Archives for the month of: May, 2012

So I made actual lettuce wraps a few weeks ago with a friend but made way too much filling. I obviously didn’t want to throw it away so I kept it and realized it was delicious as-is and a little more portable than having the actual lettuce wraps. Super easy, healthy, and low calorie.

Ingredients 

1/2 package broccoli slaw
1/2 package shredded cabbage

1/2 small package shredded carrots

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts

2-3 chicken breasts, diced

Juice of 1 small lime 

Low sodium Soy sauce to taste

Instructions

Mix everything up so its coated evenly and enjoy!

-L

Sometimes, trainers (myself included) can get caught up in the ‘machines-are-the-devil-functional-training-till-the-day-i-die’ idea. If one machine is bad, they’re all bad right? It’s true that almost every machine has an equal (or better) exercise that uses free weights or even just body weight. However, some machines get stuck in the devil category that deserve a little more credit.

One of these is the assisted pull-up machine.

I re-kindled my love for it one day by accident during my own training session. We only have one pullup bar in our facility, and sometimes when it gets busy and bro-tastic in here it can be troublesome to get in on it.

Just kidding boys.

I digress. Anyways, so one day when the pullup bar had a 3hour wait, I begrudgedly made my way over to the assisted pullup machine. Generally, I do   a few sets of unassisted chin ups (as opposed to pullups which tend to be slightly harder), but the way our machine is set up, you can only do pullups. So, off I went. I completed 3 sets of 8 assisted pullups focusing on perfect from and trying to be invisible.

What came next was a complete surprise. The next day my mid/lower traps were incredibly sore!

Upper, mid, and lower traps

For reasons such as poor posture or lack of posterior training, the mid and lower traps tend to be weak in the general population. They also tend to be hard to isolate, and many of the exercises meant to do so are butchered.

Pullups are an exercise that most people are familiar with, and I’m pretty sure every fitness expert considers it to be the most fundamental body weight exercise. So with a few simple coaching cues, the pullup machine can be a great exercise for beginners, someone looking to improve their posture, or someone trying to get stronger and build their way to unassisted pullups.

What to do:

1. If you’ve never used the machine before, you’ll have to play around with the weight to figure out the correct amount of difficulty. It should be challanging but doable, and every rep should be perfect  (and I mean perfect). The weight on the machine counterbalances your body weight, so the less weight you pin, the more difficult it will be. Be prepared to be humbled.  For example, I weigh about 135lbs, and I place the pin at 110lbs.

2. I break down the pull into two movements. The first one I call the ‘unshrug.’ Once you get into position, completely relax and let your shoulders rise to your ears as if you were shrugging. Then, take a breath and unshrug your shoulders without bending your elbows.

3. Making it as smooth as possible, start to bend your elbows and pull yourself all the way up.

4. Your range of motion in limited by the machine, but you should finish so that your face or neck is close to your hands. At the end of the ‘up’ really squeeze your back and pretend like you are trying to touch your elbows together behind you. Keep your head and spine in neutral alignment the whole time.

5. Slow and controlled lower yourself back down.  Complete 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Here is the correct form

What not to do:

1. What I see a lot of people do on the pullup machine is bring their head forward and sort of curve over and look down as they come up. Don’t do that! Keep your head and neck aligned and look straight forward or slightly up the whole time.

2. When I tell people to squeeze their elbows together, sometimes they pop their chest out and let their ribs flair. This is a natural compensation but it defeats our purpose. You can prevent this by exhaling forcefully to keep your ribs down and back aligned. If you feel like you can’t perform the movement with proper alignment, get your ego out of the way and move your pin to more weight.

See the incorrect form here.

Conclusion

I made this discovery with a small slap on the hand to myself for being closed-minded in my own dogma. I now incorporate the machine in many of my clients programs, and do them myself as part of a warm up. They should never replace unassisted or band assisted pullups, (TRX rows are another good option) but again, they’re good for beginners, posture improvement, or clients/trainees that may be too heavy to do band assisted pullups.

So, I hope you found my anecdote and cues helpful. Give it a shot, and if you have any questions, come find me in the gym!

Until next time!

-L

In Part I of this series, I talked about how poor ankle mobility can cause knee pain, and what to do to fix it. Today, I’m going to talk about the hip and how this complex joint might also be the culprit.  

Here’s today’s self test

1. Take your shoes off and stand in front of a mirror.

2. Squat

3. What does it look like? How does it feel? Does it look like this?

What I want you to pay most attention to is if your knees naturally collapse inward. Without getting to geeky on you, just know that this squat pattern puts a lot of stress on your hips and knees, and could indicate poor hip stability. Even if you don’t squat per se in the gym, this kind of dysfunctional movement pattern can show through even in your walking stride. Chances are you walk. Chances are you also perform some kind of squat in your daily life too.. cough cough …

That’s a lie… Nobody poops but you

Here’s what to do

If you’re part of the general population, you most likely sit for most of the day. This leads to tight hip flexors and weak glutes, which translates to poor hip stability. Here’s a proper progression for you. Always start from the ground up. Master all the “1” exercises before moving on to the “2’s” and “2’s” before the “3’s” etc.

1A. Supine Hip Bridges

Do this with your feet together and your knees pointed slightly outward. This puts your femurs into external rotation and creates a little more glute activation. Really try to use your butt muscles and pinch. If you feel this more in your hamstrings, try a tip I learned from Eric Cressey: Place your hands on your quads. Doing this should activate your quads and shut off your hamstrings.

1B. Side lying clams

When doing clams, make sure to not let your hips open; this should be a small range of motion. The outside of your hips should feel the burn after about 10-15 reps.

1C. Monster walks

Wrap a mini band around your ankles and walk laterally 8 steps each direction. Avoid what I call the ‘weeble wable’: Sticking your leg our first and then moving your upper body. Keep your upper and lower body as one unit.

