involved, here are some pictures detailing the exact muscles used with the Serape.

Serape Training For Beginners

Training the Serape muscles is easier than it looks. Yes, there are a lot of muscles involved. But remember, we are not isolating any single muscle in particular, we are learning how to use them all in an efficient manner. If you’re not doing so already, you will want to start doing Olympic-style lifts and traditional strength lifts such as squats, bench press, and pull-ups. These are non Serape specific exercises, but if you don’t have strength in the upper and lower body then you won’t have strength to translate through the core to begin with! You will also want to start by training the four basic trunk movement patterns with dynamic and/or static exercises. Beginners should do exercises that train in what we call single-plane basic movement patterns.¬†Single-plane¬†exercises are usually easy to learn and include exercises such as the crunch (trunk flexion), back extension/hyper-extension (trunk extension), Russian twist (trunk rotation), and side bend (lateral flexion) (3).

For those more advanced, you may want to consider¬†multi-plane¬†exercises that target areas you’re not getting with your standard training. This is because¬†there is¬†huge inter-personal variety¬†in terms of which ab-exercises work best for whom (4). By simply extending your arms over your head during a crunch, you can drastically increase abdominal muscle involvement. Take a look at the chart below to get an idea of what exercises work for different parts of the core (the lower the number the better). Before we move on to the last section of this post, I think it’s important to note that any exercise performed for abs will always use all the muscle groups that compose the abdominal wall¬†when done correctly. Proper technique is paramount to all exercise, so make sure that you consult a professional if you are a novice, are unsure of what you’re doing, or experience pain during exercise.

Hard Work Pays Off

While it’s been long proven that¬†abdominal exercises won’t turn a beer belly into a six pack, we do know that core exercises are paramount for a healthy body and for safety during exercises that will get you strong and help you lose weight (5).¬†Core stiffness enhances athletic performance, and guess what your doing at the gym?… performing athletically (6)! So once you have set the foundation of a strong body, you can get into the fun exercises that greatly enhance your athletic performance on and off the playing field, (aka daily life activities). Here are some of the best ways to train the Serape movement pattern:

– Rotating exercises done from a standing position and alternating punching/pressing and pulling

– Utilize various stances, 2-arm and single-arm loading

– Alternating pressing/pulling patterns, as well as different stepping movements

I’ll finish up by reminding you of why we are working on the core and Serape. Muscles of the Serape form a spiraling system that enhances the efficiency of cyclic activity such as walking, together with power and speed activities such as throwing and golf. The stiffened core enables power produced in the lower limbs to transfer to the joints of the upper end of the core (or vice versa) forming a whip. So get of those machines and start whipping yourself into shape!

Don’t forget to¬†like me on¬†Facebook!

References

  1. Santana, JC., McGill, Stuart M., Brown, LE., (2015). Anterior and Posterior Serape: The Rotational Core. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 37(5), 1519
  2. Santana JC. The serape effect: A kinesiological model for core training. Strength Cond J 25: 73‚Äď74, 2003.
  3. Willardson, Jeffrey M., editor of compilation, & ebrary, I. (2014). Developing the core. Leeds: Human Kinetics.
  4. Boeckh-Behrens & Buskies, Fitness- Krafttraining. Die besten √úbungen und Methoden f√ľr Sport und Gesundheit, 2000
  5. Vispute, S. S., Smith, J. D., LeCheminant, J. D., & Hurley, K. S. (2011). The effect of abdominal exercise on abdominal fat. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2559.
  6. Lee, B. C. Y., & McGill, S. M. (2015). Effect of long-term isometric training on core/torso stiffness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(6), 1515.

