Wow, it has been about six months since I’ve posted a proper article on my site. Due to lots of personal stuff and my business exploding in May time to sit down and write has been minimal at best. I also have some exciting side projects that I have been working on, but I wanted to touch base with my readership and let you all know what is in the works.
First of all, for those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, ISOPHIT has become an integral part of my practice. The results have been nothing short of amazing for providing new stable joints and allowing people who have limited range of motion to strengthen muscles without having to risk any issues. I’m still offering FREE workouts on this apparatus if you want to experience it any time, just contact me.
I’m heading to Toronto in October to finally take the first part of the ISOPHIT certification program (I took the second part in April) and gain some more knowledge about the apparatus and how to apply it effectively. It’s really a game changer.
The second part of the Joint Injury Management Series is almost completed! Due to schedules I don’t know if I’ll be able to roll it out this year and may have to wait until next year to get it going, but that just means I can do it back to back with my initial course again on the knee. This one focuses on the shoulder and will help fellow trainers and other therapists learn pathology and solutions for things like rotator cuff problems, labral tears, tennis elbow and more!
The third exciting thing is I’m finally putting together a short Ebook on total back care and recovery from back injury. I’m excited to say that this offering will be FREE and will provide comprehensive information about your spinal health including recovery movements, strength movements and some things you can focus on to make sure back injury never comes back once it’s gone!
So essentially besides training my clients all the time I have a lot on the go. If you have any interest in anything I’ve discussed please let me know and I’m happy to sign you up for updates and get you on my mailing list for the new Ebook and course offering. Just click on the subscribe button at the top right!
And, as always you can follow me on Facebook and other social media outlets.
Just a quick update for today, but much, much more to come in the future from the Institute!
Recently I took a course in NeuroKinetic Therapy, which was a great weekend of learning. Not only did I get to experience a great new modality to help my clients but I found out some things about myself.
As practitioners we often overlook little flaws in what we do because we think we know everything. My strength levels are good, my mobility is excellent and I have a great amount of power and endurance. A funny thing happened though.
When I got my deep abdominal layer tested it was a MASSIVE fail in one area. Having the humility to analyze that made me realize that I had to go back to the drawing board and rebuild what I had been working on for my own workouts. And this meant going right back to some very basic exercises that I had been overlooking for years.
One of my roles as a coach is to remind people of basic fundamentals, and I spend a lot of my time during sessions doing just that. Reminding people to slow down, focus on form, even adjusting loads constantly to create the ability to control muscles and joints. More often than not my athletes have overlooked that if they can’t do A properly, then they have no business doing B.
So here’s the question I ask people – are you good enough at the simple fundamentals before you jump into more advanced things when it comes to your training?
I’ll give an example of my runners. So many runners are notorious for simply strapping on their shoes and going out for runs without having strong lower limbs or backs and then wonder why they are constantly getting hurt. My runners get trained like powerlifters in the gym because their bodies HAVE to be able to take a large amount of load constantly. This means they need to be able to have strong backs and hips which means great form during heavy lifting. Then, they need to be able to run short distance consistently day after day with good form and recovery principles in place before expanding their distance and speed. This takes months for many of them, not days or weeks.
If your goal is to deadlift heavy weight, can you even get into lifting position (ie a fairly deep squat) without compromising your spine first? Have you worked on basic position fundamentals enough to then be able to load the bar and try some controlled repetitions?Practice this first and make sure you have it down.
If your goal is to play a sport, can you do the basics like push hard anaerobically for 45 seconds without getting completely winded repeatedly and losing form during your movement? No? Maybe you need to focus on just doing hard repeats before getting back on the ice or track.
Or, if your goal is simply to get into a good exercise habit, can you perform some basic bodyweight movements – at home – for 10 minutes every other day and establish a habit before you even think about joining a gym? This can also take weeks for some people. And before you say an excuse, remember that it’s only 10 minutes. Drop one episode of Netflix or don’t hit the snooze button.
If you have tried to change things in the past and keep going back, sometimes it takes a complete step back to the very start and beginning there again before you move forward. for many this requires some humility, but if it will get you to your long term goal faster and without hurting yourself then it is worth the investment. Nothing in life comes without some hard work over time, and this is usually months, not days or weeks.
So my lesson today is to take a look at your program and maybe take a step back if you’re not seeing progress or you have gotten out of a good habit. Break down what you’re really trying to accomplish and begin with the simplest parts. Once you have mastered that, then you have the right to move onto more difficult parts.
I’m already applying this to my own exercise practice and seeing improvement even after two weeks. You can easily do the same.
By the way, this doesn’t have to apply to exercise only. Whether it be work goals, life goals or even family goals starting with simple fundamentals is always the best course of action.
