Thoracic Spine Mobility Tip

Moving better and getting stronger is rather contextual. For an average gym attendee it’s a clear message; “I want to lift heavier stuff” or “I want to carry out more complex movements”.

But, if you’re an individual with back pain (or any pain) at rest, whilst carrying out day-to-day activities or whilst trying to engage in exercise, the message is different. It becomes qualitative rather than quantitive. Working out hard or following the most advanced, cutting edge, progressive strength training plan is irrelevant at this stage.  Getting out of pain and discomfort is top priority.

Most of the general population will have some form of mobility issue. It could be as simple as a slightly stiff ankle or hip or shoulders none of which seriously affects the quality of life or it could be as impactful to cause pain and discomfort.

One area of mobility impairment I observe in the gym is thoracic spine mobility restrictions, or in simple terms, the limited range of movement of the upper body through rotation or side bending and also overhead reaching activities.

The thoracic spine (aka the T-spine) comprises the 12 vertebra that covers the shoulders to the waist, or the rib cage portion of the torso.

If the thoracic spine has restrictions, the lower backs lumbar spine will compensate and attempt to move more, not something it’s meant to do. This can often result in fatigue, pain and discomfort. Where I see the restrictions more often is at the top end, where the neck and shoulders take on more work and become stiff, tired and strained. Essentially when the upper torso doesn’t move well, the arms end up compensating and over-reach. There is indeed plenty of research that supports the theory that thoracic spine movement dysfunction is linked to pathologies and pain in the neck, shoulder, and elbow (Heneghan et al, 2017).

Thankfully there are systems in place to help rectify this the help of health practitioners and some trainers who may have qualifications in postural restoration – and positive outcomes can be quick. One study showed that after just three weeks of thoracic spine mobility and strength exercise practice, that participants improved movement competency, strength, posture and pain relief.

Today I’d like to share a couple of T-spine mobility drills we practice often but with a couple of tips added to help make the most of them. We are only human and oftentimes we’ll try to cheat, or get a bit complacent. My modified versions of two common drills have helped many clients actually get the benefit of the moves.

 

Have a go and see how you feel but naturally, of you’ve got pain, maybe go see your local physiotherapist for personalised guidance.

Jamie

How to Bulletproof Your Future

Part 1

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In the gym it’s pretty obvious how we spend our time. People turn up, we warm up, we do some strength work and movement skill work, have a chit-chat then say our ‘see you next times’.

The why and the what else is all-too-often not discussed in much detail apart from some passing suggestions about getting in some aerobic work and keeping up some stretching at home etc.

This year, my goal is to help people bulletproof their futures. 

I’d love to be offering a proverbial radioactive spider to help turn you into a superhero version of yourself, and actually, compared to to an alternative, I might be doing just that!

This year I will naturally be spending time espousing the benefits of strength and mobility training, because that what 90% of my gym time with people is spent doing. BUT, I am going to be spending more time promoting the other stuff, the things we probably do not spend enough time promoting.

My role is that of a health and fitness promoter, not just a personal trainer. Fitness is what most of trainers spend lots of time on but health… meh, we could be doing heaps better at that.

Our bodies maintain a healthy balanced system when it’s treated as intended. It’s a bit like a bike chain. Left unused it will rust, stiffen and eventually fail when used. Our bodies have a blueprint, a design and a purpose. There are a number of things we are meant to do daily and frequently to sustain the balance.

Let’s look at these briefly. I will be spending time over the coming weeks looking more deeply into these according to what research has found and I’ll cover to how to action improvements.

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

What happens when we drift away from our intend? We specialise. This is a subject that puts the cat right amongst the pigeons.

Whilst admiring a specialist and their very particular set of skills, they have most likely sacrificed many other essential elements of what makes up complete health. 

A few general examples:

  • The cyclist who does not work on their strength training
  • The powerlifter who neglects their body fat levels and aerobic health
  • The overly busy father who works 55 hours a week yet neglects his family
  • The very busy mum who focuses entirely on her children and family and neglects their own fitness and nutrition
  • The Gymnast who focuses wholeheartedly on their sport and sacrifices their joint health

While you can admire all these people for their dedication and successes, isn’t it a shame they sacrifice to do so. It’s not a moral shame either. It’s a shame that the essential physical components that make us fully operational humans are missing. Being mobile, strong, aerobically capable; being able to fully recover from each day with good nutrition and adequate sleep is what amounts to enable our bodies to thrive. Being good at one thing is fine, but the pay-off is a health trade-off. 