Stretching The Truth

Today I wanted to talk about what stretching does. There are a lot of misconceptions about the actual effects of stretching are, and I am constantly asked about topic pertaining to stretching. Here are a few commonly asked questions; what should I stretch? how long/often should I stretch? what will stretching do for me? should I even stretch at all? Each one of these questions are important so I will address them one by one.
What should I stretch?
The answer to this is… it depends! There is no need to stretch a muscle that is at an already acceptable level of¬†tonicity. Yes, a hamstring stretch feels nice but for most people the hamstring is not the problem. In many cases the hamstring feels tight because the hip flexors are putting them in a state of constant tension. This problem an even manifest as¬†lower back pain! So, should you stretch the hamstring? No. You should¬†stretch the hip flexors¬†so that the hamstrings are able to get back to a normal resting length. This same situation, where one tight muscle causes another area of the body to have a problem, can happen throughout the entire body. In essence, if you want to know what you need to stretch you should probably take advantage of those free program design sessions to figure out what exactly is going on with your body.
How long/often should I stretch?
There is no¬†definitive¬†answer to these questions. However, a good rule of thumb to go by is stretch for around 30 seconds at least 5 days per week. The best time to stretch is after you’re done working out. “Not in the warm up?” you ask. The answer is no. Stretching the wrong area in the¬†warm up¬†can even be a¬†bad¬†thing¬†in some cases. Like other forms of relaxation, stretching can also be the best thing for you when you feel¬†stressed and¬†anxious.
What will stretching do for me?
Let’s start with the things stretching DOESN’T help with. Stretching will not help with¬†preventing delayed onset muscle soreness,¬†injury¬†prevention,¬†enhancing performance,¬†aligning muscle/tendon fibers,¬†trigger points, or¬†increasing¬†muscle length. Wait… what? Stretching does’t increase muscle length? No, but I’ll explain that in a little bit. What you should know is that stretching is good for¬†the heart, the mind, and,most importantly, it’s good for¬†the nerves.
Should I even stretch at all?
The answer is absolutely YES. General whole body stretching is necessary to stay mobile. You need to be able to move, so stretching is a must. Moreover, a targeted stretching program can be used as a way to enhance a workout (think back to the hamstring and hip flexor story). This is why almost all of my clients receive stretching as a part of their corrective exercise strategy.
So at this point you might be asking your self “WTFruit happens when I stretch? I mean won’t it make me more flexible?!?!” Well here’s how it works. We all adapt to the stresses we put on our bodies. In turn, our bodies try to make our life more efficient to those stresses (i.e. our hip flexors become short if we sit for long periods of time every day). This action happens the nerves in the muscles sending signals to the brain on what is a “safe” length for the muscles to be at through the stretch reflex. What stretching does is increase the tolerance, or muscle length until you feel, the stretching sensation. Thus, becoming more flexible through stretching is a result of decreasing the sensation of stretching. It’s the same reason why you need two cups of coffee now even though you used to only need one. Our brain, and our nerves, just need a little more stimulus (whether its stretching or caffeine) to get the same effect as when we first started.
Bottom line. If you want to have the right range of motion, your brain, nerves, and their connection to your muscles, must be in tune. Stretching will help keep homeostasis, but other than that… well, not much else. For more info you can check out the¬†first brief link¬†and¬†more extensive second link.

Foam Rollin Rollin Rollin

Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release (SMR) used on tight muscles. But the question remains… what does foam rolling actually do?!?!

Foam rollers… you see them, you may even use them, but what are they good for? That is the question I am hoping to answer today! Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release (SMR). I use this modality with many of my clients who have tight muscles and reduced flexibility at specific joints in an effort to get those tight areas to relax before an exercise session. I go through great efforts to identify muscle imbalances in my clients that need SMR, stretching, or conversely, strengthening. But the question remains… what does foam rolling actually do?!?! Well a¬†fantastic review¬†came out recently using 118 research papers. So here is a summary of what is going on with the body when we use SMR techniques, and what it is useful for.
What happens when we foam roll
 
I think it is prudent to first look at what fascia is, because that is the targeted tissue of SMR. Well fascia is complex, but it can be described as force transmission system made up of connective tissue that permeates the human body. Some times tender spots in discrete, taut bands of hardened muscle that produce local and referred pain develop. These are spots are called trigger points. Subsequently, these trigger points are targeted during SMR before or after exercise.
Although we (i.e. the scientific literature) are still not sure on exactly why SMR works, the best evidence points towards a neurophysiological mechanism (like stretch tolerance). This mechanism involves changes in muscle activity acutely, which differs from the way stretching is effective. Other ways SMR may work include lowering tissue pH, releasing inflammatory mediators (reduce inflammation), and re-hydrating the tissue.
What foam rolling is good for
ACUTE (IMMEDIATE) EFFECTS OF FOAM ROLLING ON FLEXIBILITY
SMR causes an increase in short-term flexibility that lasts for >10 minutes. However, it’s not¬†exactly¬†clear how much SMR is needed to achieve this outcome. Unlike stretching, SMR does not affect athletic performance in the short-term. Static stretching, on the other hand, often causes a temporary reduction in muscle performance.¬†Additionally, SMR may decrease soreness and increase pressure pain threshold as a result of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) during the 48 hours following exercise.
CHRONIC (LONG TERM) EFFECTS OF FOAM ROLLING ON FLEXIBILITY
SMR can increase flexibility in a long-term program of >2 weeks with effects similar to traditional stretching programs. Research has also found SMR to improve arterial stiffness, improve vascular endothelial function, reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels post-exercise, increase parasympathetic activity(high frequency HRV), and reduce sympathetic activity (low frequency HRV). Interestingly, SMR might also improve balance in chronic stroke patients.
Key takeaways 
 
