Stretches

STRETCHES   PDF icon Download in PDF
Quad stretchQUAD STRETCH
Lie on one side with your elbow directly below your shoulder and your hips stacked. Grasp the foot of your top leg and pull your heel towards your gluteals (your bottom). You will feel a stretch in the front of your upper leg. When the stretching sensations fades, pinch your gluteals and push your hips forward to deepen the stretch. Hold until the muscle is relaxed.

 

 

 

HAMSTRING STRETCH

Hamstring StretchLying on your back, put one foot on the floor and take the other leg up straight into the air. Make sure that the knee is straight. You may have to lower your leg to keep the knee straight. You will feel a stretch in the back of your upper leg. Hold until tension is gone. Repeat with the other leg.

 

 

 

HIP/GLUTEAL STRETCH

Hip Gluteal stretchSit on the floor with your left leg outstretched. Put the foot of your right leg outside the knee of your left leg. Take your left arm along the outside of your right leg, and pull your right leg to the left. Turn your body to the right to deepen the stretch. Hold until the muscles are relaxed. Repeat with the other side.

 

 

 

 

INNER THIGH STRETCH

inner Thigh stretch
Sitting, bend both knees and place the bottoms of your feet together. Let your knees fall out to the sides. Let the weight of your arms assist in the stretch, but don't actively push down on your legs. You will feel a stretch in the inner thigh of each leg. Hold until the muscles are relaxed.

 

 

 

LOW BACK STRETCH

low back stretch
Lying on your back, pull one or both knees up to your chest, holding them with your hands. You will feel a stretch in your lower back. If you are doing one leg at a time, hold until you feel a release on one side, and then switch sides. Hold until the muscles are relaxed.

 

 

 

GASTROCNEMIUS (LARGE CALF MUSCLE) STRETCH

gastrocnemiusFacing a wall, place your hands on the wall and take one leg out behind you in a lunge position, with your back leg straight. Bend your front knee until it is over your ankle. You will feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg.Image Hold until the muscle is relaxed. Repeat with the other leg.

 

 

 

 

SOLEUS (SMALL CALF MUSCLE) STRETCH

Soleus
Facing a wall, place your hands on the wall and take one leg behind you in a lunge position, as in the gastrocnemius stretch above. Then bring your back foot in about 2", and allow your back knee to bend, giving you a stretching sensation in the smaller calf muscle. Hold until the muscle is relaxed. Repeat with the other leg.

 

 

CHEST STRETCHES

one sided chest stretch

One Sided
Facing a wall, place one arm on the wall. Then turn away from the outstretched arm until you feel a stretching sensation in the chest muscles. Hold until the muscles are relaxed. Repeat on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Sided

two sided chest stretch

Standing tall, with thumbs pointing up, take both arms out to your sides. Push backwards slightly until you feel the stretch in the chest muscles. Hold until the muscles are relaxed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantarfascial stretchPLANTARFASCIAL STRETCH
Facing a wall, put the toes of the affected foot up against the wall as shown. Bend that knee and allow it to get close to the wall. You will feel a stretch along the bottom of the foot.

 

 

 

 

BACK STRETCHES

back stretch
Mid/Lower Back
Position yourself on a mat on all fours, with hands below shoulders, and knees below hips.
Gently arch back up like a cat until you feel a stretch in your mid- and low-back.
Hold that stretch until the muscles are relaxed. Alternatively, after you are positioned on the mat, put one knee into the quadrant of space that your hands and knees create. Then do the cat stretch, and do as well with the other knee in the quadrant.

 

 

 

Mid-Upper Back

Mid upper back
Standing or seated, push your hands, with palms facing outwards, away from your body until you feel a stretch in your mid-upper back

 

 


BICEPS STRETCH

 

biceps stretchStanding or seated, turn your thumbs downward, and take both arms out to the side. Keep your hands at shoulder level or slightly below. You will feel a stretch in the front of your upper arm. Hold until the muscles are relaxed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRICEPS STRETCH

triceps stretch
Standing, flex one arm so that you can touch the back of your neck with your fingers. Taking the other hand across the front of your body, gently push on your flexed arm, aiming the elbow towards the ceiling. Your will feel a stretch in the back of your upper arm. Hold until the muscle is relaxed. Repeat with the other arm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 SIDE NECK STRETCH NOTE: As with all stretches, be gentle with your neck stretches. This is a delicate area.

side neck stretch


Sit or stand with your chest up and looking straight ahead. Reach over your head with your right hand. Gently pull your head over to the right side. Hold this until the muscles are relaxed. Repeat this on the other side. DO NOT apply pressure with your involved hand. Instead allow the weight of your hand to assist the stretch. If you feel pain or pinching on the right side doing this, stop. You are no longer stretching but stressing the joints.

 

 

 

 

 

NECK EXTENSOR STRETCH

neck extensor stretchSit with your chest up and look straight ahead. Gently push back your chin to create a "double" chin. Use your other hand to gently pull the top of your head forward and down. Continue until you feel relaxation through the back of your neck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCALENE NECK STRETCH

scalene nexk stretch
Sit with your chest up forward on the edge of a chair. Hold the leg or seat of the chair tightly with one hand to keep the ribs down. Bend your head to the opposite side without flexing your head forward. You may find you get more of a stretch if you rotate your head slightly toward the hand that is holding onto the chair and slightly tilt your head backward as you bend to the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPPER TRAPEZIUS STRETCH

uper trapezeus stretch
Sit with your chest up and hold onto the chair with one hand. Turn your chin toward the hand that is holding onto the chair. Use your free hand to gently pull your head straight toward the opposite side. To feel more stretch, lean your body slightly away from the hand that is holding onto the chair to depress your shoulder further.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STERNOCLEIDOMASTOID MUSCLE STRETCH

SternoSit tall with your chest up. Rotate your head to one side. Bend your neck to the opposite side.
Extend your head back while maintaining side bend and rotation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 FOREARM FLEXOR STRETCH (PRAYER STRETCH)

Put your palms together, with fingers slightly spread open. Lower your hands a few inches until you feel a stretch in the
inside of your forearms. Forearm Flexor BForearm Flexor AWhen that stretching feeling lessens, point your fingers outward to deepen the stretch. Hold until your flexors are lengthened and you don't feel any stress in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOREARM EXTENSOR STRETCH

Forearm Extensor
Straighten the arm you want to stretch. Use the hand of the other arm to gently push the involved hand downward, so that your fingers face the floor. You will feel the stretch as indicated by the red line. Hold until your extensors are lengthened and you don't feel any stress in them.

