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If You Want A Stronger Core, Fix Your Shoulders & Hips!

Everyone wants a “stronger core”. In fact, I want a stronger core! But the core is a contentious topic. So I will try to keep it simple. The core is not just your abdominal muscles. Your core is a dynamic complex of all muscles that work to stabilize your body during movement. So when you think about it this way, your shoulders, your back muscles, your hip flexors, and your glutes are all a part of your core. Even your feet!

In fact, when I tell someone during a session that they should “feel it in their core”, what I really am saying is, “You should feel all your muscles working together as one unit right now to stabilize you, beginning from your center and radiating outward”. I don’t mean that they should be “squeezing their abs in”.

You can flex & squeeze your abs all you want, but there are other more effective ways to ensure that you are actually strengthening your “core”. Plus, this excessive tensing can actually be counterproductive and trick your body into thinking you are in danger, which actually results in the creation of pain, particularly when dealing with back pain.

A strong core is a powerful asset because it keeps us balanced, enables us to produce force & control it, it prevents injury, and so on. I’d like to think the core is really just a concise way of referring to the entirety of your body, working as one efficient machine. If you have a strong core, you have a well-rounded, balanced body. And this is what gets rid of and prevents back pain!

It has nothing to do with abs or six-packs. In fact, when i had my most well-defined abs, my body was actually beginning to fall apart on me – because I wasn’t taking care of my hips or shoulders!

So, in order to strengthen this innocuous complex of our body, we have to fix the primary issues we tend to see in our bodies today. We tend to see similar issues, because most people tend to live a similar, sedentary lifestyle, lacking certain, critical movements. fortunately, there are some really simple ways to resolve these issues!

Let’s first examine what’s going on in our bodies, and then introduce 4 fundamental exercises which will help to restore balance in your body. [Please note – there are of course deviations from this, but these are the most commonly seen issues]

THE ISSUES:

Tight hips, underactive glutes, shifted pelvis, excessive arching in low back, rounded shoulders.

Let’s break it down further.

Most of us have extremely tight hip flexor muscles, as a result of sitting. These muscles become stuck in a shortened position, which makes them tight.

Then, this shortened position of the hip flexors causes an anterior pelvic shift (think of sticking your butt out – that’s what this looks like).

This shortened position of the hip flexors also makes it difficult for us to activate our glutes (this is because the primary function of the major glute muscle is hip extension, which is the opposite of hip flexion. so too much hip flexion = too little hip extension = sleepy, underactive glutes). I know, that was a mouthful.

The anterior pelvic shift then typically correlates with an excessively arched low back.

And on top of all of this, our shoulders become stuck in a forward, rounded position due to all this sitting.

This may not always be the sequence of events, but once you have acquired one of these issues, the others will naturally occur. This is because the body is one kinetic chain, so if one thing is out of place, something else will naturally shift out of place as well. When this happens, our “core” is definitely not working optimally to keep us stable, balanced & powerful! Everything is out of alignment and out of whack, which makes any movement much more difficult.

The good news is, there are really simple, really powerful exercises you can do for about 3-5 minutes a day that will enable you to maintain a strong core, and a balanced body for the rest of your life!

The exercises are below – they are links to YouTube videos and under the video in the “Description” there are specific instructions on how to perform each exercise.

EXERCISES TO FIX HIPS & SHOULDERS FOR A STRONGER CORE:

THE MORAL OF THE STORY:

The moment I stopped excessively doing sit-ups and other “core exercises”, and started actually taking a look at what was going on in the entirety of my body, at the joint level, my “core” began to regain it’s strength. I felt so much more enabled to do any movement I wanted with ease. We must take care of every part of our body. Again, because everything is connected, we must take care of everything in order to have a truly strong, functioning core. The good news is, all it takes are a couple of well-executed, simple movements to begin to restore your strength!

Give these a try and let me know if you start feeling more balanced, more powerful & more capable of doing any crazy movement/exercise/activity you want! I would love to hear from you!


To learn more about Melanie Daly and her personal training, please visit her website: http://www.backpainpersonaltrainer.com/

Is Your Core Stability Actually Hurting You?

Core, core, core. Core stability. Core strength. Brace your core. Hold your abs in. Squeeze your abs.

Where did this come from? No truly, where did this idea come from?

Because when you ask the top physical therapists who are on the cutting edge of pain science, they can’t seem to find ANY literature that suggests core stability and bracing your core is actually proven to be beneficial for your back and your back pain.

Now, let me get one thing straight before you throw something at me out of anger and confusion.

CORE STRENGTH IS GOOD. Yes, having a strong core is, of course, important. Strengthening muscles and improving our ability to move with mobility, strength, power & balance is always helpful.

However, when you ask Peter O’Sullivan, a world renowned physiotherapist from Australia (see video above), he will tell you that we have taken this concept WAY overboard. Basically, we are now treating our body as if we are doing planks all day long. Planks are great, but, is it great if we are doing them all day?