There is a lot of information above but when it comes to YOUR exercise routine, here’s what you need to know. SMR can help with your flexibility immediately after foam rolling for a short time, and will have lasting results when done¬†consistently. It will also help with DOMS so you don’t feel like crying the day after you do¬†squats! Finally, it will tell your brain to release happy hormones so you leave the gym with a big ole smile ūüôā
 
For more information, and to learn about the nerdy sciency stuff, you can access the article at the link here.

A Healthy Body Begins With Happy Feet

The foot and ankle complex provides a base of support for all of our upright movement, so why don’t more people do exercises to strengthen such an important part of their body?!?!

Today I wanted to address how your feet influence the movements of your entire body. Your feet play a critical role in many movements beyond just walking, running, and jumping.¬†The foot and ankle complex (FAC) provides a base of support for all of our upright movement, and if the muscles within the FAC become imbalanced it can set off a chain of negative reactions. So why don’t more people do exercises to strengthen such an important part of their body?!?! Well, today I am going to lay out what what the FAC is good for, and how to best go about achieving arch strength and happy feet.
Inline image 1
FAC Facts and FAQs
 
The FAC is¬†extremely complex¬†because there are dozens of bones and¬†hundreds¬†of muscles, tendons, fascial components, and¬†ligaments¬†at play. All of these components come together within the FAC to provide¬†stationary support while standing and dynamic spring while moving.¬†So I will do my best to keep it simple, but please forgive me if my inner nerd comes out and I use too much technical jargon. When it comes to movement of the FAC, one major concern is the interaction between the arch of the foot and dorsiflexion of the foot (taking your foot off the gas motion). A lack of dorsiflexion in the ankle can be the caused by several factors, but frequently involves decreased strength of the tibialis anterior muscle (1). The decrease in shin muscle strength can then lead to flat feet, increased plantar flexion (pressing the foot down on the gas) during squatting motions and gait (walking). All in all, the arch can be placed under great amount of stress during the¬†load acceptance phase of gate, if your foot is weak and there is limited dorsi flexion. That’s because during this phase of the¬†walking/running cycle¬†the shin and ankle muscles assist the arch in energy absorption (2). If the ankle is unable to properly dorsiflex, a huge amount of stress will be placed on the foots spring ligament,¬†plantar fascia, and¬†intrinsic muscles¬†which can lower the arch. This lowered arch in turn causes¬†tibial (shin) rotation, hip internal rotation, slight hip flexion, and hip adduction creating a valgus (knock knee) stress (3,4). So what does this mean for you? Well to sum it all up, when we don’t pay attention to the FAC we are more likely to have stiff hips,¬†lower back pain,¬†tight calves, weak feet, weak ankles, altered gait,¬†plantar fasciitis,¬†hallux valgus¬†(a.k.a. bunions),¬†patellofemoral pain, increased susceptibility to medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries, and an increased likelihood of anterior cruciate ligament¬†(ACL) tears.
There are also some other surprising aspects of foot strength that I’m betting most of you didn’t even think about. Having proper FAC strength means you have developed some proprioception (foot eye coordination in this case). In turn, this means you know where your body is at in space. This is extremely important if you think about it because it’s the same as knowing where my fingers are as I type each letter of this post. I don’t need to look down for each letter, I just know how to move my hands. So, if you practice strengthening your FAC you will know where your lower body is during each step you take. This leads to¬†better performance for athletes,¬†enhancements in the standing and walking positions,¬†and the ever crucial¬†prevention of falls¬†for seniors (5).
 
