Category Archives for "Exercise"

These VerticAlign blog posts contain information about different exercises and stretches that can assist with posture and alignment.  These exercises aim to help reduce back pain, neck pain, hip pain and knee pain. Each movement can be used to help build core strength, overcome an anterior pelvic tilt (arched back), posterior pelvic tilt (flat back) or kyphosis (hunchback) posture.  Each exercise has a detailed description to help the reader understand exactly how to do it properly.  Exact form is ideal for doing each of these movements. It’s important for the client to know exactly what to do, and how to do it.   It’s also important to know what ORDER to do these movements in. Clients can use these descriptions to do workouts at home. Exercising at home is a powerful way to help overcome pain and feel better. Daily movement to improve posture will make you look slimmer, taller and leaner.

 

a couple of years ago

Why Boot Camps Are Bad for Your Posture

I love a good workout. The burn, the sweat and the panting can make it miserable when you are doing it, but the after-glow and benefits are tremendous.  It’s rare that I will discourage anyone from doing ANY kind of workout, except, when there is a chance that the workout is wrecking your posture.  After checking out some of the new boot camps in my area that tout a “brand new body”, I have determined that despite the cardiovascular benefits, a majority of these classes can actually do more harm than good.

The concept of a boot camp is to combine muscle strengthening with high intensity cardiovascular training, into one neat, low equipment workout.  “Low equipment” usually means that the activities are performed with limited assistance, therefore relying on body weight to make the exercises challenging.  So what does a low equipment exercise selection in the average boot camp look like? Every one I tried involved many exercises in the “plank” position; face down, with the hands on the ground and your whole weight loaded on your chest and shoulders.  You can also expect burpees, push-ups, mountain climbers and planks to be littered throughout the workout, with little attention being paid to proper form.

What does this mean for your body? Well let’s talk about the most harmful postural misalignment in our society today, Kyphosis. This occurs when the shoulders round forward bringing the head forward and affecting the curvature of the upper spine.  Hunchback DemonstrationThis posture creates tension in the neck, stress on the shoulders, and even affects the middle and lower back.  The chest muscles are usually very tight, and the back muscles are weak and under-utilized. This posture is becoming more problematic as our society spends more time in front of smart phones and computers.

Now, in a Boot Camp, they take the population (of which almost all clients already have some degree of Kyphosis), and they give them a workout that emphasizes this postural problem by working the (already tight) chest muscles and shoulders. By doing excessive planks, pushups, burpees and mountain climbers (all done  in the face down position with the hands on the floor) the client is accentuating this Kyphotic posture, instead of working to counteract this “forward” posture through back strengthening and chest opening exercises.

To make matters worse, these boot camp classes aim for quantity of movement, over quality.  Look around any boot camp and watch what happens when the instructor asks the group to hold a plank for two minutes. Clients will clench their hands together and round their upper back (check out the guy in the blue shirt) to make it easier and often will lift their hips up and place all their focus on the shoulders instead of their core.  Bad Plank EditedIf you put them in the proper position, it’s likely they cannot hold the position for even 30 seconds using the correct muscles.

Other workouts such as Yoga, certain Pilates classes and traditional strength training using weights don’t place the body in this face down position excessively, and these other workouts can counteract today’s postural issues through proper exercise selection.   This is why I pick on Boot Camps; it’s for a good reason.

Have you been to a boot camp workout lately?  Did you count how many “face down plank” type of exercises they asked you to do?  I have, and in one 45 minute class we spent 22 minutes in a plank position.  This was nearly 50 percent of the class!

Comment below and let me know if your local class pays attention to your posture…

Read part 2 of this series HERE. 

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a couple of years ago

The CORE Exercise You’ve Probably Never Seen

There are many ways to work the core, and today marks the first in many emails of my favorite core exercises.  Do you have a pillow and a wall?  That’s all you need today. No fancy equipment necessary.

The transverse abdominal muscle (aka the TVA) is the first place to start when looking to strengthen the core.  It wraps around the midsection of the body and protects the spine as if it is a weight belt. It sits UNDER the rectus abdominis muscles which is usually referred to as the “6-pack” muscle.  Have you ever seen people in the gym with a weight belt on?  When I do… I CRINGE. We humans have an internal weight belt (the TVA!), one that many people have forgotten how to use because they sit all day long.  Therefore if you are a normal human being, you do not need a weight belt; by wearing it, you are allowing your own internWeigthlifting Dudeal weight belt to get weaker.

Now there are guys like this who lift weights like this (ie bodybuilders)… I would give him a pass and let him wear some extra support.  His face is telling us his internal weight belt may not be
enough!