 

6 Exercises to Jump Start Your Fitness

 

 

ALTERNATE LIFT

Hold for 2 seconds, then switch sides. Do 2 sets of 10

Alternate lift

DUMBBELL HIGH-LOW CHOP (OR HEAVY CAN)

Do 2 sets each side of 10-12

dumbell high chop

DUMBBELL SHRUGS (OR HEAVY CANS) Do 3 sets of 12

push ups

STANDING BENT OVER ROWS

Do 2 sets of 10-12

 

 

PUSH UPS

Do 2 sets of 12-15.

 

PLANKS FROM TOES

Do 3 planks, 15-45 seconds each

 

OR:

 

OR:

PLANKS FROM KNEES

 

Tips for Fitness Success - Especially for Beginners

So you've finally made the decision to change how you feel, and also how you feel about your relationship with your body. This is a great starting point! But many of us flounder when it comes to making the master plan - how, exactly, do you go about getting fit and healthy? We know that it will involve changes in diet, exercise, habits and attitudes. But what exactly should you do to get to our goals?

The first thing to acknowledge is that it will take time - nothing will happen overnight, or even in a week. It's taken a while to get you to the point of being unhappy and unhealthy, and real change takes time. So grant yourself patience.

Here are several solid tips to help you shape your healthy future.

1. Write down a list of three bigger fitness goals, such as weight loss, improved flexibility, increased strength. Then under each of these bigger goals, write down a list of three things each to do to get there. For instance, for weight loss, you could commit to meeting with a dietitian for nutritional help, identify the foods that you know aren't good for you, and commit to avoiding them, and increase your fibre intake to at least 40 grams per day. 

2. Decide where you will exercise, and how often. This is crucial to your success. A dream of magically being more fit without a plan is just that - only a dream. Take a weekend and check out local gyms, trainers who offer specific types of training, such as outside training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), or out-of-the-box solutions such as small classes held in churches, community centres, or neighbourhood walking groups. Commit to at least three days of one hour of activity each day to start, and, based on where you will be working out, what types of exercise you're choosing.

3. Talk to your friends and find out who else is struggling with the same issues and you may find you've got yourself a fitbuddy! This is someone you can call to get emotional support, plan to work out, plan meals, and grocery shop together for maximum reinforcement in your goals. You need someone who's got your back, and for whom you can do the same.

4. Consult a personal trainer to get individual, focused training. But do your homework first - check their credentials, ask for names of clients who can report their own experiences with that trainer, and sit down with your choice of trainer to hash out exactly what s/he can do for you, and make sure that the two of you are compatible. If one-on-one training isn't in the budget, ask the trainer to consider two-person or small group training (no more than 4 people). Some trainers will do only one-on-one training, but will agree to meeting a couple times a month instead of once a week.

5. Get the right equipment! No one needs fancy workout clothing, but you absolutely do need excellent shoes. Go to a store dedicated to fitness and tell the clerk exactly what kind of exercise you will be doing. A walking regime will require a different shoe than joining a volleyball league, or doing group ex classes. Keep in mind that you must get new shoes every 8-12 months.

6. Put your workouts on your schedule, and understand that only a dire emergency will allow you to cancel that workout. You may need to change the date or time, but DO NOT CANCEL. This is your commitment holding you to account.

7. If weight loss is one of your goals, check your weight NO MORE OFTEN than once a week, at the same time of day. No meaningful change will happen during a single day. Checking more often only means you're reinforcing anxiety and negative self-talk. These are toxic ingredients that have no place in your plan to get healthy. 

8. Avoid conversations with people who like to criticize and demean others. You will probably never get their approval, and really, so what? YOUR approval of yourself is the only benchmark that matters.

For more articles on training, health and wellness, visit Deb Bailey at www.fitability.ca .

 

 

 

 

 

HIIT Training - What is It and How Will It Help Me Feel Better?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it's one of the hottest trends in the fitness in the last several years. And with good reason - there are so many benefits to your physical and mental well being.

Here are just a few:

HIIT burns more calories and fat than most other types of exercise regimes. In fact, many hours after you're done sweating, your body is still giving you that great after burn.

You will be able to do more activity, longer when you have HIIT training as part of your routine. That walk or bike ride is easier, faster and longer now.

You don't need any equipment whatsoever! Although it's fun to do HIIT in a gym with lots of stuff available, it isn't needed. All you have to do it apply your effort to the max for a ratio of 2:1. In other words, if you run to your maximum effort for 2 minutes, you do active rest for 1 minute. Repeat. Keep your workouts to 30 minutes, no more, to avoid overuse injuries.

HIT training should be done no more than 3 times a week, and should be supplemented with other types of workouts, such as long slow distance, tempo training, and weight training.

HIIT can help regulate the hormones involved in weight gain, such as ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, which stimulates the appetite and slows down the use of body fat. Leptin, on the other hand, regulates food intake and long-term energy stores. Bottom line - HIIT can control both these hormones, increasing weight loss, rate of fat burn, making HIIT an ideal weapon in the battle of the bulge.

What Does a No-Equipment HIIT session Look Like?

1 minute of top effort running. Have to do this inside at home? Try going up and down the stairs as fast as you can safely. Walk around for 30 seconds.

Jumping Jacks for 1 minute. Walk around for 30 seconds

Shadow boxing for 1 minute, as intensely as possible. Walk around for 30 seconds

1 minute of rear lunges (not stationary). Keep up the intensity and you'll feel the burn. Walk around for 30 seconds

Burpees, using the lower couple of steps on your stairs as your platform. Walk around for 30 seconds

Mountain climbers, using the lower couple of step on your stairs as your platform. Walk around for 30 seconds.

Push ups. using the lower couple of step on your stairs as your platform, or do them against the wall. Walk around for 30 seconds.

 

P.S. If you look at this list and see things you don't want to do or find difficult, be creative! Just pick something else that will challenge you hard and substitute that.

Congratulations! You've just done a 10 minute HIIT workout! Next time, repeat this workout two more times this week, and next week increase the work time to 90 seconds, as you're able, and increase the active rest time to 45 seconds. In time, you can get your total HIIT workout time to 30 minutes - and feel great doing it.

 

Bring Your Brain to Exercise Class

My checklist of what to put in my workout bag is pretty standard and predictable: water, towel, workout shoes, sweatband, post-workout snack..... and my brain.

 By "bring your brain", I mean that we have to drop off all the baggage we are carrying around in our heads, so that we can focus on exactly what we are at the gym for. Lose the worries over the project that's overdue, the babysitter that's just quit on you, and what will you make for dinner. All that stuff has no business taking up brain space and energy while you're at the gym.