2019 is the year I’ll be wearing more of my health promotion hat and not just my PT hat. So much of my last 10 years have been spent on learning and developing better knowledge and application of training programs, exercises, progressions, regressions and systems but one thing has become quite apparent – it just doesn’t matter if we are not getting the basics of health in place.

If you’re following a training program, not getting stronger, not losing fat, not feeling fitter, most likely it’s not the training that’s to blame, it’s the poor attention given to these other components. 

Before contemplating becoming an expert or a specialist, weigh up being a really good generalist. Being able to undertake a wide array of components of being human is so much more wealthy than being awesome at one or a restricted number of things. 

Until next time, do weigh yourself up. What are you doing more of or what are you doing proportionately less? Consider that list above:

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

 

Part 2 – Sleep 

 

Taking the Long Road

 

longevity

Most of us will be privileged to live on this earth for around 80 years or so, give or take a Zombie apocalypse or our politicians hitting the big red button in a temper-tantrum. The key word here is ‘live’. By live I mean to thrive, be strong, fit, healthy and absent of illness and disease. This is in contrast to just surviving which sadly we can observe in greater numbers in this, the 21st century.

While the great diseases of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century are all but non existent, we have growing number of people suffering heart conditions, diabetes, obesity and the cancers to name but a few.

This is not living – this is just surviving. 

We have a choice to lead a healthy life and these days we even have an abundance of resources and teachers who can guide us in the direction of a healthier life. It’s not actually that difficult once you decide to take ownership of your own existence; what you eat, what time you go to bed at and following a routine of exercise.

Living a monastic life void of all treats is not necessary but living a life of good, better and better(er) choices is achievable by everyone.

The simple choices can lead to many health benefits that in the long run, will add up to a better quality of life.

  1. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Eat mainly unprocessed foods comprising of proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrate foods that occur naturally.
  3. Walk every day for around 30 minutes. Not brisk. Just walk.
  4. Practice strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
  5. Daily, perform some form of stretching with a movement system you can enjoy. Just a few minutes a day can have wonderful affects.

You can choose to to just hang around until our nations health system has to take care us until death, or you take care of all the little things that add up to health longevity, living and thriving until our final day.

As my good friend Coach Steve Furys tag line goes – ‘Die Mighty’.

Steve Maxwell is another longtime coach with some wise words to share about longevity.

 

Got any thoughts?

FREE Trail Online Membership

Yes Christmas has passed but I’m kicking off 2019 with happy thoughts of rainbows, unicorns and free trials of my online strength and fitness membership.

For 1 week only I’m sharing a FREE version of my Online Membership. I invite you to have a good look around, maybe try one of the 10 minute short workouts or check out the monthly programs, special programs, mobility drills and all the other stuff.

The full version actually has over 44 months worth of programming!!! Crazy hey? And for just $1 a day.

The free version has downloads disabled along with the 8 other teaching courses I’ve bundled to the full membership but this version still has heaps of info 😀

The free version will be available until next Wednesday, the 16th January.

If you’ve any suggestions or questions or if you’d like to jump onto the full version at any time, just get in touch.

Just click the pic to head over to the Membership Site

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Got any feedback, suggestions or ideas? Get in touch below.

New Year Promise

I was talking to a client this morning who mentioned that her local park run event (5km recreational running events held weekly) broke its attendance record and we dully laughed knowing that attendance will most likely drop within the next few weeks.

This will be the same observation in gyms, other recreational sporting events, slimming groups and other dieting support groups.

Why?

Dreams built off of lofty goals. Goals that are unreasonable, unmeasured, unhealthy and based on poor knowledge of how to achieve the goals. If you’ve had the new year resolution conversation, I’m sure you’ve heard something along the lines of, “I want to lose 5kg”, or “I want to get fitter”, whatever that means. I bet you’ll rarely hear, “I am promising to myself to get healthier”.

And that, ultimately is why anyone should start to exercise – to improve ones health.

Health goals could include:

  1. Losing fat.
  2. Lowering stress.
  3. Sleeping better.
  4. Lowering blood pressure.
  5. Lower risk factors associated with heart disease and cancers.
  6. Rebalancing hormones.

Here’s one interesting fact. Aerobic exercise carried out daily has repetitively shown to help ease or remedy all of the above. Additionally, addressing any one of the above items has been shown to help with the others on the list.

Wanting to exercise to improve your 5km run time or increase your deadlift should be queued behind having great health first.

So let’s clear up what great health is and what does that mean in relation to the above list.

If you are overweight, your health is at risk. It doesn’t matter how happy you are if you are overweight, the facts of the matter are that carrying around excess weight be it from extra fat or muscle (now that’ll rattle a few people) is or will negatively affect your health.

