Build Stronger Feet and Balance

I really am a terrible person but I just can’t help myself laughing out loud, a literal lol when I watch one of those videos with people slipping, falling, crashing their bike on a straight road and of course cats slipping off the kitchen counter. 

It is an innate human thing to do – laugh at someone else’s expense. This very natural response is called Schadenfreude. ‘Schadenfreude is when we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude comes from the two German words, Schaden and Freude, harm and joy’. Psychology Today It’s our built in response to avoid fear or pain. Simple hey!?

Personally I’d rather not fuel someone else’s avoidance of feel fear or anxiety by not tripping, falling, slipping, to the best of my abilities anyway. 

Another failing of mine are my feet. My big size 46 feet. I used to torture them by squeezing them into tight, rigid cycling shoes. I wore these specialised shoes for 20-25 hours+ a week for a few years when I raced full-time in the 90s’. The firmness of the shoe helps not waste energy pushing into the pedals but can and does result in pathetically weak feet and ankles if no other training is carried out.  

Apart from neurological conditions, weak feet and ankles are leading causes of trips, falls and knee pains. 

While my feet are better now than right after I hung up my bike and stiff shoes (because of knee problems), they have suffered anyway. I tend to train in the gym barefoot or in socks which has helped me immensely. No more orthotics for me. However, I noticed for ages how my bush walks took their toll on my feet and ankles despite wearing expensive barefoot style shoes. Cramps, aches and occasional plantar fascia inflammation all made walking less enjoyable. Until…

Until I discovered balance training. 

In 2016 we had some renovation work done on our house. One length of hardwood removed nearly ended up in the builders skip. This piece of 5m, 8cm x 20cm chunk of hardware made me immediately think ‘balance exercises’ in the gym. I was mostly thinking of adding this for my senior gym members as part of fall-prevention training. 

Sadly I didn’t action this right away. Thinking people would label me as mad as a fish I wasn’t brave enough to unleash the beam. Until… 

Ol Faithful

… Until I finally attended the level 1 Certification with MovNat in January 2020. The curriculum includes many aspects of natural human movement. The preparation manual included many movements to practice including balance. I didn’t really think much about the effort of walking along a length of timber until I realised how inefficient I was. Not wanting to flunk my cert because I couldn’t balance walk, I put in much practice. Pretty much daily I spent a minute here and there walking forward, backwards, shuffling sideways, duck-walking along the timber and other really quite fun moves. This was between November 2019 and January 2020 and during this time I was still doing my weekly off-road walks that I’ve always done. Very rough paths, loose stones and rocks and bits of trees etc.

I can honestly say my body had an epiphany earlier in the year. Were I normally have to focus on where I’m placing my feet to avoid an ouchy, it’s as if my feet just all-of-sudden intuitively knew where to go. These past 6 months of ongoing off-road walking have been fantastic. More relaxed, faster when I need to be and so much more efficient with fewer trips or stumbles if any at all. Best of all, my feet and ankles simply do not give me any negative feedback afterwards. No tight ankles. No big toe pain. No plantar fascia pains. My feet have learned how to be feet again it seems.

Doing more reading has supported my thoughts that balance training effectively fine tunes the feet and ankles and their reflexive strength and endurance. 

I do still daily walks on my cheap ol homemade balance beam that was saved from the builder and I have all my clients routinely walking and working on some 2x4s from Bunnings. At $5 each these have been great investments. A lot cheaper than recovering from a painful fall or trip. I’m not saying a trip or fall will never happen, cause hey, ‘life happens’, but luck favours the prepared.

If you spend your day in hard soled shoes and complain of sore feet and ankles, I really do recommend you call over to your local hardware store and pick up a length of 2×4… or check out the builders skip in your suburbs. 

Here are a couple of videos of simple balance drills, starting with one not needing any equipment at all, just the floor beneath you.

And if you can get hold of a 2×4 or similar, here are some great exercises to practice.

Wooden board is optional, but it puts a sense of reality into the practice.
A little bit more tricky, but also fun.

Got any thoughts or experiences? Why not get in touch.

How to Get Up!

Recently I wrote about how important it is to practice the skills of getting to the ground and up again and shared a video with demonstrations of some variations. Here’s a link to that post. 

