The best exercise you’re not doing……..

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is Swiss ball hip extension/hamstring curl. Thanks to Molly Galbraith the co founder of Girls Gone Strong for the video.

You should do this because– we tend to forget about the muscles that we cannot see because we sit on our butt a lot, which can lead to weaker glutes and tighter hip flexors. Besides, the hamstrings and glutes need all the love they can get, right?

hip flexors
Hip flexors.

Makes your everyday life easier because– Strong and mobile hips means less back pain and this (and other things) can make your partner very happy person indeed. 🙂

Form tips – Watch the video below for form tips. I like to program this at the start of my training to get blood flow to the knees, hips and hamstrings before doing squats, deadlifts and lunges. Sets of 8- 15 reps work best.

 

Posture

Remember when your mother told you to “stand up straight” or warned “don’t slouch”?  Well, as usual, your mother was right.

Posture is defined as a position of a person’s body when standing or sitting, and good posture will protect your spine. Good posture can prevent aches and pains in our upper and lower back, and shoulders and neck.

Those nagging aches and pains you have maybe due to your posture.  Look at the picture below. Which one do you look like?

1425796_250882118397687_1310934491_n
Are you good or evil?

How our posture looks today is a result of years of our daily living activities.  We spent a large part of our lives looking down. We sit down and look at our computer screens. We look down when we are playing with our smart phones.

We walk with our hands in our front pockets.  We look down when reading our books and newspapers. This and more over time can cause poor posture. (We look down when eating, also, and too much of that can lead to more than just posture problems…but that’s another column.)

Other than annoying our mothers, what exactly does bad posture do? There are serious side effects for those with poor posture. First, it can worsen our stress levels. A study form Harvard University concluded that people who adopted proper posture had a 25% drop in their cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

High cortisol levels have been associated strongly with weight gain and your sleepless nights.

Second, bad posture can block your digestive system. Hunched shoulders, like the picture above, can lead to sluggish digestion according to Steven Weiniger, author of Stand Taller, Live Longer. “When you sit in a crunched position, your intestines are folded and that slows everything down.”

Third, poor posture can affect your attitude says Dr. Mladen Golubic, Center for Lifestyle Medicine at The Cleveland Clinic. “We do know when you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation. When you sit up straight, psychologically your attitude is better.”

I’ve seen my fair share of people with poor posture.  However two poor postural positions stand out: Forward head posture, where your head is forward from your shoulders, and rounded shoulders where your shoulders are rotated inward and you have a C- shaped upper back. .

FORWARD HEAD POSTURE

You can recognize this in yourself or other people when your ears are forward of the shoulders rather than sitting directly over them. Here is a simple test that you can do for forward head posture.

Stand with you head, shoulders and back against the wall with your heels six inches away from the wall. Determine how many fingers you can fit between your head and the wall. If it is more than 3, you likely have forward head posture.

Forward head

With the average human head weighing 8 pounds, this posture puts stress on neck head and shoulders. Forward head posture has been linked to tension headaches and decreased lung capacity, which can cause problems with inhaling and exhaling air.

So what can I do, I hear you ask?  Here are some everyday things you can do right now to help minimize this posture.

1. Sleep with one pillow– this will reinforce better alignment for your head and neck when you sleep.

2. Be more aware- sit up straight and maintain a normal curve in your low back. This keeps the low back in proper alignment and will help keep your head from drifting forward.

3. Do the lying down chin tuck: Lie on your back with nothing behind your head. Tuck your chin towards your chest without your head leaving the ground. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Rounded shoulders

Take a good look at yourself, side on to a mirror. If your chest look smaller and your shoulders look narrower and you have an ‘ape like’ appearance because of your arm position, you have rounded shoulders.

what-causes-rounded-shoulders

Rounded shoulders tighten the chest muscles, which may restrict rib cage expansion and result to difficult and labored breathing. It stretches our upper back muscles, causing them to weaken, leading to back, and shoulder and neck problems.

This condition makes our stomach and backside appear larger than normal, so it is in your best interest to do the following.

1. Sleeping on your back– this will improve your posture because your spine gets support from your bed and also puts your shoulders in a better position.

2. Sit on your sit bones- to find your sit bones, feel with your hands underneath your bottom and find the two boney protrusions at the base of your pelvis. Once you have done that, rock your pelvis slightly forward to bring yourself into neutral spine.

This will reinforce good posture whenever you are sitting down.

3. Do outward rotations– Stand up tall with your arms by your side. Bend your elbows 90 degrees, with your palms facing inward. Keeping your upper arm against your side, slowly rotate your forearm away from you, only using your shoulders for the whole movement.

