A member in my Core, Cardio & More class told me about these exercises. She’s almost 60 and looks under 40 – her face and neck look as smooth as silk. She’s been doing these exercises for years and they work for her. It makes so much sense to me because muscles like toning. Practice & Enjoy!
Please remember to click thru to Amazon, REI and Sierra Trading Post from this blog to help support these posts. The links are on the right side banner. It’s a small commission that costs you nothing and helps to support this blog.
This holiday, I gave TheraBands. These are the bands you get at PT – they come in a roll and are cut. I cut 5′ lengths. But the main gift was the routine I designed for using it to improve posture and activate upper back muscles. So much of our lives are spent in the forward posture that pulls us into dis-ease. These gentle strengthening movements are the opposite of computer work, driving, forward everything. Form is important!
How you hold the band sets the stage.
- Choose the color band that allows light work to start.
- Hold loosely with the thumb on the same side as your fingers (overhand grip).
- As you have a slight tension on the band, look at your wrist. Make sure it’s STRAIGHT. This is the biggest mistake people make. In order to straighten your wrist, you actually have to push your hand outward.
1. Straight Arm Pull Apart
- Arms straight out in front at a slight angle
- Start with gentle tension of the band
- Pull the band outward keeping arms and wrists straight.
- As you pull the band back towards you, it will come closer to your chest and you should feel the muscles behind and between your shoulders
- This is an activation movement, not a body-building exercise. Use only the tension you need to feel the shoulders pull together behind you.
- To protect your low back, put one foot slightly in front of the other into a stagger stance. Notice how this softens your knees and helps you maintain a neutral spine.
- Do 8 to 10 reps
- The light tension means you can do this once a day just to activate the upper back muscles.
2. Wrist Work
- Do exactly the same movement as above, but when you get to about 45 degree outward with your arms (about half way), push your wrists outward and slowly return.
- The arms stay still, just the wrists move
- Do 5 to 10 of these
3. Anchor Series
- One arm is STRAIGHT out in front (not angled off to the side or up) and holds the band
- Holding arm – thumb up (this is better for your shoulder)
- Relax both shoulders down
- With the other straight arm, pull the band downward and behind the body – this engages the latissimus dorsi
- do each side 5 to 10 times
- You can also pull outward (similar to #1). Notice how the holding arm works very differently in this movement
- Another variation that I love is to do slow circles. I prefer circles backward (clockwise on the R, counterclockwise on the L)
With all of these movements, if there’s any discomfort AT ALL:
- slow down
- make the movement smaller
- stop doing it
Remember to walk with attitude, swagger and walk young!
Take care of your feet! These massage balls saved mine and keep me hiking. (5 part series on Plantar Fasciitis on this blog)
I keep at least one ball in my car ALL the time – it lives under the passenger seat. After a hike (IF I’m a passenger of course), I can soothe/fix my feet by just using the relaxed weight of my leg and gently holding or slowly rolling the bottom of my feet. It’s SO healing. I also use in the morning to relieve the plantar flexion that occurs in bed and tightens my feet. If you get all 4, keep 2 and gift 2 buddies 🙂
Another tip for keep feet in neutral at night – I put a pillow at the foot of the bed to make a little “tent” space so the blanket does not weigh down on my feet all night long.
If you have not discovered Amazon Prime – it’s AMAZING. The free shipping pays for the fee pretty fast and I love the convenience and time-saving of finding almost anything and getting it fast. It’s truly a gift (like Bay Nature Magazine) that gives all year long.
In case you have someone who has trouble getting out of your car (aging parents?), here’s a handy tool – I keep one in my car.
Hikers have knees. We love our poles and they help save our knees – BUT – knees can still ache the next day after a tough hike. When I ICE, I don’t hurt. When I don’t ice, my knees are often quite vocal the next day. Hit me over the head with a sledgehammer!
The problem is that they don’t hurt that day or evening, just the next day. But NEVER when I ice. I recently ordered a bunch of ice packs and this is the one I like! I don’t put it on bare skin. I wrap it around really snugly and it provides some compression as well. It’s EXCELLENT and so reasonably priced.
I can even put it in my cooler between 2 ice packs and have ice right after my hike. Why make your kidneys pay (ibuprophen, NSAIDS, etc.) when applying ice directly helps? Note: You may not think you need ice because you don’t SEE swelling. But if you have discomfort – ICE, ICE, ICE!