 When we clear our minds of all that stuff, we can focus sharply on our form (are we doing that exercise correctly and safely?), and our end goals (what do I want to look/feel like in 4/8/12 weeks?). Worrying about other stuff during your workout won't solve those problems, but it will have a negative impact on your workout and your body.

 Sometimes we feel guilty that we aren't paying attention to the baggage during our workouts - have you ever thought you just don't have time to work out, because there are so many things on your plate? Avoid that rabbit hole and remember that you have a responsibility to the body you walk around in. A lack of brain focus will lead to a half-baked job of exercise, and won't get the results we want.

 

 

 

How To Avoid Overtraining

The point of training is to better your body. However, more and more is not the answer in the long term. Overtraining refers to a combination of stresses such as too much training load, a heavy load at work, personal stresses and emotional burnout. Some signs of overtraining include weight loss with a lessened appetite, loss of motivation in physical activity, an increase in muscle soreness and exhaustion and increased anger and emotional outbursts, to name a few.

It would seem logical to keep piling on more and more physical effort to keep  improving your body. But the fact is that humans are biological machines, and therefore need rest and lower stresses. Here is where periodization comes in. 

Periodization is the planning of a workout program that starts in phase 1 to target the endurance fibres in the muscles, with lots of reps and a low load. Gradually over several weeks, the load is increased, but the volume (sets x reps) is decreased. In the transitional phases, the program switches from targeting the endurance fibres to the strength fibres. Rest and recovery between sessions are absolutely essential. 

A trainer should be planning this transitional programming, with about two weeks in between changes in load or volume. It takes that long to adapt and get prepared for changes If you are having problems with excessive muscle soreness that persists longer than a day or two, mention it to the trainer and some regression is in order. When forward changes do happen, the trainer should limit the stress to about 5% increase.

 

How Do I Get My Cardio Done?

How Do I Get My Cardio Done?

If you’ve committed to increasing your fitness level, that means that you need to add cardio to your exercise mix. But joining a gym and attending classes isn’t always the answer. Cost, location, and class times may not work with your life. So how can you get your cardio done without a lot of expense and working with your own schedule? Here are a few suggestions, with possible pros and cons for each choice.

 

Check out your local community centres. They offer a variety of classes and times, for a set number of weeks. There are three or four  “seasons”, with breaks between seasons. The cost of these programs is moderate. Also look into public swims at city-run pools, adult court sports such as volleyball, basketball or soccer leagues.

Pros: good cost, certified instructors, program variety

Cons: breaks of up to a month between seasons may leave you floundering

Walking indoors. In poor weather, you may be able to go to a large mall. Often these malls open the doors early to accommodate the walking groups. You can get a brisk pace walking through the mall and elevate your heart rate for a good length of time.

Pros: Weather is not an issue, if you don’t enjoy getting cold, wet or muddy.

Cons: You may be tempted by the store displays! This may keep you from sustaining an elevated heart rate and getting the results you want.

Walking outdoors. If you enjoy your neighbourhood, strap on your walking shoes and get out there! Each area of your city or town will offer different challenges such as hills, trails, rougher terrain, or easy flat sidewalks – choose your level.

 

Pros: You get the stimulation of constantly changing scenery and fresh air

Cons: Weather issues. Also, know your geography (or take a map with you).

 

At-home cardio machines. These offer consistent cardio and can be an important tool for your fitness.

Pros: Most treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and so forth have programs to choose from to avoid training the same way all the time. That’s a good plus for you.

Cons: Boredom. Often these machines become laundry racks or dust collectors! So my advice would be to position it in front of a TV/DVD combo and make sure you have something interesting and upbeat to watch.

 

Outdoor activities such as cycling, running, skiing or snow-shoeing

Pros: good cardio opportunity, stimulus of changing scenery, low cost

Cons: Weather issues. Again, know where you are going – and take a cell phone with you in case you run into problems and are alone.

 

Cardio DVDs. There is an infinite variety out there! If you have a good space in your home in front of the TV/DVD unit, consider this as part of your cardio choices. Check out the website www.collagevideo.com - they sell all kinds of exercise DVDs, and there is a description, rating and cost listed for each. Your local library may also be a good source of exercise DVDs, and at no cost to library patrons.

 

Pros: good cardio choice – just make sure that the description sounds like you. If you are just beginning to get fit, phrases like “intense fat-burning” and ultimate bootcamp challenge” should cue you to look at other DVDs. Likewise, if you have two left feet, don’t pick DVDs that talk about salsa, hip hop, or samba dance moves.

Cons: After a while, it gets old. So you need to get several DVDs and rotate through them to avoid boring repetition. Also, make sure the DVD doesn’t require you to buy a lot of equipment unless you want to. You can also sell them later to a local used bookstore if you want (and buy new ones!)

 

So expand your horizons and check out what’s available in your community!

 

Super Setting for Better Results

Super setting is a technique we can use to maximize our workout time, building muscle in a very efficient way. We pair two exercises together, without much rest time between them. There are a few ways to do this.

 

Agonist super sets. This means the exercise all target the same main muscle (group), and will involve other muscles as well.  You need to do all exercises at  a weight you can just finish your reps with. For instance, if you want to develop stronger, bigger biceps, an agonist super set could look like this: 

1.       Cable curls, low mount. 4 sets, 6-8 reps.

2.       Incline dumbbell curls. 4 sets, 4-6 reps.

 

Antagonist super sets.  The exercise you pick for this will target first one muscle group and then the opposing muscle group. For instance, you could work on your chest and then your back. I suggest:

1.       Chest - dumbbells flyes. 3 sets, 6-8 reps

2.       Back - lat pulldowns. 3 sets 6-8 reps

3.       Chest - pushups. 3 sets 15-20 reps

4.       Back - cable rows. 3 sets 6-8 reps

 

Tri-Sets.  This simply means adding a third exercise to each muscle group.

 

Staggered super sets. Here we use our rest time between sets to work other muscle groups. This maximizes your time spent and is a very efficient way to get a whole body workout done. For example, between your sets of pushups,  do a plank for 30 seconds. Between your cable rows, do a set of calf raises, holding a set of dumbbells for extra effort.

 

Cardio and Strength super sets. Do a stint of intense cycling, followed by 2-3 sets of leg presses or squats. Since cycling is very quad-centric, the squats will force the tired quads (and hamstrings, glutes and calves) to work harder still. Or if your cardio is on the elliptical, your glutes will get a fair amount of work - hip extension. So then pair that cardio with lunges, focussing on squeezing the glutes, especially on the rear leg.

