Tag Archives: 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.



Shake Things Up: A fast at home full-body workout

The East is getting pounded by a major blizzard; the west is drowning under inches of rain. The middle of the country has seen freezing cold. This is a time of year when the wise and well-prepared have an emergency at-home full-body workout in their back pocket for times like this.

If you don’t have such a plan, here’s one that requires no fancy equipment and will get heart pumping and challenge your muscles.

Do these exercises one after another with no more than 30 seconds rest between them.  Sets of 10.  At the end of the entire list, rest for a minute and repeat up to 2 more times.

  • Hip  bridges .  Lie on floor, face up.  Tilt pelvis to flatten lower back, then continue lifting pelvis off floor until a straight line from knees to shoulders.  Squeeze glutes hard and hold for count of 30
  • Push ups.  Counter/desk pushups. Girl pushups. Real pushups. As challenging as you can go. (10)
  • Stable Lunge/Military Press.
  • “Bathtub step overs.
  • Chair dips.
  • Lateral jump-squats.
  • Y-T-As.
  • Ali Shuffle.
  • Single Leg Push.
  • Lateral to Front Arm raises.
  • Because it was WAY TOO WORDY to describe how to do these, I made you a little video. At 10 minutes, it’s a bit too long (sorry). But how do you demonstrate 10 exercises in less time?

    Enjoy. Give these a try. Remember, proper form and posture at all times.

    Have questions? Let me know in the comments.

    Listening to My Body

    Last week, out of the blue my body said: Deb, I would love to do some pistol squats.

    Now for someone who hasn’t exercised much in the past 6 months, is recovering from shoulder surgery THAT is an insane thought.  Pistols are advanced squats: single leg squats.

    There was not going to be a great likelihood that I could actually perform these.  But that wasn’t the real message.  My body was trying to tell me that I needed to do some unilateral leg work (working one leg at a time).  As soon as I started doing so, I discovered that my left leg muscle weakness is back.  Listening to my body -and interpreting it much like dreams- is a secret to knowing not only what I want to do in the gym, but what I NEED to do.

    Now I have regressed the move to something I can do: a box version of the pistol using a stick for additional balance – because SOMEDAY I do want to do a pistol squat.  Most of the time, though, I’m working on step ups, single leg presses and lunges.  It’s all HARD – but it’s an appropriate level of hard for my muscles at the moment.

    Listening to our bodies is can be an important tool in our ongoing fitness.  Taking things at face value, though, is not often the wisest way to go.

    What has your body ever said to you?

    Active Recovery

    Recently, after a hard workout, I feel tired -and the next day I just feel beat up.  Tired. Sore. Hungry. Unmotivated.Classic signs that I might be overtraining.  An idea that seem so unlikely because I’ve worked out a lot harder before and been just fine.  I’m tracking my food and taking notes on that so see if maybe it’s my diet, but in the meantime I’m spending a lot more time in Active Recovery.

    • Active Recovery is using blood flow to remove lactic acid and other waste materials from muscles so that we can continue to exercise and heal.
    • Active Recovery is continuing an action or activity at a much lower rate after a hard exercise session or a long event (say running a half marathon).  It is the cool-down.
    • Active Recovery is repeating a workout a day or two later at a lower intensity and lower volume to assist in healing.

    So there’s a lot to active recovery.  And, I’ll admit it, I haven’t been good about using this tool as well as I could .  But what does this all mean?

    When I weight train, I often go fairly hard- working to get close to muscle exhaustion failure in the 3rd set or so.  If I were a good lifter, I would then take time between sets to actively recover- some dynamic stretches (easily swinging my arms or legs), some static stretches, walking around or easy jogging in place- something to encourage the blood pumping, reoxygenating the muscles, and clearing lactic acid from the muscles.

    Yeah, I usually stand there breathless and sweaty, take a sip of water, and get ready for the next set.

