Category Archives: Corrective Exercise

Correcting some movement impairments

I've been having a bunch of uncomfortable muscle pain recently: a tight spot mid-spine; some numbness still in my arms; and occasionally my hip flexors are SO over worked that standing up causes serious muscle spasms in my butt. Or my hip flexor along the front of my pelvis hurts so badly I don't want to sit or lie down with my legs bent.

I look a little bit like Frankenstein.

Remarkably, I took the course to learn all about this several years: NASM's Corrective Exercise Training course. Haven't used what I learned in a while, so I pulled out the book to put myself through the assessment.

It's not very complicated: photograph your regular standing posture, looking to see if everything is line. Then video overhead squats from the front, side and back to see how my body moves. I linked to a movement assessment I did a few years ago as an example. (pre-hip replacement).

The theory here is that because of likely injury or overuse, I developed poor (compensating) movement habits:

-spend a lot of time on computers, knitting, walking dogs… anything that requires the arms to be forward of the body will make the pecs tight and the latts lazy.

Stop doing the rehab exercises on the replacement hip and weaknesses set back in.

My Assessment:

STATIC POSTURE: My left shoulder and right hip are slightly high giving me a slightly wonky appearance. My back arches slightly and arms are falling slightly forward.

DYNAMIC POSTURE: My right leg moves out -my left leg does too only less. And my arms fall forward during the movement. My hips don't break when they should so my arms fall forward. From the back, there is a slight shift of my weight to the right.

WHAT THIS MEANS: The arms falling forward indicate tight pecs and underactive latts. The slight shift to the right means the muscles on the right side are compensating for weakness on the left.

Likely overactive muscles: The piriformis (left side), TFL/Glute Min on the left side, pecs. These muscles need slow steady foam rolling and probably some lacrosse ball work every day for about a month.

Underactive Muscles: Adductors, Hamstring, Glute Max, Anterior Tibialis, Erector Spinae, Lattimus Dorsi. These muscles need to be stretched and strengthened with a planned program about 5 times a week for the same month. Then the movement assessment repeated and compared to the assessment from today.

So I know what I'll be doing work-out wise for the next few weeks.



As the Body Turns, Pt.2

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, one of the major jobs of our core muscles is to keep our body from turning (rotating) when stresses such as gravity and force pull at us.  Failure to resist this rotation can strain overworked muscles and cause pain from our knees to the necks.

Today I am going to discuss some of the exercises we can do to strengthen our resistance to rotation.  While they sound familiar – and you may already be doing a version of them- note the important “keying” features of each.

1. The Plank.  Many fitness bloggers have been going for time on stable planks.  Not completely necessary.  While strengthening your erector spinea through a stable hold, it’s much more beneficial – after you can hold a 1-2 minute plank- to add some movement in and challenge that anti-rotation element of core strength.

First, while holding the basic plank position, try to keep the hips parallel to the floor while you touch first one knee down to the ground, then the other.  This move can be expanded as you get stronger.  Note all the variations I perform on this older video:

2. Bridge. The reverse of the plank, the bridge works the posterior chain and the pelvic floor. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Softly tilt your pelvis forward, flattening your lower back near the floor. While your pelvis remains tilted, bridge your hips upward creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulder. Your abs are tight; squeeze your butt as if you are holding a quarter between the 2 cheeks.

Hold this position for 30 to 90 seconds. Return to the floor and repeat 3-5 times.

When you can accomplish this task for 90 seconds – 3-5 times- then add some motion. First lift one leg so the knees remain together, but the “free” leg extends completely out. Second, move that leg down to parallel to the ground then back up even with the support knee.

There are even more progressions you can search for on YouTube, or ask me and I can provide a few fun challenges for you.

3. Bird Dogs Many gals do this exercise, but I fear most are doing it wrong. This SHOULD be one of the hardest exercises you can perform -a true challenge of your core.

Get on hands and knees, then slowly lift up one arm and the opposite leg until they are parallel to the ground. Keep your hips parallel too – that’s the real challenge. Your back, hips, arm and leg should be a level tabletop. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then slowly reverse arms and legs. Make sure that your hips and ribs never move from parallel. The movement to extend your arms and legs come from the shoulder and hip only.

4. ClamShells These work the outer hip and the inner/outer thigh. Lie on your side against a wall. Keep your head, shoulder, hips and feet touching the wall, with your knees bent. Squeeze your buns, lifting the top leg up. It will look like a clamshell opening. Hold the squeeze at the top for a count of 5, then relax the leg down. Fifteen squeeze and holds on each side, making sure to keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in line with the wall.

5. Pallof Press Now that we’ve worked the lower part of the core, it’s time for a challenge to the upper core. Nothing does this quite like a set of Pallof Press. These are best performed at a cable station or at home using a stretchy band. Wrap the band around a stable foundation and hold onto the handle – or at the cable station set the rack at waist height.