You will end up with your elbows still on your sides, but your hands now out to the side of your body. Return to the starting position and do 2 sets and 10-15 repetitions.

bilateral shoulder external rotation

Wrapping up

Fixing a poor posture will not happen overnight. This has happened a long period of time. However, being more aware of your posture, focusing on your body movements from head to toe and using the suggestions above will go a long way towards improving your posture.

The best exercise you’re not doing…….

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is Foam Roller Assisted 1-Legged RDL (mouthful I know) courtesy of Zac Gabor and Tony Gentilcore.

You should do this because–  balance, balance and did I mention mention balance? This single leg hinge movement (without the foam roll) is the perfect way to pick light stuff off the floor without hurting your lower back.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  better balance and less stress of your lower back is a good thing. This makes for a great warm up exercise before you train legs too.

Form tips –  Soften the working knee and lock in the foam roll by pointing your toe up and then pushing it down with your hand.  Do 8 reps on each leg when you have a foam roll handy.

 

Spice up your core training

Google core training and you get over 4 million hits. Every man and his dog has an opinion on core training.

Make it 4 million and one. 🙂

So what is “the core”exactly? Think about this for a moment.

The answer you’re likely to get is “it’s my six pack, dude.” However, the core is more complex than that. The core is essentially a set of muscles that extends far beyond your six pack and includes everything except your arms and legs.

Yes, that includes your chest, shoulders, back and butt.

So if you’re crunching away like a mad man (or woman) you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and should stop right now. Pretty please.

Doing crunches is just one wrong way people go about building core strength. Other mistakes include

  • Hold their planks for too long or with poor form
  • Spend too much of their training time admiring themselves in the mirror
  • Wasting their time doing pointless exercises and totally skipping their core training altogether

Plank funny

So let’s avoid these mistakes by

  • Putting core training into the main part of your training
  • Adding movement and tension to your core stability exercises
  • Using the entire core and not just your “abs”

There’s no need to rush off to a gym or buy one of those shoddy infomercial ab machines. All you need is you and your towel to wipe off the sweat.

Use the following tips to get the core you desire.

1. CORE INTERVAL TRAINING

Stuart M. McGill, PhD, Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, knows a thing or two about the core. If you don’t know who he is, look him up here.

Back in 2013, he improved the core stability and hip explosive power in NBA players by having them perform front/side planks after a treadmill sprint.

You can do something similar at home by using timed bodyweight movements combined with plank variations. Combining your strength, cardio and core into one training is something you’re sure to enjoy.

Trust me, I’m a trainer.

Instructions

Perform the bodyweight exercise as quickly as you can with good form for 20 seconds. During the 10 second rest period get into your plank position and hold for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds.

Alternate between the two exercises for a total of 4 rounds of each and rest a minute between supersets.

If you’re game, complete the routine below.

1A. Bodyweight jump squat

1B. Front plank

2A. Ice-skaters

2B. Side plank

3A. Triple extensions

3B. Front plank shoulder taps

4A.Reverse lunge with kick *

4B. Side plank rotations *

*For the side planks and reverse lunges, one side = one round. Alternate sides

 

 

2. UPGRADING YOUR WARM UP

 Your warm up is a perfect time to insert some low- medium intensity core exercises into the mix because

  • You’re fresh and more likely to perform the movements correctly
  • It turns on muscles responsible for spinal stability to help keep you injury free
  • Your core training will be done and you will no longer have to dread it

Insert the following three exercises into your warm up to set yourself up for a fantastic training.

Heel touch

Perform these at the beginning of your warm up after foam rolling. Make sure to keep your low back in neutral and your chin tucked. Do for one-two minutes.

Deadbug

Silly name, great exercise. Perform these right after your heel touch following the same cues as the heel touch. Do six-eight reps on each side. Feel that? You’re welcome.

RKC front plank

This is not your everyday front plank. This is a total body challenge from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Maintaining this plank for longer than 10 seconds calls for your all-out effort.

Perform right at the end of your warm doing five sets of a 10 second hold with 20 seconds rest in between sets.

3. CORE FINSHER

 If you have something left in the tank at the end of your training, try this diabolical four minute plank finisher.

Front plank/Side plank finisher

Hold a front plank for 15 seconds and then transfer into a side plank for 15 seconds. Then go back to the front plank for 15 seconds then transfer to the other side for a side plank for 15 seconds.

This is one round. Try to make it to four……… if you can.

Wrapping up

Thinking outside the crunch can really benefit your core training. Now get after it and train that core!

 

 

The best exercise you’re not doing…….

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is side lying open book courtesy of Tony Gentilcore. 

You should do this because–  if you’re sitting over a computer all day(or sitting a lot) this helps reverse some of the damage of being being hunched over and provides a good active stretch of the chest.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  good shoulder mobility and better posture means less shoulder/back pain and less chance of injury.

Form tips –  Let your eyes follow your hand and the leg on the foam roll should not move. This ensures the movement is coming from your upper and not lower back.