 

 

 

Core Exercises- Which ones should I do?

Core Exercises- Which ones should I do?

Bridging

Often overlooked as a "basic" exercise by experienced exercisers, the bridge in its various forms is a powerful tool. This fires up the deep abdominals, and strengthens the hamstrings. Perhaps its most valuable benefit is that it works the gluteus maximus (biggest of the glute muscles) at its end range, where it is usually weaker. A  classic bridge involves lying on your back on the floor, with bent knees, hip width apart. Keeping your body weight on your upper back and shoulders, tighten your glutes and push your hips into the air, tightening the core. Hold for a few seconds, and release. Repeat. Other options include feet on a stability ball, a med ball, or a stability cushion.

 

 

A one-legged bridge will have the added bonus of working the gluteus medius, a very busy muscle that sits behind your hipbone and is responsible for externally rotating your hip, and helping to abduct your leg out to the side.

Rotation

Trunk rotation engages the muscles that allow you to twist to one side or another. The very basic posture exercise involves sitting on a chair with arms crossed on your chest. As you exhale, slowly twist to one side, and then to the other. A more advanced version could be include a forward lunge. Hold a medium med ball or dumbbell in both hands, held out in front of you. As you lunge forward with your left leg, twist your upper body to rotate over your left leg. Return leg, and switch sides.

Seated Stabilization

A V-sit is an  excellent example of a seated stabilization exercise. Sitting on the floor, with your knees bent and toes pulled up towards your knees, hold a single dumbbell or med ball in your hands.  twist your trunk muscles to one side and then the other, breathing out as you do the twist and breathing in when you are centred. Maintain a hollow in your low back, and keep your chest lifted.

Supine (face-up) Stabilization

The tried-and-true exercise called Dead Bugs is a supine stabilization technique. This is a very spine-safe exercise when performed properly.

Lie on your back with your right arm flexed up and beside your head, parallel to the floor. Pull the right knee up to your chest. Your left leg is straight and off the floor; your left arm is pointing downwards towards your left foot.  Brace your abs and use them to keep your back flat during the whole exercise. Slowly switch the positions of your arms and legs - right arm and leg go down, and the left side limbs go up into the first position of the right side limbs.

Other supine stabilization exercises include bridges on a stability ball, with your head on the ball - alternate slowly lifting one leg up and tightening your abs.  Crunches with your spine supported by a small ball or a stability ball will be helpful, as long as you keep your spine from flexing forward - use your abs to pull your trunk forward.

Lateral Stabilization/Lateral Flexion

A side plank is a good exercise to stabilize the muscles at the sides of your waist - obliques. Keep your elbow directly under your shoulder for safety and stability, and tighten your obliques as you lift up into the side plank. Hold as long as you can maintain good form.

Lateral flexion involves bending to the side from a standing position, shortening and tightening the obliques. If you want to up the difficulty level, you can add weights to the basic exercise above, or change it up with a side-lying position on a stability ball and flexing your upper body upwards towards your hips.

Prone (Face-down) Stabilization

Exercises such as a plank and its variations are good examples of prone stabilization.  The bird dog, sometimes known as an alternate lift, is another solid exercise to stabilize the core. Kneeling on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders, and your knees directly below your hips, tighten your core, and slowly extend one arm and the opposite leg. Hold for a moment and release. Either repeat a full set on that same arm/leg, or alternate arm/leg for a set.

Back Extensions

Your back extension muscles (erector spinae, multifidus) are as critical to core stabilization as all the other muscles discussed here. However, we often have weakness there because we tend to sit, and flex our spines forward, hunched over a desk or computer.

Tighten your abdominals before doing any kind of back extension. Here's a starting point

Lie face down, with your forearms on the floor. Tighten your abs, and slowly lift one arm and the opposite leg, staying in a pain-free zone. You will feel tightness in your low back. Don't push so far back that you feel pain. Hold for a moment, and release back down to the floor again. Repeat 7-10 times.

As your strength and stability improve, you can progress to other types of back extensions, such as a deadlift, keeping your neck long and relaxed.

 

 

Note: do not attempt back extension exercise if you have spinal stenosis, or any kind of narrowing throughout the lumbar spine. Consult a physiotherapist  or qualified personal trainer for spinal stabilization exercises friendly to your particular condition.

Protect Your Knees

Protect Your Knees

 One of the most common sites for injury is your knees. In fact, there are dozens of separate documented types of knee ailments and injuries. Chances are that you’ve fallen victim to at least one of them in the past. The knee is essential to walking, running, kicking, sitting, using the stairs and getting up from a chair. If the knee weren’t there to bend, none of these activities would be possible. However, the knee doesn’t think for itself! This hinge joint will do whatever the hip and/or the foot will tell it to do – which makes the biomechanics of your leg crucial to good knee health. So here’s a checklist of things to look at:

1.            Assess your shoes. Worn-out shoes can cause knee problems. If they are worn down at the heel, or you’ve been wearing them for quite a while, your shoes can’t absorb shock as well as they used to. The average shock absorbing capacity of athletic shoes is reduced by 50%, after you’ve logged 300 hours in them, and goes down to 20% after you’ve worn them for 500 hours. So do the math on the “real age” of your shoes – and go shopping for new ones.

2.            Ditch the high heels. I know fashion dictates that women wear these, and they do flatter our legs – but they are very harmful to our knees! In fact, women who wear high heels (higher than 2”) every day have a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee. High heels force the foot into an unnatural angle, throw the body forward and increase the pressure on the knee joints by 23%, especially under the kneecap – a prime opportunity for osteoarthritis.

3.            Examine your gait. You should be striking on your heel, rolling forward through the length of your foot toward your lesser toes, and then pushing off the floor with your big toe. If you are not doing that, your gait is likely compromised, and you should have your movement patterns assessed by a qualified personal trainer or physiotherapist. There may be disfunction in the hip muscles that can be addressed through corrective exercises or therapy.

4.            Are you overusing your knees? If you do the same kind of exercise, whether cardio or strength training, over and over again, you are setting yourself up for repetitive stress injuries. Vary your workouts in type, time, and intensity during your week.

