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Let’s Think Laterally

This week I want to look at lateral and rotational movement. We had a little look at this last week by adding a little twist into the flow but I want to address it more directly now.

I want to look at lateral bending – that’s bending to the side; and your spinal rotation.

Why do we need it? Well we actually bend, twist and turn a lot throughout our daily life As you pick things up such as shopping bags you will perform a lateral bend, when you are driving and pull out at junctions or reverse into a parking space; that’s a lot of rotation there.

In order to maintain a healthy spine it needs to twist and turn, as part of its stabilisation on uneven surfaces it performs micro rotations so it needs to maintain its ability to do this as much as possible.

For lateral bend I am going to make this really simple. In a mirror, start standing up straight with your hands by your sides and then slide your right arm down your right leg.

  • How far does it go?
  • Does your elbow reach your hip?
  • Do you tip forward or back as you go?

Ideally your elbow should reach your hip and you should stay neutral as if you are between two panes of glass on your back and front.

Now lets’ look at your rotation. You will need a broom handle or similar for this-your schooling or lunging whip will do!

Sitting down with room around you to turn, put the pole over the back of your shoulders and hook your arms over the top. Now turn your torso to the right and then to the left.

First notice how it feels. Was it an effort one way more so than the other? Ideally you should be able to get about 35-45⁰ rotation. Do you think you managed that?

Also notice whether your hips tried to come with you as you turned, you should aim for them to stay neutral.

If you feel like you struggled with either/both of these the simple fix is to actually perform the test movements for repetition however make them nice and slow focusing on correct alignment even if this means the movement has to be smaller. Over time the movement will get easier and the range of movement will increase.

 

 

Are You A Full Function?

So we have been focusing the past few weeks on common selected Flexibility and Stability issues. Whilst this is really useful in ascertaining on how well your body moves and performs it only gives us an insight into the individual areas. In order to fully assess our function we must also look at how our body performs as a unit. I.e. how the shoulders, hip and ankles function when asked to move together perhaps in a single line or in fact in opposite directions. Good full body movement is the key to moving well all day every day as very rarely do we try and move just a single joint at a time.

There are loads of different tests we could do to assess how well your body works as a unit, many therapist will use what is known as a Functional Movement Screen. This involves performing various movements using the whole body, however it requires some set up and the keen eye of a Therapist to assess how you perform.

We are going to have a little fun with ours. I consider good movement to involve 3 things-Mobility, Stability and Proprioception (body awareness) usually if someone can move with these things they move fairly well.

We are going to start with what is actually a very basic human movement that we learn as babies then as soon as we stand up we don’t bother with it again……Crawling. I’m not just going to ask you to crawl on your hands and knees we need to up the loading a little to make it more challenging. So you are going to get into a 4 point kneeling position and then lift your knees off the floor. From here move opposite pairs of limbs forward to crawl forward a few steps and then do the same in reverse to Crawl backwards. You want to keep your bottom in line with your hips-no cheating sticking it up in the air. This will assess your ability to move your hips and shoulders simultaneously and also your ability to co-ordinate your movement patterns i.e. the opposite arm and leg bit.

. Now let’s have a look at how you get on standing up. This addresses the same things but with the added load of full body weight and more stability required from your hips. Start standing on one leg; lift the knee to hip height and the arms above your head. As you do this notice what happens to your back and rib cage? We want to aim to keep the rib cage stacked over the pelvis and the spine in neutral. Any deviation from this suggests a restriction somewhere along the chain. Take your hands to “Charlies Angels Gun” position arms straight out in front and then keeping hips level and forward rotate your rib cage to the opposite side of the lifted leg. I.e. if your right leg is lifted turn left. Now let’s see how that proprioception is. Take the leg from lifted in front to lifted behind you, take your arms out in front and then drop your back foot behind you to land in a split squat, your foot should be facing forward as you drop down then take the arm of the back leg and side bend towards the front leg i.e. right leg behind, take right arm over to side bend left. Now push back to one leg to complete!

 

Have a go at these and let me know how you get on, next week we are going to look at rotational movement patterns.

If you would like a thorough assessment of your Biomechanics, Flexibility and Stability with a follow up personalised plan to address any issues hit reply to get yourself booked in.

