How To Recover From Your Workouts

How To Recover From Your Workouts

Exercise and recovery go hand in hand. They work cooperatively and feed performance. Whether you are recovering from an injury, playing high level sports, trying to improve your overall health, or anywhere in between. Recovery has to be a part of your exercise program. And a well rounded approach requires multiple mediums.

You should think of recovery from your workouts as hands on methods like stretching and foam rolling, as well as commonly overlooked methods like sleep and nutrition.

 

Table of Contents

  1. Static Stretching
  2. Recovery Tools
  3. Nutrition
  4. Other Variables
  5. Low Back Pain

STATIC STRETCHING

When we talk about range of motion we are talking about the movement allowed at a joint. There is a standard range of motion that a joint can produce and it does vary. For example the elbow is a hinge joint and has a range of motion based on flexion and extension. Where the hip joint is a ball and socket allowing for circumduction, which includes flexion, extension, adduction and abduction.

We use mobility and flexibility training to change our range of motion to alleviate pain and improve performance. To simplify things think mobility exercises address the joint, flexibility exercises (stretching) address the muscles, and mobility and flexibility work synergistically to improve range of motion.

There are also many different types of stretching – static, dynamic and pre-contraction. Of course there are also sub categories to those types. For the sake of this article we are looking at static stretching, where a stretch (or muscle lengthening) is being held for a period of time.

Static stretching is either active or passive. You can translate that to be being done by yourself or with assistance. The assistance you use can be a wide variety of things like a strap or another person.

The maximal benefit comes from holding a static stretch for 20-30 seconds each. And following posture guidelines and listening to your body (aka avoiding pain) are necessary to see results in your flexibility, mobility and pain relief.

TRACTION STRETCHING

Traction stretching is a type of passive static stretch where by holding onto an object you create traction at the desired joint stretching the associated muscle(s). A good example of this is a lat traction stretch where you hold onto an object with one hand, bend your knees, and shift your hips backwards to provide traction at your shoulder as you hold on to the stationary object. Rotate your shoulders as needed to find the best stretch.

Traction stretching is highly effective for muscles of the upper body where you can use your hands as anchors.

LOW BACK STRETCHES

*Disclaimer! If you have a diagnosed herniated disk or other spinal problems, that is much different from the muscles in your low back being tight! It is also wise to look to your hamstrings first. If they are tight, stretching them will also help your low back.

Erector Spinae Twisting Stretch

This one is sure to feel amazing on low back. Holding on to a pole, chair, or anything you have at home, bend forward with your chest parallel to the ground. Rotate your hips to one side. The leg that is on the open side should have the straighter leg while the other one bends. You should feel the stretch on the side you are opening up to.

Seated OH Reach

This is one of my personal favorites for targeting my lower back. I always feel like it targets that exact spot I need. Seated with legs spread apart (only at your comfort level). Place both hands overhead. Reach toward one toe or however far you can reach. Focus on the top arm to get the most stretch through your lat and lower back.

Seated Crossover Stretch

Seated on a chair, sit with your legs about shoulder width apart and bent at 90 degrees. Take one leg and place the ankle of it on top of the other leg. Proceed to pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder. You should feel a stretch through the top of your glute to your lower back. If you need more of a stretch, walk your bottom foot outward a bit.

SHOULDER STRETCHES

Lying Chest Stretch

Lying on a bench or foam roller (Foam Roller), be sure it is centered on your back and you have room to let your arms hang off over the side. Have your core tight and back pushed into the surface you are on (this can also be done on the floor). Let your arms fall out to the side, keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees. You should feel a great stretch in your chest.

Wall Chest Stretch

Stand next to any wall with your side facing the wall. Place your hand closest to the wall on it with your elbow bent. Within your range of motion and comfort level slowly rotate away from the wall until you feel a light stretch in your shoulder/chest. Be sure not to try and push your range of motion past what you have.

Chest Openers

Lying on your side with your knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other, start with both your arms out in front of you also stacked on each other. Open up with the top arm to reach toward the floor behind you. It is important to keep this arm in line with the other one. Again, be sure you do not push your range of motion past what you have.

HIP STRETCHES

Frog Stretch

One of my absolute favorites for hips! Start by kneeling on the floor and then take your knees as wide as you can within your range of motion. Your feet (toes, mainly) should stay together as you do this. Reach out on the ground in front of you and allow your glutes to sink back into your heels.

Kneeling Foot-Elevated Stretch

Grab a chair or coffee table, whatever height is comfortable enough for you to take a half-kneeling position and have your back foot on it. If you need a cushion for that knee use a stability pad or a blanket! Push your hips forward without arching your back and squeeze your glutes to get a great hip flexor stretch!

Seated Hip Stretch

Sitting on a chair, bring one leg up over the other just as you did for the seated crossover stretch. Instead of hugging that knee to your chest, you are going to push that knee down away from your body for a stretch in your hip flexor. Be sure to keep a tight core and neutral spine to not lean forward into the stretch.

RECOVERY TOOLS

All recovery tools below are used to accomplish myofascial release. Simply put this is an alternative medicine therapy used to treat immobility and tight muscles. By relaxing those muscles, through gentle sustained pressure, we can relieve pain and restore movement. The primary variations between products are in size, density and ergonomics. 

These are a lot of different varieties on the market and tons of new ones coming out everyday. Some of them will absolutely be worth the money. Others could be a hoax. What we suggest to all of our clients is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

These are affiliate links. While there is no cost to you when you order through them, I do make a commission. Your support, by ordering through them, is greatly appreciated!

recovery tools for post workout

THERACANE

I still remember the first time I saw this recovery tool. I felt like I was looking at torture contraption. Then a very kind physical therapist showed me how to use it on my neck and back to release my tight muscles from working at a computer, swimming, volleyball, etc. I fell in love. I carry stress in my shoulders – from my traps to rhomboids. This baby squeezes in there and can hit all those tough to find spots that you ask your massage therapist to get to. But you are doing it all yourself! Easy to store under a bed or in a closet.

