Category Archives: Corrective

Increase Shoulder Mobility & Stability

Our shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in our body.  Unfortunantly, with lots of mobility comes lots of instability, making our shoulder joint one of the most unstable joints in our body as well.  To get a better idea, think of  your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on a tee.  Just as only a tiny portion of that golf ball is actually touching the tee, only a small portion (1/3 to 1/2) of the head of the humerus is actually in contact with the genoid fossa, therefore making this joint very unstable.

Making up our shoulder joint, we have 3 bones:  the clavicle, humerus, & scapula.  Inside our genohumeral joint lies the labrum, which acts to deepen the joint as well as aid in stability.  Numerous ligaments & muscles (specifically our “rotator cuff muscles”) aid in stabililty of this joint as well.

When getting your shoulder joint healthy or maintining the health & function of your shoulder joint MOBILITY COMES BEFORE STABILITY.

Exercises to increase shoulder/thoracic spine mobility:

  • Foam Roll T-Spine (mid-back)
  • Foam Roll Lats
  • T-Spine Rotations (Openbooks)
  • T-Spine Rotation + Arm Sweep

Once mobility is achieved, more focus can be put into stability.

Exercises to increase shoulder stability:

Farmers Walks:  Start by picking up 2 Kettlebells, one in each hand.  Upper body focus: Stand tall, thoracic spine should be extended so chest is up.  Squeeze the shoulder blades together.  Lower body focus: Squeeze your glutes therefore tilting your pelvis posteriorly and engaging your core.  I always tell my clients to imagine a string is pulling them from their head to the ceiling so lengthening of the spine occurs.  Head is back (in line with spine) & chin slightly tucked under.  From this position, start taking SMALL, SLOW steps.  Steps should be small & slow so that you are able to focus on all of the previous cues I just mentioned.  The weight should be HEAVY.

Turkish Get Ups:

Kettlebell Overhead Walk: Kettlebell is raised overhead, bicep in line with the ear, arm ALWAYS straight.  If you can’t keep your arm staight, take the weight down.  In this position, “pack your shoulder” as you walk with the kettlebell overhead.  Again, walk slow with smaller steps than you typically would if you were walking normally.  Be aware of posture here as well.   T-spine should be extended & chest up.

Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you have any more questions on this topic or the exercises listed! : )

Experiencing Knee Pain During Runs?

Knee pain is a very common issue among runners as well as our entire population.  Although pain is obviously aggravating for anyone and everyone, serious runners tend to get more frustrated with the situation because it may be preventing them from doing what they love or what they love is no longer enjoyable as it has become painful.  Just a little advice: Listen to your body.  If something is painful (while running or exercising) that’s a good indicator that you probably shouldn’t be doing it.  It is only going to aggravate the problem more and could lead to an even more serious injury.

As we are all build and structured differently, what may work for one person, may not work for another. Therefore, I can’t sit here and give you one exercise or one stretch that will cure your pain.  I wish it was that easy, but unfortunantly it’s not.  Everyone has different imbalances throughout their own, individual body.  If you are experiencing knee pain while running, there’s a good chance it’s related to a muscle imbalance somewhere between the core, hips, and legs that’s leading to the kneecap riding inappropriately along the groove of the femur that it slides on.

From books and research I’ve read, as well as from my own experience with myself & clients, I’ve found that many people experiencing knee pain often have tight hip flexors and quads, weakness in the glute medius and maximus, and possibly tightness in the hamstrings and calves.

As you can see, the problem could be arising from numerous places.  If you are working with a trainer, it’s the trainer’s job to figure out what these imbalances are and put together an action plan so that you can be on your way to running pain free.  If you are not working with a trainer, it may be more challenging trying to figure out/work out your imbalances.  Here are a few exercises/stretches I’d suggest trying on your own…

First, and most obvious, following a workout (you should be warm) stretch and foamroll your quads, hipflexors, hamstrings, and calves.  Pay attention to how it feels on one side versus the other side (remember we’re looking for imbalances between sides).  Try holding an elbow plank for 45s.  How’s your core strength? Try a single leg squat to test glute medius/max strength (I’d suggest doing this on a box or bench).  Does your knee fall inward as you try to stand?  If so, time to do some glute strengthening.  Like I said before, you’re looking for imbalances in your body, between sides.  Take note if one hip flexor/quad is tighter than the other, or if it’s much easier standing up from a seated position on your right leg versus your left.  If this is true, there’s a good chance some compensation is going on somewhere resulting from an imbalance.

