Archives for posts with tag: posture

In the first part of this post, I talk about 7 common reasons why people get back pain.  In this post, I’m going to get a little more in depth for solutions to these problems.  Remember they come in two categories: exercise habits and movement dysfunction. Let’s talk good exercise habits.

How to build a good warm up in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Become best friends with your foam roller. In fact, make it your lover. Figure our where it hurts the most and spend most of your time there.

Step 2: Dynamic Stretch. Although everyone should be assessed to figure out their specific needs, MOST people are tight in the same places. Hamstrings, upper back, shoulders and hips. 4 Stretches Most People Can Benefit From

Step 3: Activate. Do this where you need stability, usually core and glutes. Things like glute bridges, bird dogs, and wall slides will all do the trick. Find examples of good warm ups here, here, and here.

Learn how to hip hinge

Fix your form

There’s no way I can possible cover good form in one paragraph. The good news is there are people who have covered this already. My go-to articles for the big 3 are written by a pretty smart guy named Mike Robertson. He covers in great detail the squat, deadlift,  and bench. I suggest you read up if you’re serious about preventing back pain, or any kind of pain for that matter.

The truth is, your exercise habits wont make much of a difference until you fix your movement dysfunction; the two go hand in hand.

How to belly breath- Enter the diaphragm

Gain mobility where you need it

Most people I train are just your average joe’s. As much as I can dream about it… I’m not training athletes with crazy mobility or congenital laxity. Although it’s very important to get evaluated, I can tell you most people are tight in the same areas: hips, shoulders, and t-spine.

If you want to get more in depth mobility drills, I highly suggest checking out mobilitywod.com. Kelly Starrett is a very smart guy who has hundreds of videos with in-depth mobility drills. You pretty much can’t put anything in his search bar that will go unanswered.  As much as he tries to dumb it down, I find myself having to watch some of his videos 2 or 3 times to completely understand it. So if you don’t understand some of his lingo, don’t worry about it; just try to emulate as best you can.  However for a quick reference, these are some mobility favorites:

Scapular Wall Slides

Thoracic Spine Extension on Foam Roller

Hip Mobility Combo

Gain some core stability

Core stability is a must… For everybody…. No exceptions! If you don’t have it, you need it; and if you have it, you need to keep it!

The basics never go out of style with core training. In my opinion, the plank and any of it’s variations is king, and form is VITAL.

Here are some other great core stability drills:

Banded Bird dog

Notice how her core does not change at all as she moves, and her low back does not cave as she lifts her limbs.

Half Kneeling Chop

Improve your posture

This starts with how you’re sitting right now. Stop slouching!

Obviously, everyone’s posture is a little bit different, but let’s go over some common deviations:

1. Lordosis

Lot’s of anterior core work is needed to help correct this. This is where your planks, front squats, and reverse crunches come in. Some mild low back stretches will help too; something like child’s pose.

2) Kyphosis

A lot of people I see have some degree of a kyphotic curve. It’s very important to go some soft tissue work before strength training; all those muscles in the upper back become tight and weak. A foam roller is great but a tennis or lacrosse ball is better.

Once you loosen up those muscles, it’s very important to get them slightly tighter and stronger (note: ‘tight muscles’ are not always a bad thing). Rowing and pull ups are the go-to’s here. There are so many variations of rows, all you have to do is pick your favorite!

Conclusion

You don’t have to conquer all these points at one time, but that being said, I think they’re all equally important and should all be addressed.

All I can say is I hope that you learned something! If I learned anything, it’s to not film videos on days I wake up at 4:30. Woof.

-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

I am a big fan of spinning. It’s a good 45-60 minutes of interval training that usually consists of sprints and climbs. It’s excellent conditioning, easy on the joints, and not to mention with the right teacher… it’s just a good time.

However, I want to talk about reasons it may be good for female lifters other than the obvious.

This occurred to me while I was doing some post-deadlifting spinning on Saturday. Once I was in my groove, I thought how nice the position felt on my back. Like a lot of women (and serious lifters of either sex), I have an anterior pelvic tilt.

Basically what that translates to is elongated (and/or weak) hamstrings and hip flexors, and short spinal erectors. This imbalance can be caused from a number of things: wearing high heels, standing all day, power lifting etc. Often times, anterior tilt can be to blame for the feeling of ‘tight hamstrings.’ People think they need to stretch more, which actually exacerbates the problem and is the opposite of what they need to be doing.

 Obviously, when anything is imbalanced, it can cause issues or pain when training. To help correct anterior tilt, the prescription is usually some direct lower abdominal and hamstring work.  The reverse crunch and stability ball hamstring curls are two effective exercises for this.


Now you may be asking how spinning fits in with all of this.

My only gripe with spinning is that it puts most people that are sitting all day… in a seated position some more. Now we all know that hosts a plethora of postural imbalances from tight hip flexors/weak glutes to tight pecs/weak upper back.