REASONS TO OWN A THERACANE

  • Easiest way to target the neck and shoulders.
  • Sleek design is easy to store.

Click here to see it on amazon.

THE STICK

I can’t emphasize this product enough for runners and volleyball players. As a runner myself nothing has been as effective as The Stick in targeting the tension in my shins and calves. As a former competitive volleyball player The Stick was great to have on hand during long tournaments. Very effective for the large muscles in the lower body – quads & hamstrings. For on the go muscle tension relief this has been a go to for me. It easily fits in a gym bag or backpack. Making it a perfect companion for most sports.

REASONS TO OWN THE STICK

  • Great for targeting the lower body, especially for runners.
  • Easy to travel with – gym, competitions, vacation.

Click here to see it on amazon.

FOAM ROLLER

This is a stand by that I would recommend everyone have. It can not only be used for myofasical release, but also for mobility. You can check out our YouTube channel for mobility and recovery workouts focused on using a foam roller. We like this foam roller because it is high density, but that may not be everyone’s preference. First timers to foam rolling may find this too hard, that it is uncomfortable. Try to control your pressure on it and know that it gets better with time. Under $30 and highly functional.

REASONS TO OWN A FOAM ROLLER

  • Versatility – both mobility and myofasical release.
  • Effective – tons of data to support the use of a foam roller to improve muscle tension.

Click here to see it on amazon.

LACROSSE BALL

Simple and effective we keep a bag of lacrosse balls in our gym. I even keep one in my training bag. And I gave them as stocking stuffer gifts to my family two years ago. The size and firmness is effective at reaching deep muscles and pin pointing tight muscles. It is amazing on the arches of your feet.  Low cost investment, easy to store and highly effective.

REASONS TO OWN A LACROSSE BALL

  • Size – small enough to travel, easy to store (and lose) but highly effective at targeting small or deep muscles.
  • Doubles as a dog toy 😜

Click here to see it on amazon.

THERAGUN G3

I would consider this the “cadillac” of recovery tools. It carries the highest price point by far, but it also has the ability effectively target your entire body. The changing attachments allow you to reach large and small muscles all over. If I had to name a draw back, you can’t easily use this on your back yourself. But I’m sure your housemate, spouse, or workout buddy would be glad to trade “massages”.

REASONS TO OWN A THERAGUN

  • Percussive technology – a new approach to myofasical release that is easier to “administer” than most other recovery tools.
  • Various attachments that allow you to work muscles, large and small, all over your body.

Click here to see it on amazon.

BONUS – EPSOM SALT

Personally, I would volunteer for a bath at any moment of any day. So why not maximize my time in the bath with some epsom salt to help pull tension out of my muscles? Just kick back and enjoy the bath! Remember to drink plenty of water if you take a hot bath. Hydration is an important part to recovery during training.

Click here to see it on amazon.

NUTRITION

There is a lot of information out there saying drink this, eat that and promising some incredible results for sports performance and weight loss. In fact there is so much information that I think we have actually lost sight of food. We have lost sight of the joy of cooking. The joy of sharing a table with family and friends. The joy of food.

Yes, it is true. Food is fuel. We literally need it in order to keep our body running.

And yes, there is an entire science built around nutrition for peak athletic performance, nutrition that can treat the sick, and the nutrition we need to survive just to name a few. However, food is so many other things. It is social … creative … delicious.

On a macro level your body needs carbohydrates, proteins and lipids (fats).  And when you workout you deplete your carbohydrate stores. Which are in high demand to continue functioning the rest of the day. Your muscles also breakdown under the stress of exercise and protein repairs and builds them. So after a workout you should be consuming both carbohydrates and protein to help your body recover.

That’s it. 

I truly encourage you to keep it simple. Find some balance. And most of all have fun with food. 

OTHER VARIABLES

This by no means is an exhaustive list. Rather these are areas of recovery that I am educated enough to speak on and that I think are actionable items. Other variables to consider in your workout recovery could be things like sleep, stress, hydration and total training volume.

Nutrition is also a large component of recovery that I touched on, but it is a science of its own and I am no expert. If you have put your best foot further in all the other variables and can’t seem to nail down recovery or maybe even progress in the gym I would highly recommend speaking with a registered dietician.

MANAGING LOW BACK PAIN

One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is low back pain or discomfort. And do you know what? The majority of them just need a stretching and recovery program to offset their lifestyle.

I have seen the most relief from incorporating a recovery program that focuses on the muscles above and below the hip. There are a decent number of muscles that are in or around your hips – 4 quad muscles, 3 hamstrings, 4 glute muscles, adductors, abductors, not to mention the muscles of the low back like your QL, lats and erector spinae and more.

Our body is one big chain reaction, inside systems and between systems. Since we are talking about the muscular system, let’s look at physical habits. When we do one habit chronically our body will have a chronic response and overtime this can cause problems, think regularly sitting for extend periods of time.

When we sit our hips and, therefore, the anterior muscles are put into flexion. That means that there is a reaction in the body where the opposite happens. In this case is it extension (the opposite of flexion) of the posterior (the opposite of anterior) muscles of the hip. When we stay in that position for regular and long intervals the muscular starts to adapt.

The muscles in flexion start to shorten. The muscles in extension start to lengthen. So you get tight in the front and loose in the back. This change in tension impacts the position of the pelvis. Which in turn creates another chain reaction. And often times you end up with low back pain.

If you are experiencing low back pain I suggest you take stock of your daily habits and see what can be adjusted to avoid chronic habits that may be negatively impacting you. In addition, I would encourage you to add activities like foam rolling, joint mobility and stretching to your week.

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8 Mobility Exercises Anyone Can Do

8 Mobility Exercises Anyone Can Do

I highly encourage all my clients to incorporate mobility into their week. Generally leaving when and how much up to them, but these are 8 mobility exercises anyone can do. Read for a full explanation on how and why to do them and find downloadable workouts to follow at the end.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Child’s Pose with Traction
  2. Trap Traction
  3. 3 Point Hip Flexor 
  4. High Plank Sit Back
  5. 90/90 Hip Mobility
  6. Hip Circles
  7. Iron Cross
  8. Thoracic Extension
  9. Downloadable Workouts

HOW TO PERFORM CHILD’S POSE WITH TRACTION

Let me be clear here. Adding traction to child’s pose will shift the traditional focus to stretching your lats. If you can’t even get into child’s pose I would not suggest using this stretch for your lats.

