First I’m gonna make it

…then I’m gonna break it

Increasing muscle mass and or strength is not magic by any means, it is science. Which is great because sometimes it seems that way like we need some magical potion.  The good news is once you have an understanding of the science you can then apply it and start making the gains you are looking for, ‘these are the gains you are looking for’. Just like the title of this post (credit to Echo and the Bunnymen) first you are gonna make it and then you’re gonna break it.

How

Ok, yes, genetics do play a role. But we can’t change that so let’s not worry about it.

Weights
Heavy lifting

Stress: Our muscles respond to stress, stress that causes damage (breaking down) to our muscle fibers. You have probably felt this the next day after a workout when trying to use your legs after a hard leg workout and you do all you can to avoid stairs. Now, excessive muscle pain the next day or 4 days later is not good as you might have seriously damaged muscle tissue but some uncomfortableness is what you want. This then causes the body to respond and put into process different mechanisms to facilitate muscle growth if the environment is right (more on that in a bit).

Tension: Without putting a load onto your muscles you won’t see growth. And, it has to be an increasing load. If your body has already adapted to the load you are using the load is not enough. The load needs to be greater than what your body is used to. Now, this doesn’t mean that if you squatted 250lbs last time that you need to do at least the same amount the next workout, especially if that amount is new for you to squat, it means the load should be great enough that you are challenged.

Also, try to switch up how the load is applied. Your body will adapt to the same load over time and growth will not happen. This is why we increase loads. But, other things can help too such as number of sets, type of exercise, decreasing the duration of your break between sets, switching from free weights to a machine, pyramids, etc. One more thing, the amount of time the muscle is under stress also plays a role in muscle growth. People tend to rush through their routines. My god if I see one more person bouncing through their pushups I’m going to lose it, ugh. Slow down and keep clean technique and also reduce the risk of injury.

Diet: The more food you consume that is whole food and not processed the more growth you should see. Our body needs the nutrients it requires to rebuild itself from the damage we inflicted on it. Whole Foods plant based will provide your body all that it needs to repair the damage and as an added benefit you’ll feel better and have more energy. Trust me, I know. A colleague of mine switched to eating more whole foods that are plant based and he can’t believe the energy he has.

Rest: You need it although it’s not always there. Let’s talk about 2 types of rest, muscle rest and physical rest. Muscle rest refers to that you need at least 48 hours of rest after working out that muscle group. Did legs today, give your legs 48 hours off. Muscles need time to recover which means time to grow. And let’s talk about you. You need rest too. Without adequate rest you will put your body into a state of being over trained which leads to being tired, feeling run down, lack of focus, getting sick and your friends avoiding you.

Finally

Change up your workouts frequently, eat well, properly stress your muscles and rest. Science. No magic. Then sit back and watch the gains happen.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Is this the cardio you are looking for?

Intense workouts will give the results people are looking for. I’ve written many articles that expose the ineffectiveness of workouts in the fat burning zone, and have written many articles that explain the effectiveness of workouts in the intense zone. I’m not going into why working out with intensity gives us the results we need, just read my previous posts.

What

In the spirit of sticking with intensity let’s talk about HILIT. Yes, HILIT. Figured it out yet? Just like HIIT, HILIT is the same but without the impact. High Intense Low Impact Interval Training.

How

 

Low impact

Actually it’s very simple. So simple I don’t know why I’m writing this. Actually I do know why I’m writing this. It’s a reminder that there are things we can co regardless of our body issues.

Before I get into exercises let’s quickly go over the pattern of intense interval training. You have the classic Tabata named after Izumi Tabata. 20 seconds maximum effort followed by 10 seconds zero effort for a duration of 4 minutes.

Then you have the classic of 1 minute at 90% effort followed by 2 minutes at 70% effort (this is why I recommend a heart rate monitor, a great way to know your output percentage) for a duration of 20 minutes.

You can also do low impact 2 minutes at 90% followed by 3 minutes at 60% for 20 minutes. Lots of options.

Exercises

Let’s get into the exercises you can do. Now I’m not listing every exercise, only a few. Try to come up with some yourself keeping the above guidelines in mind.

