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!
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!
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.”
The sooner I can get people using poles, the better for building muscle memory. People who face mobility challenges find profound freedom of movement when using poles for walking and exercise. Here’s a note from a wife/caregiver/client whose husband with PD who lived out the remainder of his life walking and being there for his family…
“Dear Friends of Jayah,
Our doctor recommended my husband receive physical therapy. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. We visited the physical therapist, learned a lot, but she recommended Jayah Faye Paley on a regular basis to guide and help us. She gave Jayah the highest recommendation.
Jayah arrived like a breath of fresh air. How she managed to keep such a sunshine disposition always astounds me, even now that she gives me exercises and help. Parkinson’s is a draining disease. I found I was angry a lot and irritable. I wanted my old life back. I hired help, but it was always a bit crazy; whereas, Jayah was solid. She liked my husband, and he liked AND obeyed her; what he wouldn’t do for me, he did for her. She came at first once or twice a week, but she was so valuable in keeping him active that I think she eventually came three times. She knows her business thoroughly. I suppose that is another reason my husband, a former UC B professor of engineering, admired and respected her.
She complimented him with his use of the poles, what he liked very much as he had been a superb skier. She gave me respite, what I needed. I looked forward to her coming because Iain was in good hands and I felt freedom. Jayah also helped me with other care givers, guiding them to do exercises with my husband. This was very important in the last years of his life when Parkinson’s truly took hold of his movement and activities.
I am happy to answer any further questions. I look back on the last years of my husband’s life and realize that Jayah made the difference. I look back on those years as precious because he was still present, what I miss so much now, even 4 1/2 years later. He was diminished, but he was there and he tried to please.”
Joan F, Berkeley, CA
When I teach a POLES for Balance & Maintaining Mobility class, I work to achieve TWO goals:
- Helping people experience the freedom of movement possible when using poles for walking
- How to improve mindfulness
We do exercises for balance, ROM (range of motion), gait, etc. I use the sit-to-stand exercise to help improve mindfulness. We break this (very complicated) movement down to its individual elements. Here’s an excerpt from an article which discusses one of the MANY benefits of this exercise:
… 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….
Some of the benefits of the sit to stand exercise (done optimally and progressively):
- Leg Strength
- Core Strengthening
- Low Back Healing (it’s true!)
Excerpt from the Johns Hopkins Health After 50 Newsletter, July 2014:
~ Muscle your way to a longer life
Want to live longer? Build more muscle, says a new study.
After analyzing data from the medical records of more than 3,50 Americans ages 55 and older, researchers concluded that the more muscle mass a person has, the less likely he or she will die prematurely, even after taking any cardiovascular and diabetic risk factors into account. Specifically, people in the study who had the lowest muscle mass had a 30% higher chance of premature death than people who had the highest amounts.
Although the researchers couldn’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between muscle and survival, they suggest it may have something to do with the metab0loism that promotes muscle mass and its association with longer survival. It’s also common for people with more muscle mass to have a more active than average lifestyle which can contribute to longevity, too. But, whatever the reason, the researchers found that muscle mass relative to a person’s height is a better predictor of longevity for older adults than the widely used body mass index (BMI), which estimates body fat based on weight and height.
If you want to build muscle, you should do a variety of strengthening exercises with dumbbells or resistance bands two to three times each week for about 30 minutes each session. You can do exercises like pushups and squats, too, which involves using your own body weight. If you’re new to strength training, ask your doctor to suggest the best exercises for you and seek out a certified trainer to show you proper form.
Note: I hope you enjoy the above article. I took the liberty of formatting it and adding paragraphs to make it easier to read. One of the skills I enjoy is programming. This means determining which exercises will help an individual to achieve his/her goals. Weight training is called Progressive Resistance Exercise – emphasis on the word progressive. If you create a good foundation, you can build little victories on top of each other. This is SO important for preventing injury.
Jayah Faye Paley, ACE & AFAA Certified Personal Trainer
How are you feeling? OK? Fine? Good? And what ON EARTH do those mean? (they’re called fuzzy words)
I work with many people – some of whom have mobility and balance challenges. If a person says – I’m OK, maybe s/he is, or perhaps I’m reading something else in his/her form. I use a simple Zero to Ten scale to help us both communicate endurance.
- Zero means – if I don’t sit down, I’m going to fall down – I’ve got nothing left.
- Ten is the tippy top of my endurance. Remember Bo Derek? The perfect Ten!
Another example: We’re walking along and my client communicates a Five. It’s probably time to turn around or rest – certainly not go farther.
If you have a partner/friend/buddy – consider using this method of communicating. It’s helpful for you, BUT it’s also extremely helpful for the person with mobility challenges. S/he will start to be more aware of the need to rest or slow down or turn around.
All kinds of things drain or energize people. Just when you think someone has gone from a 5 to a 3, they communicate a 6. They’re having fun!
Remember that this is very subjective. A person’s “number” is just the first number that leaps into their consciousness. It can change and refine as s/he becomes more self aware and this simple tool helps people to become more self aware.
Good Chiropractic is healthy for those of us who USE our bodies. I’ve known this doctor for about 15 years and love that he’s sharing his wealth of knowledge so I can share it with AdventureBuddies 🙂
Enjoy, try this and feel your power! This movement helps to stabilize the shoulder joint throughout a range of motion. Life does not happen in one plane. Developing shoulder stability dynamically in a functional range can help your posture and the health of your shoulder joint.
The “packing” also helps you to be more aware of holding this very movable joint in a more mindful way.
No, but… Using poles provides many benefits for people who like to walk or hike. Optimal use of poles encourages better posture, endurance, confidence and gait. Using the upper body muscles helps to preserve joints all over the body.
In the literally thousands of people I’ve encountered over the last 15 years, I’ve met a handful that really were not pole people. One lady was so uncoordinated, that she was terrified. It was a bad fit. People that have progressed to a walker often can no longer benefit. A hiking buddy of mine (who loves to talk) trips on poles when he uses them. Best for him to not have poles.
Sometimes people have to ease into learning new skills like using poles – or any new thing (think orthotics). Here’s a very recent example: One lady was given this prescription: Use your new poles for only three to five minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. Consistency/Frequency with very low intensity & duration. She then went out for an hour with a friend and overdid it. She damaged her fragile shoulder and hated her poles. She admitted she was out too long, was distracted and did not focus on her form. She called her poles “toxic.” I silently shook my head in frustration at her admitted and blatant violation of her body. She blamed the poles even while admitting her ridiculous and (as it turned out) dangerous behavior. Rather than gently and progressively lubricating the shoulder joint and slowly building muscles that support the shoulder, she ended up back at the doctor’s office in severe pain.
Poles COULD have helped her in many ways, but she did not listen to either her body or her trainer. Regular readers of this blog know that I like to focus on the positive. So I end this post with happier thoughts.
“To be interested in the changing seasons
is a happier state of mind
than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” ~ George Santayana
“Giving people self-confidence
is by far the most important thing that I can do.
Because then they will act.” ~ Jack Welch