Keep your shoulders and spine happy and strong by following Mike O’Hara’s advice in “Pushing Up Performance”. Video explanation and performance of pushups and their variations included. Jeff Tirrell discusses the proper performance of pull ups in his article. “Movement You Should Master”. Is your mobility limited? Try massage sticks or foam rollers with the information provided in “Pain, Pressure, and Pliability”.
Train your hip adductors and bulletproof your legs by following the advice in Mike O’Hara’s article Adductors Galore. Video demonstration and explanation included. Mobilize your upper body by foam rolling. In Foam Roll T W I, Mike explains the importance of adding foam rolling to your exercise program.
The New York Times recently reprinted an article by Jane Brody entitled “Posture Affects Standing, and Not Just the Physical Kind.” In the article, Ms. Brody talks about how poor posture creates problems across multiple areas of physical function. The respiratory, digestive, emotional, and neurological systems are all impacted by postural restrictions. You are even more likely to be a victim of crime if you have a slumped over posture. So how do you develop better posture?
Get Up Out of the Chair
Ergonomic chairs, elevated monitors, slanting keyboards, and lumbar supports are fine, but nothing works as well as standing up and walking around every fifteen minutes. Office modifications, while well-intentioned and generally a good idea, cannot compete with endless hours of desk sitting. In order to fight against the postural stress that creates pain, we need to get up and move. Everyone wants an exact number, so I suggest that after fifteen minutes of sitting, you stand up and walk/stretch for three minutes. The best advice is to get a standing desk and completely eliminate working in a seated position.
Perform Posture Correction Exercises Every Day
If you want to abolish the neural and connective tissue restrictions created by postural flaws, you need to work on it every day of the week. Two or three visits to the gym will not be enough. You need lots of repetitions over a long period of time to reverse the changes created by hours slumped over the desk or strapped in a seatbelt. Specific exercises that wake up your nervous system, strengthen your postural muscles, and reverse tissue shortening are required. It should take you no more than 90 seconds to complete one or two of the exercises listed below. Set a timer, enlist the help of your coworkers, and work at these exercises every day. See the exercise suggestions and video presented at the end of this article.
“This Feels Weird”
For most Postural Stress Disorder (PSD) patients, standing upright and sitting tall will feel abnormal. Their body positioning neural feedback mechanisms have been damaged by years of improper loading. Feeling better with a more upright and stable posture will take between six weeks and six months to achieve. Very often, “other sensations” go away fairly quickly– Migraine and sinus headache episodes are less frequent. That torn rotator cuff no longer creates shoulder pain. The arthritis in your hip is less problematic. The plantar fasciitis pain in your foot resolves. The pain symptoms caused by poor posture are far more widespread than most people realize.
You May Have To Avoid Certain Activities
Your gym program and recreational activities can make your posture worse. When you exercise, avoid movements or activities that pull your head and spine further into a forward bent position. The rowing machine and the exercise bike are often poor choices. If you have postural problems, do not perform sit ups, crunches, or any other repeated or sustained spinal flexion. Avoid exercises that shorten the muscles in the front of the shoulders such as bench pressing and flys. Most PSD sufferers sit too much, so refrain from any fitness activity performed in a seated position. The most important thing a good fitness coach can do for clients is put them on the path to postural integrity.
How Long Will it Take to See Changes?
Most physical therapy patients report that the exercises get easier and they feel better after three weeks. Postural correction is a long-term project and clients continue to see results twelve months after starting on a consistent program of postural retraining.
So What Do I Do?
The forward head posture of the average computer operator creates all kinds of adaptive tissue changes in front and in back of the neck. Some daily chin tucks can mitigate the damage. Stand at attention, pull your shoulder blades back, and push your chest forward. For many of you, this is going to be challenging. Place you finger tips on your chin and gently push your head straight back. Visualize your head being pulled upward by an imaginary string attached to the crown of your head. Hold for two counts and then release. Perform ten repetitions.
Office workers perform so many tasks with the arms forward and head down that they develop restrictions in the muscles in the front part of the shoulders and chest. Use a doorway stretch to reverse this adaptive shortening. Stand up with the elbows placed at shoulder level against the doorjamb. Step one foot forward through a doorway. Hold a gentle stretch for ten seconds and then lower the arms and rest. Perform two or three ten second stretches.
Overhead Back Bend
The sustained forward bent sitting posture tightens the front of the shoulders, inhibits thoracic spine extension, and can mess up your respiration. You can reverse all of these with some overhead back bends. Stand with the feet shoulder width apart. Reach the arms over your head and bend backward. Allow your hips to come forward and lean back into your heels. Breathe in through your nose and let your stomach rise. Breathe out through your mouth and let the abdomen fall. Perform three or four deep abdominal breaths while holding the arms overhead.
Standing Tubing Rows
Prolonged sitting weakens the upper back and shoulder retractor muscles. Standing tubing rows strengthens these muscles. Purchase an all-purpose band ($25.00) from performbetter.com and set it up in a door at work. Grasp the handles and stand tall with the arms extended and tension on the bands. Contract the muscles between the shoulder blades and pull the handles toward your body in a rowing motion. Hold the elbows back for two counts and then return to the starting position. Keep your neck relaxed during the exercise. Perform eight to fifteen repetitions.
View video of these exercises: https://youtu.be/KktwMew5Wks
Read the NY Times article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/28/posture-affects-standing-and-not-just-the-physical-kind/
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Fitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity is dramatically different. If you need proof, look around for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.
Manage Eccentric Muscle Loading
During the concentric portion of a lift, the muscles shorten as the load is moved. In the eccentric phase, the muscles gradually lengthen as the load is lowered in a controlled manner. Eccentric muscle activity (lengthening under tension) produces more muscle micro trauma and, therefore, requires more recuperation time. It is the eccentric aspect of a resistance exercise that creates delayed onset muscle soreness.
Older fitness clients do not possess the same recovery capacity as younger individuals. Utilizing exercise activities that reduce eccentric stress is a valuable training tactic. Concentric biased training allows older trainees to perform a greater volume of work and be ready a day or two later for the next training session.
Sled work is my favorite “concentric only” fitness activity. The muscles shorten to propel the sled and never have to lengthen against resistance. You can push, pull, row, and press a sled at fairly high levels of exertion and still sufficiently recover between training sessions.
Loaded step ups are a predominantly concentric contraction, lower extremity strengthening exercise. It teaches balance, core control, and improves single leg strength. The eccentric aspect of a loaded step up is minimal and this makes it an essential exercise for older fitness clients.
My favorite upper extremity eccentric only training device is the Surge 360. The Surge provides resistance through a series of multi-directional pistons. All exercise activities on the Surge are concentric only.
Resistance tubing is another tool that can help manage eccentric muscle activity. The force curve (increased load as the tubing is lengthened and decreased as it gets shorter) helps reduce muscle activity during the eccentric aspect of many exercises.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
The August Newsletter includes an article by Mike O’Hara, PT on training the muscles of the torso. Included are exercises for training with video demonstration. Also by Mike is an article on training to prevent Achille’s tendon injury–the most injured tendon among recreational runners. Be sure to check out the Fenton Fitness Love Your Jean Challenge.
One of the best training tools is a set of all purpose bands ($25.00 from performbetter.com). These bands are a sturdy, dipped latex product made by Lifeline. They have two handles on one end and a loop system that makes them easy to anchor in either a closed door or around something stable and upright. The bands come in progressive resistance levels and can be integrated into many beneficial exercises. One of my favorite resistance band exercises is the posterior lunge and row.
I like exercise activities that produce a lot of benefit for the time invested in training. These are the big benefits of the posterior lunge and row: