Work Out While Preventing Injuries -Part 1 of 3

This series of blog post is intended to give the basic principles of a healthy workout to prevent injury in the short and long term. Whether you are a hard core gym rat or you just decided to take some steps toward greater health this will help you out. I am laying out the principles — NOT telling you what or how to do things. There is no perfect workout for everyone but if you follows these principles and apply them to the workout that you choose, then you will not only get the maximum benefit but you will also save yourself from getting hurt.

If you take nothing else away from this series take this: THINK!!!!- Any workout starts in the brain and the body follows.

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A muscle, no matter how strong, is useless if the brain cannot fully control it in the way it was designed to function. A balanced brain leads to a balanced, functional body that looks and feels great.

Unfortunately most people follow what is commonly called “gym-science” in which the biggest guy at the gym must know the most science. This is flawed because, with a few exceptions, body building is a very unhealthy sport. Having lots of overdeveloped muscles leads to more problems and less functionality in the long run. Work out for function not vanity. The healthier you are on the inside the better you will look on the outside. As chiropractic philosophy states; health flows from above down and from inside out.

  1.  Work out your connective tissue before your muscles.  Ligaments and tendons take 3x as long as muscles to strengthen. That is why strains and sprains are the most common reason people stop activity. So especially when you first start to work out do low weight and high repetitions for a few months before you even think about lifting heavy weights. The saying “go heavy or go home” is a fantastic way to get hurt, so you will likely have to actually “go home” for a while.
  2. Spend at least 10 minutes to warm up and cool down with dynamic stretching before and after each workout.  Dynamic stretching means you move your joints only with the muscles that are supposed to move them in a rhythmic motion. Static stretching where you push a joint till you feel a stretch and hold it there for 10 to 15 seconds is OK but only AFTER a workout. If you take a joint and push it passed the normal range of motion before workout then you are setting yourself up for an injury.  To get the benefits of dynamic and static stretching add yoga to your workout. But keep in mind that it is a workout in and of itself. So on yoga days don’t go out and lift heavy right after a long session.
  3. Work out your extensors 2x as much as your flexors and stretch your flexors 2x as much as your extensors.  musclesFvsEFlexor muscles pull our arms and legs toward the center of our body and they pull the center of our body into a fetal type position.  Extensor muscles, on the other hand, pull us into an upright posture and pull our arms and legs away from the center of our body.  Now most things we do in this society involve sitting in a flexed posture or reaching down or in front and thus use our flexors.  Does it really  ake sense to continue to work out our flexors since we use them so often in every day activities? Think about this; babies are born being flexor dominant and develop their extensors in conjunction with the frontal cortex of their brains, where our ability to reason occurs.  As adults, our extensors are supposed to be stronger than our flexors and our frontal cortex is supposed to be stronger than the lower, more animalistic centers of our brains. There is a reason that the stereotypical “meat head” has a low IQ and is easily angered. (If you would like to do more research on the connection between upright posture and brain health look up Dr. Uner Tan Senior Researcher, Department of Physiology, Medical School, Cukurova University, Adana, Turkey. You can start with this interesting PDF @ http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/2051587/214865967/name/REFLECTIONS+OF+A+SCIENTIST.pdf%20)  Regardless of what you start out with, over developing the flexors will lower the ability to reason and increase the likelihood of emotional reactions. Our flexors are mostly on the front of our body from the waste up and on the back of our legs below our butt. Our gluts, butt muscles, are one of the most important extensors to work out. So think about what position your body spends most of the day in, then work out in ways that oppose that position. For example; if you sit at a computer most of the day it would be wise to work out doing squats, lunges, rows, and pull-ups. Avoid doing sit-ups, bench press, and bicep or leg curls. Take extra time throughout the day to stretch your chest, biceps, front of your hips, and the front of your neck.
  4. Balance is the key to correct technique and posture. Here is the hard truth to swallow for most guys who want to lift heavy weights: If you can’t lift the weight while balancing on a fit-ball, Bosu-ball, or wobble board then, no matter what your posture looks like on the ground or sitting, you can’t lift the weight correctly. When you lift weights while balancing you eliminate the use of your core muscles to move the weight because they are fully engaged in their real job, balance, which is really correct posture. This leaves only your outer “movement” muscles to lift the weights unassisted. So not only are you working your core muscles the way they are supposed to be worked but you are also getting the maximum out of the muscles you are targeting with the lift, even though the weight will be necessarily lighter in the beginning  It is hard to have bad posture when you are standing on a fit-ball. No one should do any exercise while sitting EVER because it requires no balance!