5.            Are your leg muscles weak or is their strength imbalanced? Often the vastus medialis (part of the quadriceps) is the culprit in knee pain. If this muscle is weak, the kneecap can be pulled to the outside, causing knee pain. Mini squats with a small ball between your knees, or sitting on a chair and squeezing the ball between your knees, can help strengthen this muscle. Also, your quadriceps muscle (the front of your upper leg) should be not more than 30% stronger than your hamstrings. Cyclists and runners often develop such an imbalance. Check out hamstring exercises, such as weighted curls, to regain balance in your muscle strength. Cycling in particular is all about the quads, so do other types of cardio and strength training, such as cardio classes. Classes ideally will have forward, rear and lateral movement patterns to balance demand on the muscles.

6.            Observe your form. Keep your knee from going over the end of your toes, stop a squat when your knee angle is 90 degrees or greater. Don’t take very deep steps on a stepper machine – keep the bend at no more than 70 degrees here. Safe movement patterns will protect your knees.

7.            Use your butt! Engaging your glutes (butt muscles) is important when standing up, returning from any lunge or squat position, or climbing stairs. If you don’t engage the glutes, the strain travels down to the next joint – the knee – and this work is not the knee’s job! The knee then undergoes tremendous strain it wasn’t designed for.

8.            Cyclists need to have the proper height on their bike seats. If it’s too low, you may have pain on the inner side of the knees, and if it’s too high, you may have pain on the outside of the knee. When the bike pedal is at the bottom position, your leg should be almost straight, with a soft knee.

9.            Excess body weight can contribute greatly to stress on the knees, and put you at much greater risk for osteoarthritis. A pound of body weight creates 6 pounds of pressure on the knees, so even 15 pounds of excess weight adds 90 pounds of stress on the knee joints.

10.         Are you stretching daily? Stretching restores your hard-worked muscles to their resting lengths, and reduces the stress on all joints. Plan to devote 10 minutes of downtime after a workout, or at the end of your day, to gentle stretching. It’s great for both the body and the spirits!

Why You Need to Know About Progressive Overload

Why You Need to Know About Progressive Overload

Let's start by talking about the concept of overload. When we add work, or load, to muscles, we ask them to perform at a level above what they normally deal with. This is how we address our goals of a better-looking physique, better endurance, fat loss, better performance, or whatever the particular goals are.

 

So it's clear that in order to achieve our goals, we need to stress our bodies with resistance and cardiovascular work.  We need to meet this challenge in a way that gets results without injury. We've all encountered the folks who join the gym on January 2nd, and they're gone by the middle of February. Generally, they are driven by their goals, but without any knowledge on how to go about it safely and effectively. They usually throw themselves into the most challenging exercises and schedule they can do, and that's why they can't continue after a few weeks. And it's back to the sofa, with injuries, muscle pain, and the conviction that exercise should be avoided! 

So how do we go about this? The key is one of the most important training principles. The Progressive Overload Principle must be applied carefully to avoid the above scenario. The body will adapt to changes in load and challenge. But the load and intensity must be changed gradually to avoid undue stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Adequate rest between sets and between training sessions is essential. Too much exercise without enough recovery time, or inappropriate load can cause tissue damage. A good training effect takes place when tissues are gradually, or progressively, overloaded, and then allowed to recover and gradually build up to greater strength. A good rule of thumb is 48-72 hours rest/recovery between resistance training sessions.

 

Another scenario that the Progressive Overload Principle addresses is the person who has not changed the load or intensity for quite some time. He may be discouraged, thinking that he goes to the gym several days a week, and faithfully follows the same routine, with little or no recent change in his body. The body will not make positive change until we force it to! If the body doesn't receive a new challenge periodically, it has absolutely no reason to improve.

The bottom line is that gradual change in the load and intensity over a period of several weeks will help bring you to your goals.  And then it's time for completely new challenges!

Let's start by talking about the concept of overload. When we add work, or load, to muscles, we ask them to perform at a level above what they normally deal with. This is how we address our goals of a better-looking physique, better endurance, fat loss, better performance, or whatever the particular goals are.

So it's clear that in order to achieve our goals, we need to stress our bodies with resistance and cardiovascular work.  We need to meet this challenge in a way that gets results without injury. We've all encountered the folks who join the gym on January 2nd, and they're gone by the middle of February. Generally, they are driven by their goals, but without any knowledge on how to go about it safely and effectively. They usually throw themselves into the most challenging exercises and schedule they can do, and that's why they can't continue after a few weeks. And it's back to the sofa, with injuries, muscle pain, and the conviction that exercise should be avoided!

So how do we go about this? The key is one of the most important training principles. The Progressive Overload Principle must be applied carefully to avoid the above scenario. The body will adapt to changes in load and challenge. But the load and intensity must be changed gradually to avoid undue stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Adequate rest between sets and between training sessions is essential. Too much exercise without enough recovery time, or inappropriate load can cause tissue damage. A good training effect takes place when tissues are gradually, or progressively, overloaded, and then allowed to recover and gradually build up to greater strength. A good rule of thumb is 48-72 hours rest/recovery between resistance training sessions.

Another scenario that the Progressive Overload Principle addresses is the person who has not changed the load or intensity for quite some time. He may be discouraged, thinking that he goes to the gym several days a week, and faithfully follows the same routine, with little or no recent change in his body. The body will not make positive change until we force it to! If the body doesn't receive a new challenge periodically, it has absolutely no reason to improve.

The bottom line is that gradual change in the load and intensity over a period of several weeks will help bring you to your goals.  And then it's time for completely new challenges!

 

Meditation and Fitness

Meditation and Fitness

Meditation is often thought of as an activity best suited to people involved in yoga, tai chi and other forms of thoughtful movement - not as a benefit for an athlete or workout enthusiast. But studies have shown time and again that there are several benefits to the wider community. They include:

Better Heart Health. Meditation can dramatically lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

More Efficient Immune System. Meditation can improve the electrical activity in your brain and this may have a supportive effect on your immune system.

Improved Sleep Pattern. Taking time to relax thoroughly during the day can help you get a better night's sleep.

Improved Blood Pressure. Meditation can help lower blood pressure to a safer level.

Better Results in Your Workout. When we visualize ourselves doing our sport or workout with great form and "see" ourselves succeeding, we tend to get better results from our actual workouts.

It's a Great Stress Buster. When we practise mindfulness, focus on breathing and empty our minds of stressors and irritations, we wake up our parasympathetic nervous system. This system helps us to become calm, relaxed and focussed, allowing us to deal better with stress as it comes along.

What do you want from your training program?

 

What do you want from your training program?

 

It’s all about results. People often say that their goals include losing weight, toning muscle, getting rid of ab fat, feeling better and having more energy. However, most people are unsure of how to get fit or how to keep the gains they’ve made. Often a person goes to a gym, tries out a few cardio machines, watches other people’s workouts, and copies a few exercises without really understanding how to do them properly and safely. 