If you need help figuring out where to get started, I’m happy to help. Reach our at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram @strengthottawa. I look forward to the opportunity to help you move forward.
Finally the finishing touches to my back pain series. This was prompted by the epidemic of back issues that have been posted all over my social media lately. It seems that this winter many people have decided to “throw out” their backs. And this is something that is completely avoidable. The problem lies in that you’ve already likely done it to yourself. Now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
In July I wrote two articles on back pain. The first one which you can find here was about identifying what and why back pain typically occurs. The second one, which you can find here was about movements you can use when you’re feeling stiff or sore to help provide relief for general stiffness and soreness.
This part is about the exercises. Now, most therapists and trainers would identify that you need “more core strength”. What does that actually mean? Many people will think that yoga, pilates or even just simple crunches will do the trick. As I said in Part Two, the “core” is a very complex thing and can’t be isolated into one or two muscles. You have to strengthen the entire complex, and this stretches from the pelvis all the way up to the shoulders and even down into the legs.
So how do you begin? Well, a good place to start is by working on movements that you have to perform daily anyway.
My number one exercise to develop and improve back strength and resolve symptoms of back pain: The Deadlift.
In fact, if you were only allowed to do one exercise for the rest of your life, this would probably be my first recommendation.
Pretty simple, right? Picking something up and putting it down. This is not actually true. There is a lot of proper technique and intention behind this movement and I strongly suggest you have a competent coach (not your “brother-in-law who lifts”) teach you the movement and all of its’ parts. It includes the ability to squat, hip hinge and also keep your spine engaged throughout the movement, all individual components that you need to be aware of.
The good thing about this exercise is that it can be regressed so that my 103 year gold Grammie can do it, or progressed to an Olympic lifting level. It is very versatile and hits most of the muscles in your body in a very good way. One of my goals with any of my clients (even those with compromised backs) is a good solid deadlift.
My second choice for back strength actually involves the hips more than anything. Strong hips (and you can feel free to think “glutes” here) are essential for spinal integrity. Therefore my number two is: Hip Thrusters.
Now, this can be an uncomfortable position for many so I typically suggest starting this movement on the floor, then progressing to a Swiss Ball for mild loads, then a bench or modified floor position for heavier ones. You also need to make sure that your legs are in the proper position and you can actually hinge at the hips before you can do this properly. Again, please consult a professional coach to help give you the right technique.
Easy regression is an isometric hold in the up position (on the floor or a mat) for 15-20 seconds to start. Focus on pushing through the heels and pretending you’re holding a pencil between your butt cheeks and not letting it go.
Now, we also need a movement that takes place in the frontal plane – which means up and down if you’re standing up. This makes sure that the spine is being trained with forces that it will experience frequently. One way that people frequently hurt their backs is by extending a load over their heads they have no business lifting.
Most people also have very little upper body strength in relation to their lower body or vice versa. Men are horrible at this because they want to have a big upper body and never make their legs strong so their poor spine is like a pipe cleaner balanced with a big rock on top of it – and easily collapsed.
Therefore my next exercise for proper back health is very simple: The Pull-Up.
I realize that most people can’t do one full pull-up properly. Therefore I’ve given you two pictures that show easy ways to do these assisted in a gym or at home. If you need more ideas feel free to email me or google it and you’ll find a few more. I have at home clients do this with a bed sheet and a door frame sitting on the ground.
This movement not only is great for loading your spine in a frontal plane, it also hits those often neglected upper body pulling muscles that don’t get a lot of use. I encourage all of my clients to get to the stage where they can do pull-ups without much assistance. There are also a variety of choices in terms of grips and adjustments to enhance the strength in your shoulders without wrecking them. Please be careful and progress things appropriately.
Oh, and yes there is some debate over whether this is a frontal or sagittal plane movement. I believe it is a frontal plane movement. If you want to debate it, feel free to call me out.
There is a long list of complimentary exercises that I would add to this list. Some of them include:
- Overhead Pressing
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Back Extensions and Reverse Back Extensions
- Loaded Planking with movement
- Lateral Side Flexion
- Loaded Trunk Rotation
- Split Squats
And the list can go on. However, if you want to get started on the path to good spinal strength, these three are your first and best bet towards good spinal strength.
You might also notice that none of these first three exercises are traditional “core” exercises. However, all of them load your spine quite nicely and give you the benefit of adding strength in a bunch of other places as well. This is essential for total body health.
All of these exercises can be progressed and regressed by a competent coach. Always remember that exercise is tailored to the individual, and a good coach will adjust your program based on need and result (and goal).
