Strong and Flexible Posture: Glutes and Keeping Things North

San Francisco, Panorama, Urban, Aerial, Architecture

by: Jamie Page
CPT, Fitness Program Manager

Living in San Francisco, you probably encounter more than your fair share of hills, but you may not be aware of how much climbing hills can affect your lower back if you aren’t sufficiently engaging your glutes.

The Gluteus muscles – Gluteus Maximus, Minimus and Medius – are responsible for supporting your lower back and controlling the tilt of your pelvis from side to side.  When it comes to climbing hills, there are two things to keep in mind.  First, many of us are tempted to lean forward when we start to feel tired.  Unfortunately, this change in posture can hurt the lumbar spine.  Also, when we get tired, we often start to let our body weight sink into each step.  This causes the pelvis to tilt and puts stress on the hips and lower back.  Over time, this can result in lower back pain.

Posture, Posture, Posture

To prevent this, be mindful of your posture when climbing.  Make sure you stay fully upright, engaging your TA (transversus abdominus – see our April newsletter).  This not only protects your lower back, but also strengthens all three Gluteus muscles.  Also, avoid the temptation to let your pelvis tilt.  Instead, focus on maintaining a level pelvis.  This, too, can similarly protect your back while strengthening the Gluteus Medius.  

Climbing hills is a lot of work.  Maintaining a good posture will allow you to enjoy all the fruits of your labor.

Glute Exercises

Of course, not all of us like or need to climb hills, but we can all benefit from strong glutes.  Here are some additional exercises.

To target all your Glutes, try bridges.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Raise your pelvis up until your body is in a straight line.
  3. These are low-resistance endurance exercises, so do 3 larger sets of 15-20 reps for all of them… and don’t forget to stretch.

There are many variations of bridge. Try bridge extensions on an exercise ball.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Raise your pelvis up until your body is in a straight line.
  3. Slowly extend your legs away from your body.
  4. Note: Engage your core to keep your hips from dropping.

IMG_5411 IMG_5412 IMG_5426

Glute Flexibility:

As we talked about in our previous articles, strength is just as important as flexibility.
Try this cross legged stretch and foam roller to release the glutes you just worked!

IMG_5491
IMG_5497 IMG_5501

For more glute strengthening exercises and stretching tips, please talk to any one of our personal trainers, physical therapists, or Pilates instructors.

Here’s to keeping our body parts from heading south! Stay tuned as we continue our series… You won’t want to miss it! 

Mind Tricks, Use Them to Your Advantage

 4 Self-Motivating Mind Tricks
Woman, Girl, Balloon, Thought Bubble, Think, Thoughts

Fitness Tip: Healthy + Strong Shoulders

staff_jamieby: Jamie Page
CPT, Fitness Program Manager

Deltoids, Rotator Cuffs: Keep Them Healthy + Strong

For well-toned shoulders, exercises for the deltoid muscle or delts are a must.  If you’re looking for exercises for this muscle, ask one of our trainers about exercises using the ropes in the weight room.

For healthy, pain-free shoulders, exercises for the rotator cuff muscles are an even more significant area of focus.  

The basic function of shoulder muscles is to rotate and lift the arm.  The delts form the rounded contour of your shoulders, and one of its most important functions is to prevent your shoulder from dislocating when you’re carrying a heavy object. However, the rotator cuff muscles are the main stabilizers of the shoulder joint during movement of the shoulder.  Therefore, while many muscles are involved in shoulder movement and all of them work together, strengthening the rotator cuff is especially important.

The shoulder joint, similar to the hip joint in that they are both ball and socket joints, has the ability to move in all planes.  While this range of motion allows us to reach many things, this same mobility makes this joint less stable than other joints.

Importance of Proper Form for Strength

If the ball of the arm bone (humeral head) is not kept centered, abnormal stress is placed on surrounding tissue and may cause gradual injury.  With good form and technique, you can develop strong rotator cuffs which then keep the shoulder stabilized and help prevent common rotator cuff injuries including tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, and shoulder impingement syndrome.