Foot Fitness
 
So I’m going to start this section by being a negative Nancy. To have¬†healthy¬†feet you SHOULD NOT use arch¬†supports¬†or supportive shoes. No, this does not mean you should take out those stinky¬†old¬†things you have put in your shoes for years and start walking around. What I mean is that the arch support is to the feet, what the weight lifting belt is to the back. Yes they are both¬†supportive, but if you don’t let those underlying muscles develop you will end up with some limp noodles for muscles. So instead of opting for the all or nothing path, star weaning yourself off of¬†the arch support and into regular shoes. Or if you’re ready for it, start weaning yourself onto more minimalist shoes. It’s really all about a gradual progression into a more¬†barefoot¬†environment… unless your feet stink like mine ;). You wouldn’t go from lifting 10 lbs¬†dumbbells¬†to benching ¬†225 lbs, so don’t jump too quickly on the minimalist bandwagon especially if you have¬†high arches¬†to begin with (6). ¬†
 
Okay, I know that if you have read this far you might be a little¬†frightened¬†of your weak feet. But I promise you that you don’t have to do that much to whip them into shape! This is because even though you use them all day long, the interaction between your nerves and your muscles¬†may be the real underlying issue. So to re-learn your own feet, there are a few simple steps you need to take. Use your time wisely by standing on one foot as often as you can. This can be done while you wash dishes, make phone calls, eat Ramen noodles, or other things that people who aren’t poor college students do. You can also practice flexing your toes while you’re sitting down. This can be done by simple scrunching your toes together while at your desk, or by picking up objects and putting them into a container while you’re seated (7).¬†Additional exercises¬†include¬†standing on one foot, bunny hops,¬†walk heel to toe,¬†medial (inside) calf raises, resisted ankle inversion exercises,¬†single-leg kettlebell swap,¬†foam rolling¬†the¬†biceps femoris¬†(outside hamstring) and¬†plantar fascia, and walking in a straight line with¬†one foot in front of the other. Finally, you should take care of your hips. The interaction between the hips and the ankles goes both ways. So¬†stiff hips¬†can mean stiff ankles and visa versa.
Resources
1. Chizewski M., & Chiu L. Contribution of calcaneal and leg segment rotations to ankle joint dorsiflexion in a weight-bearing task. Gait & Posture, 3685-89. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.01.007
2. Spaich, E. G., Andersen, O. K., & Arendt-Nielsen, L. (2004). Tibialis Anterior and Soleus Withdrawal Reflexes Elicited by Electrical Stimulation of the Sole of the Foot during Gait. Neuromodulation, 7(2), 126-132. doi:10.1111/j.1094-7159.2004.04016.x
3. Hollman, J. H., Kolbeck, K. E., Hitchcock, J. L., Koverman, J. W., & Krause, D. A. (2006). Correlations Between Hip Strength and Static Foot and Knee Posture. Journal Of Sport Rehabilitation, 15(1), 12.
4. Simon, L., Christian, B., Peter, M., Richard, T., Roger, W., & Dylan, M. (n.d). The effect of anti-pronation foot orthoses on hip and knee kinematics and muscle activity during a functional step-up task in healthy individuals: A laboratory study. Clinical Biomechanics, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2013.11.015
5. Hashimoto T, Sakuraba K. Strength Training for the Intrinsic Flexor Muscles of the Foot: Effects on Muscle Strength, the Foot Arch, and Dynamic Parameters Before and After the Training. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2014;26(3):373-376. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.373.
6. McKeon, P. O., Hertel, J., Bramble, D., & Davis, I. (2014). The foot core system: a new paradigm for understanding intrinsic foot muscle function. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2013.
7.Siddiqi A., Kumar D., Arjunan S. Age-related motor unit remodeling in the Tibialis Anterior Proceedings of the Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, EMBS, Volumes 2015-November, 4 November 2015, Pages 6090-6093

Take Control of you LBProbems

From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!

Today I am talking about the dreaded lower back pain (LBP). From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!
 
