I was recently asked to submit three fitness-related facts and/or tips to be published in our gym’s newsletter. I’ve gotten good responses from other trainers as well as members and clients. I thought I’d repost them here for those who don’t receive my gym’s newsletter.

1

Trainers are forever telling their clients to bring their shoulders back and down. We don’t do it to be annoying, or to give us one more thing to correct. We do it for your health and shoulder safety. By bringing the shoulders back and down, what we call “stacking”, you activate many of the shoulder stabilizing muscles. This means the stress of whatever activity you’re doing takes place where it’s supposed to…the muscles. What usually happens when you let your shoulders go is the stress is placed on tendons, ligaments, and even bone. Tendons and ligaments do not have the healing capacity of muscles, so once they’re torn, they tend to stay that way for a long time (sometimes never healing at all). Ligaments and bone do not have the elasticity of muscle. Ligaments that get stretched too much stay that way, which is one reason dislocations are very likely to be repeated. Bone doesn’t stretch at all and tends to break if you try. So when a trainer says, “Keep your shoulders back and down,” what we’re really saying is, “We want you to keep your shoulders safe so you can continue using them for a long time.”

2

One of my favorite full body exercises is easily scalable to any level from beginner to elite. I call them “log-roll burpees”. Here’s the progression:

1. Log-roll: Remember these? Kids usually do it going down hill. Do these on a level surface. Lie on your stomach, put your hands over your head, and roll.

2. Log-roll with plank: Start with a forearm plank, lie down and log-roll once, then end in a forearm plank. Repeat going the other way.

3. Log-roll pushups: Start in the up position (plank on your hands), lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log-roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup). Repeat on other side.

4. Log-roll squat thrusts: Start from a standing position, squat to put your hands on the floor, step or jump your feet back into plank, lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup), step or jump your feet to just behind your hands, and stand up. Repeat, but roll the other way.

5. Log roll burpees: Same as log roll squat thrusts, but add a jump each time you stand up.

I like to do a set of these and a set of rows, then a brief rest, followed by another set.

3

I sometimes see people pushing themselves so hard, they end up bent over, hands on knees, and panting. That’s great. It takes focus and discipline to push yourself to that point, and you reap the rewards in the long term. Bent over and panting, however, is one of the slowest ways to recover. A far better way to recover is what we call “active rest”. Active rest involves low intensity movement. For instance, when my clients reach that point, I often have them walk a lap or two around the room we’re working in, or if there’s no room, I have them do a step touch with bicep curls (no weights). This keeps the muscles working, maintaining the pumping action of repeated contractions allowing respiration at the cellular level to be more efficient. The more efficient cellular respiration is, the faster your body gets rid of carbon dioxide, which in turn means your breathing returns to normal much more quickly.

 

If there’s a good response to these here, I might add this type of post to my writing rotation. I might also take questions and turn them into posts.

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