Barbell Upright Row

  1. Stand with feet hip distance apart, slight bend in the knees and elbows; Engage your core
  2. Raise the barbell up the body, keeping it close to the body
  3. Note: Elbows stay out to the side, no higher than the shoulders
  4. Hold for 2 seconds
  5. Slowly lower the bar, controlling the weight on the way down
  6. Repeat in 3 sets of 10-15

IMG_3666IMG_3661IMG_3668

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

  1. Stand with feet hip distance apart, slight bend in the knees and elbows; Engage your core
  2. Keeping a slight bend in the elbows, lift your arms up and out till they are parallel to the floor
  3. Hold for 2 seconds
  4. Slowly lower the weights, controlling them on the way down
  5. Note: Inhale on the way up, exhale as you lower for more control and power
  6. Repeat in 3 sets of 10-15

IMG_3686 IMG_3695

 

Stretching

As the years go by, changes in the rotator cuff tendons leave them less elastic and more susceptible to injury.  To help you maintain your flexibility, try one of our stretching or yoga classes.  

Not good about stretching on your own?  Schedule a manual therapy session with one our physical therapists.
For more strengthening and stretching exercises for your delts and rotator cuffs, please feel free to ask one of our personal trainers, physical therapists, pilates instructors or yoga teachers for guidance. See you at the Club!

WHY is strength training so important?

staff_jamieby Jamie Page, CPT and Fitness Program Manager

During this time of year, a lot of our new and current members have, as a primary goal, to lose weight or to get fit.  As a personal trainer and the fitness program manager for Pacific Heights Health Club, I am always looking for ways to help members get the results they’re looking for and create a healthy lifestyle, which, of course, includes working out in a safe and effective manner.

In last week’s article, we reviewed the essential components of a complete fitness program, which are:

  • Core Stability
  • Strength Training
  • Flexibility
  • Cardiovascular Training
  • Diet
  • Rest

We all know that whatever you do in the club is better than sitting on the couch at home with a bag of potato chips and a can of Diet Coke.  When it comes to getting in shape or losing weight, cardio clearly gets the most attention – whether it’s using the treadmill or attending classes like H.I.I.T. and Cardio Core.

But let me just share with you some of the benefits of including a structured strength training program during your visits to the club.

Exercise vs Training
Strength exercises use resistance to cause muscular contractions. This is done to increase muscle size, strength, force and anaerobic capacity.  With training, the exercises are performed for the purpose of achieving a long-term performance goal – it’s about the process instead of the workouts themselves.

Training may be the most effective way to get the results that most people use exercise to obtain, especially if that goal is more than just maintenance.

For example, a plan that continually increases your strength and your endurance, and that also controls your diet with the specific purpose of losing weight will work better than just doing the same exercises over and over again, with the same amount of weight on the same days of the week. Your goal is now being prepared for, not simply wished for, and that’s why we have personal training programs.

Looking for more reasons?  How about these?

countdown-1When I ask folks to clarify if they wish to lose weight or lose fat, losing fat is the #1 answer.  Strength or weight training increases muscle, which changes our body composition by increasing the percentage of lean body mass to fat. Muscle is also the most metabolically active tissue we have and one of our primary calorie burners.  And more muscle means a higher resting metabolic rate, so you’re burning calories even while you’re sitting on the sofa.

countdown-2A fact of life:  Muscle mass diminishes as we age. And if we do nothing….guess what?  We’ll increase the percentage of fat in our bodies.  The good new is weight training can affect this loss and preserve muscle tissue. At any age, a muscle fiber can be trained to become bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful.

countdown-3Lifting weights not only strengthens muscles, but it also makes your joints more stable and impact resistant. That means better balance, coordination and less chance of injury or falling. You’ll be able to handle any unexpected or surprise movements with no problem.