As much as I would like to provide a tutorial for the Turkish Get Up right now, that would be hasty. Assuming you drive a car, you didn’t have your first experience driving hard and fast around country roads in a race car. You spent time getting familiar with the controls and skills, maybe manoeuvring and navigating an empty car park.

The Get Up like other strength movements requires the same. Get familiar with what’s what.

In this part, let me just introduce the positions and transitions of the strength get up, minus any added weights. I like to teach the get up these days with a scenario, like you’ve got a broken arm and need to get carefully off the floor.

Check out this quick ‘follow-along’ video.

 

Let me just list the steps of the get up, from the ground up.

  1. Lie on floor with left leg bent, roughly at 90 degrees. Keep this leg out to the side a little.
  2. Place the left arm across the chest.
  3. The straight leg and arm are roughly 45 degrees to the side (from your midline)
  4. Brace your torso.
  5. Push the left foot and the right elbow into the ground to lift the left butt cheek from the floor and continue to roll onto the right forearm.
  6. Brace the torso and push onto the right hand – keep your shoulder packed (pulled into the socket)
  7. Pressing the right hand and left foot into the floor, you can now pull the right leg under you. The right knee replaces the right butt cheek. In this position you should have the right foot, right knee and right hand in alignment.
  8. Pull up into a tall torso position.
  9. At this point rotate the right leg (through the hip) so both feet are facing the same direction. You can alternatively rotate yourself clockwise to position your left leg / foot in the same direction as the right.
  10. Press both feet into the ground to lunge up and stand.
  11. Return to the floor in the reverse and same manner.

That’s 11 points with lots of words! The video does a fine job at demonstrating too.

If and only IF this movement sequence comes naturally to you, maybe try holding a medicine ball or sandbag as in the video below.

 

Next time I’ll run through a different style of get up that offers heaps of benefits to the legs.

In the mean time, keep strong and move every day.

Got any feedback or questions? Drop me a message below.

Get Up!

As a coach, I’ve met plenty of people over the years who either had resistance to getting down to the floor, had previously had a fall and was reluctant to revisit the floor in any capacity or who quite frankly didn’t see any purpose to get to the floor for exercise or other.

There are many reasons to practice and train getting to the floor and back up again. Let’s make a short list.

  1. Improve your every day life and for its eventualities
  2. Prepare you with skills needed for when you have to get to the ground or a fall to the ground
  3. Improve your bodies mobility
  4. Improve your body awareness and coordination
  5. Improve your bodies resilience through increased strength and conditioning
  6. Decrease any fear of the floor
  7. Open opportunities to explore other movements and purposes of getting up and down

 

I’m not going to teach get ups in this post, but I will soon – I promise.

Here’s a glimpse of just 8 styles of ‘get ups’.

 

Got any questions or feedback? Get in touch below.

Stretchy Wednesday in Albany Creek

Strength training is an important element of a healthy lifestyle to sustain on a regular basis, but recover is just as important. That comes through rest, good nutrition and self care in the form of ‘flexibility and mobility’.

Wednesday’s seem like a good starting point to schedule in such self care and starting this week (4th March 2020) I’ll be running a focussed class to help you loosen up and get better prepared for your next training session and the rest of the week along with some chit chat.
*numbers limited so booking in is essential.

Get in touch below for more info or to book in.

 

Feeling tight, stuff, tense, tired from your training and work_   Come along for a relaxed, recovery stretching, mobility session and a good chat. (1).png

We Need Strength and Wellness

We live in a day of visual fixation. Instagram and other social media has made stars out of bodies, not people. Adoration keeps these money making machines in the news feed while actual heath and fitness professionals scratch their heads in bewilderment.

In the pre bodybuilding era of the 1930s to 1950s, people exercised to perform feats of strength, for their own entertainment and that of others. Spectators gleamed at their performance not just their physiques. These people lived healthy, balanced lives with real, physical jobs and families. Physical culture was a lifestyle not just a ways to claw at attention from those looking onwards.

You might not see much difference between then and now. Just people showing off their bodies. However, one element is missing today. Wellness.

