Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
“If your body is not right, your mind will react. If your mind isn’t right, your body is going to react” ~ Vidal Sassoon
I think I may have found a new niche…
I used to train horses so I know I could train my clients’ animals to help motivate them to exercise when I’m not around.
In my previous blog, I outlined how to acheive perfect posture. If you did the posture checkup assessment you might have notice how odd it feels just to stand with perfect posture. Try doing every repetition of every exercise with perfect posture. Then you’ll notice how imbalanced your body is and how much more difficult each exercise is by using perfect form.
When working with new clients I always start them in the Stabilization Endurance phase to correct their musculoskeletal imbalances. In my line of work, these imbalances are known as Kinetic Chain Dysfunction.
But, what exactly is the Kinetic Chain?
The Kinetic Chain
The Kinetic Chain consists of the muscular system, the nervous system, and the articular system. The kenetic chain is essentially your entire body.
The muscular system consists of the more than 600 muscles of the body and their associated fascia, tendons, tendon sheaths, and bursae. The fascia interpenetrates and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures, but mostly I am referring to the fascia surrounding the muscles.
The nervous system is the system of cells, tissues, and organs that regulates the body’s responses to internal and external stimuli. It consists of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system nerves, which carry impulses to and from the central nervous system.
The articular system consists of all the joints in body. We most often think of hips, shoulders, knees and elbows when talking about joints but joints also occur between bones and cartilages, between cartilages, and between bones and teeth. But I’ll just stick to the major joints of the body when referring to the articular system.
“Kinetic” denotes the force transference from the nervous system to the muscular and articular systems as well as from joint to joint, while “chain” refers to the interconnected linkage of all joints in the body.
In a body without Kinetic Chain Dysfunction there would be optimal muscle balance and strength, optimum recruitment of muscles, and optimal joint range of motion. If those three things are in a perfect state then any time your body moves you would have optimum structural alignment, neuromuscular control and, thus, optimum movement.
However, for reasons such as repetitive stress, impact trauma, disease and sedentary lifestyle, dysfunction can occur in one or more of these systems. When this happens muscle balance, muscle recruitment, and joint motion are altered leading to changes in your body’s structural alignment, neuromuscular control (or coordination), and movement patterns. The result is kinetic chain impairment and ultimately injury.
So, before you read any further, stop slouching over your computer. Sit up straight, lift the chest and roll your shoulders back and down and lift the chin up. Try holding that position until you’re done reading this post. You might need to adjust your screen to a height where you don’t need to drop the chin in order to read comfortably.
Kinetic Chain Dysfunction
But what about a body exhibiting Kinetic Chain Dysfunction? Impaiment is an alteration in the muscular, nervous and articular (joint) systems to function interdependently and effectively to perform their functional tasks.
When the muscular system is impaired, you have muscle imbalances and strength deficits. If the nervous system is impaired, you have an altered recruitment of muscles. An altered articular system results in dysfunctional joint motion. This means altered structural alignment, neuromuscular control and altered movement.
What does this mean in normal, everyday terms?
When an impairment exists there are muscles that are overactive muscles and muscles that are underactive around a joint. Muscles that are overactive are tight and strong while underactive muscles are overly lengthened and weak. These muscles are typically opposite each other on the body, i.e.: chest/back and quadriceps/hamstrings.
Alterations in muscle activity results in a change of the biomechanical motion of the joint, leading to increased stress on the tissues of the joint, and eventually injury. Or, you could tear or strain muscle tissue if muscles are overly tight.
Some typical examples of kinetic chain dysfunction are rounded shoulders and forward head posture. How many of you work at a desk and use a computer or spend hours on the computer on a daily basis?
If you sit a lot during your day, either at a desk or driving long hours you will typically have tight hip flexors and and arched lower back. Men, stand up and take note of the position of your belt (or button on your pants). Is the front of your belt or pants several inches lower in the front than the back? For both women and men who exhibit these muscle imbalances you will most likely have rounded or protruding abdominal muscles.
Also, do you tend to have lower back pain? Well, there you have it, I guarantee your hip flexors and hamstrings need to be stretched.
Have you ever noticed that you wear down the heels of your shoes on either the outside or inside? Then the muscles in your calves are either underactive on the inside of the leg and overactive on the outside or vice versa.
If you have one of these dysfunctions or impairments you will almost always have two or three impairments in different areas of the body. This happens through repetitive movments (which I guarantee you are doing unconsciously) that train the muscles to hold an impaired posture, but also due to injuries both minor or major, and/or a sedentary lifestyle. Even the smallest injury can cause big compensations over time.