Let me give you an example. Let’s say I told you to hold a bicep curl all day long, every day. No rest. Your muscle will be under tension and under load the entire day. Do you think that this will get you stronger? Or is it possible that you will actually, at some point, become weakened and tight due to overusing that muscle?

The same goes for our core. Exercises that strengthen this innocuous complex of muscles we like to call the core are incredibly powerful. But does that mean we should be doing them all day? Yet this is what we are essentially doing, unknowingly, all day, every day.

A large majority of the population who experiences either chronic back pain (that has resulted from no particular injury) or recurrent, random back pain tends to brace themselves into these positions and movements that are “tensing their core”. We don’t even realize it! But as a result of being told that core stability is great and will protect our spine, and that we should stay as upright as possible, we are actually increasing the amount of compressive load in our spine and leaving it more vulnerable to seemingly random pains and strains.

Here is another analogy to help clarify. Think about your car. If you were to go on a road trip and you knew the road was going to be pretty bumpy, would you over-inflate your tire to give you more protection from all those forces? Or would you actually allow for a little bit of give in the tires to protect you from those forces? Which situation would subject you to more force? I’m pretty sure an over-inflated tire would actually make the car quite stiff and unable to absorb those forces. The same goes for our spine when we “squeeze our abs”, or “brace our core”. We come rigid, stiff, and vulnerable to external forces.

Again, strengthening your core during your workouts is great, but if you start doing it all day, that’s when you start to actually put your back at more risk.

So, what do you do now? Well, start paying attention to your resting postures and your movements. Feel your stomach with your hands. Are those muscles contracting? It will take some practice to understand whether or not they are, as at first, you may think that’s just what those muscles are supposed to feel like all day long.

Try this for me – try to be as loosey goosey as possible in your stomach. That’s right. Try to be as flabby and sloppy in your core as possible. You don’t hear that often do you? Ha! But truly. Just let it go. Incorporate some relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing to try to let those core muscles go. Let your entire body just relax. Let your shoulders and spine round and slump forward. Just let everything go and let gravity do its job.

I bet if you are experiencing some back pain, or even sciatic pain, that if you start to relax and let this muscular tension go, you will pretty soon start to feel those muscles relax, and your pain subside. Let me know how it goes. And as always, if you have any questions, or even if you want to jump on a quick video chat to ask me if you’re doing it correctly, do not hesitate to reach out! I love to help as many people as I can.

Good luck!

-Melanie, your Back Pain Personal Trainer


To learn more about Melanie Daly and her personal training, please visit her website: http://www.backpainpersonaltrainer.com/

How To Properly Plank

Planks are a great yoga pose. There are two types of planks- a high plank and an elbow plank. Do you know the difference? Check out the why and the how for each plank below:

High plank

Why?
Strengthens wrists, arms, back, and abdominal muscles

How?

  1. Start in table top.
  2. Keep shoulders and hands as they are.
  3. Step feet back so you’re up on the balls of your feet.
  4. Balance your weight evenly between both hands and feet. Imagine you are in mountain pose. Suck belly button in and up to elongate and straighten your spine.
  5. Feel as if your lower back is pressing up.
  6. Make sure shoulders don’t pass wrists.
  7. Breathe here.

Check your position in a mirror if possible, or ask a buddy to watch. If your low back is swaying, you have several options:

  1. Pike your hips to decrease the curve in your spine.
  2. Bring knees down if necessary, but be sure to keep your abdominal muscles engaged.

Or, if you’re not ready for a high plank, start with your knees on the floor, so there is a straight line from the crown of the head to the knees.

If you’re unable to exercise with a mirror or a buddy, or can’t tell where your body is in space, time your planks (from your feet or knees) in 10-second increments, then return back to a table top position.

Note: A plank is about trying to equally distribute body weight. Our bodies feel and work differently daily, so doing a plank might feel differently day to day.


Forearm plank

Why?
Strengthens wrists, arms, back, and abdominal muscles

How?

  1. Start in table top position.
  2. Bring your forearms to the ground.
  3. Align your shoulders over elbows. Your hips will naturally shift backwards.

    You have 3 options – place palm face down on the ground, bring each hand into a fist, or bring both hands together and interlace your fingers.

  4. Press your hands down into the ground.Step your feet straight back so the balls of your feet on the ground.
  5. Balance your weight evenly between both forearms and feet. Imagine you are in mountain pose. Suck belly button in and up to elongate and straighten your spine.
  6. Feel as if your lower back is pressing up.
  7. Make sure shoulders don’t pass elbows.
  8. Distribute weight in forearms and hands/fists and not on your elbows.
  9. Breathe here.

Once again, if you’re unable to exercise with a mirror or a buddy to see if your low back is swaying, time your planks in 10-second increments, then return back to a table top position.