countdown-4Want to prevent osteoporosis?  Pick up a couple of dumbbells and do some basic lifts – press them over your head, squat while holding them at the top of a bicep curl, bend over with a flat back and row them towards you. These are just a few examples of all of the ways you can play. It’s been proven that proper resistance training has a direct impact on improving bone strength.

countdown-5Unlike cardiovascular exercise, which is excellent at building endurance in a muscle, weight training will make a muscle stronger and more powerful.  Now the world around you will be getting lighter, instead of heavier.  Not to mention that you’ll probably have better posture while you’re doing it. Seriously. Lifting weights will encourage your entire body to stand taller, straighter and in its natural alignment.

countdown-6And finally, an intangible. I promise you that if you do some type of strength training, whether it be with free weights, resistance bands, cables or even your own body weight, you’re going to feel amazing. You’ll feel more confident and powerful, less fatigued and ready to overcome the challenges of your day. It’s just the way it goes. The impact of lifting goes far beyond the physical benefits. What you’re thinking about while you lift and what’s happening in your mind will have a lasting effect on your spirit, attitude and mental capacity. The mind/body connection is alive and well.

And Then There’s Proper Form

Now that you’re convinced and ready to start strength training, there’s one caveat I have to add.  It’s using proper form

To reap all the benefits of strength training to keep us moving and fit, we need to use proper form.  Preventing injury is one of the most important reasons to maintain proper form during weight lifting exercises. When the body is misaligned, whether with body weight or heavy weights, it can place your tendons, muscles and joints in positions that can potentially cause strains or tears.  Of course, if you have past injuries, diseases or other factors that should be taken into account, proper form with some modifications is even more important to avoid exacerbating or re-injury.

Correct muscle targeting is another important reason to make sure you’re using proper form.  With improper form, you not only risk causing injury to the intended muscle that you are trying to work, you may also strain areas in the body that you weren’t even intending to work.

Lastly, proper form also means proper breathing techniques during weight training exercises.  This helps to generate more force and reduce the chance of heart problems and drastic changes in blood pressure.

I understand that we do what we’re used to and stick with what we know. We’re creatures of habit. Any physical activity is better than doing nothing at all, and I’ll always encourage you to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments in the club.

However, it’s important to look at what you’re currently doing and shake it up. Change up your routine.  It’s the only way to keep our bodies challenged, growing and stronger than they’ve ever been. Need more ideas?  Just connect with me or one of the trainers in the club. We’ve got some of the best trainers in San Francisco right here under our awesome skyroof.  I promise.

Stay tuned.  Next time, I’ll focus on the benefits of workout partners, and more specifically, small group training.

HOW TO create an effective fitness program

staff_jamieby Jamie Page, CPT and Fitness Program Manager

As a personal trainer and someone who has worked in a variety of gyms and health clubs, I think it’s fair to say that every person who joins a gym has a specific goal in mind.

What’s your goal? In my experience, the vast majority of new members want to lose weight, some want to bulk up, others want to run a 5k in 20 minutes or finish a marathon, and some just want to feel better and look good in their birthday suits. My job as a personal trainer and the Fitness Program Manager at Pacific Heights Health Club is to help make these goals happen.

What’s your plan? Becoming a member is a great first step! You now have access to facilities with cardio and strength training equipment, and probably a lot of fitness expertise. Now what? In my experience, most people who join a gym do not actually have a specific plan. Sure, there’s a ton of workout advice out there, but where the ?#*! do you start? Here’s my answer.

In general, all fitness goals are attainable by following a few core principles that include both diet and exercise. Of course, some adjustments will be required if you have past injuries, diseases or other factors that may complicate the process. However, I believe most people inexperienced in the fitness world tend to over-complicate what it takes to reach their goals. So when somebody asks me “Jamie, what should I be doing?” the first thing I say is keep it simple.

No matter what the end goal is – it’s about following the core principles.

In this first article, we’ll review the essential components of a complete fitness program. Next time, we’ll focus on the importance of strength training and use of proper form.