        • No Jump Burpees – It’s as easy as doing burpees without the jump but, when you squat and kick your feet out behind you do 4 Mountain climbers. And, even though you are not jumping, pretend you are by swinging your arms up just don’t let your feet leave the ground.
        • High Knees with Crossing Arms – Bring the knees up as quick as you can minimizing impact while also crossing your arms back and forth in front of your chest.
        • Modified Mountain Climbers – Ok, get in Mountain climber position and when doing these Mountain climbers move your lower body side to side like you are sweeping from a 45 degree angle on one side all the way through to a 45 degree angle on the opposite side. And don’t wimp out on me, those feet should be shooting forwards and backwards like no one’s business.
        • Pool – High knees, running on the spot, alternating lunges. The pool is the quintessential location for low impact exercising.

Lower back pain, knee pain, hip pain I have you covered. There’s always options that keep you healthy and most importantly keep you enjoying those things you enjoy.

Yours in health,

Darryl

If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you

I’ve been there myself, many times, not only when I’m participating in a stressful physical event such as a belt grading but also when being part of something where I’m the center of attention, especially when I don’t know my audience. Our mind takes over often focusing on the worst outcome and it only makes matters worse. Worse case is we can feel like a prisoner of our mind.

What

relaxing thoughts

The title of this post may seem a bit ambiguous at this point but let’s see if I can add clarity later on.

You’re about an hour away from an event that you are participating in, maybe a 10k or marathon, or something else that you want to do really well in and you start to feel those nerves. You need to be well fuelled, hydrated for this event but you have concerns that if you consume too much too close to the start you’ll end up missing the start of the event or have to stop partway during the event for a washroom break.

It’s happened before but you really don’t want to have to deal with it again for obvious reasons. Is it your diet or do you have the unfortunate burden of having a sensitive gut? It very well could be the foods you eat. I’ve written a number of posts that talk about diet so I’m not going in depth on this post, you can go back and read them.

Your gut Flora has a large influence on your overall health and also how your stomach can deal with anxiety and nerves. First off, ditch the dairy. No other animal consumes dairy after being weened so why do we (hint, it has to do with money)? Then, lose all the other animal products you consume and replace them with complex carbs, pulses, nuts, seeds, and so on. Focus on whole foods plant based eating. If you’re someone who doesn’t produce a daily stool easily then that will change, for the better.

Now that you are eating the foods that help with digestion and provide you with the fuel you need to compete you can start to focus on pre event fueling. Complex carbs approximately 2 hours before your event, something like steel cut oats with some fruit (if having apples lose the skin as it’s difficult to digest and we’re trying to avoid that). 15 minutes before the event you could then consume a gel energy pack to top up the fuel tank.

If this is new to you I highly recommend you follow the routine you plan to use before several of your workouts to see how you react to it.

        • Never try something new before an event! Never do this the day before or the day of. You will not want to find out that your stomach disagrees with the new energy drink or gel you decided to try.

Next

Now, let’s get to the meaning of the quote I used. The mind, we need to control our mind. Our mind is very powerful and I believe most of us underestimate what it can do to us or what we can have it do for us. Too often we let the negative mind take control and do our bidding.

Why is it that you have done many long runs leading up to your event without any gut issues but now, just before the race you are looking for the porta-potty? You let your mind get the better of you. Anxiety, uncertainty, fear, doubt can put your nervous system into overdrive impacting the blood flow to the gut thus slowing down digestion and activating the colon muscles.

Breathe, relax, meditate, put on music that can get you to that relaxed state you need. Just like the mind can put you in that anxious state so it can also put you in that relaxed state. I think we don’t realize that because no one has taught us that. Quick question: how many of you have taken a course on meditation? I’m betting the vast majority haven’t.

Something else that can be done is to make it familiar. The more times you are in this situation the more normal it will be and the more relaxed you will probably be.

Finally

Having nerves is normal, it can help you achieve great things as long as those nerves don’t become unmanageable.

A positive and relaxed mind can do wonders too. Read a book on mindfulness, watch some instructional videos on meditation. I hope you get to find that out for yourself.

Yours in health,

Darryl

I’ve done this before, why can’t I do it now?

Going for that evening run, a routine run that you’ve done many times. Summer’s hear, or at least the summer weather and it’s been a hot day. An evening run is nice as it’s a bit cooler at this time but still somewhat hot. You’ve had a busy day outside working in the backyard or maybe cleaning up the garage. It’s been somewhat of a sweaty day.