A simple way to measure if you are overweight apart from the obvious, is this guide.

If your waist is more than twice you height or BMI is over 25 then you are overweight.

Stress is pretty much self determined and heavily influenced by the the things we do onto ourselves. Not always of course, but the way we react to day to day stresses varies from person to person.

Some signs of stress:

If you are getting angry at people around you or at yourself, you are stressed.

If your sleep is affected by not being able to let go of your day to day difficulties, you are stressed.

If you are experiencing negative feelings or emotions about yourself, you are stressed.

If you are getting frequent headaches, chances are you are unduly stressed.

If you are experiencing stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, then your body is under stress.

If your blood pressure is higher than healthy thresholds, then your body is under stress.

If you’ve just increased your weekly high intensity exercise by more than 20%, you are stressing your body unduly.

If you only perform high intensity exercise, you are putting your body under excess stress.

If you drink more than the recommended units of alcohol per day, you are stressing your body.

… The list could go on. For many of these, talking to your doctor is vital.

The presence of ill-health is a clear indicator too that hard exercise has no place in your routine.

The point is, if your body is not operating as it normally should, it is under stress. Taking on extra and ‘intensive activities’ has no place in your weekly routine until good health is restored. Hard exercise is a stressor on the body so adding more stress to an already stressed system should clearly be seen as unwise.

The picture being painted here so far is that hard exercise has no place in the life of an unhealthy person that includes one who is overweight, overstressed and under sleeping.

If you are a beginner and overweight and maybe exhibiting some other health issues and you want to improve your health and fitness, going out for a run, carrying out some random HIIT workout from Youtube is NOT what you should be prioritising.

Remember at the start I mentioned the health benefits of aerobic activities? That is where you should start. It might not be the most exciting or stimulating, but you know what, getting injured, having a heart attack or stressing your body to throw up after your run is not much fun either.

Every new endeavour must start with reasonable actions that are repeatable for the rest of your life. Yep, you’re in that body for a very long time and it is your choice whether you thrive or barely just survive.

How about starting with a 30 minute walk, every day. You don’t need a membership or even fancy workout clothing. Just stick on your shoes, open the door and go walk. Do close the door behind you of course 😉

Over a week of walking you’ll expose yourself to a bit of sun, increase your Vit D, breathe and stimulate your heart and lungs and start to switch on some muscles that have been inactive for a while all with a low intensity form of exercise that you were born to do.

Forget the high intensity stressors. Feed and love your body and promise to yourself to do so every day of your life.

 

Membership is Open

Bye Bye Summer… hello gym time!

… and today I’m reaching out to everyone in my nearby suburbs in Northern Brisbane. 

I’ve recently announced the New FitStrong Morning Membership for everyone living near to FitStrong in the Brisbane Northern Suburbs.

I am now reserving the early morning sessions exclusively for morning members.

Benefits:

  • Unlimited mornings Monday to Friday
  • 45 minute sessions within 5:30 to 6:45am
  • Professionally designed programs
  • On-board program for beginners
  • Limited to 4 people per session
  • Only $50 per week

If you want to get stronger, fitter and exercise in a small group, this could be what you’re looking for.

If you would like to chat about the morning training program further, please do get in touch below.

If you’re motivated to make your 2019 a fitter and stronger year, why not book in for your first week. Just click the link below. 

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And, if you are far, far away and would like to receive virtual training check out our exclusive online membership.

click here

HOW TO MAINTAIN GAINS OVER THE HOLIDAYS – PT.3

Welcome to part 3 of my short series about how to sustain a minimum affective dose of strength over the Christmas period. In part 1 and part 2 I covered variations of three staples of strength. Push, Hip Hinge and Squat have been chosen for simplicity and variety.

In this part I ramp up the effort a little. This is not obligatory of course, just an option if you wanted to increase the effort of part 2’s suggestion.

  1. Continue to practice the A-frame inverted press, maybe with a greater range of movement or try the option shown, the Bear Crawl. Aim for 5 presses or 5 paces of the bear crawl
  2. True Single Leg Deadlift. Stand tall, abdominal wall tense. Lift one leg, keep it limp. Inhale and drive hips back allowing knee to bend a little and grip floor with foot. Exhale and drive hips forward. Swap leg or stick with the same leg and repeat for 5 reps.
  3. Single Leg Box Squat. Stand in front of a knee height step or gym box or dining room chair. Stand on one leg and hip hinge first and lower to find the box. Rest back a little before tightening up the torso and driving back to standing. For a harder option, just touch and go with the step. If you have aspirations to accomplish a pistol squat, this is a great strengthener in preparation.