Stand away from the stable foundation/cable stand putting the cable under tension with the handle held tightly at waist level. Now turn 90 degrees, to that the cable is running along one arm. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

Now push your arms away from your body. Keep your body firm and resist the temptation to turn toward the foundation/cable stand. You will feel this in both obliques and in your abs.

Hold the press for 3-5 seconds then slowly bring the handle back toward your body. 10-15 reps on each side, and 2-3 sets. If this sounds confusing, check YouTube to find video details of this exercise.

There you go. Five different ways to work the anti-rotation component of your core -one of its primary functions in the real world.

Have questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Foam Rolling-Part One:What’s It All About?

Man foam rollingFoam rolling is professionally known as Self-Myofacial Release.  It’s designed to allow your fascia to work without impairment.  But what exactly are fascia? The easiest way I can explain it is to have you imagine that each muscle comes with it’s own condom.  You want this condom to contain, not be too tight, and slide appropriately when its muscle moves.  THAT is the role of the fascia.

Self-Myofacial Release -foam rolling-is a technique to keep this “muscle condom” working in perfect order.  A simple explanation: using a tool to massage the fascia covering a muscle group.  Often that tool is a 6″ round foam tube, though PVC piping, balls, rolling pins, water bottles, and specialized tools can be used too.

This fascial massage:

  • Improves ROM by removing adhesions, reducing tension / tightness and neurological inefficiencies, and passively lengthening the muscle.
  • Used in conjunction with stretching protocols can improve muscle length, flexibility and mobility
  • Improves recovery and helps relieve the effect of DOMS

First point: It increases RANGE OF MOTION.

While we’re inactive- sleeping or spending too many hours working at a computer- our fascia relaxes, and small fibers of “fuzz” grows between them.  If we stretch completely when we get back up, this fuzz can easily be broken down again.  However, if we don’t move our muscles through their full range of motion, that fuzz remains.  And grows.

Eventually these fuzzy fibers stick together making a small “knot” of fuzz.  This knot may make a movement painful- restricting your range of movement.  Now think about when you’ve seen a wool sweater that has been thrown in the washing machine.  The fibers tangle among themselves becoming tighter and smaller.  The sweater shrinks and eventually -if enough heat and cold and agitation is present-becomes felt.

The same thing happens to the fuzz that grows between myofascia.

If we attack this fuzz when it’s light and thin, it’s easy to get rid of.  A thorough stretch before we get out of bed will help.  And foam rolling once a day will go even further to break down some of the “felted” knots we’ve developed over the years.

Like wool fibers, fascia runs in one direction: the direction in which the muscle moves.  Slightly injure a spot on a muscle and the fibers in that spot will realign themselves in different directions to protect those muscle fibers while they heal much like a patch on bicycle tube.  Afterward, we must work to break down this patch -by stretching to the point of tightness, relaxing and working for greater range of motion.  Foam rolling helps things along by encouraging the fascial fibers to realign themselves- once again moving in the direction of muscle fiber movement.

Oh, if only we could do the same thing with our ruined sweaters!

I’ve Got Issues. Corrective Exercises- pt. 1

There is this piece of knowledge among fitness professionals: everyone has movement impairments.  These are weak or tight muscles somewhere along our body that we long ago learned to compensate for without even thinking.

These impairments might be immobile ankles (ever have a sprain?), poorly firing glutes (sit much?), or overactive lats (spend hours at the computer?).  We are often completely unaware of these movements impairments, yet wonder why we have lower back pain, headaches, TMJ, knee pain.  The whole kit and kaboodle of non-specific aches and pains that seem to come from no specific place can be attributed to movement impairments.

I’m working on an at-home study course to identify these impairments and learn how to bring the body back into a more natural alignment.  It involved foam rolling, and stretching, gentle exercises to stretch and strengthen muscle pairs, and exercises to get the body working as one again the way it was designed.

For the heck of it- and because I am always my own laboratory-I will be going through the steps on myself.  As much as I can, doing a full assessment and then working through my personal set of stretches and exercises to address my issues.

Having just watched my own movement assessment video tape, lordy I’VE GOT ISSUES.

-First, I have Hallux Rigidus.  This is extra bone growth around the first (big) joint in the big toe.  This extra bone limits the range that the toe can bend.  Guess what? When you can’t bend your toe, you can’t bend your foot.  When you can’t bend your foot- imagine the compensations that occur in your body every time you take a step.

Now the long time readers may remember that I had my left toe surgically repaired for this a few years ago.  Repaired so that I can now bend that foot.  But repaired is not the same thing as eliminated-and I apparently still have rather severe problems because of this issue.

Add to that: I’ve sprained my ankles 9 times.  Five on the right side, four on the left. Three severely- two on the right and once on the left.  Enough about that for now.

And then: I also have shoulder issues.  Lack of mobility on both sides, thoracic outlet syndrome and a strained/torn rotator cuff on the right.

Like I said, I have issues.  I’m going to post the video in a few days along with my initial assessment.

In the meantime, do you nagging aches and pains that you don’t understand?  Knees that hurt on squats or lunges? Lower back pain, head aches?  Start thinking about how you move every day.  We’ll take this discussion further.