Leave a Comment I am asked often what exercises for the upper body a patient can be doing that are beneficial. Here are three to consider! There are some great beneficial upper body exercises that are sometimes neglected because people do not see the benefits immediately, don’t know the benefits, have pain, or lack range of motion. The upper back and shoulder girdle could be considered the most neglected areas but are muscles used in almost all upper body movements. Show me a strong person that has a weak back and I’ll show you a powerlifter that loves cardio. Having a strong back means being strong in all movements, great posture, and healthy shoulders (shoulder pain/impingement is probably one of the biggest complaints for not doing certain movements). Here are some great exercises to help build that strong back and upper body.
1. Rows, rows, and more rows – Too many people focus on moving weight overhead or bench press and not focusing on enough rows. Rows of all sorts help create that strong basis, your back, to help support big weight and maintain an overall healthy upper body. Dumbbell rows, barbell rows, seated cable rows, and inverted rows are all great to bring into your exercise regime. If you are feeling a lack of strength in your back or your anterior body (chest) outperforms your posterior, add in rows twice a week with a 3-5 sets by 10-15 repetitions. Change up the type of row you do or the type of grip you have (over, under, neutral).
2. Incline Bench Press – A movement that is not too popular because you can’t get as much as on the flat bench! This movement is one of my favorite especially trying to build up the muscles in the upper chest or for those trying to lose some flab in the armpit/chest area. Typically, I keep the weight moderate and really try to stretch the pectoral muscles to get a deep contraction. Make sure to choose a weight that will allow you to make the bar touch your upper chest which will give you that deep pectoral stretch. 3-4 sets with 8-10 repetitions here at least once a week.
3. Face Pulls – Under used and underappreciated exercise but has been a staple of many heavy benchers. This can be done on a cable machine with a rope attachment or with a mini band, which I prefer. Have the band or cable right above eye level. You are going to pull the rope or band directly towards your face while flaring your elbows back and out. I always think of it as putting on glasses with the band or rope. This will help build the upper back and create healthy mobilized shoulders. 3-4 sets with 12-20 repetitions at least twice a week – try this as a burnout towards the end of your workout.
Leave a Comment The good morning is an underrated and underutilized movement. Used correctly, they provide a strong, healthy posterior chain (PC), more importantly targeting the lower back. Many people have a stigma using the good mornings because they say it hurts their back, but that is probably from 1) lack of mobility or 2) too much weight – which is causing bad form. The good morning is a great variation of lower body exercises to utilize in strengthening one of the weakest and underdeveloped areas in most people – the posterior chain. Here is how to effectively use the good morning is creating a stronger PC.
1. Dealing with lack of mobility – if you suffer from a lack of mobility where you cannot keep the spine neutral and back flat during the movement, try by first pushing the hips back and lower yourself to a position where your back is not rounding. The back, core, and glutes should all be firing and engaged during the movement staying as tight as you can to maintain a good position. Imagine your entire body as a lever during the movement. Depth will come from mobilizing, but what is most important here, is staying in a position that will not compromise the movement itself.
2. Too much weight – Dropping the ego at the door is one of the hardest things for us to do. We want to smash big weights, out lift the person next to us, or not lift what we think we should be doing. Good mornings need to be used to help develop the squat and deadlift; hence, using a weight that is heavy but good form can still be used. General rule of thumb is 50% of bodyweight for the load and 6-10 repetitions for 2-4 sets.
3. Change up the stance – different stances can be used to target different muscles within the posterior chain. Try one week of close stance then another of wide or even sitting on a box. This can be done on a week by week basis or change it up for each set.
4. How often should they be done – this will vary on how strong your PC is and how much benefit you get from the good morning. Generally, these should be done once every 2-3 weeks to help keep strength in this position. If you notice your PC is weak and are getting great benefits from the movement, this could be done once a week. The good morning should be used as an accessory movement and should be used after your main lift because of the stress it puts on the back and hips.
Leave a Comment Staring at the computer for 8 hours a day, going home and sitting to watch TV, looking down at your phone, but you work out for an hour a day. That’s not enough to fix the other 14 hours that you are hurting your posture. That’s where the lacrosse is a miracle in addition to a great posture throughout the day. Here are some upper thoracic muscle groups to mobilize with the lacrosse ball.
1. Trapezius – Facing a corner of a wall, put the lacrosse ball on the wall and trigger point above the collar bone right on the trapezius both on the anterior and posterior sides. The trapezius gets strained and locked up a lot from hunching over, staring down, and the head not being in a stable position. Once you have the trapezius trigger pointed, try moving your head slowly in all directions – hold in one spot and try moving your arm around in all directions.
2. Pecs – Facing a wall, pull the lacrosse ball on the wall and trigger point below the collar bone on the upper pec. This area gets jammed up from hunching over and also a lot of “Bro” workouts – bench press only! Move around on the lacrosse ball side to side and then up and down trying to find really deep points and move your arm after you find that sweet spot.
3. Shoulder blades – Lying on the ground, place the lacrosse ball on your back starting at the first rib (right at the top of the trapezius) moving all the way down the shoulder blade. The ball is going to move down your back between your shoulder blade and spine and spend time mobilizing at each rib. Start with your arm pointing at the sky and at each rib, move your arm back and forth and then in all areas until you get to the bottom of the shoulder blade.
