Front body/Back body, how’s your posture?

In the words of Chang San Feng, “Up and down, forward and backward, left and right, it’s all the same . . . If there is a top, there is a bottom, if there is a front, there is a back, if there is a left, there is a right.” This excerpt, from the Tai Chi Chuan Treatise, sums up the reality of the synchronicity of duality; in particular, that of front and back. The human body has a front side (anterior) and a back side (posterior). The posture that one exhibits is a tell-tell sign of the balance between the two. When one exercises, engages in daily activities or just sits or stands, more than not, emphasis is skewed toward weakness and laxity in the back of the body. This can lead to poor posture as well as musculoskeletal complications. However, aside from just looking better, one can ‘Be Better’.

Good posture/Bad posture
Good posture is advantageous for overall good health

When we let our arms hang at our sides, the general tone of the back/shoulder musculature becomes apparent. Muscular balance between the front side and back side of the body, as evidenced by neutral spine, would be revealed by the longitudinal axis, aka the plumb line, extending from the top of the head, through the ears, through the shoulders and all the way down through the ankles. It is this degree of alignment along the plumb line that gives evidence of balance between the posterior muscles and anterior muscles of the torso.

Fitness activities are predominantly oriented towards strengthening the front of the body and the muscles of the anterior torso tend to be more developed than those of the posterior torso. Thus we see more pushing than pulling and more forward bending (spinal flexion) than back bending (spinal extension). Pronation (rounding) of the shoulders is the visible result of indulging the ease of pushing exercises and neglecting the beneficial challenges of pulling exercises.

Pronation of the shoulders makes lifting overhead more challenging. The scapula (shoulder blades) must be engaged on the rib cage (scapulothoracic articulation) in order for the shoulders to be properly positioned when reaching overhead. If this does not take place or is not taking place, dysfunctions of the shoulder can result. One of the more critical shoulder dysfunctions is impingement syndrome.

Deep space between the shoulders and the ears. This is great scapulothoracic rhythm.

By maintaining the muscular balance between the anterior torso and the posterior torso, our posture, core engagement/stabilization and overall balance are more synchronous. The muscle groups of the back (i.e. rhomboideus, mid tapezius, low trapezius, infraspinatus, teres major teres minor, rear deltoid) should be addressed within the scope of our exercise routines. Some exercises that can be used for this are: cable rows, pull downs, bent over barbell row, pull ups, reverse dumbbell flyes, reverse table top, reverse cable flyes, reverse plank (purvottanasana), and supermans.

Good Posture
Take a moment to assess your posture.

So it behooves the fitness enthusiast to work toward establishing that balance between the front of the body and the back of the body. The front of the body is stronger overall and is engaged in strength expression; both ballistic and sustained. Most activities require good anterior strength. The back of the body is involved with postural stability. One cannot have good posture without good posterior strength. The back of the body must be strong enough to counterbalance the pull of gravity, ballistic activities of pushing and the juxtaposition of anterior tightness/posterior weakness that is endemic in today’s modern society; amongst those who are exercise oriented, as well as those who are not.

Single Leg Squatting: Stability and Flexibility

Progression 1/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Supported

Everyday, people engage in movements that involve coordination of the ankle, knee and hip joints (AKH). Movements such as walking, running, and jumping are variations of the Single Leg Squatting position. In order for coordinated execution of these movements to take place, proper engagement of the core and sequenced activation of the posterior chain are extremely important. Proper core engagement contributes to smooth integration of the hip, knee and ankle. The posterior chain is associated with spinal stabilization is key to integrating movements through the AKH.

Progression 2/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Unsupported

The core must engage and the ankles must be stable and flexible. It is from here that proper hip drive and knee extension can occur. Knee extension and back extension are predicated by activation of the posterior chain, in conjunction with good core engagement. When these pieces come together then the squat takes place as if the body were a piston in a well oiled machine. Single Leg Squatting will help develop these biomechanics.

