You've stepped into the gym, feeling rested, recharged and ready for a great workout. Before you pick up the weights it’s a good idea to warm up. A warm up is a great opportunity for you to progress the intensity level of your training session at a comfortable pace. It is also beneficial because it helps to:
OK, where to begin? True, you could ride the stationary bike for 10 minutes and then stumble through an assortment of stretches.
Or you could have a plan of attack.
Here's one way to organize an excellent warm up to help make sure you are training optimally.
Whether you use a foam roller, lacrosse ball or other instrument of torture, this can be a good place to start ironing out the kinks. Find portions of soft tissue such as the calves, quads, lats or shoulders that are sensitive to light pressure and see if you can melt away the areas of discomfort. It's best described as a "Poor Man's Massage." Remember to start slow, go slow and don’t forget to breathe.
Approximate time - 5 minutes
If you decide to add a passive stretch (which may or may not be necessary, but that’s a topic for another day), do so with a purpose. First, find some tissue that needs to be lengthened. Second, find an appropriate stretch that helps improve that restricted range of motion. And third, get comfortable and breathe.
Approximate time - 5 minutes
A good movement prep aims to improve two elements of your athleticism: mobility and stability. Find areas where you feel stiff and limited in range and smartly add some active motion. Become aware of patterns that feel unbalanced and unstable and gain some control and steadiness in those areas.
Approximate time 10-20 minutes
Check out this excellent hip mobility series from Strength Coach Dean Somerset. This is a good example of movement prep for the hip to increase range of motion and strengthen stabilizing muscles.
Feeling better? Good. Now go ahead and smash that workout.
It's a question that comes up often and I've found it's best answered in one word:
No, it's not that I've misheard the question. It's that inquiring about which exercises are the best is like asking for the perfect pizza topping or which haircut style reigns supreme. Ultimately, it comes down to equal parts appropriate application and personal preference. Therefore, the best exercises for you will be the exercises you enjoy doing and are willing to make the time for in your schedule.
For long term success in training it's important to understand what makes an exercise a wise choice for you. And which exercises may not be the best option.
Rather than forcing yourself to train a certain way, a simpler and more effective approach is to learn exercises that complement you. You will find that your training becomes more enjoyable and that your fitness goals can be achieved with less struggle and effort.
So how can you figure out if you are training needs an upgrade to be better suited to you?
Try asking yourself the following questions the next time you approach an exercise used in your training program:
Who? Who is this exercise for? Is it appropriate for your ability, your health and your fitness goals?
What? What are you trying to achieve with this exercise? Is it the best "tool" you know of to accomplish this?
When? When's the best time to use this drill? Is it in preparation for running your half marathon or three days after returning from your month long vacation?
Why? And most importantly, why is this exercise a good choice for you?
If you take a moment to ponder these questions, you will find it easier to choose exercises that will allow you to achieve your fitness goals while staying healthy, resilient and pain free. Best of luck!
In part 1, I introduced a synchronized swimmer who came to see us after developing symptoms of tendinopathy in her rotator cuff. In my opinion, one of the factors leading to her discomfort was the way she was training her shoulders. Instead of loading the shoulder in isolation, we decided to challenge the entire system responsible for establishing strong and stable shoulders. Most notably the mid spine, the shoulder blade and the shoulder joint itself.
Below are some shoulder rehabilitation exercises that were used for this client in order to decrease discomfort and increase mobility, strength & stability in the shoulder.
In this scenario, the first restriction that was important to clean up was the swimmers thoracic mobility. In other words, her ability to rotate through the middle and upper sections of her back. Often, the hypermobile athlete (as she was) will look to achieve stability in the thoracic spine and end up losing a lot of the natural movement capabilities of the spine. A side lying T- spine rotation drill worked well to regain that range of motion.
Moving further down the line, we come to the shoulder blade. Often when the shoulder blade is not stable enough to provide a base of support for the arm, the shoulder joint may become rigid and restricted. To reinforce proper control of the shoulder blade, the swimmer spent some time going through alternating bear crawl holds. As the hand and foot rise up off the ground, the arm in contact with the floor bears the weight. The shoulder blade, among other things, has to work to maintain stability in the joint.
To challenge the shoulder with the arms in an elevated position, we used a variation of the Turkish Get Up. It is true that the Get Up is more than just a shoulder exercise. We used an abbreviated version to focus on the stability of the shoulder blade while working mobility in the spine and shoulder joint.
As mentioned in part 1, there are a long list of factors that can lead to someone suffering from irritation in the rotator cuff. Luckily, with this athlete we were able to determine and remove the cause of the discomfort, modify the training and get her back to where she belongs; in the pool swimming.
Recently, we began working with a synchronized swimmer who had developed shoulder pain. The doctor diagnosed her with rotator cuff tendinopathy. This is a brief discussion of what was possibly causing this particular case of rotator cuff injury.
In part two, I'll share with you what exercises were used to rehabilitate this shoulder injury in order to get this athlete back into training without pain or restriction.
Please note, that if you are dealing with shoulder pain we recommend you seek medical assistance. This example applies to a unique case study where a medical practitioner has given clearance to continue training after examining the injury.
The rotator cuff consists of four muscles:
Each of these muscles originate at different aspects of the shoulder blade and attach onto the humerus, the bone in your upper arm. The rotator cuff is important in executing a few shoulder movements and stabilizing the shoulder joint. Primarily the rotator cuff is known for lifting the arm up. This is an oversimplified description, but you get the idea.
Tendinopathy is a term given to describe chronic tendon injury where the mechanism of injury is not clearly understood. There is a long list of mechanisms that can predispose you to irritation in the rotator cuff. But even if genetics left you with less than perfect shoulders, there is a great deal you can do to keep them healthy, strong and pain free.
Back to our swimmer. If you know anything about synchronized swimming, they spend a lot of time in an upside down position.
The support scull, as it's known, is used for just about everything in synchro. Can you see how important the rotator cuff is in stabilizing the shoulder and to performing well in this sport?
This athlete has to spend countless hours with her arms in an overhead position. When the arm is elevated above shoulder height, the subacromial space becomes even smaller and again the enclosed tissues are at risk of impingement.
With the best of intentions our synchronized swimmer was strength training by mimicking this movement while pulling on a band (standing upright, of course). A drill known as Banded Shoulder External Rotations. Seems like a good idea, right? Not quite.
Let’s take a closer look at the shoulder. The space between the end of the collar bone and ball of the shoulder joint, is a 9-10mm gap, called the subacromial space. It houses a number of important structures including the infraspinatus muscle and tendon. By continually exposing the muscle to that particular drill, it was at risk of overuse. It also may have begun to increase in size and take up more space than necessary. Even low level stimulus like pulling on a band can lead to muscle growth, if enough volume is used.
In this particular case of rotator cuff tendinopathy, working the shoulder through loaded external rotation we felt was not the best way for her to train.
In part 2, we will go over how we changed the swimmer’s training to maintain strength and function and avoid irritating her condition.