Tag: Range of Motion

Yoga & Strength Training, My Two Loves

I would like to take a moment to talk about my two loves, yoga and strength training. Yoga and strength training go together like peanut butter and jelly, like bacon and eggs, like the sun and moon. You get it, they complement each other perfectly!

I love lifting heavy; I can’t get enough of it. It’s incredibly empowering as a woman to feel strong, to be able to squat more than your body weight and to be able to bust out a few pull ups and dips. I love the high of a weight lifting session and I know that some of you reading this are nodding your head in agreement. Most athletes are no stranger to the constant aches, stiffness and limited range of motion associated with living an active life. Over time being active puts a great deal of stress onto your body. Eventually shortening muscle fibers and connective tissue creating tightness and adding stress to joints and reducing joint range of motion. Taking time to mobilize and stretch can greatly reduce the aches and stiffness that comes along with being active. How many of you practice yoga? If you are reading this and thinking I’m not flexible enough for yoga hogwash. That’s exactly why you should go to yoga!

As a yoga instructor and fitness coach I know firsthand how valuable a solid yoga practice can be for your mind and body. If you happen to be a gym junkie who loves beating your quads and glutes into submission, this article is for you.

Body Awareness
Flowing through poses in yoga while barefoot and without mirrors requires a great deal of control and focus. This control forces you to use and develop the oftentimes weak stabilizing muscles in the feet, legs and trunk. Because of the focus and control needed in yoga, you develop a profound sense of proprioception –a sense of position and self within movement. Proprioception helps tremendously when executing compound lifts like deadlifts and push-ups. The focus you develop during yoga will help you be more present and focused during your lifts.

Range of Motion
No matter how many times you tell yourself you need to stretch more, getting in a few more reps before rushing out the gym door sounds much more appealing doesn’t it? Thoughts and ideas of stretching and mobilizing go out the window when you are able to snag an open squat rack before someone else does.
Any great foundation of strength training starts with having good mobility and flexibility. There are many types of yoga, some focus more of flexibility than others. To increase range of motion try finding a yoga style like Yin Yoga that help increase the length of muscles fibers and connective tissue.

Controlling the Ego
Most active people are keenly aware of competition. We compete with our previous lifts, times and sometimes each other. While competition has its time and place and it’s great to be inspired, ultimately none of it matters, we are just fanning the fires of our ego.  Knowing your limit and pushing past it is a delicate balance. Yoga is a constant reminder that it doesn’t matter what you wear, what the pose looks like, or how quick you are, it’s about uniting your body, mind and breath. Yoga teaches you to listen to your body, to know when you are pushing too hard and when to back off. Yoga teaches you to develop contentment with where you are, because that’s exactly where you need to be. This is a unique and helpful tool to have when lifting weights, this will keep you centered, mindful and help prevent injury. It also helps you accept your progressions and to avoid comparing yourself to the person next to you.

Bodyweight Strength Training
Lifting heavy and pumping iron is great but there is something very humbling about bodyweight training. Yoga puts your body into positions you wouldn’t normally get into at the gym. Being able to control your breath, stabilize your core and balance your entire body on your hands like in handstand or crow takes a great deal of control that you cannot achieve with equipment. The skill and strength transfer from the yoga mat to the gym room is unlike any other. Putting your body through precarious movements and holds using just your body only builds a greater understanding of the movements performed in the gym. Yoga also moves through basic movements like pushups, lunging and planks. Being able to master your own body weight is a great skill to have.

Rest and Recovery
Hitting the yoga mat on a rest day can be a great low impact way to keep the body moving on your rest days. Yoga can also help your body detox on rest days. Yoga is designed to compress, lengthen, wring out, push and pull various parts of your body, this sends a signal to your brain to turn on the “detox” mode in your body. In addition to detoxifying your body, a great benefit of yoga is a detox of your mind. Yoga and meditation can help you control your stress levels and feel more relaxed between gym sessions.

As an active person, if you can find a way to incorporate a regular yoga practice you can prevent loss of range of motion, become a calmer happier person in all aspects of your life including the weight room.

Two Approaches to Increasing Range of Motion

A healthy range of motion (ROM) around each of your joints is critical to your optimal function. Immobile joints feel stiff and tight, predispose you to injury and rob your body of efficiency. People often assume that the best way to increase ROM is by static stretching. Holding a position as in this picture for 10-30 seconds constitutes a static stretch for the hamstring muscles and tendons group.

Static stretching attempts to increase ROM by increasing the physical length of the tissues. It is slow, passive, confined to a single plane and can produce muscle fibers stretched beyond their optimal length. Thus, static stretching prior to activity is not recommended and static stretching is of only limited benefit for people who want to gain stability, strength, speed, agility and coordination in conjunction with increased ROM.

Mobility training promotes increased ROM in a different manner. Mobility training involves the active exploration of a range of motion at variable speeds. One of my favorite examples is the exercise below. This page is excerpted from the workbook for Genuine Movement: Lower Body. Click to download.