Your lats are the largest back muscle you have. They run the length of your entire back and they are used in so many movements from throwing to pull-ups. Taking care of your lats like you do your glutes and lower body will help your posture and daily comfort.

To really target your lats using a child’s pose with traction you need to make two changes:

  1. Once in child’s pose bring both your hands across to one side and grab a stable object.
  2. Allow your hips to fall to the side as you bring your hands across.

Making these two changes to a traditional child’s pose will create traction and elongate your lat. Read the full steps below and as always be sure to stay in a pain free range of motion. And since we are doing mobility do not hold the end position for long. Simply work into your end range of motion then back to start and repeat.

STEPS FOR A CHILD’S POSE WITH TRACTION

  1. Start in child’s pose, see the first picture below, with an object on your left that you can hold on to create traction.
  2. Walking your hands to the left and grab the object.
  3. Once you have a firm grasp of the object allow your hips to fall to the right increasing the lengthening of the lat muscle.
  4. Hold for a few moments, return to start and repeat.

WHAT TO AVOID

You should never be in pain. Please stop ANY mobility you are doing if pain exists. Our bodies are designed to try and prevent injury. That doesn’t mean that we can never get hurt. Rather that we should listen to our bodies.

Our muscles consist of muscle fibers in which every fiber has a muscle spindle. The muscle spindle’s only job is to detect and regulate the lengthening of muscles. When we are doing mobility, or pushing the range of motion, we are lengthening the muscle. If we push, intentionally or unintentionally, to a point of pain the muscle spindle will be activated to PREVENT the lengthening from occurring. This is the opposite of why we want.

HOW TO PERFORM A TRAP TRACTION

Your traps, or Trapezius muscles, are one of several back muscles.  This muscles is named after it shape, a trapezoid. And it is quite large, running from the base of the head, out to the clavicle and shoulder and down the spine. Our traps help tilt, turn and stabilize at the head. They also are involved in shrugging your shoulders, stabilizing the shoulders and twisting the arms.

Basically you are using your traps all day. And there are other factors that impact your traps. Like sleep. If you are like me you like to sleep on their side, giving themselves a hug and pulling their shoulders (shrugging) up to the ears. Basically increasing the tension in my traps while I sleep, go me! I go to sleep to recover, not make things worse.

And then there is stress. If you haven’t heard, your shoulders are a very common place to “carry stress”. Simple put that means, when you are stressed you tend to shrug your shoulders. Putting more tension into those already active traps.

STEPS FOR A TRAP TRACTION

We are using a weight to produce the traction portion of this exercise, but you can just as easily use a counter or desk by grabbing underneath.

  1. Stand comfortable on two feet with a shoulder width stance with a weight in your left hand.
  2. Keeping your posture tall, but your shoulder relaxed, slowly turn your head to the right and tuck your chin towards your armpit.
  3. Find your end range of motion, hold for a few moments and return to start. Repeat this movement varying your chin location.

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Pain. As always, mobility should be pain free. Control the stretch by bringing your head into a more upright position.
  • Shrugging Shoulders. This is the opposite of what you want here. So try to relax those shoulders to get the most out of this stretch.

TIPS FOR A TRAP TRACTION

  • You don’t need a ton of weight, but if all you have at your disposal is a 5 pound weight you are better off using a table/counter/railing. Anything that you can get your hand under to provide a base for the pulling force.
  • Try working your chin from your midline out towards your armpit. There might be more than one spot that needs stretching.

HOW TO PERFORM A 3 POINT HIP FLEXOR EXERCISE

This is a variation you can take on a traditional hip flexor mobility exercise. It is by no means the only variation you can take, but you bet your bottom dollar it feels fantastic early in the morning or at the end of the day.

We commonly say “my hip flexor” is tight or “you have tight hips”, but this can be misleading. When we talk about hip flexion it is the act of bending at your hip to bring your knee towards your chest or lower your chest towards your legs. But the hip is a very dynamic joint, allowing for a very large range of motion. For example abduction at the hip with flexion will put your knee out to the side and up toward your chest.

All of this is to say that hip flexion can occur in various movement patterns, which means various hip muscles will be active. And those muscles attach at various points on your pelvis, spine and femur. So when we work to relieve “tight hips” or “a tight hip flexor” moving in various ranges of motion can be helpful. 

STEPS FOR A 3 POINT HIP FLEXOR EXERCISE

  1. Start in a split kneeling position. I suggest having something soft, like a stability pad, to kneel on.
  2. Tilt your pelvis under and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Keeping your glutes tight you lean forward then return to starting position. Point 1
  4. Reach overhead sideways towards the forward knee then return to starting position. Point 2
  5. Rotate towards the front knee. Point 3. (See pictures below.)
  6. All 3 movements combine to make the 3 point hip flexor exercise. Perform 5 reps on each side.

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Arching or extension in your low or mid back. Allowing yourself to arch or extend will produce a range of motion we are not looking for. We want the movement (of the range of motion) to be from the hip. I remind my clients to keep their core braced to serve as a reminder for a neutral posture.

TIPS FOR A 3 POINT HIP FLEXOR EXERCISE

  • Focus on tilting your pelvis and engaging your glutes. This will help increase the stretch at your hip flexor by pushing your hip into extension. You must maintain this posture with movement.
  • It is likely one movement is tighter than the other(s). Consider adding in a few extra reps in that pattern regularly.

HOW TO PERFORM A HIGH PLANK SIT BACK

With so many mobility exercises “on the market” it is hard to know why you should or shouldn’t do one. Unfortunately, without knowing your health history it is hard to know what is right or wrong for you. However, I can tell you some great reasons for doing the high plank to sit back. And if any of those reasons hits home with you, then give it ago by following the steps below. Just make sure to read the section on what to avoid.