All of these impairments can be corrected with the right combination of flexibility and strenth exercises depending on the findings of a movement assessment.
In my next blog, I’ll teach you some exercises that will help improve your posture.
In order to maximize the results from your workouts you should be aware of your posture and form. You may have heard that when it comes to exercise (especially strength training) form is everything.
Form IS everything. Bad form equals increased chance of injury, and if you’re injured you aren’t going to be able to continue working toward your fitness goals until you are recovered. Doesn’t it make sense for you to start with good habits so you don’t have to try to overcome them in the future?
I bet you have poor posture and you don’t even realize it.
What is perfect posture exactly? It’s the perfect alignment of your limbs and joints in all planes of motion.
Why don’t you get up from your computer right now and go check your posture in a full-length mirror. You may think you are standing up straight and that everything is in alignment but do the following posture checkup:
1. Your toes are pointing straight ahead when standing OR sitting.
2. Your knees are in line with your 2nd and 3rd toes, and the kneecaps are not rotated either inward or outward.
3. Your hips are squared and in alignment with your knees.
4. Your shoulders are square and lifted and your abdominal muscles are engaged.
5. You chin is up and you are looking straight ahead.
6. Your ears are positioned directly above your shoulders (for most people this means we need to pull our head backwards).
Did you see and feel the difference? It probably felt completely odd, didn’t it?
Every new client of mine gets a thorough assessment which includes a kinetic chain movement assessment – head to toe from 3 different angles - which allows me to observe impairments, including muscle imbalances, and altered movement patterns.
I use two functional assessments to see the areas that need to be worked on first. You wouldn’t build a house on a shaky foundation and in order to become really fit you have to have a strong kinetic chain without impairments.
The first assessment I use is the Overhead Squat Test. The OHS assessment is a traditional two-legged squat performed with the arms held overhead. This exercise asseses total body structural alignment, dynamic flexibility and neuromuscular control while standing on two feet.
Squatting requires optimal motion in the ankles, knees and hips. Holding the arms overhead stresses the musculature of the shoulder complex and increases the demand placed upon the core stabilizing muscles.
The Overhead Squat Assessment shows an overall view of a person’s structural alignment, dynamic range of motion, and muscle strength and contr0l or lack thereof. It looks like the photo here except for assessment purposes, my clients don’t hold anything.
The second movement assessment I use is the Single Leg Squat. The SLS assessment is used to assess lower body dynamic flexibility and muscular control as well as balance from a unilateral (one leg) standing position.
There are four Kinetic Chain Checkpoints that refer to regions of the body:
- Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex (LPHC) or hips, pelvis and lower back
- Shoulder and Cervical Spine (Upper Body)
Each Kinetic Chain joint region has specific biomechanical motion that it produces based upon its structure and and function, as well as the joints above and below it. As I pointed out previously, when one area is affected, other muscles and joints are affected as well.
Each checkpoint is closely observed from various angles to find impairments and muscle imbalances.
Imbalances Lead to Impairments
A common imbalance is rounded shoulders since most of use a computer and/or cell phone for way too many hours at a time. Does this look or feel familiar?
When you have rounded shoulder posture your chest muscles are tight (and therefore strong) and your back muscles are loose and weak. Also, your abs are completely slack and are barely supporting you.
Sitting for many hours per day causes your hip flexors to be tight and pull on your lower back which can lead to back pain .
These are just two common examples of how poor posture can affect you. But these imbalances can be corrected with the right combination of strengthening your weak muscles and increasing flexibility in your tight muscles.
It can be a tedious process but most of my clients see major improvements in their imbalances in as little as 8 – 12 sessions.
Stay tuned for part two of Posture 101!
The last but still very important component of a well-rounded fitness plan is the cool down. From experience, I’d say that the cool down is the most commonly skipped portion of the workout – even more than stretching. And you know you should stretch, right?
You should also take the time to cool down.
What is a “cool down”?
Cooling down is the term used to describe an easy exercise that will allow the body to gradually transition from state of exertion to a resting or near-resting state. Cooling down allows the heart rate to return to its resting rate.
Done right, it involves a gradual but continuous decrease in exercise intensity and also includes stretching, and re-hydration. The typical cool down should last 5 – 10 minutes. I think 5 minutes is adequate but depending on the intensity of your workout you might want to cool down for longer or until your breathing starts to normalize (i.e. you’re not trying to catch your breath).