Core Principle #1

Depending on the person and his or her goals, the essential components of every exercise program will vary in emphasis. At the same time, by virtue of being essential elements, there are six key components that need to make their way into the workout. These six components are:

  • Core Stability and Balance Exercises – The phrase “core stability” is thrown around a lot these days. Rightfully so, because it is very important, but do most actually know what it means – or better yet – how to train for it? Your “core” is made up of the stabilizing muscles from your pelvis up to your chest, both in the front (abdomen) and back. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing the body during movement. Whether you are walking down the street or squatting 350 pounds, it’s your core stabilizers that keep you from falling over. Training them is essential and will improve all other aspects of your workout. The way to train the core stabilizers is by doing unstable exercises (genius, right?). The most common of these exercises is the plank, but why not mix it up? TRX is a great tool to challenge the core stabilizers, while still getting a great strength workout. This type of training forces your core to hold and stabilize your body position throughout whatever exercise you may be doing instead of simply lying on a bench, chair or the floor, which would otherwise hold and stabilize your body for you.
  • Strength Exercises – Everybody knows what this means, but few do it correctly. I’m talking about lifting weight that is actually DIFFICULT to lift. Now ladies, I know what you’re thinking, “but Jamie, I don’t want to get big!” With a few exceptions, the female body does not produce a sufficient amount of testosterone for this to happen. More often, strength training for women focuses on regaining muscle mass and tone that have been lost over time, and especially after menopause. I also mean FULL body strength workouts. Don’t neglect those muscle groups that you don’t enjoy training. They are probably the ones that need the most work anyway. On the flip side, don’t over-work those muscle groups that you actually like training as it will lead to muscle imbalances, which are not fun nor easy to correct, and often lead to injury.
  • Flexibility Training – Stretch and then stretch some more, but make sure it is after your workout. Stretching cold muscles is not recommended and can actually do more harm than good. It is too often that I see somebody finish a workout and immediately leave the weight room to go home. Everybody needs to stretch, regardless of what you just finished doing. It’s simple – chances are if you don’t, you’re setting yourself up for injury.
  • Cardiovascular Training – The amount of cardio and strength training will vary the most depending on the individual goal. People wanting to build muscle will have a workout that mostly revolves around strength exercises. People who want to slim down and/or increase endurance will base an exercise program around cardio training. Nevertheless, both types of training should be utilized in some way. People often get bored or burnt out on their cardio training. Just like anything else, it’s important to mix up it. Instead of heading out on your normal run, take a class like H.I.I.T., Cardio Core, or Zumba! Anything that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up will do.
  • Diet – Diet is something that people usually have the most questions about. I will keep this section as simple as it needs to be. Eat a healthy diet, and if you want to bulk up, eat more calories than you burn throughout the day. If you want to slim down, eat less calories than you burn. If you want to eat more but still lose weight, burn more calories by doing more cardio. Diet is what will determine how big or small you get. There is no such thing as spot reduction. Doing 1,000 sit ups will not give you a flatter stomach. Dieting will. Go ahead and drop those 2.5 pound weights that you are lifting for 75 reps (it’s not doing much of anything) and go feel the burn!
  • Rest – If you are doing all this correctly, you will need to rest. Not only do you need to give your body the nutrients it needs, but the time! Listen to your body. A day off gives your muscles the time needed to recover and become stronger. There is such a thing as over-training.

A good mix of all of these is the recipe for success.

Stay tuned. Next time, I’ll expand on the importance of strength training and how to make sure you are using proper form while performing each exercise.

Relief From Low Back Pain

By Althea Hondrogen

Do you have low back pain?  Most of my clients find me when their looking for a solution, and according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “about 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes.”  After asking them to show me how they stand, sit or sleep, I can usually assess what needs to be addressed.

Causes and Treatment Options

When there is a disruption or imbalance in the way our spine, surrounding muscles, intervertebral discs and nerves fit together and move, the result is often pain – sometimes severe and debilitating.  It’s frequently the result of lifting something heavy, without the use of proper mechanics.  Injuries from an accident or fall and age-related changes of the spine account for another significant portion.  Then, of course, there’s our sedentary lifestyle – the culprit for so many of our problems these days.