Also, in our opinion, EVERYONE should have a good ice pack in the freezer, ready to go. I’ve used this on elbows, ankles, knees, shoulders….stuff happens!
Whenever I hear that someone has occasional back pain, I think of this exercise. It’s a great back strengthener and is an excellent foundation helping people get ready for more strenuous exercises like planks.
- Function: Diagonal patterning, getting up and down from floor, Shoulder ROM (range of motion)
- Balance: Core work
- Strength: Back, core as well as weight bearing for the arms
- Flexibility: Elongating each arm and leg away from the body helps create length and stretches the muscles
The Set up – Start On All 4’s
- Hands directly under shoulders, fingers spread
- Notice that all 4 points of contact feel even
- Engage your shoulder blades down away from your ears; keep your arms straight throughout the entire sequence.
- Your head should remain neutral (this is best for your neck and means that you’ll be looking either down or just slightly in front of you).
- This starting position is your neutral or reset that you honor in between each and every part of the movement.
Part 1 – The Form
The purpose of this initial movement is to establish optimal form in each reaching arm and leg. Do this initial sequence each time you do bird dog. Just one set activates the muscles and sets the stage for a better bird dog.
- Extend L arm straight overhead/forward
- Point Thumb up and reach thru your fingertips
- Try to keep the remaining 3 points of contact (R arm and both knees/lower legs) evenly balanced
- Hold for 3 breaths as you lengthen your arm
- Notice how far your upper arm is from your ear
- Slowly lower your arm back to the even 4 point contact
- Take 1 to 2 breaths as you notice how the both arms and shoulders feel
Any time you need a break, lower to your forearms into Puppy Play or sit back into Child’s Pose
- Repeat with R arm
- (note: each time you do this notice which arm and leg you start with and make sure to alternate so you’re not always starting with the same arm/leg)
- Extend L Leg straight out behind you
- Try to keep your hips even
- Flex your foot and push thru your heel (strongly flexing the foot facilitates a lower leg/Achilles and calf stretch and engages/strengthens the shin/tibialis anterior muscles
- “Activating” the leg engages hip and leg muscles
- Hold for 3 relaxed breaths
- Notice the remaining 3 points of contact (both arms and other leg) and try to keep them evenly balanced
- Slowly lower your leg back to All 4’s.
Take 1 to 2 breaths as you notice how the both arms and shoulders feel
- Repeat with R Leg
Part 2 – The Sweep
- Gently sweep your L arm and R leg out at the same time until you reach the end point you had in Part 1
- Once you reach the end point – the longest length from your fingertips to your heel, slowly lower the arm and leg back down
- Repeat other side
- Do this sweeping movement twice on each side
- Remember to rest in between movements and only move on to the next Part when you’re ready for additional challenge.
Part 3 – The Hold
- Extend opposite arm and leg out, reaching the fingers overhead and straightening the leg, pushing thru the heel, as in Part 2,
- Hold for 1 to 2 breaths
- Slowly lower
- Repeat other side
- Do each side 3 times
As this gets easier hold for 3, then 5 breaths, then 8 – up to 10 to 15 long, relaxed breaths (approximately 1 minute)
You work hard to stay fit and active.
You hike, but do you strength train? If so, are you doing everything you can to HOLD ONTO your muscles?
“Bodyweight underestimates body fat during the aging process because adults lose 5 to 7 lbs of muscle every decade of life unless they perform regular strength exercises.”
“Perhaps the main reason that diets do not work over the long term is that up to 25% of the weight lost on low-calorie diets is muscle tissue….muscle loss leads to a reduction in resting metabolic rate, which greatly increases the difficulty of maintaining the weight loss.”
“Several studies have demonstrated greater strength and muscle gains when extra protein is consumed just before or just after the weight workout.”
**A growing body of research has found that another way to increase protein synthesis is to consume some protein right after strength training. This doesn’t call for protein supplements – a cup of milk or yogurt after a workout may be enough.**
Above in quotes are excerpts from Chapter 10 of the manual Fitness Professional’s Guide to Strength Training Older Adults.
Above in ** is taken from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, Nov 2015 issue
These 2 excellent resources are saying the SAME thing.
And then there’s the question of whether or not you’re doing the BEST exercises for YOU. That’s another blog post, but the word that describes doing the most efficient, most beneficial exercises for YOU (including the concept of injury prevention) – is programming. It’s what trainers do for their clients. Form matters!