Progression 3/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Weighted

    This is a list of muscles associated with the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex. Tightness or weakness in any of these areas could inhibit actions, ie; Single Leg Squatting, that are dependent on coordination through the AKH. *

    1. Gastrocnemius/soleus
    2. Adductor complex
    3. Hamstring complex
    4. Hip flexors
    5. Abdominal complex
    6. Erector spinae
    7. Intrinsic core stabilizers
    8. Latissimus dorsi
    9. Tensor fascia latae/IT-band
    10. Gluteus medius and maximus

    The human body is bilaterally constructed. As such, imbalances between the left and the right side of the body are fairly common; whether due to injury or dominant side biomechanics in sports or daily activities. In this article, we present Single Leg Squatting as a movement that will help with establishing continuity between both sides of the body.

    The Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • 1) Stand on one leg. Wrap the lifted foot behind the supporting ankle.

    1. This position ensures that there will be work done on the balancing leg side.
    2. There will be a contralateral transfer of the work as the hips stabilize the torso.
    3. You may need to use a support rod when you start working with this exercise.
    Balancing to develop stability
    Stand on one leg. Wrap the lifted foot behind the supporting ankle.
  • 2) Before beginning, draw the belly button in. Maintain the draw in for the duration of the exercise.
    1. I find it easier to inhale on the descent but you need to find what works for you.
    Engaging the transverse abdominis
    Keeping the core engaged will help stabilize the body.
  • 3) Keeping the chest lifted, begin your descent. Keep the hips square to the front. Maintain the descent of the hips toward the supporting ankle, as much as the flexibility of the hip and ankle will allow.
  • Center the his over the ankle
    Breathe evenly as you sink the hips.
  • 4) Descend as far as you can while maintaining good form.
  • Hips stable, Ankles stable
    Hip Flexion, Knee Flexion, Dorsiflexion.
  • 5) Keep the chest lifted, (re)establish the belly button draw in, press the foot firmly into the ground and begin your ascent. Do not press into the supporting ankle/heel with the lifted foot.
  • Back up to the top.
    Hip Extension, Knee Extension, Plantar Flexion.
  • 6) Come back up to the standing position.
  • Stable and balanced
    Standing tall and firm.

    The single leg balancing squat is a great way to develop the mechanics of ankle stability, knee joint strength, hip flexibility/stability, and spinal stabilization in lieu of moving on to heavier bilateral power/strength work.

    References


    Corrective Strategies for Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Impairments


    Single Leg Movement and The Lateral Sub-System

    *List obtained from Corrective Strategies for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, NASM

30 minutes and I’m gone . . . .

So you have only 30 minutes to workout? What can you accomplish in 30 minutes? When structured properly, you can achieve an effective workout in just 30 minutes.

Due to time constraints, exercise usually gets put aside until the next day. If this happens often enough, accountability may begin to wane and exercise may be skipped for a week, two weeks, maybe even a month. This is not the way to maintain healthy habits that add to the longevity and vibrancy of living.

I am presenting an exercise routine that can accommodate a limited time frame. Some of the exercises might be a bit advanced so be aware of your abilities when doing them.

This exercise routine will meet the following criteria:

  • Addresses the major muscle groups
  • Addresses the deeper stabilizer muscles
  • Develops core stability and strength

This 30 minute exercise routine encompasses multi-joint movements, core strengthening, stabilizer activation and engages all of the major muscle groups. The deep stabilizer muscles are often neglected in workout routines. Activating and stimulating the stabilizer muscles and the major muscle groups will give you benefits throughout the day, after the workout has been completed. The stabilizer muscles are important for maintaining good posture, bending forward or backward, reaching up, leaning sideways and twisting, with or without a load.

According to Reebok University, the muscles that function in trunk movement or stability comprise the core. This includes deep abdominal and back muscles, as well as muscles that stabilize the hips and shoulders.* Moreover, walking, running and jumping require that the ankles function in a stabilized manner. Handstands, backward and forward handsprings, and pushing weight overhead mandate that the wrists and forearms function to stabilize the movement.

For information on engaging the core, please see the blog: Tell me More About the Core

Exercises:


Lunge Position – Overhead Press

3:00 min: 4 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

Pressing Dumbbells Overhead Press from Lunge Position Dumbbell Overhead Press

Lunge Position – Biceps Curls

3:00 min: 4 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

These are great exercises for the major muscle groups of the arms and the legs, as well as a good overall body movements.

Biceps Curl from Lunge Position Dumbbell Biceps Curl

Maintain a good upright position without leaning while doing these exercises. The ears, shoulders, hips and rear knee should be aligned when executing the movement.