 

 

 

 

How to Stay Fit and Healthy in Later Life

Some people think that exercise is something for younger people. Yet, being sedentary is a big problem no matter what your age. About 60 percent of adult Americans don’t meet the recommended physical guidelines. Exercise is an essential lifelong activity that offers numerous health benefits.

Benefits of Staying Fit

Staying fit and healthy will improve your quality of life on several fronts as you age. A review published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that regular exercise is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States and the global community. Other health benefits include:

Types of Exercise

The recommended guidelines for physical activity are 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise and two weekly sessions of strength training. Each type of exercise helps you in different ways.

  • Weight-Bearing Exercises

Weight-bearing exercises like walking or running help you maintain bone mass. As you age, your bones become less dense, and thus, more prone to damage. Women and older individuals are at a greater risk. However, this can occur at any age. Even short walks can make a difference.

  • Balance Exercises

Balance exercises like yoga and Pilates offer gentle ways to stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially in your core. Strong abdominal muscles will assist with balance and can help reduce falls, a common occurrence in older adults. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of adults over 65 experience a fall each year.

These exercises can also help prevent back problems. Strong core muscles provide better support for your back. A study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that back issues ranked third among the costliest health expenses at a yearly expense of nearly $90 billion. Fortunately, these exercises aren’t taxing, so you can do them every day.

  • Strength Training Exercises

Think you’re too old to lift weights? Think again! A study published in the journal, Age of the American Aging Association, considered the effects of strength training on individuals aged 90 and higher. Researchers found that after a 12-week training program, participants showed improvements in walking speed, muscle mass, and the ability to get up from a chair.

While you may not be thinking about little things like standing up, they can make a significant difference in elderly individuals. Remember that even for those living in assisted living facilities, the independence that comes from the ability to get around and take care of yourself is priceless. But it requires staying active.

  • Aerobic Workouts

Walking can suffice as an aerobic workout as you age. From a practical point of view, it’s easy and free. But it also offers additional benefits. Spending time in nature can improve your mental well-being. A review published in the journal, Environmental Science and Technology, found that exercising outdoors improved a person’s mental health more than working out indoors.

The benefits of staying fit and healthy make a good case for finding time to work out even as you age. However, it’s essential to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or are on any medication.

After all, exercise, though beneficial, still places a strain on your system. Take the time to seek the advice of your doctor about an appropriate amount and type of exercise for you. Once you have obtained the green light to start exercising, you can take a significant step towards ensuring an active and independent life as you move into your golden years.

Meet Up Retired Wellbeing Pensioner Workout Concept

Balance Training

Balance has to do with our ability to stay in one position for a given period of time without moving. It sounds silly because how often do any of us actually do this? Balance training is more important than just teaching us how to stand still with our eyes closed.

yoga on the beach, healthy lifestyle concept

However when we practice standing on one foot, eyes open or closed, we learn how to use gravity, environmental feedback, cues from our feet, and what we see to train the muscles in our body. Balance training also involves strengthening core muscles and muscles around joints. By learning where our bodies are in space and improving joint stability, we are better able to sense which muscles are needed to activate or deactivate to keep joints in proper alignment when moving. This improves coordination, athletic skill, and posture, which prevent falls and muscle strains, decreasing the likelihood of injuries.  

Wonder where to start? First, test your balance. Stand close enough to a wall that you can use it for support. Stare at a spot on a static object in front of you and slowly shift your weight onto one foot while lifting the other off of the ground. If you feel yourself falling, place your foot back on the ground or your hand on the wall. If this is challenging, continue to practice this on both sides.

If you feel comfortable doing this, try walking heel to toe in a straight line. You can slowly progress to walking lunges and using props to help improve your balance. Simply sitting on an Indo Board, Physioball, or BOSU balance trainer will strengthen your core muscles by challenging your balance. Once you develop greater balance, you can begin to stand on an Indo Board and BOSU trainer, then take that one step further and use these props for dynamic exercises, for example doing squats on a BOSU trainer.

Getting into exercise for the first time or after a long hiatus? This is the place to start. Balance training is the best way to get to know your body and become conscious of where it is in space.

If you are currently active, return your focus to balance training. Combine balance exercises with flexibility, endurance, and strength training to improve overall physical fitness. But first, consult with a doctor, physical therapist, or a well-educated personal trainer to make sure your body is up for the challenge.

Push-ups

daniele-hargenrader-diabetes-dominator

Even if you’ve never done a single push up in your entire life, during this quick and informative video, you will learn exactly how to perform a push up from beginner to advanced; no excuses! By the time the video is done, you will have everything you need to get started immediately.

The only requirement is making the time to fit it into your day. The good news is it will take less than 5 minutes, and we all have 5 minutes to spare, especially for building our strength and giving ourselves the gift of health! The feelings of empowerment that come with seeing our physical abilities and strength grow are indescribable. Choose to give yourself that gift of confidence today!

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