The Major Malfunctions
There are dozens of reasons why someone would have LBP. Even different illnesses can cause it. So to avoid¬†writing¬†a whole book I’m going to cover the biggies.¬†
In young athletes, the problem is often in the bones of the spine. In fact 47% will have a spondylolysis fracture with only 11% of LBP being caused by disc issue in this population. This differs from the adult population where 48% of LBP is disc related. So in young athletes the problem is often caused by repetitive extension and torsion of the spine, where as in adults the issue is typically due to sitting posture. Take a look at the picture bellow to see how changing your body position affects the load on you spine
 
Inline image 1
 
So clearly much of the problem has to do with… well… you! Do you sit too long? Do you sit with crap posture? Do you move well? All of these questions are important ones to ask yourself. But the good news is that you’re in control!
 
What To Do About It
Before I go into detail about exercises and stretches to help, I will tell you that you need to see a doctor if you experience any of the following issues:
‚óŹ Do you feel any tingling or numbness?
‚óŹ Do you have any loss of sensation?
‚óŹ Do you have any loss of motor control, such as an inability to raise your arm over your head?
‚óŹ Do you have or have you ever had a loss of bowel or bladder function?
‚óŹ Do you have severe immobility or an inability to walk?
Answered no to all of the above? wonderful, please read on at your leisure. In fact stand up, walk around, then sit back down and read on. Because¬†Tip 1¬†is to start by sitting for no more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s the most simple and easiest way to help control that back pain. Now that you’re sitting¬†Tip 2¬†is to now get into a¬†proper sitting posture. So feet flat, chest up, core contracted, and eyes straight ahead. And finally¬†Tip 3¬†breath from your belly. Not only will this help relieve stress (another cause of LBP) but it will engage that protective core musculature.
The Exercises
Here’s the problem with¬†recommending¬†exercises. Everyone has different needs!!!! Not everyone is going to be weak in the same areas. Not everyone is going to need stretching of the same¬†muscles. For instance, if your back rounds out like a turtle when you sit down, you may need to stretch your hamstrings. However, if your back arches when you do a squat or sit down then that’s the opposite of what you want to do! So please come see me if you want some specifics on what to do to help correct your posture. In the meantime, you can try some of¬†these exercises¬†which are generally safe and effective for most people.
1. The Glute bridge. A simple and easy exercise that you can do anywhere. It activates the tooshie as well as the wonderful core muscles.

2. The hip flexor stretch. A wonderful pairing to the glute bridge is a stretch of the hip flexors. This stretch will allow the butts and guts do their jobs.

3. The plank. Abdominal bracing is all the rage this fall. So make the plank a part of your workout wardrobe.

4. Leg swings. This will help mobilize the hips so you can use your booty!

5. The fire hydrant. This exercise uses your mobilized hips to further strengthen them glutes.
When it comes to back health there is a lot to take into account.To be honest I have barely scratched the surface on this topic, but I feel like this post has gone on long enough as it is. So sit up straight, work on glute and core strength, and get out of that chair! 

There’s One Oar Two Benefits to This Exercise!

This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts).

Today’s post is all about the row machine! This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts). It gets you strong, utilizes the whole body, crushes calories, and best of all… you get to sit! So let‚Äôs dive into the wonders of rowing.

What Could Be Better?

There’s almost an innumerable amount of benefits to rowing. How could one machine be low impact, strengthening, and cardio all in one? Well, here’s how:

Rowing uses around¬†86% of the body’s muscles¬†including the¬†upper back, arms, legs, and, yes, even core, which means more calories burned, great heart health, and tremendous bang for your buck.

Depending on how you us it, you can develop power (short pieces), endurance (long pieces), and strength endurance (middle distance pieces).

It has great crossover effect, which means it can be used to develop aptitude in other exercises such as the squat, dead lift, or other weighted rowing motions.

Also, it’s¬†super safe¬†due to minimal impact loading, so it is safe for those with a history of ankle, knee, or hip injuries.

