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