Working with a personal trainer is a very efficient, productive and safe way to get to your goals. I encourage my clients to incorporate fitness in all aspects of their life, from taking a pleasurable walk around the neighbourhood to doing exercise programs specifically geared towards their needs. I help clients achieve their goals through programs designed for their needs, based on solid understanding of training principles and technique.

Assessment and History

We begin the process by doing a thorough physical assessment and health history, current level of activity, and eating habits. This information allows me to pinpoint areas that need attention, and to choose the right way to go about training you effectively.

What will be in my program?

Your program will include goals for your cardiovascular workouts, a balanced weight-training program which addresses all major muscle groups, worked in real-life movement patterns, and a stretching routine to increase your flexibility.

 

Train Well After An Illness

It seems as if everyone I meet has been the victim of some nasty virus this winter. Colds, the flu, sinus infections - you name it, someone's had it.

 

But when you feel a bit better, you like to get back to your exercise routines right away - after all, you've wasted enough time lying in bed, right? But how much should you do? Should you push yourself to your pre-sick activity level, or take it really easy for a couple of weeks?

 

First, determine if you are still a bit sick. There's that grey area when you definitely feel a lot better that you did, but you tire easily, you're still hacking and coughing, still running a bit of a fever. This is not the time start working out again. Sure, go for a walk, do stretches, even a bit of core work, but don't drive yourself to grey-faced exhaustion and into a relapse! Your immune system is already busy healing you - don't task it with intense workouts. Take it easy until you are really totally healthy.

 

At that point, you will have lost some of your exercise capacity - up to 30% or so. The strategy here is to start at about 2/3 of your exercise intensity and volume. In other words, work out regularly, but dial it down. The most important thing to do is listen to your body, not your buddy!  S/he might want to score a new personal best this week, but your job is to stop when you have reached your limit.

 

Gradually increase your intensity and volume of exercise, monitoring your body's message to you, keep up good nutrition and hydration, and get 8 hours of good sleep each night. That's the best prescription for regaining your fitness after an illness.

Forward Head Posture

 Forward Head Posture

 

A normal head posture is when, from the side view, the centre of the person’s ear is lined up with the centre of the shoulder. Forward head posture (FHP) occurs when the head moves forward from normal posture, with the head drooped forward, and the shoulders rounded. Here’s an example of proper alignment on the left, a 2” forward head posture in the centre, and a 4” FHP on the right.

 

This poor neck posture puts tremendous strain on the muscles of the back and neck. In fact, for every inch the head moves forward, it feels 10 pounds heavier to these muscles. So if your head is 2” forward, it’s like having a 20 pound bag slung around your neck. The suboccipital muscles are a group of eight muscles at the back of the neck that lift up your chin. These muscles become constantly tight, putting pressure on the suboccipital nerves. This can cause headaches at the base of the skull, or even sinus headaches. FHP can also flattens out the natural curve of the neck, creating accelerated joint degeneration in the cervical (neck) spine, which can lead to neck arthritis. And there is a host of other ailments in which FHP plays a big role: chronic lower back pain, stress-related ailments, spinal pain, especially between the shoulders, pulse and blood pressure problems, and even lung capacity. Forward head posture is very common among people who work at a computer or a desk most of the day, those who slouch down and read in bed, or people who have played contact sports such as football, and the spinal injuries that go along with such sports. Chronically tight muscles and poor flexibility can also lead to FHP and other postural problems.

 

What are some of the things you can do to relieve and correct FHP? In terms of training, I would first look for tight muscles and range of motion (ROM) to determine what muscle groups need stretching and exercises to improve ROM.

Next, it’s important to address the weak muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Lat pulldowns, rows, and shrugs all strengthen the weak back and shoulder muscles. Strengthening the lumbar (lower back) spine muscles can be done with spinal extensions, Alternate lift, or superman exercises. And don’t forget the abdominal muscle group, to increase strength in the torso and improve posture as well. Planks or other isometric exercises are a good place to start; however, crunches and sit-ups are not recommended because these exercises can encourage forward head posture.

 

Correcting your posture is key to change here. Here are some ideas:

 

1.Check your ergonomics in your car, at your desk, on your sofa – is your spine long? If not, focus on bracing or “tucking in” your abdominals, lifting your chest slightly, and keeping the shoulder blades pulled down. You may need to adjust your desk chair and/or the height of your computer monitor, and reposition yourself to achieve a tall spine.

2.Perform chin retractions. Looking straight ahead, drop the chin slightly, and push your chin backward with a finger. Hold for a few seconds, and repeat several times. Do this several times a day to help realign your posture.

3.Whenever you have to sit for long periods of time, get up and walk around every half hour, gently squeezing your shoulder blades together for a few seconds. Do 10-12 times to help correct your posture and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting.

Last, explore professional help such as chiropractic care. This can be invaluable in your efforts to overcome forward head posture and other postural imbalances.

 

Cardio Training – What Kind Should I Do?

Cardio Training – What Kind Should I Do?

 

This is a common concern, especially for those people who have been working out for a while, but aren’t seeing good enough results. The issue is really getting variety in your workouts, to constantly challenge your body to working harder. Fitness professionals often refer to the FITT factors; this means the Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type of exercise performed.

 

In terms of cardiovascular work, there are several types of training you can do. First, we have Tempo Training. This means doing continuous aerobic exercise at a moderately challenging intensity, or 14-17 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Do this type of training for 30-60 minutes.

 

Second is Long Slow Distance Training. Again, this is continuous aerobic exercise at a low to moderate intensity (11-13 RPE), for 60-80 minutes. Think about a moderately challenging bike ride around the city, or a beginner spin class. This type of training stimulates an increase in the size of our mitrochondria. Those are the centres of our cells that act like “fireplaces” to burn fat and carbs. So this cardio type will increase the size of the “fireplaces”, allowing you to burn more of both those energy sources

 

Interval Training has you doing 3-minute stints of low-level cardio (RPE of 10-11, or easy), with 3-minute stints of high intensity cardio (RPE of 16-18, or very challenging). Do these intervals for 30-60 minutes.

 

And finally, there’s Supramaximal Interval Training. This is an extremely challenging cardio model. Each cycle consist of doing cardio for 1 minute at your fastest and most intense rate possible, followed by 2-5 minutes of active rest. That means doing an easy walk or gentle cycling to stay active, but at a much lower intensity. Here’s the challenge: work your way up to 15-20 cycles per session of Supramaximal Training. The great thing about this type of training is that it increases the “afterburn”, or how long your body continues to burn fuel at a higher rate than usual, for the longest time of any of these types of cardio.