Our body works together as one functional unit, rather than indivual, separate parts.  This is why it’s so imporant that we have balance throughout our entire kinetic chain.  If one piece of the chain is broken, the entire rest of the chain will be affected.

I will post a video of a great strength training circuit for runners (targeting glute medius/max) soon! : )

Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Back

According to the Journal of Pain published by the American Pain Society, up to 85% of Americans have experienced low back pain. That’s a lot.  So what can you do on a day to day basis in order to not to let yourself fall into this category?

1.  Be aware of posture while sitting and standing. 

As most people spend a very generous amount of time either sitting at a computer desk, sitting on the couch, or commuting to and from work,  it is very important that good posture is maintained throughout the hours you are stuck in this position.  For example, when you’re sitting at your desk, you typically will spend a good amount of time with your hand on your mouse.  If you’re right handed, for many people this translates to your spine bending toward the right and your right ribcage dropping to that side.  Ultimately the soft tissue structures on the right side of the spine will get used to this chronic side bending and the spine will begin to develop this permanent bend to the right (or left if you are left handed).  But wait, it only gets worse…upon weightbearing (standing), now that you’ve spent so many hours, days, maybe even years, in this seated position with your spine bending to the right, now your hips must adjust to the change in center of gravity.  For example, a lateral bend to the right side would move the weight of your torso to the right.  The hips would then have to shift to the left in order to help the body balance.  This hip shift to the left is your body compensating for the spine side bending to the right.  It’s likely that eventually this compensation will lead to pain in the right side of the spine, lower back, and/or left hip.

In addition to a lateral bend in the spine, an excessive forward bend can do just as much damage.  Commonly seen while watching TV, sitting at the computer, or driving, problems here typically stem from a rounded upper back & shoulders.  In addition, ones neck tends to protrude forward (see my post on upper cross syndrome for more info).  When the thoracic spine rounds forward, the ribcage drops at the front of the torso.  This in turn, can restrict blood supply to your internal organs as well as affects breathing since more pressure is put on your diaphragm. Doesn’t sound too appealing.

2.  Build a strong core.  

Believe it or not, your core is used in almost every single activity/movement you do.  It’s used to stabilize, balance and protect the body as well as to transfer energy from one body segment to another. This would be why building a strong core is so important to maintaining a healthy back.  And no, doing a thousand crunches a day is not going to get you a strong core.  Strong rectus abdominis, yes, but more focus needs to be placed on strengthening your transverse abdominis (that core muscle that wraps completely around your body like a belt), erector spinae, internal/external obliques etc. ….  This can be done through stabilization exercises such as bird dogs (for beginners), elbow planks, side planks, deadbugs + all the various progressions to these exercises (I’ll post soon regarding various progressions/regresssions for all these).

Why avoid all the crunches? Well, when you do crunches, you are putting extra stress & tension on your spine and vertebral discs due to the constant state of spinal flexion.  Do you want a bulging or herniated disc? Didn’t think so. Lay off all the crunches.

3.  Stretch regularly & treat yourself to a massage. 

Tight or shortened hip flexors can affect the position of your pelvis which in turn can affect the position & movement  of the lower back.  The iliopsoas (composed of 2 muscles: the iliacus and the psoas) would be the muscle that contributes probably the most to this pain.  Lying very deep, the psoas is attached to the sides of the lumbar vertebrae and inserts on the inner upper femur (thighbone).  Therefore, if this muscle is tight, there’s a good chance that it’s pulling on your lower back, creating tension & pain in the low back.  Stretching regularly can help to reduce this pain, as well as getting a massage by a liscensed massaged therapist.  Although I said “treat yourself to a massage,” you should actually look at getting massages as regular maintenance.  There are some issues that regular stretching may not be able to fix, but that a massage therapist may be able to help you out with.

By paying attention to your posture throughout the day, strengthening your core, stretching & getting massages every now & then, you will be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run by maintaining a healthy back.  Even though the gym membership & massages do add up, I’m sure they’ll be much less expensive than the MRI and physical therapy you’ll have to undergo to manage the pain that a bulged disc has created.  Take care of what you can now so you won’t have to deal with much larger problems later.