Benefits of the Cool Down
Taking the time to cool down gradually decreases the temperature of your muscles but also:
- Helps return heart rate and blood pressure to normal
- Prevents blood from pooling in the lower extremeties
- Helps reduce the risk of injury
- Helps prevent muscle cramps
- Helps speed lactic acid removal from the bloodstream
- Begins the post-workout recovery process
How To Cool Down
Cooling down is relatively simple if you’ve been doing cardio but I would suggest not continuing to lift weights if your workout was strength training. You could do some dynamic stretches such as Cherry Pickers or Windmills as long as you do them slowly and deliberately.
The easiest cool down is to walk for 5 minutes at a slow pace, a 2 or 3 or the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale. Or you can simply slow down the pace of whatever exercise you’ve been doing over a period of several minutes until you feel your heart rate slow and your breathing normalize.
Some people start to sweat profusely during the cool down and stretching phase. This is pretty normal, especially if you’re in good shape.
It really doesn’t matter the way you choose to cool down as long as you don’t skip it, or stretching! Your body will thank you.
In my previous post, Strength Training 101, I wrote about what constitutes a resistance workout as well as the various equipment or methods you could use to add to your workout regimen. Today I’ll outline a simple total body routine with hand weights (dumbbells) that anyone can do no matter their fitness level.
Strength Training Basics
- Be sure to warm up!
- Choose weights that are heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue by the end of each set of 10-12 repetitions.
- Stand up straight – form is everything.
- Do every repetition with perfect posture. (See my video if you aren’t sure what perfect posture is.)
- Concentrate on each repetition and lift slowly. A tempo of 1-1-1 is appropriate for beginners. This means you’ll lift the weight for a count of one, hold it at the top of the contraction for a count of one, then lower the weight for a count of 1.
- Breathe! Breathe out during the “lifting” portion of each repetition and in as you lower the weights.
- Stop immediately if anything hurts or doesn’t feel right.
- When in doubt, ask a professional for help.
- Stretch! If nothing else, stretch all the major muscle groups after your workout - no exceptions!
Sets, Reps and Tempo
Repetitions or “reps” is a single lifting and lowering of a weight in a controlled manner.
A “set” consists of several repetitions performed one after another with no break between them with the number of reps.
“Tempo” is the speed at which each repetition is performed. There are so many variations of tempo you would be overwhelmed if I spelled them all out here. That’s why I recommend the 1-1-1 tempo I mentioned above. Remember my mantra: Simplest is best!
The Sample Strength Training Workout
The following sample workout is appropriate for beginners as well as intermediate exercisers.
Because I’m pressed for time I won’t be adding pictures or videos of these exercises. If you need a visual aid, a quick Google search will take care of that.
All you need is 20 minutes 2X a week to reap the rewards of your efforts. If you’re a total beginner do 10 – 12 repetitions of each exercise twice with a 3 minute break between sets. For intermediate exercisers, do 16 – 24 reps and repeat 3X with a 90 second rest between sets.
You can choose to do this workout on the days you do cardio. For beginners, I’d recommend doing this routine on days you aren’t doing your cardio workouts so that you don’t overdo it.
Follow each exercise in order, rest, then repeat once or twice.
|Warm up and Stretch – 5 to 10 minutes|
|Front Lunge or Knee Lift (for those with knee problems)|
|Rear Lunge or Standing Hamstring Curl|
|Bent Over Row|
|Push Ups or Chest Press|
|Cool Down and Stretch|
The 30 Day Rule
Try this routine 2x a week for 30 days and I guarantee you’ll see positive changes in your body. You will probably need to increase the weight you’re lifting by up to 5lbs within that time frame. The rule of thumb is to add a pound or two at a time. For example, if you start with 3lbs, move to 5lbs.
Again, use common sense when increasing your weigth workload. If it feels too hard within the first 3-5 reps, you’re weight is too heavy.
I’d love for some of you readers to try this routine for 3o days and then give me feedback on your results. If you’re willing to do this, please email me directly (see contact form) and I’ll send you some forms to track your progress.
Now grab your weights and get started!
Strength or resistance training is one of the 5 components of a well-rounded workout program. I’ve found in my years of training people that women tend to avoid weights and men tend to avoid cardio. This isn’t universal but it’s really common.
If you want to significantly change how your body looks or increase your body’s ability to burn fat at rest, you need to incorporate strength training into your regimen.
What is strength training?