So these people should make sure to do some supplementary stretching of the hip flexors, quads, and chest, as well as strengthening the glutes and upper back.

However, for those of us that live in anterior tilt, a spin class might serve as a 45-minute-corrective-cardio-sweat sesh! The motion of spinning heavily works the hip flexors and hamstrings, while putting the low back on stretch. This is exactly what anterior tilt needs for corrective exercise!

In fact upon thinking about it, when I first started at Fitcorp I used to take spin classes frequently to supplement lifting. Then once my schedule started getting crazy spin fell to the way side. Coincidentally my low back started giving me problems. Who knows if that’s cause and effect but it definitely got my wheels turning.

Pun intended.

I think it’s valuable for everybody who exercises to have an understanding of their alignment. This is obviously a very individualized issue so unfortunately there is no blanket program for everybody. Whether it’s through an awesome trainer at Fitcorp (*cough*), a physical therapist, a chiropractor or the likes, everybody needs some form of exercise to improve and maintain good posture.

On another note, I may or may not get a post in before Thanksgiving, but if not, I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday! I’m personally looking forward to my aunt’s famous pumpkin ravioli. Okay… looking forward is an understatement; I LIVE for this day 😀

Try not to overeat TOO much, and don’t forget to come to the Turkey Throwdown this Wednesday morning!

Happy Monday!

-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

Why row you ask?

If you want to look awesome…row
If you want a sexy back….row
If you want a bigger back (men)… row
If you want to do more pullups…row
If you want to improve your deadlift and bench…row
If you want to improve your posture…row
If you want to get rid of your back pain…row
If you want to be more awesome…row

Did I give you a reason yet??
When performed correctly, the row (any variation) is one of the most beneficial movements you can perform in the gym.

You’ve heard it over and over: sitting all day is pretty much the worst. But just to reiterate, sitting too much generally yields weak or under active glutes, tight/weak hip flexors, weak upper back, tights chest/pecs, poor breathing patterns (yes you can breath incorrectly), hypertonic upper traps, low back pain, and mad cow disease.

Heh. You caught me.

I talk a lot about strengthening the glutes and stretching the hip flexors (cause that’s my favorite), but actually improving your sitting posture may be even more helpful in improving your performance in the gym and decreasing pain and risk of injury. I also like to call it the anti Smeagol exercise.

Now that’s what I call sexy posture

There’s many variations of the row, and all of them have their place in programming. Choose any of these to spice up you’re routine.

Single arm bent over row

Alternating SA bent over row

Knee on bench row

Inverted row
TRX row

Feet elevated inverted/TRX row
Band resisted row

Squat row with rope

Single arm cable row: high/low setting


Landmine row

SLDL/row

A few others without videos:

Barbell/Dumbbell/kettlebell/anything-that-weighs-anything bent over row

Feet elevated inverted/TRX row

Renegade row

Seated row

Grip/Hand position/Stance position

All of the above factor into the effects of the particular exercise.  For example, when doing an inverted row, you can do an underhand or overhand grip, both which will work the muscles differently. The same goes for a wide or narrow hand position, or wide/narrow/staggered stance position.

Back Position and Posture

Often times you’ll see people rowing like this:

Is that smeagol??

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of good posture while rowing. If you’re in the same crappy posture that you’re in all the time, you’re just reinforcing it in a loaded manner, and causing more harm than good.

Push your butt back, keep your chest tall, shoulders down, and your head right in line with your spine.  It should look like this:

“But Laura! You’ve given me all these awesome things to do and I don’t know how to program them!”

Okay fiiiinne. Here’s your upper body pull program. This is all going to depend of how many days per week you train. If you train 2 days/week, I suggest doing a total body “pull” day (AKA rows, pullups, deadlifts). If you train 2-4 days a week, you can split it up into lower body pull, upper body pull, lower body push, upper body push.  So you can fit this into your program however you’d like to work it.

Week 1 Week 2** Week 3
Med Low High
1A) Pullup 3×5 3×3 3×8
1B) Light band resisted Row 3×12 3×12 3×12
1C) Deadlift* 3×6 4×3 3×12
2A) Barbell Bent Over Row 3×8 3×5 3×12
2B) Doorway Pec stretch 30s/side 30s/side 30s/side
2C) Reverse Lunges* 3×16 3×10 3×20
3A) Pallof Press 3×8/side 3×8/side 3×8/side
3B) Off Set Landmind Row 3×8/side 3×5/side 3×12/side
3C) Single leg deadlift* 3×6/side 3×6/side 3×6/side
4A) Seated Row 3×8 3×5 3×12
4B) TRX pistol squat* 3×6/side 3×6/side 3×6/side
* If on a 2days/week split
**Increase your weight for week 2

Happy Rowing!

-L