Stable as a Table

If you did the stability tests from last week you will know which areas need work.

Shoulders.
Ok, there are few ways to work on shoulder stability, many of which involve the arms overhead and obviously this is how we tested them. Many of them start with the shoulders over head, however I find most people struggle to over ride the upper shoulders lifting in this position and therefore cannot perform the exercise correctly. I want to make it easier for you to feel what you are trying to achieve (this is still not easy if you have particularly tense shoulders). In order to recruit your shoulder muscles more effectively we are going to focus solely on retracting the scapulars i.e using the muscles between the shoulder blades. When we spend hours hunched over desks these muscles become stretched and weak which over time causes us to over use the upper shoulders which many of you will find now sit somewhere just under your ears!

You can do this as a basic version or if you have access to a resistance band you can use that to make it a little more difficult.

Start with arms out in front at shoulder height. Relax your upper shoulders and begin to squeeze between your shoulder blades and draw your elbows back. Your upper shoulders should remain relaxed throughout. If you feel them popping up, go slower, and really squeeze your mid back and stick your chest out a little. I know this one is tough if you struggle with tense shoulders but I promise the persistence and results are worth it! Build up to 2 x 10.

Hips

We are actually going to perform the test we did for hip stability as the fix.

Start lying on your back, feet flat on the floor. Lift your elbows and put your hands on your hip bones to feel what they are doing. Go up into a bridge position and keeping your hips lifted and level lift alternate feet off the floor. If you can’t do this without falling over make the movement smaller and just lift your heel up keeping your toe down. Build up to 2 x 10 each leg.

Ankles.

Again there are many different ways of doing it, however I have kept this simple and no/minimal equipment.

Calf raises can be done on the floor, or off a step on two legs or one-if you like a challenge! If you are on the floor you just lift your heel to balance on the ball of your foot and slowly go back down again. This can be done on two legs or one. If you are using a step, balance on the ball of your feet/foot and drop the heel down and then raise it up. Do this slowly and without bouncing. Build up to 2 x 10 each side if single leg.

Are You Stable?

So far in this little mini series we have looked at flexibility, measured it and then looked at ways to improve it. Now we are going to look at mobility. I have mentioned previously Movement Expert Gray Cook describes mobility as the ability to demonstrate flexibility under load. Basically do you still have a range of movement at a particular joint when it is asked to work.

As we looked at Shoulders, Hips  and Ankles for flexibility we are going to stick with them for stability.

Starting with the Shoulders.

It is actually quite difficult to self test stability of the shoulder so what we are actually going to do is look at its function pattern during movement. The point being if it is dysfunctional in a basic movement pattern it needs work.

Standing up, put one hand on the opposite shoulder. The free arm put out in front of you at shoulder height. Draw that arm back keeping it straight. If your upper shoulder muscle pops up under your hand you failed the test. Repeat on the other side.

 

Hips-

Lying on your back, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift your hips into a bridge position. Put your hands on your hip bones and lift your elbows off the floor (no cheating). Engage your glutes and abdominals and lift one foot off the floor. Does either hip drop, or move around as you do this? You failed the test. Repeat on the other side.

Ankles-

There are lots of different ways to look at ankle stability as there are ligaments going in all directions, and again it can be difficult to completely isolate without the use of a therapist. However I am going to keep this simple and fairly functional, however I should mention if you failed the hip stability test you are more than likely going to fail this one too and it may be due to your hips not ankles. However if your hips were ok and you fail this, it probably is your ankles. If you fail both you should work on improving both as they rely on each other very much for good movement patterns.

Starting feet together stand on your tip toes . Now put on foot directly in front of the other and walk a few steps. Can you do it?

I will leave you with those and next week we will look at fixing your weak spots.

 

If you would like a full screening of your flexibility and stability, and a personalised programme to address any issues book in with me in the studio for a Biomechanics Assessment.

Fix Your Flexibility

Last week we tested your flexibility, so this week I want to give you some help on improving those areas you struggled with.

 

First, your shoulders and upper back. Wall Angels works to encourage you to open your chest and really use your scapulars which in turn improves their mobility.