Hip & shoulder mobility together – a nice benefit to save time and work functionally. However, this may be a drawback for you if you experience shoulder pain or limited range of motion.

Warm-up & core activation – we know that a plank requires us to use our core, so a high PLANK to sit back will be no different. Doing these will help wake up your core and warm your body to be ready for more challenging movements.

Decrease low back pain – hip mobility is linked to decrease low back pain, but so is core strengthening. Two birds, one stone. You can’t really go wrong there.

STEPS FOR A HIGH PLANK SIT BACK

  1. Start in a high plank with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Push through your hands, bend your knees and sink into yours hips as you “sit back”. This should mirror child’s pose in yoga, except elevated off the ground.
  3. Once you have reached your maximal “sit back” push through your toes, straighten your legs and move back to a high plank position.
  4. Repeat for desired reps. I recommend sets of 10 for a warm-up, sets of 5 for active recovery

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Be sure not to let your low back arch or your hips sag as you bring your body back into a high plank position. Keeping your core engaged the entire time will help prevent any low back arch.
  • Pain. We are always avoiding any pain or high level discomfort. Remember that there are a large variety of hip mobility exercises out there. You can certainly find another.

TIPS FOR A HIGH PLANK SIT BACK

  • This is a great warm-up exercise, but it can also be incorporated into a workout by adding a movement between reps. For example, a push-up between sit backs or step your feet in and stand-up between each rep.
  • If you have wrist discomfort when in a high plank consider using dumbbells (hex style are easiest) as the base for your hands. This will allow your wrists to stay straight, versus the flexed position they typically in during a high plank.

HOW TO PERFORM A 90/90 EXERCISE

90/90s should be included in your mobility program because they target the hip from multiple angles. Depending on what leg is in front, or your chest is facing, the joint positioning is different. Add in the process of switching from side to side and you are accessing a large range of motion, or trying to at least. 

Another unique factor is how you are using your body weight in this mobility exercise. 90/90s use your body weight, and the ground, to help increase the the end range of motion achieved on both sides. This will help to produce quick results in improve mobility.

The key is in the set-up. Starting position should be 90 degrees at knee and hip of your front and back leg. This will be awkward and unusual the first time. If you can’t get into this position try other hip mobility drills consistently and come back to this one.

Mobility is always about quality over quantity. Be calculated in your movements and listen to your body.

STEPS FOR A 90/90

  1. Start seated on the floor with your knees bent and let both of your legs fall to the same side. This will put the outside of one leg and the inside of the other leg on the floor.
  2. Adjust your upper legs so the angle between your thigh and your hip is at 90 degrees on the front and the back leg.
  3. Adjust your lower legs so the angle at your knee is at 90 degrees.
  4. Once in this position you want to apply force down into the ground from your front and back leg, working towards contact with the ground.
  5. Lean your chest forward towards the front leg, keeping your back flat.
  6. Return to to starting position and switch your legs and face the other direction and repeat.

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Anything other than 90 degrees at your hip and knee. After all, that is the whole point of the exercise.
  • Pain. Mobility or flexibility training should not be painful. Pain is an indicator that you are doing something wrong. Listen to your body.

TIPS FOR A 90/90

  • Your mobility will be challenge on each side and in transition. There is a reasonable amount of core work going on here to be able to change your leg position. Keep your upper body quiet and core braced as you go to switch sides.
  • On each side try to achieve floor contact from both your front and back leg while you slightly lean forward by hinging at your hips. That means your back stays straight!
  • There are a lot of variations of this exercise, but we consider this to be a good starting point. If switching your knees side to side isn’t your jam you can always work the forward lean on each side for a few reps before switching positions.

HOW TO PERFORM A HIP CIRCLE

Hip mobility has a large impact on low back pain. For example, tight hips can cause your posture to change and your low back to hurt. Tight hips can also cause an individual to use poor technique while lifting increasing the odds of a low back injury. Working hip mobility to restore range of motion can minimize low back pain and injury.

Increasing range of motion at the hips is also connected to improved athletic performance. Limited range of motion means your mechanics, loading pattern and ability to work efficiently will be limited as well. Opening up range of motion opens up the opportunity to access more power and translate that power to performance.

Before we jump into the steps decide whether you want to do standing or quadruped hip circles. Does it matter? An argument can be made in both directions, but for this purpose you decide. I favor the quadruped when I am indoors and or doing mobility. I use standing when I am outdoor or getting warmed-up, especially for running.

STEPS FOR A STANDING HIP CIRCLE

  1. Find your balance on one leg  by engaging your core and keeping a soft bend in the knee of the weighted leg.
  2. Once balanced raise the non-weight knee to 90 degrees.
  3. Then keeping your foot pointed at the ground rotate your hip open so your knee points to the side.
  4. Finally rotate your hip so your knee points down to the ground and your foot to the back.
  5. Bring your knee back up to 90 and follow the same steps.
  6. Repeat 5 times then reverse the steps, working hip rotation in the opposite direction.

STEPS FOR A QUADRUPED HIP CIRCLE

  1. Start on all fours, hands and knees, and brace into the ground by driving force through your limbs and engaging your core.
  2. Lift one knee off the ground and rotate at your hip raising your knee away from your body.
  3. Rotate your hip again so that your quad is parallel with the ground and your foot is pointing to the sky.
  4. Bring your knee back down to the ground and follow the same steps.
  5. Repeat 5 times then reverse the steps, working hip rotation in the opposite direction.

WHAT TO AVOID

We have said it before, but we will say it again … we are focusing on a specific range of motion. The size of the movements does not matter. We do NOT want excessive motion or a flailing body. Isolate the movement at your hip by controlling your torso and upper body.

Your hip joint is a ball and socket, which allows the joint a large range of motion. That range of motion can become limited over time. Enter mobility and flexibility training. While you are doing the exercise think about that ball and socket joint. Envision your leg moving around your hip. The rest of your body should be still or quiet.