The simple definition is using weights to increase muscular strength, size and mass.
Strength training uses resistance to muscular contraction to build strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. There are many kinds or methods of strength training but the most common use weight machines (such as those you see at every gym), dumbbells, barbells, elastic bands or just your body weight.
According to the American Sports Medicine Institute, the goal of resistance training is to “gradually and progressively overload the musculature system so it gets stronger.” Research shows that regular resistance training will strengthen and tone muscles and increase bone mass.
The terms strength training and resistance training are often used interchangeably.
Benefits of Strength Training
Here are just a few reasons why you want pump some iron on a regular basis:
- Reduces body fat
- Increases resting metabolic rate
- Increases lean muscle mass
- Strengthens bones and reduced risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis
- Helps protect your joints from injury
- Improves balance
- Helps manage the symptoms of arthritis, back pain, depression and diabetes to name a few
- Boosts overall stamina and endurance
Many women shy away from lifting weights because they think they will “bulk up”. Let me assure you that this won’t happen. You would have to lift very heavy weights for a long time and take some specific supplements in order for that to happen. Weight training is the best way to reshape or improve your figure!
Strength Training Options
There are several ways to incorporate strength training into your routine.
Body Weight Exercises:
- These require no equipment and can be done anywhere. Examples of this are push ups, squats, crunches, and planks.
Resistance Bands or Tubing:
- These are inexpensive and extremely portable, and they can be used by anyone of any fitness level. You can find these in configurations that range from wide flat bands, tubes with handles, figure 8s, double band, braided bands, and circular bands. I recommend getting two or three bands with attached handles of light, medium and heavy resistance.
Dumbbells or Barbells:
- These are also be called “free weights”. Dumbbells come in a variety of weights and are held in each hand while barbells are a metal bar that weight plates of various increments are attached to either end of the bar.
- You’ll see a variety of these at any gym. These are great for the beginning exerciser who wants to strength train because there is little to no learning curve. If you’re unsure of how to us free weights, start with weight machines.
Which Method or Equipment to Choose
You’re probably asking yourself, “Which do I choose?”
I recommend starting with body weight exercises and dumbbells. I also recommend hiring a personal trainer to show you how to do both body weight and dumbbell/barbell exercises correctly. A good trainer will not train their clients on weight machines!
Bands are a great option to start with as well, but they take a little longer to learn to use.
Regardless of which option you choose to use for your strength training routine, “lifting weights” is beneficial for anyone of any fitness level. In fact, I have an 89 year old client who lifts weights several times a week. Granted, they are only 3 – 5lb dumbbells BUT if she can do it, so can you.
Tomorrow: Sample Strength Training 1o1 Workout
One of the 5 components of a well-rounded fitness plan is cardiovascular training or aerobic exercise. You might think of running or brisk walking when you hear the word “cardio”.
Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of your heart, lungs and organs to consume, transport and utilize oxygen. The maximum volume of oxygen your body can consume and use is your VO2 Max. Or, brisk exercise that promotes the circulation of oxygen through the blood and is associated with an increased rate of breathing. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and bicycling.
I want you to just forget the term VO2 Max. Unless you’re an athlete training for a sporting event, it’s not worth bothering with in my opinion.
In order to increase your cardiovascular fitness you need to do cardio or aerobic exercise. I prefer the term cardio.
Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise
If you’re a reluctant exerciser or would prefer to lift weights than do cardio, here are some reasons you should make it part of your regular routine.
Regular cardio exercise:
- Helps burn a lot of calories which can help you lose weight or maintain your current weight
- Increases your stamina and endurance
- Activates your immune system
- Reduces the health risks of many diseases such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Helps lower blood high blood pressure and control blood sugar, boosts HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) which reduces placque buildup in your arteries
- Strengthens your heart and helps your heart work more efficiently
- Can help ease symptoms of depression as well as reduce tension associated with anxiety
- Keeps your mind sharp and can reduce cognitive decline in older adults
Getting Started on a Cardio Plan
I know I sound like a broken record but simplest is often best. All you really need to do is 3o minutes, three times a week on non-consecutive days. Here’s an example:
|Warm up||Warm up||Warm up|
|Cardio (20-30 minutes)||Cardio (20-30 minutes)||Cardio (20-30 minutes)|
|Cool Down||Cool Down||Cool Down|
It doesn’t really matter what cardio exercise you do as long as you do it consistently. Walking is the simplest aerobic exercise! You can do it anywhere and you don’t need any fancy equipment, just a pair of sturdy, supportive athletic shoes.