 

Got any thoughts or feedback? Get in touch below.

 

Do you like the idea of 10 minute plans to build your fitness and strength program? This is exactly how we plan most of our programs for clients. Our Online Membership is a fine example of 10 minute blocks where we assemble our daily routines with blocks of 10 minutes. Short on time – do 1 block of 10 mins. Got plenty of time – complete 3 to 4 blocks of 10 minutes.

Check out the online platform by clicking below.

click here

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

How to Maintain Gains Over the Holidays – Pt.2

In part 1 we looked at just 3 moves to keep us ticking over during the busy festive period.

Today, in part 2 I’ll show you a simple progression or variation of the Press, Squat and Hip Hinge.

  1. The A-frame press version of an inverted press is a great progression to the kneeling inverted press. Somewhat harder, but as you’ll see in the video, your ability will dictate the range of movement. Your legs can be bent or straighter, and you can just bend at the elbow if your strength requires it. With practice you would be able to progress the elbow bend to the point where you can reach the floor with the top of your head. Practice makes progress.
  2. The kickstand squat is almost a 1 leg squat but not quite. It doesn’t require too much balance (compared to a true 1 leg squat) but allows you to focus on the strength and mobility of one leg at a time. Weights are optional.
  3. The Single Leg Deadlift is also a great option to strengthen 1 leg at a time, but more the posterior of the lower body. Balance is required but pay attention to the variations spoken about in the video. To develop better balance we first need to explore losing it, albeit carefully!

Over a 10 minute period rotate through these 3 moves for roughly 5 repetitions each. Do be sure to warm up first off of course.

Here’s the video 

 

Got any thoughts or questions? Get in touch.

 

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

Have a Healthy and Stronger 2019

IMG_6958Christmas is getting so close and I plan to let my hair down, eat what I want and enjoy myself with family. I hope you will too.

I am also looking forward to January though, when it’ll be time to put focus back on health and fitness Fitstrong Brisbane.

On Monday 7th I’ll be kicking off our January Challenge with an emphasis on creating better nutritional habits and following a simple but effective training program.

Random workouts from Youtube or a magazine are fine if you just want to build up a sweat, but they rarely result in achieving goals. I can proudly say that we follow training plans all year round at FitStrong. These are laid out to address and prioritise specific goals and not just to get tired, sore and sweaty. I could poke you with a stick if that’s the goal!

Our systematic approach is applied to both in-person training at the gym and for online training members.

Okay, back to you now. Ask yourself.

  • Are you committed to improving your fitness and health in 2019?
  • Can you set aside 15, 30 to 45 minutes for yourself daily or 2 to 3 times a week?
  • Have you got a health or fitness goal?
  • Do you want the assistance of a very experienced coach?

If you can answer yes to these, please do consider joining us at FitStrong either as an online member or at our Albany Creek gym. Our training options can meet any budget from $1 a day to more higher ticket detailed packages.

Check out our Online Membership site below:

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If you are ready to take 2019 by the horns and get healthier and stronger, get in touch below and I’ll get back to you with start-up options that won’t break the bank!

How to Maintain Gains Over the Holidays

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the value of sticking to a plan both in terms of a timely routine and working with the big important albeit simple strength moves.

You know: 

  • Squat
  • Hip hinge
  • Push stuff
  • Pull stuff
  • Carry stuff
  • Brace your torso

This does get challenged especially at busy times of the year and not just at Christmas time. The overwhelming feeling of, “sure what’s the point if I can’t do a good 45 minutes in the gym” is all too common a thought and a downfall in maintaining the benefits of exercise. You don’t have to firing on all cylinders all year round and a reductionist style program maintained briefly can help the body rest, progress and give you some mental uplifting too.

I’ve already espoused the benefit of aiming for even a short 10 to 15 minute routine and this week I am doing it again.

Repetition is the mother of all learning.

This week I am supporting the use of three strength moves to practice, with some progressions built-in in case you want to play along and experiment with what a light, medium and harder 15 minute routine could look like… with just three movements.

This light, medium and hard approach is how we build our programs here. We rotate through these relative intensities to provide opportunities to focus on learning and practice, working a bit harder and then perhaps testing the body and progressing forward.

This week let’s look at the:

  1. Inverted Press (for the upper back and shoulders / arms)
  2. Squats (for the backside and thighs etc)
  3. Hip Hinging (for the backside, hamstrings etc)

Here’s the video

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Need to ask me something?

 

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.