Time for that run. You’ve brought water with you as you know you’ll need it. You start off with a gentle pace. You’re already thinking that you feel a little off, somewhat lacking. You pick it up a bit increasing the difficulty and you are starting to feel it. That feeling that it’s going to be a laborious run. You give it a few minutes to let your body adjust to the increased pace but it’s tougher than normal. You push yourself through the run but afterwards, you are left wondering why the run was so tough when it was supposed to be a moderate run, not an intense run?

What

Since we are at the beginning of the summer weather we’ll be getting, at least where I live, and we have already had days in the high 20’s with high humidity we need to understand two important things:

      • Our bodies need water. We can live longer without food than without water
      • We need to ensure we have our electrolytes. Electrolytes are responsible for our nervous system and if our nervous system isn’t performing well we can’t perform well.

Our body is mostly made up of water and even when we are a little bit dehydrated our performance is impacted. Foggy brain, lethargy are some symptoms of only a 2% decrease in your body’s water level. We don’t always think of this, that something as simple as slight dehydration can impact how we are and how we perform. Let’s look at what a 5% decrease in our hydration level can do to us:

      • Can decrease the capacity for work by 30%
      • Decrease sweat rate thus increasing body core temperature
      • A reduction in blood volume requiring the heart to work harder to fuel our muscles, and our brain
      • Increased rate of glycogen use

And lastly, depending on the duration of your workout, prolonged dehydration due to lack of hydrating can lead to death. Years ago there would be incidents of college, and even high school students dying during football practice due to dehydration. You were a wuss if you needed water during practice during hot summer days and these knuckleheaded coaches in their ultimate wisdom deprived people of water. Fortunately, I hope, these days are over. But severe dehydration will lead to thicker blood which the heart has to work harder to move through the body.

What Else

Electrolytes. Electrolytes are vital for normal functioning of the human body. Sodium, potassium and calcium. When you are an athlete that is performing intense workouts for more than 60 minutes it becomes important to consume electrolytes during your workout. Also, if you sweat a large amount expelling these electrolytes you need to replenish.

If your body is low on electrolytes you may experience the following:

      • Twitching
      • Weakness or excessive muscle contractions
      • confusion

Lastly, if you are severely low you could experience seizures or heart rhythm disturbances.

If you think about it all this makes sense. It makes sense that being deficient with regards to something that helps controls the nervous system will impact performance. And increasing performance is one of our goals of working out!

I’m not going too in-depth on this article as I have written articles on these things before (see at bottom of page). But sometimes we need a reminder when we hit that time again.

As a whole, we spend a lot of money on fitness from clothing to the latest tech. It doesn’t require a lot of money to stay hydrated and also to replenish your electrolytes. You’ve made the effort to get off the couch and put in a workout, and may be an intense one. Make it enjoyable by being prepared to get the most out of your body by having your body hydrated and by also being ready to replenish your electrolytes.

It’s hot out there. Be careful and be prepared.

You’ll be glad you did.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Hydration article

Electrolyte article

 

 

 

 

Brother we can’t quit until we get our share

This post has nothing to do with health and fitness. It has everything to do with loving our fellow human being no matter who they are.

I’m lost. I’m consumed by emotion that I can’t really deal with in that I’m overwhelmed by it. It started with what happened in Central park. A white woman knowing the privilege she held in her hand. Unable to deal with confrontation in the form of someone, a black man, telling her that she was breaking the law by not having her dog on a leash she did what she does best. She played the helpless white woman card and called 911 explaining that a black man is threatening her and her dog. You could tell she was well aware of the power she held in her hands, She knew what the outcome would be, the police siding with her and the black man arrested. And to add to it she was sure to use her hysterical voice, rising up a couple of octaves, reeking of fear that she was about to lose her life as the black man stood 20 feet away from her. She tried to ruin a man’s life because she could not handle a black man telling her she was in the wrong. And fortunately, luckily, this was recorded and when the recording went viral she then cried that her life is in ruins. How hypocritical that she is upset that her life is in ruins as she tried to ruin someone else’s life by lying. Just to get her way. She was willing to ruin someone’s life just to get her way, because she would not have a black man tell her she was in the wrong.