Here’s something I dug up from the Guardian: link

‘According to a 2008 Journal of Health Psychology study, women reported an increased negative mood, depression and anxiety after only 30 minutes of viewing fitness magazines that promote an “athletic ideal”. Social media means you don’t have to buy a magazine to see these images; they’re in your newsfeed. The BMJ has identified exercise addiction as a growing problem, affecting up to 10% of the exercising population’.

What I’m writing here is not a bang on the modern fitness industry, or social media but it is my observation and that of my peers that something dire has happened in the last number of years. More and more people are turning to these (often unqualified) online, social media darlings for inspiration and exercise motivation. With the label of Personal Trainer I am (was) part of that group. To most people the identity or title of Personal Trainer does for the large part sum up an image of a muscly, loud motivator by means of administering ‘hurt’. But that’s not what I do. Yes, I know there are plenty of trainers who practice healthy exercise promotion, but we are few and far between.

I recently rejoined the instagram world after a 6 month break after finding myself feeling down and miserable, as I compared myself to the war zone of fitness information being broadcast. If it wasn’t another fitpro trying to sell me his or her 6 week program to making 7 figure $$$$ as a gym owner, it was the brigade of muscly dudes and dudettes making me feel physical inferior.

Coming back after my break I’ve blocked those feeds and prefer to share my healthier approach to becoming fitter, stronger and healthier.

And with that, I have rebranded FitStrong Personal Training to FitStrong Strength & Wellness.

FITSTRONG STRENGTH & WELLNESS Banner 2019

This has been a process of plentiful thought but after 22+ as a trainer I want to stick to my guns and promote the healthiest methods and practices to becoming fitter and stronger – just like the banner says!

Of course I’ll still be carrying out personal training, small group training, seniors classes and online training and such, but I will be actively promoting the other vital components that actually allow us to become fitter and stronger. I’ve written about them before but in short… here’s an infographic:

Fitness Map

Over the coming months I intend to write about each of these 5 areas (yellow boxes) in more detail to ‘map’ their position in an optimal lifestyle program of sorts. This will become the overarching drive of business going into the future and I am really excited to start into this new strategy.

My goal as a trainer is to help people. It really is that simple. What I identify as important is that we live well, with strength, agility and resilience, both physically and mentally.

Rather than following the tribe of social media stars I am going to start my own tribe and in the words of coach Dan John, the Goal is the keep the Goal the Goal.

the GOAL is to keep the GOAL the GOAL (1)

 

Got any feedback or questions? Please contact me below or if local to the greater Brisbane area, call me on 0450487237 or hey, get me on Facebook or Instagram .

Yours in Fitness, Strength & Wellness,

Jamie

Getting Fitter and Stronger the Easy Way

IMG_8186I don’t always lead the way in our strength programs. Giving clients the option to choose their strength movements gives ownership to that move, to making it their move.

In our latest program we chose two main lifts, an upper body strength move and a lower body movement.

We developed these over 8 weeks without straining and stressing and supported the program with other exercises. We simply expanded our comfort zones – no maxing out, crying or vomiting!

‘This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done.’

Below I’ll demonstrate some of our key chosen movements (not instructional) and then talk briefly about how they were trained and how they tested out this week.

Swing

Elevated Rock

Kettlebell Press

Rocking Push Up

 

The key component of each target movement and indeed, the other movements employed in a training sessions was NOT to max out, not to strain, stress and grind out the reps. This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done. We put faith in a fresh understanding of high intensity training that I talked about here.

At the start of the program, session one was used to identify baselines for the two main movements. What weights were considered light, medium and heavy for the swing, how many push ups / elevated rocks were considered moderate and what was considered a medium weight to press.

This was all based on trialling sets with progressive intensity until medium was felt. I’ll not go into details about how we conducted this as it’s not the purpose of the post but needless to say, we identified medium.

From here we backed off to 70-75% of medium on the pressing movements and gradually waved the volume of the sets from just 1 rep to ladder of 1,2,3,4,5 over the 6 weeks and the swings and elevated rocks we kept at 10 seconds per minute for 10 minutes per session. We gradually used heavier kettlebells in the swings. Really quite simple stuff.

Anyway, the good stuff – the results.

The Swing was tested with the 100 swings test – the goal, to swing 100 times in under 5 minutes. Even though we never encountered 100 swings in that kind of intensity (the most we would do over 5 minutes was 35 swings) everyone has tested out with 100 swings in well under 5 minutes and interestedly, finished fresh and not huffing and puffing! We have carried out swing tests like this in the past, but for everyone, they used much bigger weights.

