Archives for posts with tag: core

Cafe au feet?

There are some exercises I could say the same of to the same person for 6 weeks, and they wouldn’t remember what I’m talking about.

The deadbug however, is not one of those exercises. Although, I feel like it’s kind of a misnomer.

A client of mine decidedly re-named it the “dying bird” which I actually think is a much better name. A dead bug wouldn’t be doing much of anything except… be dead. The dying bird, however, is a play off of the bird-dog exercise. It’s essentially the same movement except you’re on your back instead of on all fours.

So now that you know that completely useless piece of information, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

This topic came to light because one of my clients consistently “throws her back out” every couple months. This translates to a muscle spasm that causes soreness for a few days but no permanent damage or spinal issues. Frustrated, she sought out a PT who diagnosed her with a hyperflexible low back.

“Flexibility is good though!” you might say. Well maybe not…

There’s a fine balance between the perfect amount of mobility and stability, and your low back should be Stable Sally.

Any of your standard strength training regimes that include deadlifting, squatting (specifically front squats), and upper body pushes and pulls, will all stabilize the spine when done correctly. Secondly, direct anterior core work is a must. These two things I know. But, one question came to mind…

Seeking some answers myself, I sought out someone a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than me, Tony Gentilcore, asking… “is it ever appropriate to train the low back exclusively?”

His answer? Well, probably not (yet).

It’s more important to attain and maintain a neutral spine.

Tony also noted that this is important not just in the gym, but all day every day. If you’re hypermobile, you have to be cognizant of keeping things stable at all times. You can’t just jump all nimbly-bimbly from tree to tree.

Name That Movie!

Anyway, getting back to my spiel about the deadbug…

It’s an exercise that’s up there with planks and bird dogs as far as core stabilization goes. Arguably even better for 2 reasons:

1. Since you’re on your back instead of all 4’s, you have no chance to ‘hang’ on your lumbar spine. The floor gives you a built-in external feedback mechanism that forces you to do it correctly. One of the cues is to eliminate the space between the floor and your low back by pushing down and squeezing your abs.

2. It allows you to stabilize your lumbar while mobilizing your hips. It is very important to be able to disassociate the two. (Thank you Tony)

Plus, you can feel it in your abz almost immediately and people seem to enjoy that. No 6-pack guaranteed though.. sorry.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you don’t have core stability, you need to get it… if you already have it you need to keep it! And if you have a hypermobile low back, it’s absolutely vital to practice this daily. The deadbug exercise is not “too easy” for anybody. So make it part of your warm up, ok bro? There are also many variations but that’s a post for another day.

Now go get some anterior core!

-L

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Whether it be acute or chronic, chances are that you’ve experienced back pain at some point in your adult life . In my opinion it’s one of the poopiest things of all time ’cause it affects just about everything you do.

Too many people either push through the pain and cause more damage, keep their resistance too light, or avoid important exercises completely because of back pain.

There are literally probably a million different causes of back pain, and to be honest, us practitioners (PT’s and docs included) sometimes will never to be able to point out exactly what it is from one person to the next. But we have some pretty good educated guesses. In my opinion, they can be broken down into two categories: personal exercise habits and movement dysfunction. In part 1 of this post, I’ll give a general overview of what I think is most important; in part 2, I’ll discuss what to do about it. Let’s talk about habits first.

You don’t do a proper warm up

When I was in college, I used to walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes as a ‘warm up’ before I’d go embarrass all the boys in the weight room (joke). Little did I know, that doesn’t really cut it. We recently started to coin a phrase here at Fitcorp: RDA. This stands for Rolling or Release, Dynamic stretch, and Activation. There are a few different methods to warming up, but we’ve found this outline to be the most successful in preventing injuries. You release where you’re tight, reinforce with dynamic stretches, and active the muscles that need help turning on. An example for the hips/glutes would be 1) release hip flexors with lax ball or foam roller, 2) 3D hip flexor stretch or spiderman stretch, 3) Supine hip bridges for glute activation. If you’re not properly warmed up, the muscles that should be working aren’t ready, and your back can take the fall.

You flex at the spine instead of hinging at the hips

This is a tough concept to understand if you lift without a trainer or a buddy. Here’s a pictorial representation

This is a particularly common mistake when deadlifting or rowing. The reality is, any exercise you do to strengthen your legs (ie squats and deadlifts) is also going to strengthen your back. However, your glutes and hamstrings are very strong and when you load them correctly, they should do most of the work. I will go over some drills to learn how to hip hinge in part 2.

For whatever reason, your form is just poopy

Alright I need to be a little harsh for a second.

It never ceases to amaze me some of the asinine things I see people doing in the gym. I understand that most people are just under or ill-informed when it comes to this…

But like…. Really!? Do you really think your floor-hump-of-a-pushup is helping you look sexy??? ‘Cause it’s not. In fact, it looks like you’re humping the floor.


My favorite comment: “How would one even get that idea?”

My sentiments exactly.

Okay now that I got that off my chest, I understand that there are many issues why form can slack, some of which I’ll cover in more detail below. You might be using too much weight, you might be missing some mobility or stability, or you simply just might not know what proper form should look like. Whatever it is, I recommend figuring it out to avoid issues down the road.

Let’s look a little deeper into the second category: movement dysfunction.

You have dysfunctional breathing patterns.

I’ve written a little bit about this before, and it’s important to reiterate. As a result of chronic stress and inactivity, breathing patterns shift from belly breathing to chest breathing. This can cause all sorts of issues, one of them including back pain. Quick self assessment: Take a deep breath. Did your chest and shoulders go up immediately? Then chances are you’re breathing incorrectly. Part 2 will entail some breathing drills so you can reconnect with that old flame we like to call our diaphragm.