2A. 10+2 Forward Lunges

Stand with you feet together and your torso tall. If lunging straight forward was 12 oclock you’re going to lunge slightly off to the side at 10 oclock and then 2 oclock. Lunging can put alot of sheer stress on the knees, so if this bothers you, stay away from this one for now. This movement actually works adductors more (the muscles located medially to the knee), which are also vital for knee and hip stability.

2B. Knee Banded Box Squat

Place a mini band around your knees and find a box or a bench. Stand with your feet wide and toes slightly pointed out. Repeat this mantra in your head: “Knees out, butt back, chest tall. Knees out, butt back, chest tall.” It’s as simple as that.  The band around your knees will help reinforce pushing out because you’ll be working against it.

See a video here

3A. TRX Pistol Squat

This is a 1 leg squat variation that requires alot of strength and stability. When doing it with the TRX, just use the handles for balance; try not to pull yourself up with your arms. If you can’t get your butt to your heel (as shown), keep your squat a little more shallow until you build up strength.

3B. The Bowler Squat

The bowler squat is the money move. Here’s a video because pictures don’t give it justice. If you can perform 8 reps without touching your other foot down, you’re awesome. If this is challanging for you, start with 3 reps and build up.

Bulletproof Knees

Like I said in Part 1, the pain you may be experiencing in one part of your body is usually the effect of a dysfunction in another part. Mobile ankles and stabile hips should go a long way for the longevity of your knee health. Obviously, this will not fix everybody’s knee pain. If you have an old injury, like ligament or tendon tear, it may not have healed properly or you may have scar tissue etc. It probably won’t hurt to do some mobility and stretching for your hips as well, but that will be another article for another day 😉

Until next time!

-L

Recently, a client of mine complained that he couldn’t run farther than 3 miles without getting knee pain. He expressed his frustration because he felt he was doing everything right. He stretches and foam rolls daily, as well as strength trains with me weekly.

We ended up finding a simple solution to his problem, and it inspired me to write this blog post so that maybe his answer can be your answer.

Keep it Simple

My grandfather taught me that when faced with a problem, always look at the simplest solutions first. An anti-example: When the TV’s not working and you play with the remote for 10 minutes, call your dad to ask him what to do, then hit it a few times only to discover that it wasn’t plugged in.

The same concept can be used when fixing nagging aches and pains. What a lot of people don’t realize, is that when you get pain somewhere (re: the knees) it’s usually because of an imbalance or compensation of somewhere else (re: the ankles or hips). So in my client’s case, we looked from the ground up starting with his ankles.

I want you to do this is self test:

1. Stand up and find a sturdy chair or short table. Place your right foot on top of the chair.

2. Lean forward to see how far you can get your knee over your toes without lifting your right heel off of the surface.  Here’s what you might see:

If you can’t tell, have a friend look for you or do it in front of a mirror.

Good

Bad

3. If you can get pretty far over your toes, congratulations! you have good mobility; keep it up. If you feel as though your pretty stiff and get a pretty stellar calf stretch when you do this, you have some work to do.

4. Repeat with the left foot

In my clients case, his ankle mobility was lacking, and this ended up being the key to his pain.

Here’s what to do about it:

You’re in luck! I’m about to tell you how to fix your ankle mobility.

1. Foam roll and fascial release.

Start with foam rolling. If you don’t do it already, start doing it. Start with rolling both legs at the same time. If that feels comfortable, cross one ankle over the other to get some more pressure. This should be a “hurt so good” feeling. Play with the angles of your feet to get the inside and outside of your calf muscles too.

That’s not me by the way

The next step is to get even deeper in your achilles tendon. Find a barbell or a dumbbell with a small diameter handle. Have a seat, cross your ankles, and let all hell loose. This is not going to feel good… but I promise it will help.

Neither is that

If you still feel like you have a lot of tightness after doing this exercises consistently for a week or two, see a licensed manual therapist.

2. Active ankle mobility drills

There are a lot to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites, my all time favorite being the knee-to-wall drill, because your improvement is visible and obvious.

Knee-to-wall: Stand facing a wall, putting your right toes up against it. Lean to touch your knee to the wall. This should be fairly easy; repeat 5 times. Inch your toes back and repeat the knee to wall movement another 5 times. Continue to inch back your toes until you can just barely touch the wall WITHOUT lifting your right heel off the floor. Repeat with the left foot. If you want to track your improvement, leave a mark with a piece of tape or chalk, and compare from week 1 to week 3.

Here’s a video of knee to wall ankle mobility

Rocking ankle mobility: Get in a downward dog position. Cross one ankle over the other and lift and lower your heel. Switch and repeat 5x per side.

Calf raises: Place one foot on the edge of a step. Let your heel drop so you get a nice stretch in your calf, then raise your heel and come up on your tippy-toes. Repeat 5x per side.

Side Note

You might feel as though one side is tighter than the other. Take note of this and perform more mobility work on the side that is tighter.

The End of Part I!

I hope you found this information helpful. Give this stuff a try and let me know how it goes. My client emailed me a week after our discovery saying that he ran 6 miles over the weekend completely pain free! Even if you don’t have any pain, this is great for pre-hab. Part II will have some more simple solutions for you to try.

Until next time!

-L

Chances are you’ve seen this before, but it’s a great recipe and deserves to be reiterated!

Ingredients

1-2 Bananas, sliced + frozen

Unsweetened almond milk, or regular milk, as needed

Optional: peanut butter, dark chocolate, nuts, berries etc.  The possibilities are endless. I like to put a small scoop of all natural peanut butter and if i’m feelin crazy some dark chocolate. It’s perfect for my raging sweet tooth.

Directions

Place frozen bananas and milk in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.