 

So how can you put this all together for a very effective variety of cardio workouts? If you are doing cardio four times a week, this chart suggests a schedule that will give you variety and results from your workouts. This shows you a cycle over a period of 4 weeks, which you can repeat when you’re done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AEROBIC

FITNESS STRATEGY

           

 

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

60-80 minutes: continuous aerobic exercise at moderate intensity

 

Continuous Interval Training

30-60 minutes: alternate 3 minutes bouts of low and high intensity

 

Tempo Training:

30-60 minutes continuous aerobic exercise at high intensity

 

Supramaximal Training:  15-20 supramaximal exercise bouts for 1 min., with 2-5 min. active rest between bouts (walking to next cardio station or going much more slowly on the same cardio exercise). Supramaximal = your top speed

 

 

WEEK 1

WEEK 2

WEEK 3

WEEK 4

WARM-UP

Stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, low-moderate pace

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

AEROBIC ACTIVITY

 

Session 1:

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

Session 1:

Continuous Interval Training

Session 1

Tempo Training

Session 1:

Supramaximal

Training

 

 

Session 2:

Tempo Training

Session 2:

LSD (Long Slow Distance

Session 2: Supramaximal

Training

Session 2: Continuous

Interval training

 

 

 

Session 3: Continuous

Interval training

Session 3:

Supramaximal

Training

 

Session 3:

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

Session 3:

Tempo Training

 

 

Session 4: Supramaximal

Training

Session 4:

Tempo Training

Session 4:

Continuous

Interval Training

Session 4:

LSD (Long Slow Distance

CHALLENGE

Get to at least 200 minutes total cardio  per week

Get to at least 200 minutes total cardio per week

Get to at least 200 minutes total cardio per week

Get to at least 200 minutes total cardio per week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Push-Ups: Which Version is Best for You?

 Push-Ups: Which Version is Best for You?

Think “push-up” and the image of a buff bodybuilder sweating his way through a hundred reps comes to mind. We may think that this is the only option for this exercise, and then avoid doing them because it’s too difficult, or intimidating. However, there are several versions of this common exercise available, to benefit everyone from a deconditioned beginner, to a seasoned exerciser. Each version will work your pectorals (chest muscles) and triceps (back of the upper arm), your shoulders (deltoids), and will also engage your core muscles.

  

The Seated Push-up: This exercise works well for someone who has difficulty standing. Sit in a chair or locked wheelchair, about an arm's length away from the edge of a sturdy table or a kitchen counter. Place your feet on the floor, wider than the chair, for stability. Pull your belly button (navel) to your spine by tightening your abs; then place your hands on the edge of the table. Keeping your back flat and abs tight, bend your elbows and lean in towards the table, breathing in. As you breathe out, slowly straighten your arms, and push yourself away from the table, keeping your hands firmly on the edge of the table, and keeping the abs braced. Repeat slowly, until you reach fatigue (can’t do any more with good technique).

 

The Standing Push-up: If you have difficulty getting down or up from the floor, this is a good choice. Stand in front of a wall with your feet slightly wider than your hips, and several inches away from the wall. You’ll need to experiment with how it feels, to determine your distance from the wall. First, place your hands directly out from your shoulder onto the wall. Next, draw the navel towards the spine, and keeping your abs braced, and your back flat, inhale and slowly bend your elbows, moving towards the wall. Do not allow your hips to sag forward. As you exhale, slowly straighten your arms, engaging the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. Do not allow your hips to lead the way; keep your body in a straight line. Repeat until you can’t do any more with good technique.

 

The Side-Lying Push-up: The level of difficulty here is more than the standing push-up, but not as strenuous as a push-up from the knees or toes. To do this one, sit on a mat on your right hip, with your legs out to the left, and comfortably bent, and your hands on the floor in front of you. Tighten your abs and keep your back flat. Spread your fingers out a bit for stability, and inhale as you bend your elbows, and lower your upper body towards the ground. Exhale as you slowly push back up, straightening your arms. Do one set to fatigue on this side. Rest, and repeat this movement on your other side, until fatigue.

 

Push-up From Knees: This is the next degree of difficulty. Get face down on a mat, with your body weight resting on your hands and knees. Your arms should be placed a few inches outside of your shoulders, with the hands below shoulder level. Lower your hips until a straight line forms between your shoulders and your knees - your hips should not be elevated in the air. Brace your core muscles, and inhale as you slowly lower your body to the floor, and exhale as you straighten your arms and push up.

 

Push-ups From the Toes: This is the most challenging of the push-ups described here. The technique is the same as for the version from the knees, but the body weight rests on the hands and the toes. Make sure that the core muscles are braced, and do not allow the lower back to sag

As with any exercise, make sure that you pick the appropriate level to start with, and that you perform it with good technique, to avoid injury. If you are new to exercise, please check with your doctor to ensure that it is all right to engage in physical activity, and seek out proper instruction for all activities.

 

Cardiovascular Training

Aerobic exercise is a vital part of any training program, and yet many of us aren’t sure of what type to do, for how long, or how often. As a personal trainer, I apply the FITT principles to any kind of physical activity – Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type.

 

Most of us should aim to do aerobic activity between three and five times per week, for 30-45 minutes per session. This means getting your heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time, and you should feel tired, but not flat-out exhausted, at the end of it.  This brings us to the intensity of your cardio workout.

 

People new to exercise may want to stick to a moderate pace, still getting to fatigue, until these workouts become easy, and they notice that their results – cardiovascular endurance, weight lost – are plateauing.  At this point I encourage clients to vary their cardio workouts both in intensity and duration, or time.  First, I get the client’s resting heart rate, and determine the range of elevated heart rate we’re going for.  Then I set them up into different types of cardio challenge, varying the type within the week.  The client may be doing up to four types of cardiovascular challenge: Long Slow Distance, Continuous Interval, and Supramaximal Training. Here’s what such a program might look like (the bpm – heart rate – is a suggestion and will change for each person).

 

 

AEROBIC

FITNESS STRATEGY

           

 

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

60-80 minutes: continuous aerobic exercise at moderate intensity

bpm = 121-146

Continuous Interval Training 30-60 minutes: alternate 3 minutes bouts of low and high intensity

Low bpm = 51-67

High bpm = 134-152

Tempo Training:

30-60 minutes continuous aerobic exercise at high intensity

bpm = 159-177

Supramaximal Training:  15-20 supramaximal exercise bouts for 1 min., with 2-5 min. active rest between bouts (walking briskly to next cardio station or going much more slowly on the same cardio exercise). Supramaximal = your top speed

 

 

WEEK 1

WEEK 2

WEEK 3

WEEK 4

WARM-UP

Stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, low-moderate pace

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

 

7-10 min.