Stay tuned for part 2 where we will talk about how much exercise you really “need” and how to accomplish your work out goals most efficiently.

As always… Much Love and stay adjusted, my friends!

Dr. Tad Schexnailder DC

Vitalistic Chiropractor

Work Out While Preventing Injuries – Part 2 of 3

This is the 2nd post in a series on general workout principles, that if followed and applied to the workout you choose, can prevent many injuries both acute and chronic.  Again the most important principle is for you to THINK!!!  Remember to do your own research and make sure that your goals are achievable and simple.Einstien

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch  of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction” –Albert Einstein

5) Stick to functionally based exercises. Most people will never have to push a weight off of their chest outside of the gym but everyone will need to push themselves off of the floor at some point. Bench-press is a useless exercise for anything other than vanity. Push-ups, as with most closed-chain exercises, are a much better exercise that not only improves your strength but also your ability to move your body. That is what your muscles where designed to do, to move your body not to move the things outside of your body. A closed-chain exercise is where your body is free to move and your extremities are planted as in squats, push-ups, and pull-ups. Open-chain exercises keep your body still and your extremities move weights as in leg press, bench press, and lat pull downs on a machine. Multiple scientific studies have been done on the benefits of closed-chain exercises over open-chain.

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“Closed-chain exercises have been shown to require graded, coordinated and sequential muscle activation to govern joint movements; co-contraction muscle activation to govern stability; and emphasis on proprioceptive feedback to initiate and control the muscle activation sequence. Thus, from a functional prospective, they are more beneficial…” — Hyde TE, Gengenbach MS. Conservative Management of Sports Injuries. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2007:73  Its really just common sense, functionality is much more important than looks or the ability to throw heavy weights around for the average person, with the exception being athletes and models. Here is a link to a great book for those of you who want to do more research… http://books.google.com/bookshl=en&lr=&id=8iza_h84kBYC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=closed+chain+exercise+benefits&ots=mOFu4DXzEc&sig=a7DOLAF9pmCZRrgDbHXjYctAmHA#v=onepage&q=closed%20chain%20exercise%20benefits&f=false

6) Work out smarter not harder.  This is a link to a fascinating documentary that explores the research on exactly how much exercise is really needed to accomplish the health benefits of exercise. Insanely interesting, short documentary!!!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17177251

For those of you who want to workout longer than 3 minutes here is the basic idea; intensity matters. If you can work out longer than one hour then your workout is not intense enough, unless you are a professional athlete who works out for a living. Make your workout count, stay focused, and squeeze every second out of your workout that you can then spend the rest of your day with friends and family or relaxing.

7) Know your goals and how to accomplish them. Do you want to trim down and tone up? Don’t just do cardio!!!A beautiful asian woman doing push up at a beach The stereotypical “cardio” workout is great for a warm up or cool down but that is about it. Weight training is the best for trimming up and toning. Plus weight training IS cardio. Try it without increasing your heart rate, it won’t happen! Cardio may burn calories at the time you do it but weight training increases your metabolism long term so you burn more calories all day long. Ladies, don’t worry,  if you do light weight and high repetitions you will never “bulk up” unless you take something to change your body chemistry. The key is to use a weight that is heavy enough to fatigue you to failure after around 15 to 20 reps and do about 2 to 3  sets with a very short rest between sets. Actually it would be better to not rest but to immediately move on to work out another part of your body between sets. This is called circuit training.

Incroyable HulkDo you want to get stronger? Start with core exercises and use explosive movements. After preparing your connective tissue for a month or two begin using weights that are heavy enough to fatigue you to failure after only 3 to 5 repetitions and do this for 5 to 7 sets with a few minutes rest between each set. It would be best to start with your own body weight and then move to weights while on an unbalanced surface (a Bosu ball or wobble board) to promote better posture and proper core activation. Remember if you can not lift the weight while on an unstable surface then you do not have the core strength to lift it properly while on the ground.

Muscular-Squirrel

Do you want to get larger muscles? Look into muscle confusion workouts. The basic concept is to get your muscles to work in all possible directions so you strain every fiber possible. Work with a weight that will fatigue you to failure after 8 to 10 reps and do 3 to 5 sets with a short rest period between.

Remember that the goal of weight training to fail. You want to work your muscles to the point that they can not do any more, rest, and repeat. Change the weight, number of reps, sets, and rest time to accomplish different goals. The best advice is to find an athletic trainer or very educated personal trainer to help you create the ideal work out plan for your individual body.