The elevated rock goal was maximum reps in 5 minutes. Probably tougher than the swing 100.

The elevated rock tested out with a total of 70 in 5 minutes. This is quite a feat – I dare you to try this one!

Pressing. On testing the single arm press, everyone finished with a personal record weight for reps.

The overarching goal of the program was to demonstrate how we can indeed increase our work capacity or fitness if you want to call it that and increase strength too but without ever working ‘hard’. Maybe it also demonstrates that you could still accomplish training goals when feeling kind of tired some days. If all you have to do is turn up, do the stuff and go home.

Turn Up, do the ‘Stuff’, go home, repeat. Simple!

Getting Back Up

In a 2002 Brazilian study, men and women between the ages of 51 to 80 were followed for an average of 6.3 years. Those who had to rely on their hands and knees to get up and down to the ground regardless of age were almost seven times more likely to die within six years than those who could get up unsupported. Those individuals with poor overall muscular strength and mobility were the the ones who had to rely on using their hands to awkwardly get down and up.

Clearly being stronger has more implications than just being able to carry the shopping in after a grocery shop.

In part 1 we looked at other statistics that looked at mortality and affects on quality of life from falls but in part 2, let’s consider prevention measures.

Getting to the floor should happen in any training session regardless of whether or not it’s an intended exercise but if getting down to terra firma proves a tad troublesome, where do you start?

Even if you’re an experienced strength athlete / trainee, some the drills below will give your body an added edge in being more resilient. How often do you see muscular people moving rather stiff ? Yes, a bit too often. If you move like a robot, some mobility training should be in your life.

Below I’ll demonstrate the strength exercises that give us the ability to move down to the floor and also the mobility exercises to practice that allow us to more smoothly navigate to the floor and up. After that, we’ll take a look at the drills that we practice to move down and up and prepare the body further.

None of these exercises should ever be taken to muscular fatigue or muscle failure but you should feel the muscles doing their jobs. Always stop a set knowing you could do a few more repetitions.

General Strength

Progressing Strength

Practice?

Don’t worry if you haven’t got heaps of time, you can spend as little as 3-5 minutes every couple of days ‘playing’ with these movements. A couple of sets of each move will be enough initially to get you moving and stronger. As the moves in the first video get easier, move to video 2 and play with the moves there. I use the word play to suggest you don’t count repetitions, instead practice each move to make it better. Not sore and fatiguing, just getting better at each.

Imagine lying in a hospital bed with a broken hip, stressing over lost work, medical expenses and rehab afterwards. Not so pleasant…

Now consider just spending 3-5 minutes every couple of days practicing getting yourself stronger. No medical bills or rehab, just getting down to the floor and back up.

I know which I prefer and to be honest, longevity is the number one key objective of FitStrong  – to help people find longevity.

If you’re interested in investing your time further, please check out my FREE 5 Day Morning Routine

What do you think? Got any suggestions, thoughts, opinions or stories to share? Please do get in touch.

 

 

Reboot Your Body Workshops

‘Learn to restore your body to factory settings with a simple collection of movements’

Walking around feeling stiff and achy is no fun.

Neither is it fun when you can’t play with the kids, look after the garden and go on holiday with an unhappy body.

Simply avoiding the physical things that cause discomfort is no long term solution and do you really want to feel terrible and incapable for the rest of your life??

The body was created to move, to be strong and resilient and yet, another truism is that life happens. Sitting behind a desk for years on end at school, then at work, collapsing onto the sofa at the end of the day and waiting for energy to find you are all just common lifestyle patterns that affect the majority of the population. It happens but we have got the choice to balance off these sedentary times with some great activities.

I don’t want to be like the majority and I intend to live a fit, strong and healthy life. Let’s sum that up as being resilient.

I don’t need to be the strongest or leanest person in town and you probably don’t need to be either, but we do need to be physically capable of doing some hard work and not getting knocked down for a few days afterwards.

Mobility Workshop 2019

At our Albany Creek gym we work on the skills of moving better first, covering all the fundamental movements our lives are designed to encompass. When we master those movements then we may add weight but first and foremost, we get really good at doing what humans are designed to do – move well.

