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  Exercise, Nutritional Guidance, Motivation

 

  Certified:  AFPA, MAT, CanFitPro

Kitchener, Ontario,    519-572-0986    debbailey@rogers.com

 

 

 

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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.

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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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

Special Events/Training Coordinator: Jessica Bailey 
Administrative Assistant: James Steele
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