TIPS FOR A HIP CIRCLE

  1. You can use a wall as proprioception to control the rest of your body from moving. Just line up sideways with one shoulder against the wall and maintain contact as you move through the range of motion.
    • When you are in the quadruped position it will prevent too much rocking side to side which will help control your range of motion.
    • Standing it will prevent the side bend from occurring in order to move your leg.
  2. Keep your core braced so that you do not wobble side to side and hyper focus your attention on your hip.
    • In the quadruped position you should drive your limbs into the ground & squeeze your abdominals before lifting the knee off the ground.
    • Standing you should put a slight bend in the weighted leg and engage your abdominals to help with balance and posture.

HOW TO PERFORM AN IRON CROSS FOR DISASSOCIATION

The iron cross can be helpful to establish rotational range of motion at their hips separate of the upper body. Also known as disassociation. There are a significant number of exercises that focus on disassociation of the hips and shoulders where the hips stay still and the shoulders move. Think of a split squat with arms straight forward and rotating your shoulders side to side.  There are far less that work the opposite.

The simple reason is that it is hard. To rotationally move the lower body without the upper body requires you first to be in an open chain movement pattern. Second the joint(s) that actually produce enough rotational movement are found in your thoracic spine, not your lumbar spine. And your lumbar spine is closest to the hips.

STEPS FOR AN IRON CROSS

  1. Starting laying flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms out to the side at shoulder height, palms down. Making a T with your body.
  2. Brace your core and lift one leg straight up into the air. Maintaining core tension and contact with the ground at your hands and shoulders try to cross the upright leg over toward the ground.
  3. Once you have found your greatest range of motion, keeping your shoulders down, return the leg to upright and lower to the ground.
  4. Alternate legs focusing on the same key points side to side.

IMPORTANT!

Your range of motion is limited by movement at your shoulders. Remember we are trying to create movement at the hips without movement at the shoulders. This means you may need to place a box, chair, foam roller or something elevated off the ground to work towards instead of the ground. The height of this object will depend on your range of motion.

The rotation should be felt through your thoracic spine, not your low back. If for any reason this causes discomfort in your low back stop immediately. This exercises is not for you. Seek professional help if you are looking to work on your ability to disassociate your hips and shoulders.

The range of motion from your hips can be limited by the flexibility of your hamstrings and IT band. If you experience that you should consider specific stretches, for example a standing hamstring stretch. We do not agree with using this exercise to increase flexibility of your legs.

If you experience too much of a pull or any discomfort in your legs doing this exercise you should consider bending your knee to decrease the the flexibility demand. Bending the knee will also decrease the load by shortening your force arm.

WHAT TO AVOID

This is not an entry level mobility exercise. It looks simple, but demands a person be relatively mobile and highly stable to begin with. And at very least requires you to check your ego at the door and appropriately limit your range of motion.  If you are new to mobility or stiff/tight start with a thoracic rotation exercise like side lying chest openers. These will still work on disassociation between the upper and lower body and help to contribute to improved thoracic rotation.

TIPS FOR IRON CROSS

  • Focus on the rotation occurring through your thoracic spine. I like to envision a twist through my belly button.
  • Remember upper body should stay still.
  • Bending your knee will decrease the flexibility demand on your legs and decrease the force load of the exercise.
  • More is not better. Work for controlled, quality movements and couple with rotational strength for the best results.
  • If you have any discomfort in your low back, stop immediately.

HOW TO PERFORM THORACIC SPINE MOBILITY MINI CRUNCHES

The objective of these mini crunches is to work your thoracic spine into extension. Since we spend a typical day in flexion – sitting and rounding of the shoulders. It is important to focus your attention and movement to the thoracic spine. Movement elsewhere will give you a false range of motion and could contribute to more discomfort.

For simplicity, you can think of your thoracic spine as the section where your ribs are located. It is designed to support and protect the heart and lungs via the ribcage. The range of motion is small, but the thoracic spine can move in flexion (bending forward), extension (arching backward) and rotation. Range of motion most commonly decreases in extension and rotation due to repetitive motions. Like I said above – sitting at a desk, driving, etc.

Of course age and injury can and will have an impact on range of motion. But for the average person it is your daily life style that is causing your range of motion to change, decreasing mobility and contributing to daily discomfort.

STEPS FOR MINI CRUNCHES

  1. Start with your foam roller perpendicular to your spine at the bottom of your shoulder blades.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest and plant your feet firmly on the ground.
  3. Engage your abdominals and squeeze your glutes to brace your lower body.
  4. Allow your back to extend, or round, around the foam roller as you lean back.
  5. Extend back, as far as you can go, keeping your core engaged.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Perform 5 reps in one location then move the foam roller slight up your back and repeat.

WHAT TO AVOID

Our main focus here is on the mid back, or the thoracic spine. Your focus should be on creating movement in that region of the body. Avoiding movement in others.

When working on spinal mobility you have to acknowledge that your spine works synergistically, but it should also work independently. Isolating our thoracic spine is essential to creating mobility. We need to avoid movement in our lumbar spine during extension on this exercise.

TIPS FOR MINI CRUNCHES

  • You should feel no pain, movement or work in your lower back. If you do work to better engage your core.
  • Move the foam roller up only an inch or two at a time to help target individual vertebra.
  • If you are able to keep your core engaged you can extend your arms overhead to increase the the force pulling you into extension. A weight can also be held in your hands.
  • I’ll say it again … be conscious of your core, specifically keeping it braced. Doing so will help control any movement in your lumbar spine and isolate the movement in your thoracic.

WORKOUTS

There are many workouts for you to download and save. Scroll through them all to find which ones you want to try. 

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Welcome to the world of fitness and wellness gifting! As we gear up for 2023, it's time to start setting goals and looking for resources to help us succeed. Whether you're a fitness fanatic or seeking the perfect gift for one, our Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide is...

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The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

In the world of personal training, where trust and credibility play pivotal roles, the concept of social proof functions as an authentic way to connect with your audience. Social proof, the influence created when individuals see others engaging in a particular...