Considerations for Deconditioned Exercisers
If you haven’t engaged in any sort of exercise for months, years or… ever. If you have problems with your back, knees, hips, or feet you would be considered a deconditioned (out of shape) exerciser.
If you fall into the above category you should start very slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes of continuous cardio exercise. Start with what you can do, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes or walking out to the mailbox even a few circuits around your house. Something is better than nothing and you’ll reap benefits from even a few short minutes of getting up and moving.
It’s also extremely important that if you have joint pain or are prone to injury that you wear the proper shoes. Please check out Dr. Wendy Schauer’s website for some great information about wearing the right footwear for your workout.
If you have a desk job and sit most of the day I don’t recommend doing cardio on a bicycle. Sitting for long periods causes the hip flexors (where the hip joins the thigh near the point of the hip bones) to shorten. This, in turn, causes abs to be slackened and the lower back to be pulled forward and tightens the hip flexors. If you sit a lot and you have lower back pain, stretching the hip flexors and hamstrings two or three times a day can help relieve your discomfort.
The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 to 6o minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. For a beginner this would be overdoing it, but if you’ve been consistently working out for a while 3o minutes of cardio 5X a week or 6o minutes 3X a week would be just about right.
Stretch after every workout! See my last post about the Importance of Stretching.
You’ll know you’re doing enough when you can consistently do 3o minutes at least 3x per week at a level 5 or 6 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale – whether it’s walking, running, elliptical, bike, aerobic workout video.
In my last post I mentioned that stretching is very important. Some of you readers have admitted to me that you tend to skip stretching altogether. I appreciate your honesty but you aren’t doing yourself any favors. While taking the time to stretch may seem tedious, it’s the simplest way to help prevent injuries and improve athletic performance.
There is a lot of conflicting information and confusion about how to stretch, when to stretch, whether stretching has any real benefit, etc. Please disregard all of that if you are prone to wanting to follow the latest and greatest advice. I’m here to tell you what I know works and what doesn’t. I’ve worked with well over a thousand people in my ten years in the fitness industry and I can say from experience what is beneficial. Everything else is pure bunk, in my not so humble opinion.
Benefits of Stretching
When done properly and consistently stretching can:
- Improve athletic performance
- Decrease the chance of muscle or joint injury
- Improve muscle and joint flexibility
- Increase joint integrity and range of motion
- Increase muscle strength
- Increase blood flow to the muscles (which helps you recover from your workout)
Another benefit is that stretching feels good!
Types of Stretches
There are three basic types of stretches that any good trainer will employ with their clients, as the situation calls for it. I won’t be discussing yoga because I am not an expert, nor am I a practitioner.
- Static Stretching: this method involves holding a stretch in one muscle group or joint for a period of time, usually for about 30 seconds. This relaxes the muscle and helps alleviate muscle soreness and fatigue. This is the most common type of stretching.
- Active Isolated Stretching: This is a technique where you hold each stretch per muscle group for only 2 seconds, but repeat the stretch for 10 repetitions. As you repeat each 2 second stretch, you’ll be able to stretch farther each time. This is a fabulous technique for times when your muscles are especially stiff or tight. I would not recommend trying this without proper instruction first.
- Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching involves repeatedly performing movements that mimic exercises you might do during your workout. Each movement in a dynamic stretch is controlled and requires more coordination than static stretching due to the repetitive motions. These rhythmical movements are often incorporated into the warm-up of an exercise routine. Dynamic stretching should be smooth and intentional, while gradually increasing the range of motion over a set of 10 to 12 repetitions. (Cherry Pickers and Windmills are types of dynamic stretches as well as great warmup exercises!)
When to Stretch
Again this is one of those areas where “experts” cannot agree. When working with my clients I have them warmup and stretch prior to the workout and stretch again at the end. If nothing else, stretch at the end of your workout.
I recommend static stretching (NO bouncing or pulsing!) the major muscle groups: calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, chest, lats, and upper back.
Stretching after your workout increases the effectiveness of your strength training routine by up to 19% according to research by Wayne Westcott, PhD and Linda La Rosa Loud.
Personally, I prefer to reap all the rewards from the effort I put into my workouts. I’m sure you probably do as well.
Taking an extra 5 minutes to cool down and 5 minutes to stretch helps your body begin the recovery process by increasing blood flow to the muscle tissues and joints.
Plus, it feels great when you’re done.