Thankfully, most cases of low back pain tend to resolve on their own with little to no intervention in less than two months.  Fortunately, for those who need treatment, surgery is not the only option.  Often, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, Pilates, massage, aqua-therapy, yoga, acupuncture – even cardiovascular exercise like walking or just time may alleviate the pain, are effective therapies.

Balloon, Clock, Dog and Bridge

Here are four exercises to strengthen your lower back.  The movements may be smaller and subtle, but if you practice these daily, you’ll start feeling the difference in about 2-3 weeks.  They all facilitate the development of your deepwe abdominal and pelvic muscles.

Of course, if you have questions about any of the exercises described below or would like to schedule a session with me, please send an email to althea@phhcsf.com.

Posterior Pelvic Tilt

Lie down with your legs propped up at a 90 degree angle – knees to hip.  A bench, coffee table or ottoman will usually work.

To practice diaphragmatic breathing, try blowing up a balloon using 2-3 breaths, feeling your belly rise, ribs expand and chest rise on the inhale.  On the exhale, pull the area below your belly button towards your spine/floor.  This will tilt your pelvis into a posterior tilt.  Perform 2 sets of 10-15.  Watch video.

Pelvic Clock

Imagine a clock placed over your belly button with the 12 o’clock position towards your head and six o’clock towards your feet.

Using a diaphragmatic breath, inhale and then with each exhalation and without using your ribs, work your way around the clock, starting at 12 o’clock with the posterior pelvic tilt exercise described above.  Performed correctly, the 6 o’clock position will be an anterior tilt.   Repeat 3-4 times, alternating directions from clockwise to counter-clockwise.  Watch video.

Pointer Dog

Position yourself on your hands and knees with your scapula and core engaged and with a neutral spine.

Inhale and then while exhaling, slowly reach your right arm above your head and extend your left leg back so it’s level with your pelvis and parallel to the floor, keeping your hips square to the floor (don’t allow your pelvis or ribs to rotate).  Hold for 3 seconds.  While inhaling, return to starting position.  Alternate with other arm and leg.  Perform 2 sets of 10.

Glute Bridge

Position your heels on the edge of a bench or coffee table with your knees still at a 90 degree angle.

Inhale first, and then on the exhale, reach your tailbone towards your knees while engaging your glutes – not your hamstrings. Hold 3 seconds.  On your exhale, lower one vertebrae at a time.  Perform 2 sets of 10.


About Althea

Althea Hondrogen is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and a Certified Pilates Instructor through Pilates PhysicalMind Institute.  In addition to teaching and training here at the club, she has also designed and conducted numerous instructor certification programs.

Althea has extensive experience in physical rehabilitation, and truly looks forward to seeing her clients fully recover from past injuries and then achieve new levels of fitness. By focusing on how the body and mind functions as an integrated unit, postural weaknesses may be strengthened, functional movement may be restored and mental agility may endure.  Her motto: “Stay flexible.”

If you have questions about any of the above exercises or would like to schedule a session with Althea, please contact her at althea@phhcsf.com.

My Love Affair with Pilates

Melani_HeadshotBy Melani Ross

I’ve loved Pilates for years, and now, my passion has become my career.  How many people do you know that can say that?  I feel very lucky to be in this position, and want to share my story and a few updates with you.

I love Pilates because it helps me stand up a little taller, and at 5’4”, I need all the help I can get!  I’ve been a Pilates devotee for more than seven years and do some form of Pilates every single day in order to keep my core strong and reduce low back pain, which is almost impossible to avoid with a rambunctious 2 year old to run after!

In the 15 years prior to this, I worked as an executive in the tech industry, and I credit my success to mindfulness and Pilates training.  Once I began my practice, Pilates helped keep me strong and resilient through long hours sitting in meetings and typing at my computer.  It taught me how to keep my mind clear, my thoughts centered and my Irish “fire” in check, thanks to lots of deep breathing.