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GLUTE AND HAMSTRING DAY STAPLES – EXERCISES I ALWAYS DO

GLUTE AND HAMSTRING DAY STAPLES – EXERCISES I ALWAYS DO

Everyone has a favorite muscle group to train. For me it is my glutes and hamstrings. I think thats pretty normal because I feel it is one of my strengths and what I feel most comfortable training. And honestly, who really likes to work on their weaknesses when they can focus on their strengths. *kidding* 

Jokes aside, it’s very important to train your weaknesses, in the gym and in everyday life. Otherwise how would you ever grow or improve? So whether you love or hate to train your glutes and hamstrings there is something here for you. I am going to explain to you how they work together, what they do for your body as a whole and my favorite exercises. Of course there is a great workout at the bottom for you to use at your next gym session. I hope you love it!

Some of the links in my blog are commissionable links, which means I may make an income if you use them. There is no impact to you and your support of our blog and me is greatly appreciated.

GLUTES AND HAMSTRINGS

fitness blogger mequon wisconsin

Let’s talk about what your glutes and hamstring do for you. Your glutes are made up of three muscles (maximus, medius, minimus) and act as extensors and external rotators at the hip. You should also note that the glutes and involved in abduction and adduction at the hip (think laterally raising your leg or squeezing your legs together) and the deeper muscles, not mentioned above, are heavily involved in hip stability. For the sake of this article I am really talking about the three larger, closer to the surface muscles.

glute and hamstring anatomyI run into a lot of clients who have difficulty activating their glutes which can lead to muscular imbalances (due to compensation) and tightness. Establishing a program that focuses on proper glute engagement, stability and then strength will allow you to achieve more. From allowing you to lift more weight, to running faster or longer, to daily tasks like cleaning and gardening.

In the picture above I am holding one of my favorite tools for glute activation, the hip circle. It is great because no matter how often you do band walks, they will always be hard! It’s a great piece of equipment to have at home for quick and simple workouts, and it makes for a great warm up before a workout! I have my outfit linked below too!

Now, what about your hamstrings are also made up of three muscles (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris) on the posterior of your thigh. They control hip extension and knee flexion. You hamstrings are the most important stabilizer of your knee and play a significant role in walking, running and jumping.

Including exercises that specifically focus on your hamstrings is key to injury prevention. Many people have tight and weak hamstrings from sitting in a desk all day, which leads to people being quad dominance, knee pain and injury.

You can read more about the glutes and hamstrings in our Discover Series where we broke down different muscle groups.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CORE

PERSONAL TRAINER

Your abdominal muscles are extremely important in life. But did you know that they are also connected to the function of your glutes and hamstrings. Your core is in the center of your kinetic chain and connects your upper and lower body. So when you think about having a strong lower body, specifically glutes and hamstrings, you have to consider your core as part of the equation. 

Another bonus is that a strong core will help you in everything. It can help to decrease back pain and increase strength and stability in everyday movements. There is also a benefit in athletic performance to having a stronger core. In golf for example, the more power you can transfer from the lower body to the upper body the more distance you can put your swing. Read more about that in our article here

You will see below, that I sprinkled in a little core work into each set. I did this because as I just explained, core is important, but also it is active rest for your legs in this situation. But a strong core is the main goal. So when doing the core exercise below make sure to keep constant core tension. This will help to keep you spine in a neutral spine position and decrease the chances of arching you back which commonly leads to low back pain.

MY GO TO GLUTE + HAMSTRING WORKOUT

If you are unsure of any of the exercises, there is a section at the bottom of the article where I explain the things to remember when doing the exercise and the muscles used.

PERSONALIZING YOUR WORKOUT

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I prefer simple workouts that I don’t have to think about. So doing 3 rounds of the two circuits above is perfect for me!

As a personal trainer I am constantly adjusting exercises to meet my clients specific needs. This could be based on an orthopedic limitation, a personal goal, or to make the workout enjoyable for the client. I do this by changing the equipment used, changing the reps, or adding an additional set of core or cardio to the workout. And when I say cardio I do not mean running for miles at a time. I prefer to incorporate sprints, incline walking, or other heart rate based exercises. For more ideas check out my blog about how I like to do cardio!

Because this is a glute and hamstring work out, I would incorporate incline walking. Incline walking activates the calves, hamstrings and glutes so this will be a great way to increase the difficulty and fatigue of the workout!

I would do an interval pyramid workout  or 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min sections. Start by doing one set of the first group of exercises above. After those 5 exercises, hop on the treadmill at about 3 mph at an incline around 10% for 1 minute. Then do another set of the resistance exercises and after get on the treadmill again. Keep the speed and incline the same but walk for 2 minutes. After your third set of the first 5 exercises, you are doing three minutes on the treadmill. Then switch to the second set of exercises and walk 2 minutes between the first and second set, and 1 minute between the second and third set. Finish out the workout with stretching and/or foam rolling!

MY OUTFIT

RECOVERY

personal trainer

No matter what workout you do, make sure to take some time and stretch or foam roll after your workout! Taking five minutes after your workout to stretch will help improve recovery time, decreasing soreness and fatigue after your workouts. 

If you have low back pain, tension in your shoulders, or tight hips you do not have to live with that pain. By stretching for 3 to 4 minutes a day, you can counter-act some of that wear and tear on your body. Which will help you to move better, feel better and sleep better.

Also make sure to properly fuel your body by hydrating and eating properly post workouts. And don’t forget that sleep is also impacting you and your workouts more that you probably realize. Sleep quality is connected to emotional stability and physical stability. Which means weight management and recovery. These both are connected to feeling better and reaching your goals.

Lastly, it is also important to talk about the relationship between stress and exercise. Exercising increases endorphins in the body, a natural pain killer, and decreases stress hormones. The change in these hormone levels will leave you happier and better equipped for your day post workout. Along with that exercise can give you a sense of control, a break from work or day to day stressors and can decrease risk of conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

EXERCISE DESCRIPTIONS

personal trainer mequon wisconsin

As I mentioned before I have descriptions of the exercises below. Take a minute to read them, you will pick up something new to apply. And read Chellie’s article on 5 technique tips to get more out of your workout!