I’m planning on putting together a proper E-Book on Back Strength coming soon. If you would like a free copy, feel free to subscribe to my site by adding yourself to the list at the side, or follow me on Twitter at @strengthottawa, Instagram at @strengthrehabottawa and on Facebook at Strength Rehabilitation Institute of Ottawa. I’m also always interested in your thoughts and feedback, so feel free to Share this as well on any social media.
Take care of your backs!
Let’s break down the typical day of a regular office worker in terms of movement.
Wake up and walk into the bathroom (20 steps). Shower (standing still for 5 minutes). Walk back into the bedroom and get dressed, walk downstairs and have breakfast (maybe 80 steps total and 1 flight of stairs).
Walk to the car (usually 50 more steps) and then sit down and drive to work. Maybe head into the drive thru because hey, why get out of the car? Park at work and walk to the desk (taking the elevator of course). Sit. Walk to two meetings which are on another floor but use the elevator anyway (maybe another 200 steps total). If I can Skype in, even better!
Eat lunch at my desk (I’m trying to be healthy after all and I’m busy). Or maybe take the elevator downstairs and grab something quickly. Back to the desk. Sit some more. Walk to my car, sit and drive home. Wow, what a long day. Sit at dinner. Then transfer to the couch for some relaxation and into bed (maybe another 200 steps total for the evening).
This is typical of most people in today’s society. We sit, barely move and don’t do anything all day.
“But wait!” you cry. “I work out four times a week for an hour!”. Yes. You drive to the gym, probably sit on a cardio machine for 30-40 minutes or do some strength work where you are sitting or lying down most of the time. At least you’re moving, but would it shock you to see that even if you work out 4 times a week for an hour, you’re only exercising 2% of your weekly time? And in terms of adding movement, unless you only do cardio (which you should not do, by the way – please strength train) you’re maybe adding about 2000 steps to your week walking into and out of the gym and to the various pieces of equipment.
My point is, we don’t move any more. We don’t walk to school as kids, we take the bus or get driven. We don’t exercise anything close to daily and many of us don’t exercise at all. We drive EVERYWHERE. Even in my job as a trainer in a gym, I stand all day but I’m certainly not moving around much in terms of steps. I do what I can – I walked to a grocery store just now to get my groceries and walked back. But it’s really not that much – and the majority of people wouldn’t even do that.
Generations ago, we got up and at least walked to school. Many of us would have worked on farms and been doing things before and after school and work. We played sports outside or in school daily. Now generations of kids grow up in front of a screen and we wonder why they don’t want to be active and the obesity rate in children has more than doubled in 30 years. And now those children are adults – you’re probably one of them.
Your body is the only machine that breaks down faster if it doesn’t get used regularly. Sedentary life leads to all sort of issues, never mind stiffness and pack of strength. Throw overeating into the mix and we wonder why as a society we have chronic illness, need joint replacements and many of us are in pain constantly simply from our daily lifestyle.
What’s the solution? Pretty simple:
The only way this will change is if we all as individuals take steps to change it and to reinforce behavior in others. Devices like FitBit and other trackers have things heading in the right direction by prompting more steps per day. However, there are other examples in our daily lives and business we can use to increase our level of movement – here’s some ideas:
Walking meetings – have a one on one meeting? Take it outside or even do laps around the floor. Odds are if you need to show them something that you can pull it up on a phone or tablet. It will help both you and your colleague.
Park Further Away – This one is an obvious one but something not many people do. I will often pull into a mall or parking lot and intentionally park in one of the spots farthest from the door. It takes an extra two minutes to walk but gives you extra movement. Plus no worrying about finding a spot!
Plan Your Errands – This falls under the heading of PLANNING. Have a bunch of stops? Instead of driving between stores, head to an area where you can walk from place to place and go back to the car to drop things off. You can easily get in a few kilometers of walking just doing groceries, hardware store and heading to Starbucks in between.
Add Evenings In – Instead of automatically dropping onto the couch at the end of the night, make a walk a priority. Tell yourself that you need to do 30 minutes before watching your first show. And for those of us here in Canada, weather isn’t an excuse – bundle up!
Let this be a bit of a wake up call. Take the time to really figure out how much movement you do on a daily basis and resolve to increase it. It really doesn’t take much, it doesn’t take high intensity exercise and it doesn’t take more time. It simply takes an adjustment to how you go through your day. Can you add it in? You definitely can. Throwing in ten minutes of focused mobility work will only help more. Feel free to message me for ideas on easy homework I give my clients to help them feel and move better without pain every day. My goal is to get you MOVING. Because right now – you don’t.
If this article prompted you to move more, let me know! You can find me on Facebook and LinkedIn under David Bateman, my web site at http://www.srottawa.com and on Twitter at @strengthottawa. Feel free to share it as well!