These movements will engage the core, the hip, ankle and shoulder stabilizers, and develop shoulder and arm strength.

Seated Reverse Cable Fly (resist-a-bands or Cable Tower)

3:00 min 4 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

Seated Reverse Fly FinishSeated Reverse Cable Fly

Stabilize through the foot that is opposite to the working hand. Maintain an upright position and keep the core engaged. Do not lean.

This movement will develop core stabilization, oblique strength, rhomboid and trapezius strength, and strength and tone for the mid and rear deltoid.

Reverse Table Top

Leg Lift 3:00 min: 4 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

Table Top Up Leg ExtendedReverse Table Top w/Leg Lift/Extension

Arm Lift 3:00 min: 4 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

The hip flexors may be tight and/or the lower back may be weak. Do not force the lifting of the hips beyond what is comfortable for you.

  • Let the hip flexors lengthen and the lower back strengthen as you repeat this series.
  • Keep the tip of your tongue connected to the roof of your mouth behind the top row of teeth;
      This will keep the neck musculature from straining.

Do not perform these movements haphazardly.

Table Top w/ Arm ExtendedReverse Table Top w/ Arm Lift/Extension

The hip flexors may be tight and/or the lower back may be weak. Do not force the lifting of the hips beyond what is comfortable for you.

  • Let the hip flexors lengthen and the lower back strengthen as you repeat this series.
  • Keep the tip of your tongue connected to the roof of your mouth behind the top row of teeth;
      This will keep the neck musculature from straining.

Do not perform these movements haphazardly.

These movements activate and tone the hamstrings, gluteals, quadriceps, mid/low trapezius, rhomboids and the deeper spinal extensors, as well as develop shoulder and mid/low trapezius strength and stabilize the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex and the ankles.

Staggered Plank 4 min 30 sec: 6 x(30 sec. exercise with 15 seconds rest)

Plank Opposite Arm ExtendedStaggered Plank w/ Arm Lift/Extension

There should be a feeling of lift in the chest and the shoulders should be pulled away from the ears. The core is engaged.

This movement develops stabilization and strength for the core; including the shoulders and the hips, spinal extension, shoulder flexion and back strength.

In this 30 minute workout session, I present options to address stabilization. Stabilization is key to developing and maintaining good posture. The more that we stabilize the more efficiently our bodies will perform.

This workout can be used as a supplement to your regular workout regimen.

If all that you have is 30 minutes, give this routine a spin.

Please consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting any exercise program.

Be Healthy, Be Ageless, Be YouAb-Sutra Health and Fitness Coaches, LLC

Exercise Routine

You will need;

  1. Dumbbells
  2. A chair or a bench
  3. A cable tower or an resistance band w/ a good anchor
  4. An adjustable timer

Key points

  • Work both sides of your body equally and evenly.
  • Use enough weight to challenge you and allow for good form.
  • Keep the tip tongue connected to the roof of your mouth to minimize neck strain.

      Reverse Table Top
  • The hips should be parallel to the floor.
      Staggered Plank
  • There should be no tension in the neck.
      Seated Reverse Fly
      Dumbbell Overhead Press

5 minute warn up

Perform a five minute warm up of your choice or click on the following links:

Video – Zuzana’a 5 minute warm-up

How-to-warm-up

Lunge Position – Overhead Press 3:00 min total: 4 x (30 sec. and 15 sec. rest)

Perform this exercise with the left leg forward two times and the right leg forward two times.

Video – Lunge Position – Overhead Press

Reverse Table Top – Leg Extension 3:00 minutes total: 4 x (30 sec. and 15 sec rest)

Lift the left leg arm two times for 30 seconds and the right leg two times for 30 seconds.

Video – Reverse Table Top – Leg Extension

Seated Reverse Fly (cable tower or resist-a-bands) 3:00 minutes total: 4 x (30 sec. and 15 sec. rest)

Perform this exercise twice with the right arm and twice with the left arm.

Video – Seated Reverse Fly

Lunge Position – Biceps Curls 3:00 minutes total: 4 x (30 sec. and 15 sec. rest)

Perform this exercise with the left leg forward two times and the right leg forward two times.

Video – Lunge Position, Biceps Curls

Reverse Table Top – Arm Lift 3:00 minutes total: 4 x (30 sec. and 15 sec. rest)

Lift the left arm arm two times for 30 seconds and the right arm two times for 30 seconds.