Stand about 2-4 inches away from a wall and put your bottom and whole back and head flat against the wall. Start with your arms bent just below shoulder height. You should be able to feel your shoulder blades touching the wall-your aim is to be able to keep them touching the wall throughout this exercise. Start to raise your arms up the wall as if going to join your hands over your head, as soon as your scapula moves away from the wall go back down and start again. Build up to 2 x 10 reps.

Next up your hips. Now as we went though 3 different areas on the hips I have 3 different fixes depending on where you felt you needed work.

So if you remember we looked at the front of the thigh first. Here is a stretch that has a basic and more advanced version depending on what level you are at.

Start kneeling up and then put one foot out a good stride length in front of you with the knee bent. You can just bring your hips forward here if that feels like a deep stretch to you, or if you need to go deeper you can put your back lower leg up against a wall (or gym ball as I have done) Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds

If your leg rolled in on the hip test you need to work on your inner thighs. Stat kneeling and take one leg out to the side as far as it with comfortably go. Put your hands out in front of you for support, and start to gently rock forward and back and then hold the stretch for 30-60 secs.

If your leg rolled out you need to work on your outer thigh. Start lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. And then take hold of the leg underneath and lift it up. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

And finally the ankles. Start kneeling and put one foot out in front of you and keep your chest low on top of the thigh. Keeping the heel of the front foot down use your body weight to press the thigh gently forward and back and then hold for 30-60 secs where you feel a stretch. You may need to experiment with the position of your foot.

Get to work on these before we start looking at your stability next week!

 

I still have space for 121 clients in the studio, so hit reply if you want help hitting your goals this year.

How’s Your Flexibility?

After last week’s discussion about feeling fitter let’s start with addressing your flexibility.

We will look at some key areas and I will take you through some self-tests that you can do to find out where you maybe need to do some work.

Remember these are just starting points, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get great results, I’m here to help you improve them. We just need an idea of where you are starting so that will be able to measure how much you have improved.

Here goes then. Obviously this would be ideal if you could get a friend to help with the readings and take pictures but doing them alone is fine and just writing notes on how things felt etc. will be equally beneficial.

Upper Back/Shoulders.

Lying on your back, knees bent feet flat on the floor. Find your neutral spine and have your hands down by your side. Now raise one arm above your head whilst maintaining neutral spine.

  • If you can touch the floor behind you-Great work you have excellent upper back and shoulder mobility.
  • If your back begins to arch before you touch the floor then your upper back and shoulders need some work.

 

Hips-

You will need a sturdy table for this, or you could stack up some bales of hay or shavings. Anything that you can safely lie on without your feet touching the floor. A friend to help and validate the results is useful is possible but if not you will get a good idea of how you score on your own.

Sit yourself with your seat bones on the edge of the table. Bring one knee into your chest and lie back with the other leg still hanging off the edge.

There are three things to look for in this test.

  1. Is the hanging leg lifting off the table, staying level with the table or does the knee drop lower than the table? If it does not drop below the table your Psoas needs work.
  2. Is shin hanging less 90⁰? Hanging at 90⁰ or is it feely swinging past 90⁰? If it does not swing past 90⁰ your Quads require work.
  3. Is the thigh rolling in or out or has it stayed straight? If the thigh rolls in your adductors need work, if it rolls out your abductors need work.

Ankles-Stand about 10cm away from a wall. Feet flat on the floor. Bend one knee towards the wall keeping the heel down and ensuring that the ankle does not roll in or out.

  • If you can touch the wall-Great you have excellent ankle mobility!
  • If you were nowhere near the wall-You need some work on your ankle mobility!

 

I want to feel fitter

When I am speaking to new clients at this time of year and I ask what their goals are, I often get “I want to feel fitter.” That’s great but what exactly constitutes fitter? In reality this answer would be different for everyone. If you led a very sedentary lifestyle this could mean being able to climb the stairs at home without being out of breath, whereas if you were already fairly active it could mean being able to run a better 5k or 10k time or many other things, as I said it comes down to the individual as to what that means.

However, I think most people would agree they would like to move more freely, ache less and generally feel like day to life tasks were a bit easier. This comes down to having better all over movement and function.

In order to achieve this we need better flexibility, mobility and stability.