And then On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African-American man, died in Powderhorn, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; 2 minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive. I watched the video of this and I wish I hadn’t. I had to. I’m not sure why but I had to watch it, maybe so I could understand what happened, so I could see what happened so when the reports of him resisting would undoubtedly come out I would know what really happened. I wish I didn’t watch it. At first seeing George restrained I thought this is not unusual in the sense of keeping someone contained. I watched and waited for the scene to change, for Derek Chauvin to pick him up and put him in the cruiser. He never did. He just kneeled there, keeping his knee buried into George’s neck. George kept saying he can’t breathe. I could see a white coating on the outer part of his lips and I started to panic a bit, I really started to get scared. And then George cried out for his mom, ‘Mom, help me’ and I lost it. I cried and I cried. A 46 year old man crying out for his mom. And nothing changed. Nothing.

Derek Chauvin kept the same posture, ensuring his knee kept burrowing into George’s neck. Minutes went by as George laid lifeless. People yelling to take his pulse, to get off his neck, that he can’t breath but Officer Tou Thao would have nothing of that: ‘Hey, back on the sidewalk’ he would yell as someone would go on the road to help. And then he died. And then later the ambulance showed up. They dragged his body onto the gurney and loaded it in. That’s it. Just like another day. No one batted an eye. No one really cared.

So I get it. I do. I get the protesting, I get the rioting. If no one listens after you walk down the streets of Selma-to-Montgomery 60 years ago asking for the same rights as other humans that happen to be white then I get it. When after the LA riots following the acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King nearly to his death I thought things would change. People talked about stopping racism. Police departments, governments talked about reform, about stopping systemic racism and that things would change.

And here we are. 2020. Nothings changed.

Protests. Riots. Talk will be next. Things have to change and it has to start with the top. But after reading his tweets that isn’t going to happen.

But if we change, things will change. Now’s the time to make a change. Do it. Make things change. There are millions of us. We can do this.

 

Darryl

 

When routine bites hard…

If you are sitting for a good portion of the day because your work requires you to, or you find yourself sitting a lot of the days or evenings because ambitions are low, you very well might have tight hip flexors.

What

What are our hip flexors? Hip flexors are muscles at the top of your legs that play a key role in moving your lower body. Walking, bending, kicking, swiveling the hips are done using our hip flexors. If your hip flexors are tight and you make a sudden move, or an explosive move they might stretch too far, or even worse, tear.

How

Getting into the lunge

So how do you know if you have tight hip flexors? Stretching muscles for the sake of stretching is not always a good idea. If your hip flexors are long already, there really is no need to make them longer. The more you know about how your body works the more this makes sense. No one’s body is perfectly balanced but for health and well being this should be a goal. Muscles pull, they don’t push. That is how we move. The muscle that pulls is referred to as the prime mover, or agonist. The bicep is the prime mover when doing bicep curls. The opposite muscle, or the muscle that opposes the movement,  is referred to as the antagonist. In the example of a bicep curl, the tricep is the antagonist. Have you ever seen someone may be at the gym who when standing their arms are always overly bent at the elbows, hands no longer at their sides but near their belly? This is usually because they have paid too much attention to the biceps and not enough to the triceps, the triceps are too long and are not able to pull the lower arm back. This is a case of muscle imbalance.

Let’s get to the test to determine if you have tight hip flexors:

      • You’ll need a table strong enough to support your body weight and ideally high enough to let your feet dangle. Lay down on the table on your back having the underside of your knees at about 2 inches from the edge of the table so your legs can dangle. While laying down, keep your lower back close to the table so your pelvis is at the correct position. Now, bring up one of your knees towards your chest trying to get to 90 – 120 degrees. Keep the other leg relaxed, on the table, aiming for an 80 – 90 degree bend in that knee. If while having the one knee close to your chest at 90 – 120 degrees the other upper leg hasn’t moved, raising off of the table than we are off to a good start. If not, then either your quad or hip flexor is tight. Knowing this, with the leg that is dangling down, straighten it and see if it will now lower down so your upper leg is back on the table while having it relaxed. If the leg lowers without issue, the tightness was in your quad. If the leg doesn’t lower, than it’s your hip flexor. Be sure to do this with both legs.