Video – Reverse Table Top w/ Arm Extension

Staggered Plank Series

Work the left arm, the right arm, and the central leg for 30 seconds each.

Video – Staggered Plank 3:30 minutes:seconds total: 2 x (90 sec. and 15 sec. rest)

5 minute cool down

Video – 5 minute cool down

References

* Stand Up Strong, Eve Fleck, MS, 2006

Posterior Chain Activation

Me introducing the series.
Thank you for coming to listen.

Click this link – Introduction to the Posterior Chain series

The hip joint and the shoulder girdle are critical to the functionality of the posterior chain musculature. The musculotendinous attachments at the hip joint and at the shoulder girdle are important to engaging the core and stabilizing the spine. Because the spine connects the hips to the shoulders, ensuing movements of the limbs will reflect the stability of the core and the functional activation of the posterior chain.

Let’s start with movements that educate your awareness of the core musculature and the postural, stabilizer muscles.

These movements will teach you how to activate the posterior chain. To properly activate the posterior chain, you must engage the deep gluteal musculature and the hamstring complex while mobilizing the deeper back musculature to stabilize the spine and the shoulder joint. Bring the ball into position such that the legs are on the ball 1/3 – 1/2 the way up, from the calcaneus, along the back of the calf. Our arms, back and hips are on the ground. The arms should be positioned no more than 45° away from the side of the torso. This is the most advantageous angle for engaging the shoulder blades onto the back of the rib cage. ‘Palms facing down’ is standard arm position while ‘palms facing up’ is more challenging.

The little muscles are working
We want to develop more spinal mobility.

Click this link – We want to develop more spinal mobility

The gluteus maximus should be relatively passive during the movement. The movements will be enacted mainly through the action of the intraspinal musculature, shoulder stabilization and core engagement. As the hips lift, the spine will be articulated from the ground. In addition, the stabilizers in the hip/thigh region and the shoulder area will add to the ease of lifting the hips.

Length of the lumbar spine
The stability of the shoulders and the hips enables us to sustain this position.

Click this link – The stability of the shoulders and the hips enables you to sustain this position

Engage the core musculature (belly button drawn in and pelvic floor activated) and keep length in the lower spine (a more lengthened, neutral spine than pelvic tilt). As the hips lift, the Iliopsoas, along with the lower back musculature, will lengthen. This will allow for better stabilization of the hips.

Bring the feet toward your hips
The stability of the hips and the shoulders is necessary to go into this position.

Click this link – The stability of the hips and the shoulders is necessary to go into this position

From the initial lifted hip position, the knees go into flexion. The hamstring complex is the prime mover in this phase. However, the stabilization that you have established through the posterior chain, thus far, will be intensified. As the hips lift, the serratus anterior will become even more active in shoulder stabilization, The deep and superficial back musculature will maintain stability and length in the spine and the thigh and hip musculature will maintain the stable position of the hips. The core will keep all of the parts of the body functionally connected as the knees flex and the hips lift even higher.

Releasing tension in the back
How to stretch after engaging the spinal extenders.

Click this link – Releasing tension from the back after working the spinal stabilizers/extensors

Please be aware of your limitations as you go into these movements. The deeper aspects of your musculature will be engaged intensely as you work to activate the posterior chain. You need complete no more than 5 – 8 repetitions. As you get stronger, work on adding a second set. If you have any spinal complications or hip issues, you should consult with your physician or with your physical therapist before engaging in any exercise of this type.

Core Exercises

Despite what you may have heard, core exercises involve more than simply “activating your abdominals” and crunching. The core reaches far behind the abdominals. Pilates is a great way to strengthen the core musculature, but Pilates instruction often overlooks the activation of the pelvic floor musculature, which is crucial to developing a strong core.

In the following video, I perform a Pilates style Teaser exercise with three modifications or progressions. The following exercises are advanced, but certainly possible to perform if your core is strong and you have adequate flexibility. Please read and practice the following core stabilization blogs: Tell Me More About The Core, Pelvic Floor Muscles, and Shoulder Strength-Scapular Stability and Mobility as they provide a great starting point.

Video For Core Exercise with Bands

If your core is weak, sadly, everything else is weak.