    Near the end of a training session, the ideal actions would be to do what are often called “finishing” exercises in the weight lifting schools: after working complex, large muscle groups – you move down to exercising the smaller muscles groups and supporting muscle systems.  The ideal reason to do this: keep the blood flowing at a lower rate so that it help in healing.  Move slower, and less intensely letting the body cool down slowly.  At the least, I could jump on a treadmill or elliptical and have a 10 minute or so go at some steady cardio.

    Me?  I tend to go all out until I’m so tired that I drop my water bottle and cannot hold on to equipment.  Then I take a warm to cool shower to cool down.  (heads head in shame at admitting this.)

    Two or three days later, I should return to a recovery workout.  This is a session using light weights and high reps to increase blood flow to the muscles while limiting micro-trauma to the muscles.  (If you are a baseball fan- this the “easy throwing day” that starting pitchers use between their starts).  A recovery workout could be a full-body workout or simply a few exercises added on to a complimentary workout.

    Yeah.  This just doesn’t happen at all.

    Because I’ve felt so beat up lately, I’m taking some time to work out this plan and seriously implement a plan of active recovery.


    OK, so after listing a number of goals for 2010- they will have to be postponed.

    I have strained and slightly torn my rotator cuff, which means no lifting until March.

    Push the strength goals back 3-5 months. And watch, instead, as I look for exercise alternatives that do not involved using my arms.

    Can you say C25K? I can.

    I have even found a likely “kick-off run” to take part in:  The Oakland Running Festival’s 5K run around Lake Merritt.

    Can We Talk Functional??

    Talking with a friend about my workout philosophy I tried to explain that I’m about every day functional fitness.  It confused her, as I’d just bragged about Monday’s workout.

    “What is there in your life that resembles deadlifting 120#?”

    A LOT!  My bad-hipped dog Katy need picking up and lifting into the car.  Katy is about 65#- far short of that 120#- but she also wiggles and waggles as I lift her.  Also? grocery bags and laundry baskets and dog food bags, heavy cast-iron casseroles, bags of dirt.  While few of these things are the exact shape and weight as a barbell loaded with weight plates, they are all lifting.  And, because I can lift heavier weight, I CAN lift Katy up.  I can pick up friends’ kids who have fallen, and carry grocery bags from the car to the house without needing a nap afterward.  The heavy lifting makes the rest of my life easier.

    That is the essence of functional fitness- exercises to make your day-to-day life easier.

    Besides lifting heavy objects, I also make myself workout in controlled but unstable ways – working with stability balls and air cushions and 1/2 foam rolls.  I used to use the BOSU at the gym before it broke.

    Do I like these workouts?  Not particularly.

    Do I do these things well?  Nope

    However, we’ve all read and heard the stories of people who’ve fallen and broken bones.  People whose injuries have made them alter their life forever; older folks who’ve died from a broken hip.  In many of these circumstances, the person didn’t know how to recover.  By training my body and mind in these “predictably unpredictable” situations I am training my brain and body to recover.  To fall without doing too much damage.  To catch myself and stay upright.

    That too is functional fitness.

    Some of the most “functional” exercises you can do?

    1. deadlifts (you guessed this one already, right?)

    2. lunges (work those glutes and the abductors/adductors/ obliques)

    3. squats (strong glutes/hammies/quad and a different plane from lunges)

    4. pushups. Your whole body working as one unit?  And getting yourself up off the ground?  Hello!

    5. pullups.

    6. step ups.  Yeah.  step on a bench and hold it.  Don’t fall or dip a hip or shoulder while stepping up.  Your whole body works this to get coordinated.

    7. side shuffles. Balance, adductors, obliques.

    8. Farmer’s carries.  Basically pick up something heavy and carry it.  Because we do this ALL THE TIME.

    What physical (functional) challenges do you face every day?  And what exercises make it easier for you do these things?

    PunkRope: Fun in the Gym

    Doesn’t this look like fun?