 

What to Know Before You Go Row

There are three key things to know about the row machine for those beginners out there. They are¬†1) the Damper setting 2) Flex Foot position, and 3) Performance Monitor adjustment. The¬†damper setting¬†affects wind resistance and subsequently the speed of the stroke: the lower the setting, the less wind resistance and faster the stroke. So basically,¬†the harder you pull, the more resistance will be felt with each stroke – making the workout more challenging. Depending on your goal, you will need to play with different settings, record results and ‚Äútweak‚ÄĚ as needed.¬†The¬†flex foot¬†is where the feet are fixated, and it needs to be adjusted according to foot size. Just make sure that¬†the anchor strap is secured directly over the ball of the foot for optimal performance.¬†The¬†performance monitor¬†is an essential component to rowing and displays quantitative information for you to analyze the performance of each row. Key features include time, distance, speed as time per 500 meters, watts, and calories per hour.¬†The time per 500 meters is my favorite to watch because it represents to a rower the same as what time per mile represents for a runner.

Technique

As with any other exercise,¬†technique is crucial¬†for attaining benefits and shunning away the bad stuff like injuries (just like Gryffindor’s sword). So here are the¬†step by step instructions for a¬†beginner.

1 – Turn the machine on, set resistance to low, secure your feet so they don’t move around as you slide, and grab the handle using an overhand grip, but don’t hold too tightly

2 –¬†Pull the handle with you as you slide to the end of the machine. Your legs should be straight, but knees should still have a slight bend in them so they aren’t locked. Lean back slightly and pull your hands up to your chest, holding the handle so it is right below your pecs, with elbows pointing down against your sides.

Inline image 1

3 Р THE RECOVERY is when you start to come forward towards the starting position. To do this properly, move your arms out first, followed by your upper body. Your back should always stay straight, not slumped, with shoulders back and abs engaged as you follow through. As your arms extend out, your upper body position will go from slightly angled back to slightly angled forward.

Inline image 2

4 –¬†THE CATCH is when you make your way back to the starting position.¬†As your arms extend and body leans forward, slide your body forward on the seat by bending your legs. Once you are at the top of the machine, your arms will be fully extended and legs will be bent.

Inline image 3

5 – THE DRIVE is where the magic happens. This is where you push off with your feet first, so that your legs straighten, but your arms are still extended and your body is still slightly leaning forward working the leg and core muscles the most.

Inline image 4

6 – THE FINISH starts when your torso begins to lean back, followed quickly by your arms; as your upper body angles back, pull the handle and bend your arms so that the handle ends up back to touching the front of your chest, just like how you started.

Inline image 5

Caution

Here are a few things to look out for. DON’T¬†grip the handle too hard; the power should be through your legs. Using too much force while pulling the cable can cause hand blisters as well as back problems. DON’T slump forward because¬†the core muscles must act to keep the spine in neutral alignment so that power can be transferred from low to high and high to low through the kinetic chain. DON’T move your arms up and down as you row because raising and lowering of the handle during recovery is inefficient, involves more work and should be avoided for optimal rowing. DON’T¬†push the seat away from the flywheel and then follow with the hands and torso. Instead, at the very beginning of the drive phase, make sure the seat and the handle move together for approximately ¬ľ of a slide, at which point the torso starts to hinge followed by the arm pull. DON’T lean back like you’re taking a nap in your car (or¬†Fat Joe) because it increases the workload on the abdominals, slows pace and decreases overall performance. DON’T chicken wing by¬†raising the elbows vertically at the finish of the stroke like you’re going to choke yourself with the bar.

Workouts!

Here’s the fun part… the workout options! There are a few basic options. I like to row for 10 minutes and see how far I get. You can do the reverse by seeing how long it takes you to get a certain distance (500m for¬†beginners). I like to also use a¬†Fartlek¬†style of training where you go slow for one minute, medium pace for 45 seconds, and all out sprint for 15 seconds for 5-10 rounds.¬†Once you have some experience under your belt, you can try an interval training plan¬†such as this one, or place it strategically into a workout plan¬†like this one. To sum it all up, rowing is a workout that you need to try. Once you master technique, you will be able to take on just about anything (except water)!

Pain In The Neck

The neck is really designed to balance the 10- to 14-pound pumpkin that sits on top of it. The problem arises when your head starts to drift forward.

