Oops, I’ve Sat All Day

Some days just bomb with getting steps in.  Whether you’re in a long meeting, long day of class or just having a lazy day (those are allowed), it is inevitable we will all have times of long sits.  In isolation, generally, a long sit day is no big deal. I know for many of us that long sit days really are not in isolation, but occur M-F. Eventually our low back hurts, hip hurt, shoulders, neck, etc all ache.  Even I fall victim to poor posture and the effects of sitting, even though my job allows me to be up and active a fair amount. We all probably have the best intentions to stand and move, but life and work just get in the way.

With really just a handful of a few exercises, simple exercises can be performed to help combat the seated posture and help our muscles and joints feel as good as possible.

To help most combat the effects of sitting all day, we just need to essentially reverse all the positions we’ve maintained.  As promised, here is my short list of my Top 5 Postural correction moves:

Foam roll thoracic spine with a pectoral stretch

Chances are, the longer you are in front of your computer, the closer your chest comes to the keyboard & thus the more forward your shoulders actually go. Time to work on rolling out that upper back (thoracic spine) to encourage extension, reversing all that flexion.  It also feels SO GOOD. While you’re down there, go ahead and do a few angel stretches on the foam roller to lengthen out the pect muscles. Trust me, your shoulders will thank you.

Band “W”

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Following foam rolling, the banded W is an amazing follow up.  As mentioned, inevitably as we sit in front of a computer, our back rounds and the muscles between our shoulder blades stay in a lengthened position.  This is not good for their overall level of neuromuscular activation, strength and stability.  Stretch bands are so cheap and easy to tote around, or, just keep around your house. No gym required!  Grab a band and use it to perform the W – an exercise fantastic for your rotator cuff and lower trap

Neck Stretch – Upper trap + chin tuck stretch

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Forward head, rounded back.  The diction often used in physical therapy documentation to quickly document poor posture.  The forward head is just as much an issue as the rounded back.  With a forward head posture, the chin is essentially pointing up and forward, leading to stiffness and tightness in the upper neck.  The top of the shoulder is also the notorious location we all carry stress. The chin tuck (or unofficially, the double chin) exercise + neck stretch will help lengthen out those tight muscles, help keep the shoulders level.  It can also aid in alleviating tension headaches! Just don’t perform in front of an admirer ;).  Simply tuck your chin towards your neck (kind of like you are giving yourself a double chin), and then gently tilt your head towards one shoulder for a stretch on the opposite side. 

Kneeling hip flexor stretch

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Sitting keeps us so tight in the front of our hips.  Time to reverse it! Just make sure you get the posterior pelvic tilt down so that the stretch can really get into the hip flexor musculature.  In this photo, I am stretching my right hip flexor.

Bridge

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This exercise has been reviewed many times.  After stretching the front of the hips out, make sure those glutes are still revving.  Refer back here: for a review of glut strengthening

Top 5 Swissball Exercises

Ah, the swissball.  We see them at the gym, but what the hell do we do with them?  They are in essence, an excellent tool for core and stability work.  The lack of stability they provide makes the core turn on even more and makes all your other muscles work harder to accomplish the exercise.  There are SO many things you can do with a swiss/stability ball, this list is obviously non-exhaustive.

A stability, or swissball, can easily be incorporated into your workout at the gym or at home.  Any time you do a movement in which the ground or a chair is used to support bodyweight, sub out a stability ball!  To do this safely, keep in mind that the sub-out part of the stability ball should be used for a secondary support.  This means that basically, if the exercise is stepping up onto a chair (if at home), or aerobic step (if at the gym), the ball clearly wouldn’t work here, so please don’t try to step on a ball, unless you are a professional.

My current Top 5 Stability ball exercises are:

  1. Pike crunch

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This is one of my FAVORITE core and arm exercises.  Make sure you keep your core rock hard.  Use your midsection to pull yourself into a pike position, hold for a second, and return to a plank position.  Repeat 8-12 times!

      2. Split squat ball

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Holy stability!  This is no easy exercise.  The prop of one leg on the ball really challenges your balance and core stability.  If you can’t maintain good form and control, be sure to use assistance for your balance.  Repeat each side 8-12 times!

      3. Shoulder bridge burner with UE movement 

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If you want to feel your glutes & hamstrings burn, baby, burn – this is the exercise for you.  Try to keep your core and hips perfectly straight and level, core engaged, and extra squeeze at the booty!  Keep this position while you perform upper body exercise (you can also get just as good of a burn by focusing on lower body!)  Pictured here, I’m performing overhead chops for core, lats and triceps. 

      4. Walk out with pushup

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Push ups are probably on my list of least liked exercises, but they are such a good exercise because they target core AND arms.  Add the stability ball to ramp up the core engagement.  Keep core tight and do not let your lower back “sag.”  8-12 reps!

      5. Bridge + HS curl

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If there is any exercise to guaranteed burn out the hamstrings on this list, this is the one.  Pro Tip: keep the booty elevated to maximize the work of the posterior chain, aka the backside of your body.  8-12 reps!