Fats8) Get good nutrition. It is about quality not just stuffing protein powder into your body. If there are not the correct enzymes present to break down and absorb the protein then it does not matter how much is taken. There are A LOT of marketing ploys out there selling crap that is very harmful to your body but promises “results.”  Don’t get taken advantage of by catch phrases or fancy packaging.  Real food can not be beat!  The best advice is to see a nutritional expert and make sure you are not only taking the proper vitamins, minerals, nutrients and enzymes but they are also in the correct ratio with the correct amount of water for your individual body type.

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9) Make sure your spine is aligned. If even one of your spinal vertebrae is slightly misaligned then every one above and below it must shift to compensate. Our bodies are not compartmentalized, they are complete integrated systems.  It is called the kinematic chain and if any link is weak then the whole chain is weak. Chiropractors are specifically trained to find the weakest link and help it into a position that strengthens the link and the whole chain. No exercise can be done correctly if even one spinal joint is even slightly misplaced.

If you missed part one here is a link-   https://organiclivingchiropractic.com/2013/04/23/work-out-while-preventing-injuries-part-1-of-3/

Stay tuned for the last post in this series where we will define a simple and easy exercise routine specifically designed for people who sit at a desk or in the car regularly through out the day.

In the mean time, what are your thoughts on this series so far? What have been your experiences in exercising?  I’d love to hear from you: leave a comment!

As always Much Love and  stay adjusted, my friends.

Tad Schexnailder DC

Work Out To Prevent Injuries Part 3 of 3 (Dedicated to everyone who sits a lot)

This is the last post in a series on how to avoid common exercise related injuries and pitfalls. During the last two posts we laid out some general guidelines and principles to be applied to any workout you choose. This post will be a bit different. Today we will lay out a specific workout designed for people who sit all day long.  All of the principles from the previous posts will be applied to target areas that become under-worked due to the stresses of having a sedentary job.

I am very lucky because my job is very physical. Being a chiropractor requires me to be constantly moving: not only my body, but also the bodies of people that come to see me every day. I show people exercises and stretches all day so I have the benefit of being in constant motion. Not everyone is as lucky as I am (although its not too late for you to become a chiropractor!) but that does not mean that you have to be unhealthy just because you don’t have a physically demanding job.

In life we have three options.

  1. Change nothing.  However nothing will change.
  2. Change what you are doing. This is not an option for everyone. I don’t expect you to quit your job just because you want to move your body better (it is still not to late to become a chiropractor, just saying.)
  3. Change the way you do things.  This is a far more practical option for most people. Ideally you could change your work station to be more ergonomically efficient.   Move your work station higher and place different pieces of office equipment around you so that you are standing and moving around the room all day. If this is not possible you could switch out your office chair for a fit ball so that, even though you are sitting, your spine and core muscles are constantly working to keep you balanced and on the ball.

There are many ways of accomplishing option #3. If you cannot change your work space then the next thing would be to look into changing your body movement outside of work to compensate for your work posture.  This is what we will look into today. How to workout to counteract office posture and stress so that it affects you less.