I think most people are aware of what flexibility is; the range of movement at muscles. Mobility is the range of movement at joints, however I tend to class flexibility as both muscles and joints so I will just refer to flexibility from hereon.

Stability I think is less considered by most people. So, what is stability? Well firstly it is what helps you to stay upright!

It is certainly not stiff, restricted movement.

There are several variations of the meaning of stability. The most relevant are.

  • The strength to stand or endure
  • The property of a body that causes it when disturbed of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or movements that restore the original condition
  • Movement specialist Gray Cook describes stability as “The ability to demonstrate our flexibility under load.”

I particularly like Gray Cooks’ definition as I think it highlights that flexibility and stability are aligned.

If we have true stability we will have good movement patterns overall  from a good squat and deadlift pattern to then carry over to everyday tasks like picking things up off the floor, carrying bags of shopping etc. It is these daily activities that we often do in a less than ideal pattern that contribute to our aches, pains and injuries.

As part of your “new year new you” goals perhaps we should all address our flexibility and stability and begin to fix any areas in which we fall short.

You can ponder that idea for a week and then next week I will take you through some self tests for flexibility.

 

Just 4 spaces left for 1 2 1 training at the Studio so get in touch if you want some help to achieve your goals this year.

Dieting Mind Tricks

Following on from last week’s mindset newsletter, I’m going to stick with the theme but this week more closely related to how our mind works around diet and weight loss.

I read an interesting study in which one group of participants were given a 380 Calorie milkshake and told it was either a 640 calorie milkshake or a 140 calorie milkshake. The levels of Ghrelin (the hormone that tells you when you are hungry) were tested – Before whilst reading (the misleading) label, whilst drinking and after drinking the milkshake.

Now remember everyone has had the same milkshake it is just their perception of the calorie content that is different.

Those that thought it was a 140 calorie milkshake showed a fairly flat Ghrelin response, whereas those that thought it was the more indulgent 640 calorie milkshake showed a steeper decline in Ghrelin-meaning they were more satiated and not hungry. Interesting……

“The study therefore concluded that the effect of food consumption on ghrelin may be psychologically mediated, and mind-set meaningfully affects physiological responses to food.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21574706

So, in the real world obviously it would be quite difficult to lie to yourself about that “indulgent lettuce” and I’m sure you have all had that feeling when you’ve eaten a low calorie cake and still had a cake craving afterwards………………………..so you eat more of them……………….

Whereas if you have the full fat cake and really enjoy it, you still say in your head “ooh I could eat that again” but you tend not to because you’ve already subconsciously told yourself that you’ve had enough cake (like Enough cake is a thing…..sniggers). Or think of it this way, when you drink really good wine, you tend to savour it, enjoy the flavour and therefore drink less whereas if your cracking open the Blossom Hill (c’mon I know you’ve all done it) well let’s just say you don’t really savour that so much.

So once again it appears I’m telling you to eat all the cake, drink all the wine………………….but what I’m actually saying is eat food you are going to be really satisfied with and enjoy eating. If you force yourself to eat “diet” food that you don’t enjoy your head will keep telling you to seek out more food until it eats something you enjoy and is therefore satisfied.

So Eat less of More Taste, not Eat more of Less Taste. Your brain knows what you’re up to and it isn’t fooled.

 

Whether You Think You can or You Can’t You are Right – Henry Ford

Whether you think you can or you can’t – You are right. Henry Ford

This really is true in health and fitness. What your mind tells you has a huge impact on your actions and therefore the outcome of your goal. I think this is seen most in Endurance events, no matter how much you train for a marathon, triathlon, iron man etc. at some point during that race even the elites are going to feel like their legs won’t carry them any further. It’s at this point their mind tells them they can and will finish. If their mind tells them they won’t finish there is a good chance they are going to stop and call it a day.

So on your weight loss journey what are you telling yourself? If you start with a negative mind-set telling yourself that you will always be overweight, you will never fit into your skinny jeans then your actions will reflect that.

What is Mind-set and can you control it?

Your Mindset is the beliefs you hold about yourself.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, wrote in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that there are two different types of mindsets: fixed and growth-oriented.

