Strengthening Posterior Part IV

Bulletproof your back and boost everything else

Posterior Chain IV – What it is and how strengthening it will change your life

In part 1 of this series, we discussed how modern day life is affecting our posture. Bad posture weakens key parts of the body, ultimately leading to pain and grumpiness!

One of these key areas is your posterior chain. Your posterior chain comprises of (amongst other muscles) your back, buttocks and hamstrings (the muscles that run down the back of your leg). These muscles play a major role in your ability to move, they literally propel you forward. So if they become weak (which we often see due to excessive sitting and sedentary behaviour), your ability to move well decreases. Also, with something that’s weak, pain is usually not too far behind. Lo and behold, back pain is all too common at the moment.

In the previous articles, we’ve gone through how you can use a sled and a wheelbarrow as very effective tools to not only strengthen your posterior chain but to improve your cardio vascular conditioning.

The unsung heroes

Today, we’re going to go through a range of exercises called ‘accessory movements’. These movements are to your body, like vacuuming and dusting are to your house, not very glamorous but if not done, over time you will soon notice!

Accessory movement: Back Extensions

Back extensions work all the muscles down the back side of your body. From the small, crucial muscles that stabilise the vertebrae in your spine, to the major muscles of the hips, this exercise can strengthen them all. They may not seem as glamorous as movements like the deadlift, squat or even the sled exercises we’ve been covering in this series, but they are a crucial supplement that can really help you cover all the bases.

  1. Bodyweight back extension:

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  • Lie flat on stomach with arms by side with palms down (thumb pointing away from body)
  • To initiate movement squeeze bum muscles together and raise shoulders off the ground keeping the chin tucked in
  • As your shoulders leave the ground simultaneously rotate the arms so that your palms are facing away from the body and thumbs are pointing toward the ceiling
  • To finish the movement squeeze shoulder blades together
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, return to start position resting for 10seconds then repeat 5 more times (or until you cannot keep correct technique)

 

Below, there are 2 different versions of the back extension. I’ve included these variations as your body can get used to an exercise very quickly, so it is useful to change the exercises, even a tiny bit, every now and again.

2)For those of you who have access to a gym, here is the 45degree back extension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2VVtvpVeXE

3)This version uses a fitball. Fitballs are a very inexpensive investment and a piece of kit many people have in the house, albeit most are still in the box :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWRM3eC2GT0

All techniques are explained in detail in the videos.

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If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always get.

One of the best parts of my job is talking to people who really want to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. I’m sure you know people that every time you meet, its superbly energising and both of you get a lot out of it.

One such person in my life wrote in with a superb question. This person has been on a stretching program to increase suppleness and strength around key joints in the body, which caused them to ask this very important question:

Q: You know how you should vary your exercise regime otherwise you get little benefit etc…? Does the same apply to stretching?

In previous articles we’ve addressed why stretching is so beneficial and the many different types you can do.

So if we just stick to stretching

yoga-bear

When you start your stretching routine your flexibility will improve. Let’s say from 4/10 to 6/10 (with 0 being very stiff and 10 meaning you could probably kiss your toes whilst upside down in a crap position listening to dolphin music). What will happen, as the question correctly suggested, is that your body gets used to it. In this case, if you keep doing the same stretching routine, your body will get used to it.

This has pro’s and con’s:

Con’s: – You probably won’t improve your suppleness and will stay at 6/10, which isn’t a bad con at all really if you’re happy maintaining what you have and preventing any further deterioration.

Pro’s: – Due to lifestyles (sitting down a lot, sedentary living) we get very tight very quickly, so any regular stretching routine, even if it’s always the same will keep you feeling good and prevent you becoming as stiff, plus prevent aches and pains developing.

Thoughts to consider: – 

– Movement in general, but especially stretching just does good stuff for us (highly technical terms). When we stretch, in literal and figurative ways it can help release stress, tension and release hormones that make you feel better.

– There are a million different tiny changes you could use in your every day routine that would make a difference and stimulate improvement. Long exhales as you move deeper into the stretch is one. Contract-relax is another.

– If you’re looking to improve your mobility but don’t know where to start, Kelly Starretts mobilityWOD on YouTube is hilarious and hugely helpful.

Have a great week guys.

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Am I wasting my time?

why

Am I wasting my time?? 

Learn to know what exercises are right for you and whether all your hard work is worth it!

When you think of using exercise to lose weight, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?

Blood, sweat and tears?Agony?

Worried about getting hurt or what other people will think?

There are many thoughts we can have as we embark on a mission to improve our health. One thought that isn’t often talked about (because it lies a little deeper than those closer to the surface), but is there in nearly everyone is:

Will it work and be worth all my hard work??

Your body is designed to prioritize survival. To survive we need energy, so your body hates wasting energy. Even in this modern age where there is more energy (food) than we’ll ever need, our bodies are still concerned about wasting it.

When it comes to using exercise to improve health and fitness, there are 3 simple rules

  1. Hard work
  1. Hard work
  1. I think you can guess what this one is!

No matter how many gimmicks or ‘quick fixes’ come out, there is no way around it, to get great results you need to put the work in and spend some energy (and we know how the body feels about that). So how can we make sure the energy we spend is worth it? Here is a very simple way to find out.

  1. Define what you want to get out of exercise and be specific. A marathon runner trains very differently to a rugby player. So before you choose an exercise program define what you want otherwise you’ll be working hard for something you don’t want. Some examples of goals could be: fat loss, strength, suppleness, stamina, pain reduction etc.