In our ‘Reboot Your Body Workshop’ we revisit the movements that got us strong and resilient as children and use these to help us unlock our tight spots and tighten up our weak spots.

Our goal is not to point out the failings of the body but to help it unlock how to succeed at moving again.

The 2 hour workshop flows through a designed system and definitely does not entail huffing and puffing, or pain.

You may discover a few ‘ah ha’ moments as your body starts to ‘reboot’ and this is commonplace and an awesome experience to witness.

The movements aren’t magic or any woowoo stuff, just moves that help return your body to a less stiff and achy place.

If you’ve got questions – just ask below.

If you’re not local to Albany Creek however, I will be building the workshop content into an online project to follow in your own time.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 8.03.27 am

Directs you to an Eventbrite page for the Workshops

 

Exercise for the Over 50s

Put away your slippers and forget that advert on the TV for the retirement village because the fountain of youth is very much within your grasp. It always is and always will be.

Okay, so yes, age has a cruel way of catching up on some people but in most cases only because it’s let to happen. You read that correctly – It’s a choice to allow age to slow us down.

Maybe it’s the assumption that we are meant to stop moving as much as we get on a bit or maybe it’s laziness aka too tired or maybe it’s the ‘I’m too busy to exercise’ like exercise to stay fit, strong and mobile is a luxury we choose to avail of.

Copy of Beechtown Market

Physical ageing is very much a choice we make. Being fit, strong and mobile is a choice we have… an easy choice actually.

Your body has been created to last your whole life and adding knowledge and wisdom to the equation adds to your strength of being and character too.

We are meant to be strong, mobile and capable at 80, much like we are in our 20s. No, that’s not a pretentious or lofty statement but very much a reflection of what can happen if we choose to be active throughout our lives.

At FitStrong we have a small group class designed for the over 50s. Believe it or not we work on all the movements those in their 30s work on. We squat, carry out pushing and pulling movements, carry weights and lift things up and put them back down again. I’m not going into details as we do regress these and progress them as and when needed.

However, the elements that culminates in the greatest successes is the ‘other stuff’ we practice.

These elements are taught at the Original Strength workshops by Tim Anderson and the team and after first experiencing in them in 2015 I realised that these movements and practices (yes I’ll get to them in a moment) really are the missing links in adult exercise and we’ve all done them before… back when we wore smaller clothing and watched Tom and Jerry on the little TV in the corner.

Yep, how we moved when we were children was how we developed into stronger, fit and agile young adults and we were meant to continue that process of living actively. But, high school, college, university, that 9-5 job and everything that we piled onto our schedule kind of shoved the exercise into the, ‘must do when I’ve got time’ list of chores!

But, moving well and staying strong is not a chore, it’s how we are made. Denying our body these stimulations leads us down the road to frailty, unable to bend over without pain, never mind touch our toes or run up a flight of stairs.

The big 5 movement categories that we did as children also reinvigorate or reset adults. Just like hitting Ctrl, Alt, Del on your keyboard to reset your frail computer, resetting our bodies can allow us to slowly regain more youthful movement, strength, agility and overall fitness.

The big 5 movement categories?

Simple. If you spend any time watching the kids move around when toddlers, you’ll have noticed how they lead every movement with that big head of theirs, despite it being considerably heavy compared to the rest of them. They rolled from their front to their backs and vice versa. They rocked until they discovered crawling which ultimately lead to getting upright and without an athletic coach, discovered how to climb, walk and run. You’ll maybe have noticed how they didn’t actually suck in their guts. They actually used their abdominals to breath… the way we are all meant to.

The 5 movements:

  1. Breath Abdominally
  2. Move our head around with control
  3. Roll on the floor (rotate our bodies)
  4. Rocking on all fours (move into deep hip positions like squatting down)
  5. Crawl (use our four limbs to move in a gait pattern, left leg, right arm move together etc)

What Adults don’t do so well?