Lateral band walks & Backward band walks

Band walks are a must have in every glute workout. Place the hip circle above your knee and sit back into your glutes. You should mainly feel your glutes firing and that make extend into your quads or hamstrings slightly. Personally, I am very quad dominant so I prefer to do all backwards band walks, rather than forwards and backwards, to only fire my glutes. So thats why I have programed that for you today.

Banded glute bridges

Glute bridges are hip extension, which is preformed by the glutes, and the band increases the load on the glutes. Keep that hip circle right above your knees and place your feet on the ground near your butt. Keep tension on the band and you drive your hips into the air, and keep your core engaged so you don’t extend through your back as you get fatigued.

Swiss Ball hamstring curls

The instability provided by the swiss ball requires the muscles to activate in the extension and flexion of the movement. Again, it is very important to keep core tension during this exercise to avoid any low back pain.

SL RDL on BOSU

The BOSU Ball makes this movement an open chain movement and increases muscle recruitment. If you do not have access to a BOSU Ball, don’t worry, you can still do this exercise from the ground. The the RDL focuses on glute and hamstring ROM and strength.

Plank Reach backs

Core work is always important to include, and it gives your legs a little rest. I chose to include plank reach backs because of the core activation, but also you will likely feel a hamstring stretch as you reach back to touch your toe.

Curtsy lunge with SA row

A curtsy lunge is great for strength and stability and you can never go wrong with a cable row, shoulder retraction is great for counter-acting bad posture.

Toe-out RDL

RDL’s work the whole posterior chain, but it especially targets your hamstrings. The addition of the toe out stance increase adductor muscle activation.

Bulgarian Split squat

Bulgarian Split squats are primarily a glute and quad exercise. As you sit back into the lunge your glute muscles will fire and engage to push you out of the lunge and extend your hip.

Barbell Hip Thrusts

Barbell hip thrusts are a lot like glute bridges, but I prefer to do them in an up right position, leaning against a bench. Start by position the barbell across your pelvic bones, lean back into the bench and engage your core. Propel your hips up by engaging and driving with your glutes.

Flat back SL hold and SL tuck to kick out

Another surprise core exercise, that again evolves some hamstring stretching. Start flat on your back, you can tuck you hands under your butt to tilt your pelvis and help keep your back flat on the ground. Extend one leg out and hold it about 6 inches off the ground. Tuck your other knee towards your chest, kick your leg up straight, and then keeping your leg straight, slowly lower that leg to the ground.

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Welcome to the world of fitness and wellness gifting! As we gear up for 2023, it's time to start setting goals and looking for resources to help us succeed. Whether you're a fitness fanatic or seeking the perfect gift for one, our Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide is...

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The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

In the world of personal training, where trust and credibility play pivotal roles, the concept of social proof functions as an authentic way to connect with your audience. Social proof, the influence created when individuals see others engaging in a particular...

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EXERCISE AS YOU AGE: WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?

EXERCISE AS YOU AGE: WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?

From the time we are young the importance of being physically active is instilled into our brains. Part of me is still convinced that this is just so kids can get their energy out 😊. The things that are important at this age are developing balance, coordination, mental engagement, and healthy bones. Would you believe me if I told you these are the exact same things that need to be developed as you age? Exercise as you age isn’t different, we just scale the intensity.

I would like to be clear; this article is not to target only those of you seeing the 80s and 90s approaching. The information and science presented here can be applied to every person from 22 to 60. In fact, the decline in both muscle and bone strength begins at age 30! One of the causes is physical inactivity for both of these.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what you should be doing with your workouts the older you get. Of course, we need to develop these habits throughout the years of physical activity and exercise. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it is going to be to start. Keep in mind it is never too late, the best time to start is now. The question is, how do you know what you need?

THE KEYS TO DEVELOPING A PROGRAM AS YOU AGE

Our philosophy at the gym tailors to the 3-step progression we want all of our clients to meet as we program for them specifically. These are the building blocks of any program regardless of age, experience, or goals. These include range of motion, stability, and strength, in that order.

Range of Motion

The first is getting range of motion. As we see throughout our lifetime our joint mobility and muscle flexibility pretty much goes down the drain. From desk jobs to years of bad posture and poor mechanics, we see a steady decline. This loss of range of motion is often the cause of many of those aches and pains you experience throughout the day.

The best method here is prevention, but I understand that for most who felt mobile and agile in their twenties, likely didn’t make it a habit to practice great stretching routines. And now at age 50 you are looking in the rearview mirror wishing you had done more.

Good news! As I said, it is never too late to start. If you have been following along with our many discussions about stretching, it does not take much. Stretching twice a day for 20-30 seconds each stretch will definitely help you see the improvements you are looking for. This will also relieve pain in the common areas if done correctly.

Once we are able to gain more flexibility, we can focus on using it to gain more range of motions in the exercises we do. With the use of a TRX or putting a swiss ball between us and the wall we are able to assist in stability to get a greater range of motion. Adding mobility exercises (active stretching) to your workout routine will also expand the movements in your exercises.

The combination of this stretching, mobility, and assistance in exercises is going to set you up for success when building range of motion.

Stability

This next one is going perhaps one of the most important aspects when exercising as you age. One of the biggest causes of falls, dislocations, and injuries in older populations is due to a lack of balance and stability. Therefore, starting early and developing this balance in a controlled setting is very important to your overall health as you age.

One of the ways this is done is through creating instability. This can be as simple as doing upper body exercises using a split stance with the legs. To advance it you can go onto a single leg balance. The older we get, this may be sufficient enough for creating instability.

However, if you are starting early and are advanced in your balance technique you can an unstable object. This may include the use of a stability pad or a bosu ball which are our favorites in the gym. Start by using a double leg balance on them, and then as you get better you can move to two.

It is important to note that advancing too much too fast can result in injury. Only do so when advised by a professional. Improving your ability to balance in instable situations will only improve your ability to do so in your everyday life. This could be the difference between feeling healthy or getting a fractured bone.