Then…

  1. Listen to your body. Ask “Is what I’m doing at the moment helping me towards that goal?” If it is then great, if not then review it. You may need to change a few things. If so, make the changes and review again in a few weeks’ time. Keep it simple :-)

Your body will tell you if your exercise program is working or not. I know that’s not the answer many people like (as we often like to be told what to do) but the better we can listen to what our body is saying the better results we’ll get and the happier the body will be to spend the energy.

Enjoy the progress

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Long Drive Part II

Use the latest research to help boost your body back to normal in record time, after being stuck on the road for hours

Last week we talked about the challenges that can arise from being stuck in the seated position for long periods of time, journeys in the car, office work or flying being typical examples.

What’s wrong with sitting down?

Being in the seated position (knees and hips bent at 90degrees) for long periods of time does our bodies about as much good as all inclusive holidays do to our waistlines. Our joints become stiff causing the tissues around them to become tight and/or weak, prone to injury, painful and many other things.

With the way our modern lifestyle is, sitting down is not easily avoided unfortunately. So are there any ways to combat this?

Stretches using the latest research

I try as often as possible to recommend strategies that don’t require huge amounts of time or equipment. Today’s stretches however do work best with a couple of inexpensive gadgets that can be easily bought online. Last week we used a band, this week we’re using a foam roller.

If you haven’t got one of these you could wrap a towel around a plastic bottle that’s full of water (just make sure you screw the top on tight!) or any firm cylindrical item

Thoracic extension: Why is this important? After sitting down for a few minutes do you ever find yourself slowly starting to round at the shoulders and slouch a little? I definitely do and I find it very hard to avoid! The problem with this is it can create a real curve in the upper back, rounded the shoulders. This can lead to stiff necks, headaches, shoulder problems and many other things. The following stretch aims to release some of that tension by stretching your upper back the other way.

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  • Lie on the foam roller back down.
  • With the roller resting around your shoulder blade region, lift your hips, extend your arms above your head and touch the floor with your head and hands. This may be enough of a stretch for you. But if you’re up for it, we can go to level 2 (see second picture).
  • From this position, breathe in and as you breathe out lower your hips as far as they will go without your head and hands leaving the floor. I predict the noises you make during this stretch will be amusing for any onlookers! This will be very stiff and potentially painful if you haven’t done it before and push it too far, so please take care don’t stretch so far that you are hurting yourself.
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Long Drive Part I

Long Drive?

Use the latest research to help boost your body back to normal in record time, after being stuck on the road for hours

Its summer time and a few of us may be fortunate enough to grab a few days away. Whether you are having a holiday on the other side of the world, down the road or just driving back and fore to work, the common factor is; we are stuck in the dreaded seated position for longer than we’d like.

Is there anything wrong with this?

Being in the seated position (knees and hips bent at 90degrees) for long periods of time does our bodies about as much good as all inclusive holidays do to our waistlines. Our joints become stiff causing the tissues around them to become tight and/or weak, prone to injury, painful and many other things.

With the way our modern lifestyle is, sitting down is not easily avoided unfortunately. So are there any ways to combat this?

Stretches using the latest research

I try as often as possible to recommend strategies that don’t require huge amounts of time or equipment. Today’s stretches however do work best with a couple of inexpensive gadgets that can be easily bought online:

  1. A strong exercise band – Using the band whilst you stretch actually pulls the joint itself back into a better position helping you get much more benefit from the stretch.
  1. A foam roller – If you haven’t got one of these you could wrap a towel around a plastic bottle that’s full of water (just make sure you screw the top on tight!) or any firm cylindrical item

Hold each stretch for 90-120s, making sure to breathe steadily throughout.

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  1. Front of thigh stretch: Wrap the band the top of your thigh, squeeze your buttocks and gentle press forwards and backwards
  1. Back of leg stretch: Wrap the band around the top of your leg, gentle bend down towards your toes until you feel a gentle stretch down the back of that leg. Hold that position for a breath and gently come back up. Repeat this for two minutes breathing steadily throughout.

Next week, using the foam roller, I’ll take you through one of the best ways to instantly loosen up stiff necks and backs.

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Get Ready to Run – Part II

Get ready to run!

Before you go out and hit the road, use these simple movements to make your running more effortless and reduce the risk of injury

If you thought about using exercise to get fit, what would be one of the first exercises that come to mind?

Going for a run has become a very popular pastime. People go running for all sorts of reasons, from losing weight and getting fitter to using it as a way to ‘get away’ and de-stress.

Are there any downsides to running?

There is a pro and a con to everything we do, we just need to weigh up whether the pro outweighs the con enough to make the task worth it. Running is no different. There are some superb mind and body benefits you can get from running, but as you’ve probably heard, injuries can also be a challenge.

Some of the reasons running can cause injury are the hard roads we run on, poor running technique and inappropriate footwear. So if you’d like to really get the most out of your running I highly recommend seeing a running coach.

Last week we went through different versions of stretching the hips, this week we’ll tackle other key areas, the front of the thigh and the calves:

Front of thigh stretches. Why is this important? These muscles get very tight when we sit down as much as we do and over time can actually pull your pelvis out of alignment putting lots of pressure on the lower back.

Car stretch: Squeeze your buttocks and over time, aim to lean back a little more. Remember to breathe consistently throughout.

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Sofa Stretch:

  • Assume the position in the picture, squeezing the back side, breathing slowly and continually. You’re aiming to feel it in the front of the thigh (in the leg that’s kneeling). Tip: the closer the knee is to the back of the sofa and the further your leaning back the more intense the stretch, so adjust as appropriate IMG_2625

Calf stretches. Why is this important? These stretches are very good for tight ankles, calves and people who cramp on the underside of their feet. Great at reducing the risk of calf and Achilles tendon injuries.

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Hold each stretch for about a minute, making sure you breathe steadily throughout. 

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