  1. Squat More. This is likely the most important factor missing in most sitters lives. We do not squat down in our society and it causes untold amounts of pain and suffering.  Our legs and hips are the biggest bones surrounded by the biggest muscles of our body. In contrast our spine is made of many small bones surrounded by some of the smallest muscles we have. Our societal habit, however, is to bend and sit in a way to take the load off of our biggest bones and muscles only to place it on some of the smallest and make them do the moving. Does it not make sense to use the big bones and muscles to do the big movements while saving the small ones for the stabilization and detailed tasks? Squatting is also the easiest and most natural way to birth a child or to go to the bathroom.  If any of you reading this have small children who have learned to walk within the last 3 years, watch how they move when they want to look at something or pick it up off the ground. They squat down! There is a reason why kids have to be told to “sit up straight in their chair.” It is not natural!!!  OK my rant is over…sorry.  But seriously we have trained ourselves in this society to use our bodies so backward from the way they are designed and we wonder why we have such a high hip fracture rate and back pain prevalence.  If you cannot squat on a regular basis you can at least practice it a few times a day. During a squat the inner pelvic muscles, the deepest core muscles, are the most engaged. If we have strong flexible inner pelvic muscles we will never have to worry about hernias, low back pain, disc problems, non nutritional constipation, non traumatic hip fractures, organ prolapses, or bladder weakness as we age.  The list could go on but I don’t want to get too technical.   PerfectSquatSo how do you perform a good squat?  First shift all of your body weight onto the balls and heels of your feet and keep it there. You know this has happened if you can pick your toes up off the floor. Second stick your butt as far behind you as you can. Third continue pushing your butt back until you have to bend your knees. Lastly go down as far as you can comfortably. When you have reached this place, hold it for a second then squeeze the inner pelvic muscles (you  squeeze these when you are keeping yourself from going to the bathroom) and push your hips forward like in a skiing type motion. Repeat 100 times.  You will feel this tomorrow!
  2. LungeLunge More. The lunge is a great way to practice balance and make sure we have a stable gate for the rest of our lives. Start out easy and simply take as large of a step forward as you can while keeping your back heel on the ground. Keep that back leg straight while you bend your front knee so that you can just barely see your front toes. Push both feet straight down into the ground while pulling the upper half of your body up to the sky. Hold it for a second then repeat with your other leg forward. Take 10 to 20 lunging steps like this and you will start to feel the burn. For added difficulty try doing this with a weight in each hand or up and down a hill.
  3.  OpposingArmLegRaisesArm and Leg Extensions.  Drop down onto your hands and knees for this next one. From here just extent one arm out in front of you as far as you can. Now extent the opposite leg behind you as far as you can. Be very conscious of squeezing your butt and rear shoulder muscles as tight as you can on the extended arm and leg. Hold here for a count of 20 or so then relax back to all fours. Repeat with the other arm and opposite leg.  Be sure that you are keeping your back flat, extended limbs even with your back, and your eyes stay focused on the hand stretched out in front of you. For added difficulty add some ankle and wrist weights.
  4.  ReverseSitUpsAKA Reverse Sit-ups.  Now lay on your stomach. Extent both arms above your head and both legs behind you so that your hands and feet are as far away from each other as possible. (Think of a football referee making the touchdown sign but face down)  From here tighten your back and shoulder muscles so tight that your head, arms, and legs come off the floor. Hold this for a count of 10 to 20 then relax back down. Repeat 20 times but don’t forget to breath through these. You can change this up a bit and make it more a brain exercise by lifting only one arm and opposite leg at a time. Again, increase the difficulty by adding wrist and ankle weights to this exercise.
  5.  PsoasEccentricEccentric Psoas Contractions.  Just keep reading, I’ll explain. From here roll over onto your back. Bend your knees and pull them toward your chest. Next, try to straighten your legs and push your heels to the ceiling.  Breath and feel the stretch in the back of your legs especially close to the back of your knees.  Now, with your knees straight, SLOWLY lower your legs to the floor. Work up to the point where you can slowly count to 20 or 30 in the time it takes you to lower your legs.  Then repeat 10 to 20 times. The slower you go the better! If this bothers your low back then place your hands under your hips or under the small of your back for support. The more you do this the less low back pain you will experience through out the day. If you have a good massage therapist and they have a Trigger Point chart on their wall, ask them to show you the pain pattern that the psoas produces. You will find it squarely on the low back. I can tell you from personal experience as well as from many years as a massage therapist that the majority of back pain in this country can be either directly linked to or has, as a contributing factor, psoas malfunctional imbalance.  This muscle needs to be strong but since sitting shortens this muscle it become short and tight pulling too hard on the low back muscles. Strengthen your psoas but do it in a way that elongates it. That is why eccentric muscle contractions are best for sitters.
  6. BridgingThe Bridge.  This is an advanced move. If you are just starting out or experience back pain regularly then it would be wise to skip this exercise until you are ready for it. You remember those super flexible kids in school who could bend over backwards, place their hands on the ground behind them, then flip their legs over their heads?  Well this is not NEARLY as difficult.  Start on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Now consciously squeeze your back and butt muscles as tight as you can and lift your pelvis up toward the ceiling so that all of your weight is on your feet and the back of your shoulders. Breathe!! Then slowly lower your pelvis down so that you can feel each back bone touching the floor one at a time all the way down your back. Once your pelvis is able to rest on the floor, arch your back so that you create a small space between your low back and the floor but your pelvis is still on the floor. Now relax, breath, and repeat 20 times.  If you want a real challenge then start on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the floor, and place the palms of your hands on the floor just above your shoulders.  Next push your pelvis up toward the ceiling so high that the only thin touching the floor is your hands and feet. You should be looking at the world upside down. Hold this position for a few breaths while you play around with tightening and relaxing the muscles of your buttocks, back and shoulders. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor and give yourself a high five!

Keep in mind that these are just a few exercises that are targeted to placing your body into the opposite position of sitting but there are many more. Take some time to learn others OR be creative and invent your own.  Do you have any office exercises that you recommend? Leave your comments below!

Good luck and keep moving!