Strength

Once the flexibility and stability have been established, strength is the next one to be developed within the individual. This is not to say that we stop working on the first two all-together but need to keep working on them as we continue to build strength.

Although much of our muscle strength and power declines as we age, our body’s ability to adapt to resistance training remains the same. Resistance training in older adults has a huge positive impact on bone health and helps adults’ ability to function through everyday activities such as climbing stairs, sitting down and standing, and even reactionary functions.

Just as you would for an individual, it is important to scale the amount of weight to the capabilities of the exerciser. We do not want to overtask the musculoskeletal systems in older adults, so weight selection is very important!

Some of the best exercises for adults in older populations include:

  • Squats (assisted with TRX or a swiss ball if needed) These are great of building range of motion especially in the hips. It is imperative to build strength in this range of motion for functions like sitting in a chair or getting in and out of bed
  • Rows (using a cable machine or resistance bands) These are great for strengthening the back to proper posture and helping to get rid of shoulder pain. Combining these with chest stretching will help the individual improve everyday functioning. Upper body strength can also be built with the use of dumbbells.
  • Core: In the form of a core rotator (read more about it here) or simply incorporating proper core engagement in all exercises, is vital for eliminating back pain. It is important to recognize that using excessive amounts of core bracing (Valsalva maneuver) can illicit various responses due to a raise in blood pressure that can occur. Avoid holding your breath and stop exercising if you feel dizzy or light headed.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

For exercising in older adults, it is important to consider the following things, especially if you are trying to create a program on your own. You should consider consulting a physician, no pain, warm-up properly, include strength and cardiovascular exercise, and give yourself rest. Look at the image to the left for more information!

These are all important to note as you venture into the exercise world or continue exercising as you age. But I want to call special attention to the first item on the list. The primary thing to consider is that you are cleared by your physician. Quickly followed by the fact that you are pain free when exercising in your range of motion.

The benefits of being active are immense as you age. They come from not only in walking and aerobic capacity, but in flexibility, balance, and resistance training. Structure your program to include them all. It can be the difference between a sedative lifestyle or living with minimal pain and doing the things you love!

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Fit Finds: The Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide

Welcome to the world of fitness and wellness gifting! As we gear up for 2023, it's time to start setting goals and looking for resources to help us succeed. Whether you're a fitness fanatic or seeking the perfect gift for one, our Ultimate 2023 Fitness Gift Guide is...

read more
The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

The Power of Social Proof In Personal Training

In the world of personal training, where trust and credibility play pivotal roles, the concept of social proof functions as an authentic way to connect with your audience. Social proof, the influence created when individuals see others engaging in a particular...

read more
fitness articles
lifestyle articles
nutrition articles
golf articles

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Pain Free Golf

The Importance of Core Strength & Flexibility

We have all been on the course and seen people with the elbow straps for tendonitis. Or halfway through the round someone in your group is in agonizing back pain that they say is always there when they play. You can watch people on the tee box, and they have a half or quarter swing because anything more hurts their body. Which, as a result effects their game and scorecard. Maybe this is even be you on the course. Let’s learn why and how you can fix it. 

Golf is a sport that ranges from youth to the elderly. It can be a great way to get some exercise in, enjoy being outside with friends and be competitive. Whether you’re a youth player learning, a highly competitive pro trying to make it, or an amateur who just loves the game, the answer is the same. Core strength and flexibility is what allows you to be pain free and perform better. Doing the right, simple and easy things will allow you to be pain free and improve your game at the same time. 

These are affiliate links. While there is no cost to you when you order through them, I do make a commission. Your support, by ordering through them, is greatly appreciated!

Impact of flexibility on swing ROM and chronic pain associated to it

One of the most common complaints in golf is low back discomfort and/or pain. Your golf swing is your unique Range of Motion (ROM). Flexibility has a massive impact on swing ROM. Which means flexibility can also be the main component to relieving chronic low back pain in the golf swing.

The human body is amazing. Even though flexibility may be lacking, the body will do its best to find a way to still complete a task. Speaking specifically about the golf swing. If you lack hamstring flexibility you will not be able to complete a full turn in the golf swing. Which in return your low back will have to do much more. This is because instead of rotating you will start to extend during your back swing. Your low back will take the complete & constant load of the movement.

The low back and muscles in that area are not designed to take that constant load and as a result of poor hamstring flexibility you now have low back pain. Unfortunately, you also have a weaker swing because it is not efficient. This is the most common example of chronic pain in golfers we see, but there are several others. This example really shows why flexibility plays such a massive role in pain free golf. 

By prioritizing a flexibility routine you will:

  1. Improve your comfort while playing your favorite sport,
  2. Improve your golf performance
  3. Increase the amount of time and length of time you can play golf.

Check out our video on flexibility for golfers here.

Read more about golf flexibility here. 

Core strength and stability for proper loading and muscle firing in the golf swing

Flexibility is half the battle in pain free golf. The other half is core strength and stability to keep you healthy. Stability is turning on the appropriate muscle groups that we want involved and that should “fire” during movements. We call this a proper kinematic sequence. It is our job to teach the body which muscles to fire at the right time during the golf swing. This allows you to play pain free and dramatically increase your performance.

We always like to start from the ground up when working with stability. When you watch the PGA pros play it’s amazing to see their power that they generate from their legs. It is imperative that we give your legs the proper stability training to ensure the proper kinematic sequence for the rest of the golf swing. As we move up the body, we want proper movement and stability in the glutes and hips, and then the core. If we can initiate proper muscle firing in the legs, to the glutes/hips, and then to the core you will be able to play the game of golf pain free. 

It is very important to focus on training these muscles to fire properly. Simply going through the motions of movements doesn’t fix the problem. Flawless technique, mental focus and proper repetition is how your body will learn to do things right and then continue to do them right.

Check out our video on hip stability for golfers here.

Read more about stability for golfers here.

Focusing on the flexibility, stability and core strength is the key to eliminating pain and improving golf performance. How you go about it is a massive component of how successful you will be. Follow our proven PureForged Method and find out for yourself.