Stretch

      • Kneeling lunge:
          • Kneel down on one knee. With that leg, the one that has the knee on the ground, keep the knee aligned with the hip, not to the outside or inside, and same with the lower leg, keep everything straight behind the hip. Now with the other leg, keep a 90 degree bend in the leg, and keep it also forward of the hip.
          • Keep the upper body upright, don’t lean forward. Leaning forward changes the position of the hips, pelvis. You can put both hands on your knee and upper leg if you so choose.
          • Now, with the knee that is on the ground, move it back a bit so your the bend in that leg is no longer 90 degrees. Move it back to about 70 – 80 degrees. The tighter your hip flexors are the less you will want to move that knee back. You’ll see when you start the stretch.
          • Now press your hips forward keeping your upper body upright. You should feel this in the upper leg area of the leg that has the knee down. Move your hips until you feel the muscle start to stretch. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds. Now do the other side.
          • While doing the stretch be mindful of the knee on the forward leg. Don’t let the knee overshoot the toes.
          • Do this stretch 30 – 60 seconds, 3 – 4 times on each leg.

Finally

That’s it. This one stretch will help to lengthen your short, tight hip flexors. Remember to push the stretch a little further as you feel the muscles relax, usually at about 30 seconds.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

it feels like yesterday was a year ago

I guess it’s about time I apologize for the titles of my posts. They are not always relevant to the content of the post, sometimes, but not always. When I write, things come from deep within me. I’m not that person who would title a post ‘Grow your arms bigger’, or ‘Strengthen those abs’. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s just not me. My blog titles are derived from things I like, sometimes songs, sometimes poetry or quotes from books. The words I use in my titles I find interesting and I hope you do too. I do my best to use keywords for my posts so if you have trouble finding something, I do apologize but also try to look under the keywords that the post should belong to.

Having said that, let’s get to it, shall we?

What

Let’s talk about a stretch, a stretch that most of us get wrong partly because we tend to overdo it. But it’s one of my favorite stretches as it releases tension from a lot of muscles especially our abdominal muscles.

The cobra stretch. Mainly an abdominal stretch but you can also use this to stretch out the anterior neck muscles, shoulders, and chest. If your someone who is hunched over most of the day (now that some of us are working from home and maybe not the best home office setup) then you’ll benefit from this stretch.

How

Laying on the floor legs together and arms out in front of you, raise your upper body up using your hands to support you. Bring your shoulders up, feeling the abs stretch while keeping your hips down on the floor. Ease into it. Don’t rush it by raising yourself up too high. By doing this stretch we are putting our spine into a position that is not neutral so don’t overdo it. Feel the muscles stretch, think of them as they stretch.

Now, while you have your shoulders up off of the floor, think of your chest expanding. You have to think of this to bring out your chest. It won’t feel like a big stretch but you will feel it if you think of your chest as you do it.  Now, bring your head back. You may not realize it but you could be spending a lot of your day with your head tilted forward. This is a great way of releasing the stress that that causes. Again, it won’t be a huge stretch but it’s enough to help negate the forward position your head is in most times.

Hold for no less than 2 minutes. Repeat 3 times with a 1 minute break. I want you to set your timer for this because I know your 2 minutes is not 2 minutes. We all hate stretching and tend to rush it. Set your timer and do the 2 minutes. You’ll feel better for it, I know you will. One more thing, when you are about 30 – 40 seconds into it, feel your muscles relax and extend the stretch a little more and then maybe later a little bit more.

Finally

Take care of yourself and try this to stretch out your abs but to also help relieve some of that stress we accumulate. Put yourself in child’s pose for the 1 minute break in between sets and if done right, you might just find it can loosen up the lower back and help with back pain.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

To the seat with the clearest view

How are you hanging in there? I hope everyone is doing well in this trying time. Stay busy, I think that’s the trick, sort of. But we can’t escape those surreal moments of our new reality.

Over the last few weeks I have given you exercises to build what are for the most of us weak areas on our body. Now it’s time to look at how we can also stretch those areas, or lengthen the muscles.

What

Most of us, a very high percentage of us, have tight anterior deltoids, also known as the front shoulders. So knowing that, lets start stretching them.