AEROBIC ACTIVITY

 

Session 1:

LSD (Long Slow Distance) 60-80 min:

Bpm = 121-146

 

Session1: Supramaximal

Training:

Session 1: Continuous

Interval training:

Low bpm = 51-67

High bpm = 134-152

Session 1:

Tempo Training:

Bpm = 159-177

 

 

Session 2:

Tempo Training

Session 2:

LSD (Long Slow Distance

Session 2: Supramaximal

Training

Session 2: Continuous

Interval training

 

 

 

Session 3: Continuous

Interval training

Session 3:

Tempo Training

 

Session 3:

LSD (Long Slow Distance)

Session 3: Supramaximal

Training

 

 

Session 4: Supramaximal

Training

Session 4: Continuous

Interval training

Session 4:

Tempo Training:

 

Session 4:

LSD (Long Slow Distance

 

Get 150- 200 minutes total cardio (not counting warm-up time) per week

Get 150- 200 minutes total cardio (not counting warm-up time) per week

Get 150- 200 minutes total cardio (not counting warm-up time) per week

Get 150- 200 minutes total cardio (not counting warm-up time) per week

 

 

As for the type of cardio activity to do, it’s important to vary your challenges. If you enjoy cycling classes, recognize that this works the quadriceps and hip flexors particularly, and choose other activities, such as swimming, aerobic classes, kickboxing, elliptical, treadmill, snowshoeing  or skiing to round out your cardio workouts. This is a good way to avoid overuse injuries of any particular muscle group.

 

 

 

 

Punctuate Your Posture!

Punctuate Your Posture!

 

Do you look like a comma when you look in the mirror? Do your neck, shoulders and head hurt? If this is you, you need to change your posture from a comma to an exclamation mark!

Here are four tips to get you standing and sitting better.

  

1.      Practise sliding your shoulder blades downwards. Think "sliding them into your back pants pockets". This will allow you to extend through your thoracic spine - the part of your spine that runs between the base of your neck and the middle of your back. This will help you to open up through your chest and take your shoulders away from a very rounded position. Do several of these every day. (Get up from your chair and do them!)

 

2.      Stretch your upper trapezius and levator scapulae (upper back and neck muscles), and your pectoral (chest) muscles. A bent-over, flexed-spine posture encourages these muscles to tighten and restricts proper movement.

 

3.      Do chin tucks daily to strengthen the muscles that keep your head aligned over your shoulders (upper thoracic extensors). When you have done these for a couple of days, combine the tucks with Tip #1, sliding your shoulder blades downwards. To add resistance, hold a light or medium strength tubing in your hands, with thumbs pointing up to the ceiling. As you pull your hands away from each other, do the chin tuck and shoulder blade slide.

 

4.      Strengthen your abdominal muscles. Start with the basics like the abdominal vacuum and plank. You can then add side to side movement to the plank, or raise one arm off the ground for a few seconds to intensify the work in your abs. Avoid crunches or curl-ups - they pose risk to the lumbar spine, and encourage poor and painful neck movement.

 

Exercising with Upper Crossed Syndrome

Exercising with Upper Crossed Syndrome

Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) is a postural problem that starts with muscle imbalances between the muscles of the front and the back of the upper body. The shoulders round inward, the upper back starts to develop a rounded, hump-like appearance, and the head juts forward into Forward Head Posture. Tight muscles typically include the pectoralis major, the levator scapulae, the upper trapezius , latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoid, and the subscapularis (part of rotator cuff) . The weakened muscles include the rhomboids, posterior deltoid, lower trapezius, serratus anterior, deep cervical neck flexors, and the teres minor and infraspinatus (also part of the rotator cuff).

A person with UCS will often have headaches, a feeling of extreme tightness just below the base of the back of the skull and may notice that his shoulder blades are winging out.  Other indicators may include sleep apnea, difficulty swallowing, clenched teeth and pain in the face and neck. If the person is experiencing a significant number of these signs, he can also do the Knuckle test.  Standing in front of a mirror, he can look at his hands. If he can see the knuckles on his ring fingers, he has excessive internal shoulder rotation, and chances are very good that he has UCS.

This is a very common syndrome these days, thanks in large part to us spending extended periods of time staring at a computer screen, bent over a tablet, cell phone, or gaming system. What is the best way to train to avoid injury, while correcting the UCS?

It is important to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the overly tight ones, to help restore postural balance to the upper body.

Corrective exercises to stabilize the scapulae, or shoulder blades may include rows, spinal rotation with extension, and isometric retraction and depression. Tubing or light dumbbells are the best choices for this. Once the shoulder blades are more stable, move on to doing internal and external shoulder rotation, either sidelying or standing. Exercises that should be avoided include barbell work,  bilateral strength machines, all overhead presses, bench pressing with a pronated grip, upright rows, bench presses with more than a 30° bench angle, and any loaded movement behind the back.

Stretching the tight muscles is just as important as strengthening the weak ones.  I recommend doing some self-myofascial release techniques (SMR), prior to static stretches. For instance, to help release the tight pectorals (chest muscles), you can stand in front of a wall. Place a tennis ball or acupressure ball over the tight pecs and lean into the wall to trap the ball between your chest muscles and the wall. You can also put the ball in a long sock so you can control it and keep it from falling. Gently roll back and forth over the tight muscles to release them from the surrounding fascia. Then do a static chest stretch. You can use a foam roller to do SMR on tight traps and lats, or use the tennis ball in a sock technique, only  facing out from the wall. The ball is situated between your upper back muscles and the wall. Follow up with static stretches.

Practise good posture as well. Make sure that your desk chair doesn't keep your thighs higher than parallel to the floor, as this will encourage UCS . When you are standing, check to see that your chest is slightly lifted and your shoulder blades are pulled down into a neutral position. When doing computer or desk work, take a break every 30 minutes and do shoulder blade squeezes and chin retractions to reset your muscles into a better posture. Finally, practise breathing from your diaphragm - your abdomen will extend and then retract if you are breathing properly, instead of your shoulders hunching upwards.

 

Deb Bailey Personal Trainer - in Home (Now On-line!)
Phone: 519-572-0986
debbailey@rogers.com
Kitchener, Ontario


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