What body part is
- critically important for balance?
- largely ignored?
- incredibly responsive to minimal attention?
Hint: It’s a joint
Give yourself a moment to consider the answer (unless you know immediately). Click on the link only after you’ve worked the question a bit – please.
Limited ROM (range of motion) of this joint can significantly affect your balance. So, if you have limited ROM, you can improve your ROM and, consequently, your balance within a very short period of time – like magic (really!)
This is the exercise I teach at all my mobility classes because it encourages and enhances mindfulness. Mindfulness is the syncing of the brain with the body. As our body slows and our brain speeds ahead at its “regular” rat-race pace, this imbalance puts us at increased risk for falls. When using poles for mobility, this mindfulness enables you to take a moment to remember to take your hands out of the straps. Remember, never stand up or sit down with your hands in the straps.
MODIFIED SQUAT: This one simple exercise is excellent for slowing the brain down as well as improving:
- leg strength (great for balance)
- improved function (what’s more functional than standing up/sitting down?)
- core strength which can significantly relieve back pain/discomfort/strain
- plus it “tunes” the vestibular system ** (see below)
- excellent for posture and posture awareness (again, when done optimally)
The key to this exercise is the breath. Learn and practice pursed lip breathing (also known as Pilates breathing)
- Inhale fully thru your nose
- Exhale thru pursed lips as if whistling
- Notice the feeling in your tummy muscles (rectus abdominus) – the tightening (engagement/contraction/recruitment) of these core muscles is what helps your back
- Standing in front of a chair, feel the front of the chair at the back of your legs
- Neutral Spine (see elsewhere on this blog for tips on optimal posture)
- Feet and legs approx. hip width apart, keep parallel
- Knees aim in same direction as feet (either straight ahead or slightly out – not in)
To Sit down:
- Inhale and stand tall, feel front of chair at back of legs
- Pursed lip exhale as you Slowly lower into chair, hinging at the hips (stick your bottom back – this is where you think of a public toilet)
- Use arms if needed
- Don’t “plop.” Plopping Impact is really bad for the back
- Use an arm chair if necessary – it’s the same amount of effort, but redistributed
- Keep knees aligned (weakness in legs often brings knees together as a compensation)
- Inhale while seated, elongating spine
- Pursed lip exhale to rise, exhale throughout the entire standing process
- Shift weight forward and rise. (as rising, lift from hamstrings, push forward with gluts and press in to feet – as in a dead lift)
- Pause standing, check your balance
- Squeeze gluts as you stand
- Use an armchair if you tend to “hoist” yourself up. This use of momentum often involves the low back vs. using the breath and the core
Return to seated position with legs also wide apart and knees pointing same direction as toes.
- Each one of these is a rep (short for repetition)
- Do up to 10 reps at a time until fatigue.
- No pain! Nothing should hurt even a little. Use a sturdy arm chair if your knees complain.
- When this is easy, slow them down . Slower is harder and works (strengthens) the legs more. Follow your breath.
- If you stand up without good form, you didn’t forget – you remembered late and you get free do-overs for life!
- Called public toilets because as you sit down you stick your bottom out as if you don’t want to touch the toilet
- Really focus on your body mechanics on this exercise.
- This highly functional exercise will strengthen your legs.
- Do these more slowly as you progress
- Progress to arms crossing chest as legs get stronger. You can also reach arms forward as you rise
**How to create healthy new habits that improve performance & safety. Going the Distance, Article in 12/29/13 Parade Magazine by Bruce Grierson
“Simply standing up more is the best thing sedentary people can do to start becoming healthier, maintains Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences for NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills. The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, and tunes the vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet.”
Do you do bridges? If so, chances are that you’re not really doing your low back a huge favor, UNLESS you are doing them really well. Try this 5 part series and see if you can heal or relieve back pain or discomfort:
Bridge with Low Back Articulation
- Starting Position:
- Lie on floor in Supine Position, Knees Bent and slightly apart, feet flat on floor
- Let the floor receive you – breathe and notice how you feel
- Imagine you are taking a mental Polaroid – what does your back feel like on the floor?