How

        • Chest Reach Back: Lay on your stomach, legs together and hands by your side. Now, extend your left arm out perpendicular to your torso, PALM down, in other words make half a T with your left arm. Now, gently roll your whole body to your left side. Keep that arm perpendicular and feel the front of the shoulder stretch. Hold it, hold it. Hold for at least 90 seconds and try for 2 minutes. As you get into the stretch, and things loosen up, increase the stretch, lengthen the muscle. Now do the other side. Here’s a bonus, you just also stretched your pecs.
        • Chest Expansion: Think of the classic pose when someone yells: ‘Put your hands up!’. Hands up, but bent at the elbows, making a 90 degree angle with your arms hands aligned with your head, like a blocky capital Y. Make sense? Know, bring your elbows back and really stick out your chest keeping good posture, bringing the shoulder blades back like you are trying to make them touch. Again, hold for 90 to 120 seconds expanding the stretch as muscles loosen.
        • Hand Grab: Reach behind your back and clasp your hands keeping your arms straight. Focus on your posture and keep upright. Now bring your arms up behind your back, keeping them straight. Ease into it and when you feel the tightness, that’s when the stretch begins. As always, hold it for 90 – 120 seconds.

Those muscles that we work constantly especially need stretching. Don’t neglect them.

Finally,

Stay strong, grow, and lengthen.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Keeping yourself upright and steady

This will be my last post on how to train muscles we tend to neglect.

Having a positive mindset and realizing there are things we cannot change might just help you deal with what everyone is having to deal with now and for the foreseeable future. If you have more free time on your hands then you normally do and are taken out of your routine by not being able to go to the gym use this time to work out at home and work out those muscles we have neglected.

Take the time to read my recent posts on this and strengthen the weak areas of your body and then notice the difference. Pain in places you haven’t had pain before, good muscle soreness, the subtle change to your body seeing things that weren’t there a month ago.

Other than injury or disease, the knee pain we face, the back pain, the shoulder pain can be addressed by strengthening our weak areas or our body and stretching muscles than tend to be tight. It really can be that simple but you probably have a hard time buying into that. In my opinion, we live in a world where we prefer a pill, a device, or sometimes surgery to fix what ails us. Think of it this way: Muscles attach to bone via tendons. We have muscles that are attached to our ribs, vertebrae, pelvic girdle, shoulder girdle keeping everything connected allowing us to move. Now, if you are standing straight up and someone were to exert force on the front of your left shoulder gently, and you were relaxed your shoulder is going to rotate back. Makes sense doesn’t it. Now, let’s look at your driveway that you park your car on or an old road. Do you remember when that driveway was brand new, or the road was freshly paved? Just a bit of curve on it for water drainage but mostly flat and smooth. Then, after maybe 5 or 10 years of use, parking your car in the same spot every day, cars driving in the same groove over years, thousands of cars. The driveway and the road are not what they used to be right? Your driveway has divots where your car tires sit daily. The road has become uneven, almost like there are grooves where the thousands of cars drive daily.

This is the same with your body. When that external force was placed on your shoulder temporarily your shoulder moved. But leave the force there, forcing your shoulder back and not able to return to its natural position. Leave it here for a year. Now remove the force. Your shoulder doesn’t return back to its natural position or the position it should be in as this is its new natural position. The muscles that would pull back your shoulder have shortened and tightened. The muscles that would normally pull back your shoulder have lengthened and become weak and cannot return your shoulder back to it’s ‘normal’ position.

This is an exaggerated example but applies to how we train our body, and how we interact with the muscles of our body. Sit in the same position day after day, week after week, year after year and certain muscles will get longer and certain muscles will get shorter. You have lost homeostasis (the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes).

It’s impossible to remain in homeostasis as there are too many influences on us such as work, the furniture we interact with daily, the bed we sleep in and so on. But, you can help offset these things by working those muscles that help us get back to homeostasis. The more you know about your body the easier it will be to identify what those muscles are that need to be strengthened and those ones that need to be stretched, or lengthened.

What

back muscles
Strong back

Let’s get to today’s muscle group. Yes, another group, the Erector Spinae. The Erector Spinae is comprised of 3 muscles: spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis. The role of these muscles are to keep the spine upright or erect. These muscles run on either side of your spine basically from your lower back up to your neck.