One thing I take pride in, and greatly enjoy, about my job, is my ability to see dysfunction postures and movement pasterns. So this week I wanted to discus an issue that I see far too often these days. This issue is the forward head posture. So while you read this weeks post, make sure you sit up straight!
The Issue
The Cervical spine, the neck, can bend forwards, backwards, to the side, and rotates. It’s made out of¬†seven vertebrae and dozens of muscles, both large and small. Some of these muscles never rest when you’re upright, otherwise your head would fall to your chest! The neck is really designed to balance the 10- to 14-pound pumpkin that sits on top of it. The problem arises when your head starts to drift forward. This is because for every inch the head juts forward, the neck takes on a load equal to roughly 10 additional pounds. In turn this can lead to neck pain, stiffness, cervical muscle strains, headaches, dizziness, early onset arthritis, decreased lung capacity,¬†and pain or weakness in parts of the body that lie below the cervical spine.Yikes!
How Did I Get This Way ūüė•
By now I assume you’re all sitting up straight in your chair like Hermione Granger in class. But in reality, this posture develops over a long period of time. Most commonly, people who work long hours at a computer, professional drivers,¬†cyclists,¬†runners,¬†baseball players,¬†cell phone addicts,¬†musicians, chefs, surgeons, dentists, and other people who lean over their work¬†are likely to develop a forward head posture.
What To Do About It
So by now you should be able to tell that this issue doesn’t just develop over night. So don’t be a Goober and think simply sitting up straight more often will fix it. You spend your whole life getting into the posture that your in, so you will need to take a few more steps to overcome the postural dysfunction. The first step is to see a doctor if you’re¬†experiencing numbness, pain that radiates toward the shoulder or arm, or a loss of strength in the arms or hands. If you don’t have any of these medical concerns then you can try stretching and foam rolling the thoracic spine, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapulae, and upper trapezius to start. Next, you need to be mindful of the muscles that are working during your exercise. If you’re doing a shoulder raise, but feel the muscles in the upper traps firing up, you will need to make adjustments to what you’re doing.

Fit Quick

A few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.

Today I’m taking a break from bashing¬†fad and bad diets¬†to talk about some basics of exercise programming. Almost any gym you go to will be rife with fancy and expensive exercise equipment. If using machines is your only mode of strength training, then you are extremely limited to your exercise selection. And heaven forbid someone is on your favorite hamstring curl machine on leg day! So here are a few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.
Whats The Point?!?!
¬†If you read these emails frequently, you know that I am a huge fan of weight lifting. As for cardio… not so much. This is because¬†cardio is not as effective¬†for achieving health goals like strength gains, muscle mass gains, weight loss, or even heart health as compared to a quality weight lifting program. So what’s the point of a weak sauce machine based exercise program (I’m talking to you treadmill only walkers)?!
Keeping It SUPER Simple
¬†To be clear, cardio isn’t bad. It’s just not a great use of time. So to break the boring and ineffective cycle, try using¬†super sets! A super set is when one set of an exercise is performed directly after a set of a different exercise without rest between them. Think pull ups then push ups. This style of weight lifting is a great tool to use for almost everyone. Even if you’re restricted to machine based programs due to health issues, super sets have a lot to offer including;
 РSaving time
 РMaximal muscle activation
 РIncreased metabolic stress
¬†Exercises are easy to super set and can be placed strategically within a workout to maximize your goals. Here are a few exercises to try out if you’re new to the concept.
Barbell Curls ‚Äď 2 x 10-12
Dips ‚Äď BW x Max reps
Front Squat ‚Äď 3 x6-8
Cable Pull-Throughs ‚Äď 3 x 12-15
Keep It Real
¬†If you’re still afraid to get off the bicep curl machine because you don’t know what else to do, I would¬†recommend¬†keeping it real. By this I mean do real world activities as exercise. One such exercise is the¬†weighted carry. This exercise involves you picking up heavy weights and walking with them (think carrying the groceries in from the car). This exercise requires you to stand with good posture and to walk mindfully. And when done right, it is a wonderful full body exercise. I’m also a fan of the¬†front squatbecause I don’t usually carry heavy things around on my back (think crock pot, load of wood for the fire place, or even children). Finally, consider using the¬†kettle bell swing¬†to enhance your ability to do powerful¬†movements¬†(picking something up from the ground and placing it up high). This exercise is also wonderful for driving up the heart rate as well as the metabolism.
¬†Remember, no one strategy will get you to your goals. It takes a variety of methods and exercises to optimizes health and fitness. So be sure incorporate these strategies into your fitness tool box, but don’t rely on them solely. And always remember that safety comes first! So make sure your form and exercise progression/selection is right for you.