  1. Breath Abdominally. Many adults chest breath as a result of fatigue and stress.
  2. Move their heads. Many adults complain of stiff necks and an ability to look up, over their shoulders or even tuck the chin into the neck accompanied by frequent head aches.
  3. Rotate. Not quite rolling on the floor but it’s the same movement pattern. The ability to segment our lower from upper body in movement is a vital ability.
  4. Get into a squat position. How many adults can rest in a squat position? Sadly not many due to tight hips, ankles and knees.
  5. Whilst adults do not travel on all fours like toddlers and babies, crawling taught us gait movements. Yet again, many adults fail to move well when walking, jogging and running. It should be smooth, proud and comfortable. However, watch people out walking around, running and such and you’ll see activities that far from resemble smooth, proud and comfortable.

Ooh, let’s break the doom and gloom theme of that last section. Our bodies are wonderfully created and have the capacity to rebuild and ‘reset’ to its former glory.

Getting stronger, fitter, healthier all start with getting back to basics and doing these often and doing them well. It doesn’t need to be a military bootcamp session either.

Walk, look around you beyond the screen of your smart phone, stopping sucking in your stomach, don’t avoid the stairs and probably most importantly, get down to the floor… and yes, get back up again and consider checking out how well you do move. See below.

Coincidently, many under 50s are benefiting from practicing these resets too. Maybe being younger, the feeling of losing some mobility is a new and unpleasant experience compared to those who have lived with being stiff as planks for years on end.

Do I need these resets? 

I don’t like standards in general as they attempt to generalise qualities but, the following are movements we should be able to do without discomfort in the absence of any recent injury or trauma.

  1. Reach your arms fully overhead without arching your back. Can you stand, back against a wall and reach your arms overhead to touch the wall without taking your back off the wall?
  2. Sit into a resting squat. Can you bend your knees and squat down so to rest?
  3. Touch your toes. Can you keep your legs straight and hinge over to touch at least the bottom of your shin?
  4. Can you stand on one leg and balance for 10 seconds?
  5. Look behind you. Can you stand upright and rotate through your neck and shoulder girdle to see behind you?

Just 5 standards. Did you answer Yes to all? If so, clap yourself on your own back as a big well done – mmmm, and if you can’t do that then maybe read on. Just read on anyway!

If you answered No to any of these, you have a need to address your mobility issues. Indeed, a lacking in any of these qualities can result in aches, pain and injury. These qualities are simple, given human movements we can encounter in any given scenario. How about a quick look over our shoulder and ouch, a neck muscle spasm? How about dropping your phone or something and quickly trying to catch it and ouch? How about scrubbing the bath tub and pulling a back muscle?

These few examples are actual stories from clients I have worked with. Thankfully they are all fine specimens now.

Where am I going with this (longer than expected) blog post?

I am so passionate about helping people to move better so that they can live a strong and mobile life that I want to share the programs I run. I’ve lived in pain in the past and that forms one of my ‘Whys’ in my business practice. I really don’t want to see other people living in pain when they can in most cases* allow their bodies to fix themselves.

What I want to share

30 Minute Discovery Sessions

It’s hard to plan how to get to point B in a strength and wellness plan if we don’t know where point A is.

The 30 minute discovery session offers an opportunity to discover your starting point, discuss goals, concerns and leave the session with a clearer direction in mind.

The session includes:

  • Movement screen to see how well your body moves.
  • Goal Discussion.
  • Clarity on what direction you could take next to achieve your goal.
  • Answers. An opportunity to ask all the questions you have.

How to start? Fill in the contact form below.

Private Sessions

The next step towards your goal is following a step-by-step training program. Our programs are designed rather than just random workouts. Training sessions in the gym focus on building up movement skills, learning how use that wonderful body to press reset, and slowly say goodbye aches and pains. Repetition is key to success in every endeavour and especially so in physical wellbeing. To help gel new habits we’ll agree upon suitable homework tasks.

Ready to take control? Fill in the contact form below.

Mobility Workshops

Over the cooler months of May to October I will be running a series of workshops that will help you learn how to reset your movements, help you find ways to move better so that you can pursue other physical goals or simply to help you get on with life without those niggles.

Dates and times to be confirmed but get onto the early bird list here.

 

If there is anything you would like to know, please do get in touch. I am here to help.

Jamie

 

 

*Yes, in most cases general stiffness can be self addressed but in some cases when really neglected, muscle tension needs to be encouraged by the skilled hands of a therapist. I know some of the best in the Brisbane area and am happy to share their details – just ask.

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