She’s a beauty eh?

You’re lacking some mobility

The two most common culprits are hips and shoulders. Since these two joints have the most range of motion, by the same token they’re the most complicated and prone to dysfunction. The good news about mobility is that it’s usually just a matter of knowing what you need to work on, and doing it consistently.

You’re lacking some stability

If I were to pick one area of the body that’s most important to be stable, it’s your core. I know… shocker.

A lack of stability can often be the real issue in a lot of movement dysfunction, but it often will disguise itself as a lack of mobility! Tricky, that human body… very tricky. The best example is a squat. In the next post I’ll have a video for you to prove my point… But for now just take my word for it.

Shoulders, hips and extremities also require stability, but I’d argue starting with your core will give you the most bang for your buck.

Your posture is less than ideal

I’d be hard pressed to find someone with perfect posture. That’s because I think we are innately imbalanced. By god giving us a dominant hand/brain/whatever, we are automatically uneven. So for me to say that everyone needs to have perfect posture and no asymmetries to be found is completely ignorant.  However, if your walking around with a pigeon towed-pronated-bow legged-hyperextended-lordotic-kyphotic posture… that could cause some problems.

I’m talking to you smeagol

 Fortunately, there are a lot of posture problems that exercise and good habits can fix. Stay tuned for the best exercises to improve posture.

Conclusion

So there are the 7 most important factors of back pain. Of course, they’re all intertwined issues and if you have one, you probably have a couple. The good news is it’s fixable! Call me old-school, but I like to fix things organically. Proper exercise is solution #1 to back pain, before drugs, injections, ultra sounds, or surgery.

Part 2 coming soon!

-L

Yes yes it’s Tuesday. I apologize for the late post.

I’m sure you’re crying about it

 

Anywho, September proves to be a crazy month in the gym as everyone gets out of summer mode. But I’m not complaining! I love the extra energy. Today’s warm up is focused more for an upper body workout; emphasizing spinal and shoulder mobility and stability.

1) Foam Roll upper Back- Self myofascial release, t-spine mobility, posture corrective.

An even better position is to support your head with your hands and squeeze your elbows together. This really opens up between your shoulder blades and lets you get in there. One theory on strength training is that you have to lengthen before you strengthen. And the release is another form of lengthening and stretching your muscles. The upper back tends to be hypertonic (overactive) and really benefits from release on the roller. Plus it feels awesome.

2) Short ROM ab crunches on Stability ball

No need to put your arms over head, but you get the idea

I got this idea from Eric Cressey. A (serious) fitness professional doing ab crunches warrants a scolding for reasons I won’t go into today. Going from a neutral spine to a flexed spine 324 times is not ideal, however there are a few benefits from going from extension to neutral.  First and foremost, you get some good t-spine mobility, lumbar stability, and hey… a little direct ‘ab’ work never killed anybody.   (don’t quote me on that)

3) Overhead pulls on stability ball- lat activation, shoulder stability, t-spine mobility

Don’t let your hips sag

This one is pretty self explanatory. Doing it on a stability ball adds a little extra challenge. Although I haven’t conducted an electrode study (yet) I’d be willing to bet doing it this way gets a little more activation from your core and lower body stabilizers.

4) Band Pull apart- Scapular retraction, posterior shoulder pre-hab,  serratus anterior strengthener, shoulder stabilizer

Really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you open your arms. Make sure the resistance is heavy enough to feel it but not heavy enough to limit your full range of motion.

5) Light Single Arm Waiters carry- Dynamic shoulder stabilization

Nia Shanks

Get the weight overhead and make sure your shoulder is packed and your elbow is locked. Take about 10 steps forward and back and then switch arms.

Enjoy!

-L

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope everyone had a relaxing and restful weekend. Summer is coming to an end in Boston, and I woke up with a temperature of 60 degrees this morning. I must admit, I think I am ready for fall. Although summer is my favorite season, the days of 90 degrees and 104% humidity have been plentiful this year and I’m kind of over it.

Weather men don’t lie…

I’m ready for hiking season!

Anyway, here is your new WUOTW. Enjoy!

A.  Glute Bridges with Overhead Reach- Glute and core activation, shoulder mobility.

This is a more dynamic version of the standard glute bridge. Get into normal bridge postion and clasp your hands with arms straight over head (toward ceiling). As you bridge your hips up, reach arms overhead to touch the floor. Bring hips down and arms back up. If you don’t yet have the shoulder mobility to touch the floor, grab the ends of a small towel instead of clasping your hands together.

B. Supine heel taps- Anterior core activator, anterior pelvic tilt corrective

 

Lay supine in table top position- make sure your hips and knees are 90 degrees and your low back is pushed into the floor; your abs should be turned on before you even start moving. Keeping your knees bent, lower 1 heel at a time, alternating feet.

C. Plank with Toe Taps- Core activator, shoulder stability, rotary stability

Get into plank position. In the picture shown above, her neck is slighly hyperextended; make sure you’re looking straight down without letting your head fall forward. Take your right toe and tap it out to the right side. Bring it back and repeat on the left side. Continue alternating legs.

D. 1/2 Kneel-To-Stand with Dowel

Start/Finish

When you’re in the start position, make sure your head, upper back, and butt are in contact with the dowel. Focus on keeping your torso tall and driving through your front heel to stand up.

E. Walking Pigeon- Single leg stability, hip external rotation mobility

Get your balance on 1 leg and grab the outer foot of the opposite leg so that your calf is perpendicular to your body. Alternate legs and take a step between each grab.

Go get ’em!

-L