I digress.  The point is, learning to strengthen your TVA is critical to building a strong base of support for your spine.  What does this have to do with my posture?  EVERYTHING.  Building a strong internal core will help you maintain good posture, specifically when it comes to your pelvis.

In a Pilates class, the instructor might say “pull your belly in towards your spine” or “engage your abs”. Often times, this IMPORTANT part of the Pilates exercise is not enforced or corrected because the exercise is just too darn challenging to even think about the details of the movement. Clients may be doing bicycles crunches and whipping quickly through them, but there stomach is bulging and their TVA is not engaged. This is how you could be doing ab work, but not really strengthening the root core muscles and instead only focusing on the superficial muscles.

Check out the difference in these two pics below.  On the top, my stomach is “pooching” (TVA not engaged) on the bottom, I finally have my stomach pulled in (TVA engaged). 53C3C190-1A57-43F1-9FEF-764746E33D17It should feel like you have to zip up a super tight pair of pants and have to suck in your stomach to do so.

The following core exercise is GREAT for strengthening the TVA, and also involves the hip flexors. The hip flexors are a complicated muscle group, and it’s important to make sure the hip flexors are both strong, and flexible.  This exercise will help work on the coordination of these two muscle groups working simultaneously.
Lie face up with the knees bent and the feet flat on a wall.  Make sure that the knee joint is at a 90 degree angles and that the shins are parallel to the floor.   Make sure that the hips are directly below the knees.

Now this is CRITICAL: make sure you have your pelvis in neutral position, which means there should a small space between the lower back and the floor.  The low back should NOT imprinted, or pushed down into the floor.  Imagine if you have a mini grape in the small of your back… don’t squish it!  This is super important because if you are not in neutral, other muscles will take over and it will lessen the effect of the exercise.

Next, place a pillow or small ball between the knees and squeeze gently on the ball.  This is not to break the pillow or the ball, it’s a gentle squeeze at about 50% capacity of your strength. Hold this position for about a minute and tell your TVA muscle to pull your stomach in, and your hip flexors in the crease of your hips begin to activate.File_000

Now pull your feet off the wall and maintain the position you started with, holding for 3 seconds.  Do NOT let your belly POOCH here!  This is the moment when you are building the TVA strength and awareness.

Place the feet back on the wall and hold for 3 seconds.  Go back and forth between pulling your feet off the wall and placing them back on the wall for 10 to 15 repetitions.

Start doing this exercise daily to feel a difference in your internal weight belt.  Want some more exercises to do at home?  Hop on over to the FACEBOOK page and post a picture of you doing this exercise at home.  I’ll be choosing one person to receive a SKYPE call with me to create a custom home routine.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we talk about how to BREATHE when doing this (and any core) exercise.  Holding your breath is not an option; your roommate/spouse/cat will be unhappy that they will have to call 911 when you pass out!

Zeena
PS.  Do me a favor, please share this blog with anyone you think has a weak TVA!

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a couple of years ago

Pilates OUT… Posture IN!

I did it.  I changed my business brand and took “Pilates” out of my name.”But wait!” you exclaim. “She just wrote a book on Pilates.  Does she hate it now and will she start telling us all to stop doing Pilates?”

The answer is NO.  I still love Pilates.  I will always be connected to the art of doing Pilates and the work that Uncle Joe created years ago.  It brought me to my current love… to what I’m now truly passionate about… to what you will hear me “geek out” about in emails to come.

I am a self proclaimed posture GEEK. In addition to putting clients through simple workouts, I have spent the last few years analyzing their alignment and helping them find optimal body functioning through corrective exercise.  What does this mean?

It means I give them homework that they can do at home in order to help them get out of the pain they experience from sitting all day long… or recover from an impact injury… or simply from walking or standing incorrectly for hours on end. This “homework” includes exercises derived from Pilates, Yoga, foam rolling, static stretching, and other modalities I’ve learned over the years.

I’ve gotten quite good at it.  Check out a recent testimonial from a client who found relief from her hip pain NOT from coming to my classes… but instead from the posture routine I gave her to do on her own.
I have discovered that after fifteen years in fitness, I love empowering people to resolve their own body issues. I have realized that the two hours they might see me in the studio are never as powerful as the DAILY thirty minutes they spend on their own at home, focused on their own body. I have learned that taking away fancy equipment and complicated movements and replacing it with a simple, home based routine, can change the outcome of my client’s pain, nearly instantaneously.

So I invite you to “geek out” with me about posture, alignment, exercise and all around pain free wellness issues. Welcome to the Posture Geek Newsletter. Welcome to VerticAlign Posture Coaching.

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