However, it was my experience doing Pilates pre- and post-pregnancy that turned my passion for Pilates into a new career focus and daily practice.  While giving birth, I sustained injuries that resulted in 3 months of post-natal bed-rest, and Pilates played a huge role in my recovery. It was this experience of rehabilitating my body and re-learning movements that made me realize Pilates was a gift that I had to share with others.

My Teaching Experience

As an ITT certified Pilates instructor, I teach a large variety of mat and equipment based Pilates, from beginner mobilization and flexibility exercises, to advanced strengthening moves. I put a lot of care into creating unique programs for each of my clients so they can reach their specific needs and goals, and in doing so, I strive to better prepare them to tackle everyday life and all its physical (and emotional) hurdles. In my classes, you’ll learn how to master precision while building long, lean muscles to improve your posture and help rehabilitate past injuries.

My teaching method is perfect for those who enjoy learning about how their body functions and aren’t looking to just power through a workout. I thrive on the challenge of helping my clients connect with their bodies so they know how to tell the big muscles to “Butt out!” and let the smaller muscles do the work. It’s so fun to watch a client get to that “ah-ha” moment when they succeed in avoiding all of the common exercise traps and finish with a smile, saying “I GET IT!” I try to refrain from hugging them afterwards but can’t always help myself.

Pilates is a life journey that helps slow the aging process by strengthening the intrinsic muscles.  Let me be your guide through this amazing journey!

* * *

Please join Melani for a fun yet focused and core-filled Pilates mat classes at Pacific Heights Health Club on Saturday mornings from 10:30-11:30 am.

To schedule a private session with her, please visit her website.

Essential Components of Any Fitness Program

Kelly Costantini, CPTBy Kelly Costantini, CPT and PHHC Club Manager

As a personal trainer and someone who has worked in a number of gyms and health clubs, I am often asked for workout advice.  Of course, the individual goals vary – some people want to bulk up, some want to slim down, others want to run a 5k in 20 minutes or finish a marathon, and some just want to feel better and look good in their birthday suits.  My job as a trainer is to help make these goals happen.  Sounds a bit complicated, right?  Not as much as you would think.

In general, all fitness goals are attainable by following a few core principles that include both diet and exercise.  Sure, some adjustments will be required if you have past injuries, diseases or other factors that may complicate the process. However, I believe most people inexperienced in the fitness world tend to overcomplicate what it takes to reach their goals.  So when somebody asks me “Kelly, what should I be doing?” the first thing I say is keep it simple. No matter what the end goal is –  it’s about following the core principles.

Core Principle #1

Depending on the person and his/her goals, the essential components of every exercise program will vary in emphasis.  At the same time, by virtue of being essential components, all the components need to make their way into the workout in some way.  There are six and they are:

The Essential Components

  • Core Stability Exercises – The phrase “core stability” is thrown around a lot these days. Rightfully so, because it is very important, but do most actually know what it means, or better yet, how to train for it?  As we discussed in the previous blog, your “core” is made up of the stabilizing muscles from your pelvis up to your chest, both in the front (abdomen) and back. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing the body during movement.  Whether you are walking down the street or squatting with 350 pounds, it’s your core stabilizers that keep you from falling over.  Training them is essential and will improve all other aspects of your workout.  The way to train the core stabilizers is to by doing unstable exercises (genius, right?). The most common of these exercises is the plank, but why not mix it up?  TRX is a great tool to challenge the core stabilizers, while still getting a great strength workout.  This type of training forces your core to hold and stabilize your body position throughout whatever exercise you may be doing instead of simply lying on a bench, chair or the floor, which would otherwise hold and stabilize your body for you.
  • Strength Exercises – Everybody knows what this means, but few do it correctly. I’m talking about lifting weight that is actually DIFFICULT to lift. Ladies, I know what you’re thinking, “but Kelly, I don’t want to get big!”  With a few exceptions, the female body does not produce a sufficient amount of testosterone for this to happen.  More often, strength training for women focuses on regaining muscle mass and tone that have been lost over time.  I also mean FULL body strength workouts. Don’t neglect those muscle groups that you don’t enjoy training.  They are probably the ones that need the most work anyway. On the flip side, don’t over-work those muscle groups that you actually like training as it will lead to muscle imbalances, which are not fun nor easy to correct, and often lead to injury.
  • Flexibility Training – Stretch and then stretch some more, but make sure it is after your workout. Stretching cold muscles is not recommended and can actually do more harm than good. It is too often that I see somebody finish a workout and immediately leave the weight room to go home. Everybody needs to stretch, regardless of what you just finished doing. It’s simple – chances are if you don’t, you WILL get injured.
  • Cardiovascular Training – The amount of cardio and strength training will vary the most depending on the individual. People wanting to build muscle will have a workout that mostly revolves around strength exercises. People who want to slim down and/or increase endurance will base an exercise program around cardio training. Nevertheless, both types of training should be utilized in some way. People often get bored or burnt out on their cardio training. Just like anything else, it’s important to mix up it. Instead of heading out on your normal run, go try out the rowing machine or take a Zumba class! Anything that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up will do.
  • Diet – Diet is something that people usually have the most questions about. I will keep this section as simple as it needs to be.  Eat a healthy diet, and if you want to bulk up, eat more calories that you burn throughout the day. If you want to slim down, eat less calories than you burn. If you want to eat more but still lose weight, burn more calories by doing more cardio. Diet is what will determine how big or small you get. There is no such thing as spot reduction. Doing 1,000 sit ups will not give you a flatter stomach. Dieting will. Go ahead and drop those 2.5 pound weights that you are lifting for 75 reps (it’s not doing much of anything) and go feel the burn!
  • Rest – If you are doing it correctly, you will need to rest. Not only do you need to give your body the nutrients it needs, but the time! Listen to your body. A day off is not the end of the world, and most of the time, it gives your muscles the time needed to recover and become stronger. There is such a thing as overtraining.

A good mix of all of these is the recipe for success.  Remember that consistency and progression are also key – these are core principles #2 and #3, which we’ll explore in my next blog.

Always be trying to safely progress every aspect of your fitness, and it will not be long before you look back and realize how far you have come!

Core Strength – What Does It Mean?

Stacee Brown, PT, DPT, ATCBy Stacee Brown, PT, DPT, ATC
Physical Therapist

The concept of core strength is difficult to define. The simplest way to describe it is… the ability to control our center of gravity.

What this means is the cohesive strength and coordination of the muscles, joints and nerves between the chest and thighs.  It is our foundation.  That foundation should be strong, flexible, and coordinated.

Abdominal MusclesThe main muscles of the core include:

  1. Abdominals
  2. Back muscles
  3. Quadriceps
  4. Hamstrings
  5. Hip muscles

GREAT CORE BUILDING TIPS

Single Leg Bridge Test – Your performance will determine if you need to improve your strength.

Lying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Squeeze your glutes and lift the hips off the floor so that your body is in a straight line from shoulder to knee. Keep the abdominals tight as you extend one leg and hold two seconds. The goal is to keep the pelvis straight and prevent it from dipping. Once back to the original bridge position kick with the opposite leg. Repeat 10 times on each side. Your performance will determine if you need to improve your strength with this exercise.

Single-Leg-Bridge

Single Leg Bridge Exercise – Do not perform this exercise through pain or with poor technique.  Quality with core exercises is more important than quantity.

  • Easy – Perform a bridge as described above. Kick one leg out and hold one to two seconds. Return to bridge and lower. Rest one to two seconds and then repeat on the other side. Do two sets of 10.
  • Medium – Perform a bridge as described above. Kick on leg out and hold one to two seconds. Return to bridge and then repeat on the other leg. Lower and rest one to two seconds. Perform two sets of 10.
  • Hard –Perform a bridge as described above. Kick on leg out and hold five seconds. Return to bridge and then repeat on the other leg, alternating between right and left without lowering. Perform two sets of 10.