 

All About that Booty

We’ve all seen it.  Sitting is killing us.  Or so says countless memes, health websites, and even news articles.  I think that is a little extreme, but sitting for prolonged time is, well, not great (the irony here is I’ve been sitting for at least an hour reflecting on this blog, it’s goals and this post).  Even in an ideal posture, the seated position lengthens our glutes and tightens our hip flexors.  This posture (even a good posture) can lead to it’s own set of issues.  Stiff hip flexors can pull at their attachment on the lumbar spine (aka low back), and lead to back pain.  Stiffness in the front of your hip can lead to a reduced ability to extend your leg behind you, which can have deleterious effects on walking form, running form.  Lengthened glutes can lead to poor glut activation and subsequently, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, injury risk, etc etc.  Seriously though, to get into all that can happen from sitting all day would take forever.

Inactive glutes?  What is this nonsense?  Many of us work out, so like, my glutes MUST be strong, right?  Not so fast.

Our pelvic position can really affect how well our glutes are engaging when they contract.  Neutral pelvis is going to give us the ideal posture for max glute engagement. How do you gauge if you are in neutral pelvis?  Well, good body awareness is needed, but you take yourself through an anterior pelvic tilt (exaggerate the curve in your low back) and then go through a posterior pelvic tilt (try to flatten out your low back curve)… and then find the posture that is somewhere in the middle.  That, my friends, was the simplest instruction ever to find neutral pelvis, so if you can’t quite figure it out, EMAIL ME!  If you find you mostly stand in anterior pelvic tilt (increased low back curve), this is arguably the worst standing posture for glut engagement, so I would definitely encourage you to start working towards that neutral pelvis.

Muscle imbalance can lead to a strong muscle group out powering the glutes.  Very strong quads can overshadow the glutes and lead to poor glute use during strength training exercises.  So just because you squat does not mean you are maximally engaging your glutes.  Many people are anterior chain (quad) dominant, and poorly engage their posterior chain (glute complex).  When someone squats or lunges that is quad dominant, they will put increased stress across the front of their leg (and subsequently knee, ahem, knee pain) because they are predominantly using their quads.  If you squat and lunge correctly, you will notice the majority of your weight is in your HEELS and NOT your forefoot.  IF you squat and lunge and you feel like you are about to lift your heel from the ground, you are quad dominant.

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Even exercise junkies can have inactive glutes (speaking from experience, friends)!  A lot of the exercise we do is in the sagittal (forward & backward) plane.  We walk/run straight ahead, bike straight ahead.  There are very few things that we do sideways.  All of this sagittal plane work can really put a hit on our backside.  Especially the glute med & glute min that are responsible for stabilizing our hips and pelvis.  So what can we SIMPLY do to keep our glutes activating the right way?  Just regular mat exercise!  This allows us to work these muscles as best we can in isolation.  This will help keep our backside healthy and help reduce injury risk.

My Top 5 for Glute Strengthening exercise (based on actual research & ease of performance)

  1. Clamshell Exercise: lay on your side with your legs stacked.  Bend your knees and keep your feet together.  Your feet should stay in contact the whole time.  Rotate at the hip and lift the top knee away from the bottom knee.  That’s one rep!  Make sure your hips do not rotate behind you.  See top photo
  2. Bridging: This can be performed either single leg or double leg.  FORM is the most important so if you aren’t quite strong enough for single leg with correct posture, stick with double leg.  Lay on your back with your knees bent.  Your feet should be hip width apart and knees in line with hips.  Keep your core tight and do not let your back arch.  Lift your hips off of the floor, squeezing the glutes at the top.  IF you perform it single legged, make sure your hips remain level with the lift.  See second photo
  3. Side Plank: Yo, these are HARD.  So many of my athletic patients struggle with this one.  It is easy to cheat so make sure you are in proper alignment.  Your elbow (or hand) should be aligned directly under your shoulder.  Your ankles should be in line with your shoulder (body in a straight line).  Use core and hip to lift body off of ground coming into a straight line, not a saggy line.  Also be sure to “push” your elbow into the ground to engage your shoulder muscles so you aren’t “hanging out” on your shoulder joint.  Goal should be to hold one of these on each side for 30 seconds WITH GOOD FORM.
  4. Sidelying Hip Abduction: cue Jane Fonda.  Lay on your side with your hips and legs stacked, knees straight.  Engage the core and lift the top leg toward the ceiling.  Your leg should stay in LINE with your body and not come in front of you (otherwise you are cheating).
  5. Quadruped Hip Extension: come into tabletop (on hands and knees).  Wrists directly under shoulders, knees directly under hips.  Core engaged (make sure you are not allowing your low back to sag).  Lift from the GLUT and try to “kick” the ceiling with your heel.  Your pelvis should not rotate and do not allow your back to arch to get the leg up.

Okay, that’s the top 5 glut activation exercises.  But don’t forget to stretch afterwards!

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