Author: Jake Pedersen

Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

To Stretch or Not To Stretch…That is the Question!

Do you stretch before, during or after your workout, go on a run, swim or bike ride? Well, anytime is a great time to stretch. It depends on what it is you are trying to achieve. For example, some athletes may perform a brief warm up of 10-15 minutes and then engage in ballistic stretching (a bouncing-type movement without a hold) prior to their athletic performance. For the average person, it’s up to you on when you do it. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research did a study on pre- & post-exercise stretching and found little to no difference on flexibility. Some find it feels good to warm up and then do some stretching before your workout. Others, such as many of my clients, enjoy a nice stretch after a hard workout, especially with the assistance of their trainer. There are even some that like to stretch before, during and after. Whenever it is you decide to do it, I encourage you to definitely include stretching in your workout if you don’t already!

Correct Breathing For Stronger Lifting

Do you ever wonder while you are lifting weights, when to exhale? Is it when pulling or pushing? Well, it can be both. It depends on which muscle group you are targeting and which aspect of the muscle’s contraction you are in. There are three types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. An isometric contraction is when there is no muscle fiber movement. For example, many yoga positions are isometric contractions. Holding a plank position is an isometric contraction for numerous muscles. The concentric contraction is when the muscle fibers are shortening, while the eccentric is the reciprocal and the fibers are elongating. In this dynamic movement, you will want to exhale on the concentric contraction of the muscle group you are targeting and conversely, inhale on the eccentric. In using a chest press for our example, which utilizes the pectoralis major (pecs), one would inhale lowering the bar to the chest because the pecs’ muscle fibers are elongating (eccentric) and exhale as you push the bar away from the body which contracts or shortens (concentric) the muscle fibers in this muscle group. If we are using the seated row as an example of the opposing muscle group exercise utilizing the latissimus dorsi (lats), then one would exhale while pulling the weight towards the body shortening the lats’ fibers and inhale when eccentrically releasing the weight away from the body.

So to sum it up, exhale when you’re doing the work part of the movement and inhale for the non-work part of the movement. If you are ever questioning which muscle group your exercise is targeting or if it is a pushing or pulling exercise, please do not hesitate to ask any one of our training staff. We love to educate.

Correct Breathing for Stronger Lifting

Do you ever wonder while you are lifting weights, when to exhale? Is it when pulling or pushing? Well, it can be both. It depends on which muscle group you are targeting and which aspect of the muscle’s contraction you are in. There are three types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. An isometric contraction is when there is no muscle fiber movement. For example, many yoga positions are isometric contractions. Holding a plank position is an isometric contraction for numerous muscles. The concentric contraction is when the muscle fibers are shortening, while the eccentric is the reciprocal and the fibers are elongating. In this dynamic movement, you will want to exhale on the concentric contraction of the muscle group you are targeting and conversely, inhale on the eccentric. In using a chest press for our example, which utilizes the pectoralis major (pecs), one would inhale lowering the bar to the chest because the pecs’ muscle fibers are elongating (eccentric) and exhale as you push the bar away from the body which contracts or shortens (concentric) the muscle fibers in this muscle group. If we are using the seated row as an example of the opposing muscle group exercise utilizing the latissimus dorsi (lats), then one would exhale while pulling the weight towards the body shortening the lats’ fibers and inhale when eccentrically releasing the weight away from the body.

So to sum it up, exhale when you’re doing the work part of the movement and inhale for the non-work part of the movement. If you are ever questioning which muscle group your exercise is targeting or if it is a pushing or pulling exercise, please do not hesitate to ask any one of our training staff. We love to educate.

How many cyclist do you know with good posture?

Many Seattleites enjoy the vast terrain of Washington through the means of biking. Weather permitting many people hit the outdoors and enjoy all of its scenery using a road, mountain or on a hybrid bike. While the true enthusiast might brave the Seattle downpour, most people come inside the club and enjoy one of the many different spin classes offered at the club.

One Factor that is constant with all cyclists, indoor and outdoor, is that their posture will start to take a turn for the worst. Having correct posture consists of maintaining a balance in the strength and flexibility of the front side (chest and front deltoids) and back side muscles (rear deltoids, mid traps and upper lats) of the upper body. As we ride any type of bike we maintain a slight or extreme forward lean, sometimes for hours. This forward lean eventually causes a strengthening and tightening of the front side muscles, while never addressing the backside muscles. If this continues without constant stretching and strengthening of the backside muscles a kyphosis or mid back hunch back look will start to form. So now that we cyclists know what the issue is, how do we address it? Some of the great options offered at the club are to take a yoga class and ask them to add a cat and cow sequence to their class. This sequence is performed by getting onto your hands and knees and alternately depressing your chest as far as possible (cow) and then pushing your shoulder blades as far upward and apart as possible (cat). Another possible rehab solution would be to try pilates, where everything involves lengthening the spine and strengthening the core. If these are not addressing the posture problem then you could always get a personal fitness trainer to make a rehab workout to strengthen all the backside and core muscles as well as show you upper body stretches.

Cycling should be a fun and enjoyable sport that we can enjoy both indoor and outdoor until we are in our later years; in order to keep it that way and not create muscle imbalance problems for ourselves, we need to make sure that we stretch our chest and strengthen our back muscles as often as possible. If we keep our posture safe, we keep all of our daily activities safe and enjoyable.