- Activate your arms – let them be heavy, your fingers reach toward your feet, thumbs up – feel the entire arm on the floor from your pinky fingers to your shoulders
- Gently tuck chin to elongate cervical spine
- This is your starting position – your neutral
- Please don’t skip this step….be where you are, in the moment, in the healing space – a good set up is the foundation of creating this healing movement
- Do 2 pelvic tilts
- Inhale in your neutral, exhale as if thru a tiny coffee straw (pursed lip breathing) and feel belly button sink towards floor
- Inhale to release, allowing the pelvis back to “rock” back to neutral
- Exhale one more pelvic tilt
- You can put your pinky on your hip bone and your thumb on your lower rib, as you exhale into the pelvic tilt, feel the fingers coming together.
- This movement is really initiated with the abdominal muscles. Visualize the insertion and attachment of the rectus abdominus at the sternum and pubic bone contracting with the exhale thereby rocking the pelvis as if tilting a bowl of water towards your tummy.
- also – when moving pelvis into stretched (down) position, try to elongate neck by gently tucking chin – this is called a dorsal glide
- Do 2 pelvic rocks
- Same as above, only allow your hips to come off of the floor just about ½ to 1 inch
- Do 2 three part bridges
- To initiate bridge: Inhale in neutral spine.
- Exhale and rock pelvis up towards sternum. Pelvic tilt to pelvic rock slowly up to bridge.
- When hips are up, look toward knees to re-elongate neck.
- Inhale at the top of the bridge.
- As you being to exhale, lower slowly down no farther than 1/3 of the way (to about the nipple line.)
- Pause at the end of the exhale and inhale fully.
- Exhale slowly as you roll down to about your waist line
- Pause and inhale there feeling where you are in your spine.
- Exhale and roll down the rest of the way feeling every single vertebra in the low back against the floor.
- At the end of the 2nd 3-part bridge, notice how you feel – this is your new neutral – pull out your Polaroid and compare how much of your back feels the floor
- You are a pat of melting butter on the floor and you’ve created S P A C E in your spine, Yeah!
- Finish with 2 regular articulated bridges
- Inhale at bottom, exhale slowly up
- Inhale at top of bridge, exhale slowly down, paying special attention to low back
- Notice how much more aware you are of your entire spine and how you can resist the FLOP of your low back as you lower down
Note: Doing only 2 of each of these movements – well, slowly and mindfully – will make a profound difference in your form.
More is not better – more is more. Consistency vs. Intensity! If you do this simple exercise daily for about a week, then 1 or 2 times a week for the rest of your life, your low back will thank you. Also, this can be a powerful tool in your back healing toolbox. If your low back feels fatigue or strain, pull your Articulation Tool out and focus on healing your back.
Sorry this post is so long, but it’s important to do each step mindfully. Once you get this movement into your muscle memory, it flows easily and almost effortlessly.
Top of the list again this year. If you love the outdoors, Bay Nature Magazine is a gift that gives all year long.
If you have a skeleton, Dr. Lani’s Bone Health book is a must read. I waited to read Susan Love’s Breast Book until AFTER I was fighting breast cancer. Please DO NOT wait for a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis to read this book.
|Click here to order Bay Nature|
Eating on the Wild Side: This life-changing (but badly named) book will help you make better, more nutritious choices. Learn how to buy, store, prepare fruits and veggies in order to make more nutritious choices, save money and shop smarter. More info and great pod cast – click here.
Once again this year – if you have feet – these massage balls will help them stay healthy. If you have a HINT of Plantar Fasciitis (or know someone who does), get them – don’t wait!
With Dad dying this year and mother-in-law failing, I’m aware that many of us are helping or dealing with an older adult who is at fall risk. This simple, high quality bed rail helps stabilize at one of the most risky times – getting out of bed. This is the one you want! Also, I carry a Handy Bar for helping clients get out of the car, it’s a great stabilizer as well as a seat belt cutter and window smasher. I hope I never need to use it for that!
What gift guide would be complete without a plug for POLES? Consider gifting a class (if you’re in Northern CA) or a video (for hiking or mobility) and or a new set of poles. To learn which poles best fit a person (and will help him/her achieve her goals), just complete the consultation form on this web page. I have some poles that are discontinued, so my stock of high quality poles is selectively available for special needs (like extra tall people, wrist or shoulder issues, etc).
For locals (Bay Area Residents), anytime tickets to the Mountain Play are a great gift. We go every year and the anytime tickets enable us to go when the weather is what we want (not hot). They are only on sale for a short time in December.
Happy & Safe Holidays!