Front and Side Planks – These tough core exercises really address the abdominals and shoulder stabilizers.

  • Front Plank – Support the body in a straight line by your forearm and toes.  Hold until fatigue and repeat 3 times. Do not allow the low back to sink towards the floor.
  • Side Plank – Support the body in a straight line through the right forearm and feet.  The feet can either stay stacked or one in front of the other.  Then switch to the left side.

Front and Side Plank

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Points to keep in mind regarding core strengthening:

  • The above exercises should not cause pain.
  • Holding to fatigue means stopping the exercise before your form deteriorates.
  • A variety of core exercises and movements is the best way to keep the area strong and prevent injuries.

Stacee Brown has been a practicing Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) since 2004, with a variety of clinical experiences in the outpatient orthopedic setting. Her education includes undergraduate work at the University of Detroit Mercy where she pursued her B.S. in Sports Medicine and became a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).  She then went on to complete her DPT degree from Duke University.  To contact Stacee or learn more, read her full bio.

My Pelvic… What?

ImageBy Annemarie Everett, Certified Pilates Mat Instructor

If you’ve taken my Pilates class on Sunday mornings, you know how much I love the pelvic floor.  It’s an essential component of your “core,” and Pilates is an excellent way to practice using and strengthening those all-important muscles.

But what exactly IS it?
 
Real discussions about the pelvic floor are often neglected by health or fitness professionals who don’t want to “go there.”  Unfortunately, that means that many men and women don’t learn about it until a problem arises, and even then there is still a lot of misinformation floating around.  There’s a growing movement to understand and talk about the pelvic floor as a truly important part of your musculoskeletal system, and I try to make sure that each of my students is more aware of “down there” by the time they leave my class. Most of us know more about how our car runs than what makes our body work – it’s become my personal mission to help demystify the beautiful, complex personal machinery we’ve been given!  
 
The “pelvic floor” is comprised of two layers of muscles that span the space between your pubic bone in the front of your pelvis to your coccyx (tailbone). These muscles work together to support your abdominal organs – namely, the uterus/prostate, bladder and rectum – as well as ensure that you have proper bladder, bowel and sexual function. That’s a big job for little muscles, but given the proper attention and exercise they are more than capable! Problems arise as we age, after childbirth damages or stretches the muscles or if the pelvic floor gets too tight to function well. Just like any other muscle in the body that we work out at the gym, the pelvic floor muscles respond very well to stretching or strengthening as appropriate for each individual, and with a little bit of extra effort you can train them just like your gluts, quads or deltoids. 
 
Many people, especially women, have heard of Kegel exercises – but being told that “doing some Kegels” is all that a person needs for proper pelvic floor function problem does a huge disservice to the complexity of both the pelvic floor and the need for a functional set of muscles that work with the rest of the core and are able to contract and relax in the correct situations. Kegels address only one aspect of pelvic floor muscle function and don’t help make them muscles functional in the context of our entire bodies.  
 
Our body is full of neuromuscular connections, which means that many muscles are “wired” to work together. When you turn one of them on, the others will naturally follow. This is true of the transverse abdominus (the “corset” around your abdomen), multifidi (which run close to your spine on your back), adductors (inner thighs) and pelvic floor. You heard it right – when you use these muscles in Pilates class, you’re helping your pelvic floor to contract and relax without even thinking about it! 
 
If you’re having true pelvic floor dysfunction, such as incontinence or pelvic pain, it’s important to see a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor for a full exam and individualized plan of care. But for those of us who trying to prevent future problems and build the best strength and function possible for our core, Pilates is a fun, focused, comprehensive way to build those neuromuscular connections that give our whole body – including the pelvic floor – the alignment, strength and flexibility that we need to go out in the world as our optimal selves!
 
 
Annemarie is a Certified Pilates Mat instructor and teaches Pilates Mat on Sundays from 10:00-11:00 am. She will graduate with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from UCSF/SFSU in 2014.  Read her full bio.