Leave a Comment The good ol’ light stretch right before you exercise. Feels good and like you made a difference doesn’t it? While it may feel good, it’s not giving you the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to warming up and mobilizing. When we warm up, we really need to “wake the body up” and turn on that sympathetic nervous system or our “flight or fight mode”. So for warming up, let’s replace the static stretching and start mobilizing into the positions we’ll be in during our workout while “waking up” our body. If this can be done, injuries can be more preventable, more work output can be performed, and you’ll be more feeling of being pain-free.
Let’s start increasing our mobility and warm-up routine with these tips:
1. Replace the static stretching and pick up the dynamic warm-up.Try choosing moves that mimic exercises you would perform in your workout. Say the workout involves some squats – perform some bodyweight squats, lateral shuffles, or dynamic lunges to get the heart rate increased and starts moving the joints more effectively.
2. Change the Stretch– We can stretch out before a workout, but let’s change it up and use some banded stretching within the warmup. Banded stretching helps distract the joint and create some space in the joint to help stretch and release the muscle tension. For an upper body workout, try looping a band to the top of the rack. While facing the rack, loop your hand into the band around your wrist. The band is going to stay around your wrist in all position. From here, try moving the band up, down, while turning and try to position yourself in all kinds of positions to see where might be the tightest and focus on that area. Perform this slowly and with intention.
3. Keep that Neutral Spine – Whenever mobilizing and warming up, make sure you keep a neutral spine. This is also a good tip whenever you are working out. When you stay in a neutral spine position, you greatly reduce the risk of injury and it is a much more powerful position to lift or move from. This position helps from rounding your back or creating tension in your hips. Especially squatting, this position helps create a much more powerful squat.
4. Testing and Retesting(more…)
Leave a Comment The Foundation of Foam
If I were to ask you, “What is this first thing that comes to mind when I say mobility?” You might say, “Foam rolling, rolling on a lacrosse ball, stretching, band stretching, etc.” which are all forms of maintenance on your body to be able to move more freely and pain free. Let’s fixate on foam rolling, one of the most universal methods for mobility work for all levels of athletes.
The foam roller is awesome since it is one of the most widely used mobility tools out there, helps to reduce the soreness in your muscles, and helps create mobility on a global level of your fascia. Take for example when you roll out your hamstrings; that foam roller gives a pretty good release technique on your hamstring muscles on a larger global level than it would compared to a lacrosse ball. This doesn’t mean one is better than the other, but each has its advantage. The foam roller works the fascia globally, so we are getting mobility in a broader level not nitty gritty down to the exact muscle that say a lacrosse ball would do. So what are the advantages of this?
1. It is great at releasing multiple fascia together and this can be very advantageous especially for larger muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings, back, lats, and hips.
2. It is very forgiving to your pain threshold compared to a small ball and some intense stretches.
3. It has a large scalability for all levels of athletes. It is a great tool for the young athlete who’s just starting sports, the elderly athlete who wants to walk without any help, or the parent athlete who wants to be able to squat down to the ground just like their 3 year old.
4. It is a great tool for those just starting their mobility work as it easy to use and many different applications.
Here are some favorite daily foam rolling exercises:
1. Back/Spine – This is great for your thoracic spine health and overhead position. With the foam roller on the ground, lay on top of it facing the ceiling and cross your arms like you are hugging yourself then just work up and down the spine.
2. Low back/Hips – This is one of the most unattended fascia areas, especially with everyone sitting all day. Lay on your back again and put the foam roller under your hips. Now with your feet in the air, rotate your hips to each side and try to wind up some fascia into the foam roller. You can also move back and forth a bit. Play around in the position for a while.
3. Latissimus Dorsi/Lats – Also another unattended area with rounding from staring at a computer screen. Lay on your right side with your right arm fully extended in the overhead position, on top of the foam roller. Now work up and down your side and lats. Move your right arm around into different positions and see if you feel anything really tacked down.
Leave a Comment My Favorite things this week!
One of my favorite things is taking care of my skin. Obviously your face is what people see first, so it makes sense that you should put your best effort into looking great there. One of the products I use everyday is Dr. Woods African Black Soap. This soap has been long used to treat problem skin due to its components. Black soap is made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such a plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark. It is usually harvested in West Africa, more specifically Ghana. Dr Woods uses No animal ingredients, pH balanced, biodegradable, no lauryl/laureth sulfates, paraben and phthalate free – never tested on animals. That is one of the reasons I like the product so much. This product comes from vegetables instead of animal fat. I use it for my body as well as my face and the Shea butter makes your skin feel soft and hydrated. Once a year in the African Savannah, the Mangifolia tree gives up its fruit known as the karite or the shea nut. After being hand picked, the shea nuts are boiled to extract their treasure, Shea Butter.This product was recommended to me by a respected dermatologist. This product is very affordable at around $11-$13 for 32 ounces. They make several formulations for different conditions even flaky scalp. Check out their products here https://drwoodssoap.wordpress.com.
The other thing I have been experimenting this week with is essential oils by Young Living. I chose Young Living b/c of their integrity as a company. You can visit their farms and they have a seed to seal promise that means you get what you buy. I don’t have to worry if I am diffusing an oil or applying it to skin that I am getting something with additives or chemicals. More to come as I utilize the oils more in my everyday life. Currently I am diffusing the lavender and it does help me sleep very soundly. http://www.youngliving.com/en_US/
Lastly I love this starbucks mug. It keeps my coffee or tea super hot, and is not hot to the touch on the outside of the mug.