Thanks for reading! : )

Integrated Over Isolated Movements

One of the biggest mistakes I see people in the gym making are performing exercises with the intention of  isolating one muscle group.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, an example of this would be the woman who wants her arms to look skinnier, so she persists on spending 15 minutes doing bicep curls and tricep extensions.  This could also be the guy at the gym who is doing every form of a bicep curl and shoulder press imaginable (using dumbells, cables, resistance bands etc.).  Though maybe his arms and shoulders do look good, is he even able to lift his arm straight over his head?   I hate to say it ladies but…you’re wasting your time, & guys, you have some major muscle imbalances going on.

Guys, let’s take a look at something you could do for this imbalance…

1. Angels on a Foam Roller (P.S. you’re probably going to need to do a lot)

Ladies, let’s take a look at something you could do in order to incorporate more muscles, but still work the arms at the same time…

1. Walking Lunge w/ Curl

Here, you’re getting more muscles involved (not to mention much larger muscles) so you’re going to be basically killing 2 birds with one stone (if you planned on doing lunges later) as well as getting your heart rate up a little more since we have more muscles working at the same time.

This is just one example of an integrated movement.  Well, what exactly does that mean?

An integrated movement is a movement performed that uses multiple muscle groups at the same time to complete a movement correctly.  You may have also heard it referred to as functional training (althougth this is a term that is tossed around a lot).  Functional training is meant to mimic activites that occur in our everyday life.  In most of our daily activities we use more than one muscle group, right? CORRECT.

Think about it, in order to do seemingly simple tasks such as bending over to lift a heavy box off the floor, muscle integration occurs. Legs should be involved (quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings) as well as core (in order to protect your lower back), and obviously the arms as you lift.  Not executing the movement properly can/will result in injury.  This is one example why deadlifts are SO important to incorporate into your training program.  We bend over to pick things up (whether they be heavy or light) everyday, therefore we should know how to engage the proper muscles so that injury doesn’t occur while performing this movement.

In addition, when you’re swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, there are NUMEROUS muscles working together in unison to make that particular movement occur.  Although most of us aren’t professional athletes, swinging clubs or throwing baseballs like the pros do, these are all movements that we mimic in our lives.  Therefore, we need to train our bodies to prepare for movements like this. As Gray Cook* says, “use it the way you want to use it, & move it the way you want to move it.”

My point is that no one can give a good reason as to why they are performing isolated movements at the gym…except for bodybuilders.  Bodybuilders are a different case though.  I like how Gray Cook* puts it,  “if you’re going to isolate, we call that bodybuilding and you bodybuild to become a statue.  Body builders aren’t really known for their movement or athletic prowess, they’re known for the way they look standing still.”  In this case, isolated movements are needed in order to get the desired results.  But bodybuilders have to function in their everyday life still, right?  Let’s just assume that a bodybuilder probably wouldn’t have the best golf swing.

Bottom line, WEIGHTLIFTING SHOULD NOT BE SEGMENTALIZED.  Not every single exercise you do has to be multi-joint, but the foundation of movements in your training program should incorporate integrated movement patterns.  According to Gray Cook*, some of the best integrated exercises that you can perform are the following:

1. Half Kneeling Chop & Lifts

2. Turkish Get-Up

3. Two-arm Single Leg Deadlift

4. Cross-body One-arm Single Leg Deadlift

These 4 exercises are 4 of the best corrective exercises that most people can incorporate into their training program.  These exercises will certainly point out  left-right imbalances that are occuring in your body as well as challenge you in a way you probably haven’t challenged yourself.  You can look up videos for the movements online…I’d suggest looking at Gray Cook’s demonstrations on YouTube.  I plan to shoot some videos of these exercises & post them in the near future as well so you can check those out too!

*Gray Cook is possibly the world’s most sought-after injury prevention specialist, having a history of working with many NFL, MLB, NHL & NBA teams. In 2007, both the Chicago Bears & Indianapolis Colts used him in order to keep athletes strong & injury free, and both teams ended up at Super Bowl XLI.  He’s not only limited to the major leagues, he also works with the special forces, keeping them strong & injury free as well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/sports/football/falcons-have-winning-fitness-strategy.html?_r=2&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Fascia: Connecting Our Body

Under your skin, encasing your body, and webbing its way through your insides like one huge spiderweb, is FASCIA.  Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and organs.  It literally wraps around the entire body, connecting it from top to bottom.

Since it is connected to basically everything in the body, you’d think it must be pretty important, right.  ABSOLUTELY. But how many of you have actually heard of it or know what it does?

Since fascia is like a web, it should make sense that any tightening or restriction in one area of the body creates tension in another area and throughtout the web, leading to pulling on other structures.  This is why often times people will feel pain that appears unrealted to their original injury (ie. if you had a knee injury you feel pain down your lower leg and even into your foot).   Therefore, fascia influences the tension and integrity of the entire body.  Any localized stiffening of the system could affect the range of motion of that particular area and may create instability throughout the system.

Imbalances and tightness throughout the fascial system could be a result of trauma, poor posture (which is very common), inflammation, and/or repetitve motion.

Here’s how I suggest you take care of your fascia:

  • STRETCH REGULARLY: When your muscles are chronically tight, the fascia that surrounds those muscles becomes very tight as well.  This tightness obviously shows an imbalance in your muscular system, possibly leading to one in your fascial system as well. Take care of it and stretch (dynamic before working out & static following your workout!)
  • FOAMROLL: Since fascia covers our entire body, you can actually foam roll any part of your body.  Foam rolling works to loosen up tightness in the fascial system.  SLOWER is better when rolling (& take your time!…I will honestly spend 10-15 minutes foam rolling some days).  If you feel one spot, for example while you’re foam rolling your IT band, that feels more tender than others, it’s known as a trigger point (or adhesion).  Go ahead and hold on that spot for 20 seconds and be sure you’re breathing as you do so in efforts to help release the knot.
  • GET A MASSAGE: Yes, a massage.  I’m sure you’ve been working hard so treat yourself.  For starters, it’s good upkeep.  If possible, if you could get in to see a massage therapist at least once a month, you’ll reap benefits.  And if you have some type of injury or annoying tightness that’s bothering you day to day, DEFINITELY go see one ASAP.  Many massage therapists are beginning to embrace fascial therapies so ask around.  If not, you can look into a fascial or myofascial therapy specialist.

There you go, so in order to maintain good muscular balance within your body and feel good, TAKE CARE OF YOUR FASCIA! : )

Problems Associated with Weak Glutes

Everyone wants a nice looking backside, right?  …Especially us ladies.  We all want our butt to look “tight”, “firm” (insert whatever other adjective you use to describe a nice looking butt here).  If we all want this, we need to make sure that our glute muscles are firing correctly in each exercise that we do that involves them.  If they aren’t, we’re pretty much just wasting our time with the movement.

Your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body.  Being the largest muscle, you would think it should have a pretty serious role in movement, correct?  Correct.

The gluteus maxiums can be referred to as a powerhouse.  Everytime you take a step, your glute muscles contract…or at least they should be contracting.  If you’ve ever taken a step and slightly fallen off balance, it’s likely that this could be attributed to poor glute contraction.  Your glute muscles play a huge role in balance.  Therefore, the stronger your glutes are, typically the better balanced you’ll be. Along with poor balance, some other problems caused by weak glute activation are as follows…

  • weak core
  • poor posture
  • poor lateral movement
  • poor vertical
  • aches & pains (low back, hips, knees)

As you can see, various issues are likely to arise if your glutes are not firing properly. These all are unnecessary problems that can be corrected when you learn to properly fire your glutes.  In order to do this, like any other muscle in your body, they need to be warmed up before you use them.  Try leg swings, lateral resistance band walks, and glute bridges as your dynamic warm-up.

Once you’ve warmed up the glutes, the following are great exercises that target them…

  • Deadlifts
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Stair Climbs
  • Lunges
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Glute bridges (single leg, for more of a challenge)

NOTE: When doing lunges, squats, etc.  make sure that you are pushing up through your heels rather than your toes.  Pushing up through the heel allows the glutes to activate, whereas, pushing up on a lunge or squat through the toe, takes much of that glute activation away (gastrocnemius & soleus are getting more of a contraction in this case).  Also, it’s very important to be sure that the glutes are firing during bodyweight exercises before loading a particular pattern or movement. 

Just to stress the importance of glutes firing properly, I will say it again.  Your glueus maximus is a powerhouse.  So many people think that the legs hold all the power in running and walking, when in fact, it’s actually the gluteus maximus.  Weak glutes have been linked to knee, foot, and back pain.  Having strong glutes will propel you forward (in running & walking) without putting that extra strain on the knees, feet, lower back, & legs.  Therefore, you’ll be able to move much more efficiently and much more pain free.