  • People with a fixed mindset think talent alone creates success. When faced with a challenge, they tend to take the easy way out to avoid failure and embarrassment. This is a psychological principle known as self-handicapping.
  • People with a growth mindset believe they can improve their abilities and create successes by working hard, practicing, and learning. They take on challenges even at the risk of failing. They embrace failure because they know they’ll learn valuable lessons from it.

So which Mindset are you?

If you are growth mindset then I imagine you are already telling yourself you will succeed, you can lose that extra half stone and you will keep it off. Your right, you can and will!

If you are a fixed mindset don’t worry. The mind is like a muscle, the more your work it and feed it the more it will grow.

First, start to acknowledge your negative thoughts. Then start to reframe them, if you hear yourself say “I can’t lose weight I will slip up eating out” say to yourself “There will be obstacles along the way but as long as I keep getting back on track I will succeed”. The more you practice talking positively to yourself the easier it will become.

I also find surrounding myself with positive images/examples helps me to believe my dreams are possible. I have read autobiographies of successful people; I listen to podcasts showcasing ordinary people who achieved incredible things. I have no time for listening to studies and statistics that say according to the numbers the odds are against me, so what if out of 100 people only 2 people succeeded at………………….what if I’m one of those 2? What if you ran the study again and nurtured all 100 on their mindset of achieving? How many would succeed then?

So whatever your goal, have a look at your mindset on the chances of your success? If your mind isn’t telling you that you are absolutely going to smash it, work on your mindset first and the road to success will follow.

Exercise Habit

Well I think the little bit of sunshine at the weekend reminded us all that summer is on its way (well I sincerely hope it is!) Suddenly everyone has started upping the exercise routine, jumping on new programmes, new diets and planning their summer bodies.

This is all great but unfortunately many people will give it everything they’ve got for a couple of months and then fall off the wagon just as the sun comes out.

Usually this is because they don’t make a plan that is sustainable in their lifestyle. Sure in 6 weeks going hell for leather you can make some drastic changes, but then you hit burn out or boredom and you can’t maintain it; and as one of my very wise clients once said “why would you want to borrow your ideal body to then hand it back?”

So how can we create an effective exercise programme that will get the results we are after but we can also stick to long term?

  • Pick exercise that you enjoy! I say this all the time there is no point forcing yourself to take up running or heavy weight lifting if you hate it. Of course if you want a bodybuilders body then you have to train like one, but that’s for you to decide. If you’re just after fitting in your jeans a bit better or feeling less harpooned whale in a bikini on the beach then doing something you enjoy 3-4 times per week will make a huge difference. A bigger difference than those 2 visits to that HIIT gym class that you hate.
  • Don’t overdo it. I know, I know you have all of this new found enthusiasm and want to go to the gym and lift heavy stuff every day but in a few weeks you will feel tired, drained and potentially injured. So make sure you also take time to rest and recover properly from your new routine, especially if you are new to exercise. You could treat yourself to a massage, get friendly with a foam roller or some gentle yoga, this will all help to keep you in tip top condition to keep that summer body in sight.
  • Consider what you want to achieve long term. This follows on from point one. If you want to look like a bodybuilder or get on stage in a fitness competition then Zumba ain’t gonna cut it. Do you want all round strength and cardio fitness or do you want to be more flexible – (I’m still hoping to get in the splits one day!)Think about this when you decide what kind of programme you are going to start. Does it fit with your long term goals?
  • Following on from that. Be realistic and consider whether you goals conflict and may need to be split. For example it is quite difficult to build serious muscle and lose body fat at the same time. Sure training more and losing body fat will help to make you look more muscular ( or “toned” ladies) but if you want to get seriously stacked and have a couple of stone to lose, you will need to shift the fat first and then move on to bulking.
  • Nail your Nutrition! I’m sorry no matter what your wiry friend who eats crisps for breakfast says, for us mere mortals you can’t out train a bad diet! So clean up your diet and eat right to support your training and results will come.
  • Consistency is key, so get a programme and stick to it. I don’t care if its Joe Wicks lean in 15 or bodybuilding.com get hench on your bench. Get a programme to match your goals or get a trainer to write one for you and follow it. Don’t mix it up with 3 different programmes or just wing it round the gym. To get results you need a structure and progression and most importantly you need to stick to it!

So off you go and join the summer panic pumping…………………………..