How

And let’s get to it. Here are some exercises you can do at home to strengthen these muscles:

        • Supermans: I’m sure you’ve seen this exercise before but I don’t want you to do it the way you’ve seen it. The typical way of doing this puts on too much of a load and instead of the Erector Spinae doing the work the glutes kick in and take over. Here is what I want you to do: Laying down on your front, legs together, put both hands under your chin and lift up your chin, hands and upper body about 1″ – 2″ off of the ground. As you do this feel the lower back doing the work. Hold this for about 30 seconds or a minute. Lower your head and rest for about a minute. Repeat for 3 – 5 sets.
        • Bird Dog: You may know this one too if you’ve ever done yoga. On all fours, your knees and hands weight evenly distributed, reach straight ahead with one arm like you are pointing to something ahead of you. Now, extend the opposite leg out behind you like you are pointing with your foot to something behind you. Both your extended arm and leg should be parallel with the ground. Hold for about 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat 3 – 5 times resting for about 1 minute in between sets. Now, when doing this if your shoulders or hips dip to one side, you need to take it easier. You need to keep the hips and shoulders in a neutral position and not dip to one side. When this dipping happens it is a sign of being tired or the muscles are tired. Ease off and keep good technique and through that, you will strengthen the muscles we are trying to strengthen.
        • Seated band pulls: This is a 2 for 1 exercise in that it also works the lat muscles, the muscles that give you back the wideness or wings if you will. You’ll need a band long enough to hold in both hands while seated and have it pass under your feet. Sitting with your back upright, legs straight and together with the band under your feet and in both hands, pull back with your hands keeping your elbows in and hands close to the centre line of your body. The inside of your arms and elbows should scrape by as you pull your hands back towards your stomach. Hold for 3 seconds feeling the Erector Spinae muscles along your spine contracting. Then as you let your hands go back to the starting position do not let your upper body move from the upright position. Some people will make the mistake of over loading with resistance and start to sway the upper body back to bring the hands back with them, or they let the upper body move forward past the neutral position then swing back as they start the exercise. Don’t do this. Let the back muscles do the work and again, as you bring your hands to your stomach think of the back muscles doing the work and squeeze those back muscles as you hold it for a few seconds. Do this 10 – 12 times for 3 – 4 sets.

Finally

Nothing says hard core like a strong back, well, of course hamstrings that look like biceps do this too. Keep excellent technique, don’t overload the resistance and your back will thank you.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Sore knees, back pain and potential injury

I’m continuing my series of generally what has been identified as weak muscles. Today’s post will focus on a muscle group that you will want strong, but I believe is weaker than it should be due to the difficulty to train the muscle group unless you have equipment available to you.

Working our quads can be pretty simple: burpees, air squats, lunges, etc. But the ‘reverse curl’ motion of bringing your heel towards your bum is a little tougher to do without equipment made just for this type of movement.

What

Today I’ll be dealing with the muscle group called hamstrings. I call this a group because the hamstrings are comprised of 3 muscles:

Hamstring muscle group: Source: Muscles of the upper leg, posterior view by Rob Swatski
      • biceps femoris
      • semitendinosus
      • semimembranosus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basically these 3 muscles perform both knee flexion and are involved in hip extension and rotation of the femur, knee, and tibia.

Having weak hamstrings can result in knee injuries or issues like back pain. If you are involved in any activity that requires sudden stops, sudden acceleration or changing directions quickly you could be at great risk for knee injuries if your hamstrings are weak.

How

Let’s look at some exercises that we can do to strengthen the hamstrings:

      • Physioball Hamstring Curl: You will need an exercise ball to perform this. Laying on your back and put your feet up on the ball keeping them shoulder width apart and straight up. Your feet should be positioned on the centre/far side of the ball, and your legs will be straight. To start, lift your hips off of the ground like you are performing a bridge. Staying in the bridge position bring your knees into your chest. This requires the ball to move in towards you. Then, slowly straighten your legs back to the starting position. Maintain the bridge position the whole time. Do this for 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps.
      • Single leg bridge: Starting in the bridge position, using your nondominant leg, straighten your leg pointing upwards. Bring the leg back down and do the same with the other leg. Do 10 -12 reps on both legs for 3 sets. If you cannot complete 10 – 12 reps on the nondominant leg do not do more on the dominant leg. This will continue the muscle imbalance.
      • Bridge Walkout: Starting in a bridge position, walk your feet forwards on your heels to an almost straight position and then back towards your bum and keep repeating. Do this slowly and controlled. Do this until you start to lose proper technique then take a 1 minute rest and repeat. Try for 3 sets.

That’s it. 3 exercises you can do at home to help with back issues and knee issues. Feel free to modify some of these by adding pauses in at the difficult parts, slowing the temple to 1/4 speed.

Finally

Often times injuries we have are not caused by what we think. Work on those weak muscles you have and you may find your athletic performance has increased and your injuries have diminished.

Yours in health,

Darryl