Similar to the static stretch stated above, this exercise helps to increase ROM around the hip joint. Unlike the static stretching example, it requires full body movement while promoting mobility in multiple joints in multiple planes of motion. This exercise is moderately difficult and includes aspects of mobility and stability, making it a perfect option for an effective warm-up. The most significant difference between mobility training and static stretching is that mobility training does not attempt to physically lengthen tissues. Instead, it teaches the neuromuscular system to better control activation and relaxation of muscles. By focusing on the neuromuscular system, mobility training produces rapid results and teaches the body how to use its new-found ROM safely and effectively. Mobility training can be used at any joint and applied through several different techniques. If you find yourself stiff, sore and tight and your regular stretching routine has not addressed the issue; consider learning and practicing mobility training. If you are looking for a more efficient way to prepare and recover from strenuous training or competition, mobility training could be the key to new levels of performance. You deserve better results than static stretching can provide, start your mobility training today!

If you are interested learning more about mobility training or the Genuine Movement program contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer.

Partial Range of Motion is Way Easier and Gets You Stronger Faster Right? Wrong!

At most health facilities in the world if you were to look out on the weight room floor I’m sure of two things… people will be doing curls, and people will be doing partial range of motion. Usually these go hand in hand, but people can do partial range of motion (ROM) in many different exercises; the most common being pushups, squat, & pullups/chinups.

I’m sure many of you have great reasons for only doing half of the motion; starting back in the 80’s some research even came out to say that you can have the same benefits from doing half reps as the full rep. Many people say that their bodies react to it better, it’s safer on their joints, they are stronger and can workout harder etc. etc. Well let me tell you what the science says about partial range of motion exercises:

  1. Partial range of motion can be used to gain strength & size, especially if you have plateaued. They go on to state that it is not a workout regiment you do every day, more of a once every two weeks and it must be accompanied by a full range of motion exercise using the same muscle groups within the same workout. Partial ROM is also supposed to be utilized AFTER a base strength has been achieved!
  2. The strongest muscle fiber is a fully elongated (stretched) and fully hydrated. If we take that first concept, a fully elongated muscle fiber means working a muscle through the full ROM. If you do partial reps, you are strengthening only one half of the muscle fibers. Let’s take pushups, if you just push yourself up halfway off the floor, or only lower your body halfway down…what happens when you fall and need to catch your body with that muscle fiber that is never worked. My guess would be injury. This may not happen right away, but I guarantee if all you ever work is partial ROM severe injury will plague you at some point.
  3. What happens with muscle fibers that are continually contracted but never stretched or relaxed? They become very tight and shorten up. A prime example of this would be with the bicep curl. For those of you who curl the weight up to your shoulders and then as you lower it shoot your elbows backward keeping a large bend in the arm, you will end up with locked elbows. Ever see those people who cannot straighten their arms out all the way? Well your bicep can actually fuse to your arm if you do too many partial ROM exercises and never incorporate straightening your arms all the way. The only way to have this fixed once it happens is surgery where they have to tear the muscle off the humerus… doesn’t sound like too much fun to me! (Women are allowed to have a soft elbow, meaning an ever so slight bend in their arm, when doing curls because of a hyperextension issue only with females).
  4. Now the big question, squats…should someone go below parallel? Isn’t it bad on the knees? Here is my opinion on this topic; since the science goes back and forth with some research stating it is bad on the knees & others stating it is just fine. One…when we were born could we squat our hips below our knees? If you are ever in the SAC go check out the day care; I bet you a dollar you will see kids squat down their diapers below their knees to pick up toys! Two…look at other countries like China and Japan, everyone there sits with their knees below their hips to do everything. You will see people of all ages reading newspapers, eating, holding a conversation sitting in a deep squat. So if we were born able to do it and other counties do it (and they have a lot less knee/hip issues than the USA) I would assume it would be ok to perform a deep squat, but even smarter to utilize a trainer to help you get going first.
  5. Are there exercises it is ok to do partial ROM? Yes there are, but for the general population who workout in the gym, there is no need for them to do them; and if you really want to know what they are, come find me ill let you know which ones. A hint is they are usually associated with the shoulder complex!

All in all, if I was to recommend someone do partial ROM it would be to get over that plateau in strength, but I would still make them do that same movement full ROM within the same workout. Women may have a soft bend during curls to prevent hyperextension of their elbows; other than that there is no solid evidence of any full ROM exercise (to my knowledge) being a safety concern. If you have questions about your form on an exercise, grab a PFT in a red shirt and ask them to check out your form; we would gladly assist you in correcting any unsafe movements!

Training to be the Perfect Athlete

When the word “athletic” comes to mind I envision an individual who is competent in all aspects of fitness (strength, flexibility, endurance, agility and coordination). Though excelling at all of these is a rare and difficult task, being competent in each of them builds an amazing foundation for a healthy and active life.

On the other end of the spectrum, neglecting one or more of these components can be a detriment to your performance and health. Being incredibly strong but inflexible is the cause of many overuse injuries (tendonitis, arthritis, etc). Being flexible and lacking strength can lead to the exact same ailments. Concentrating on endurance alone (i.e.: running or swimming) without a proper base of strength and flexibility will cause hormone imbalances and will wreak havoc on your joints.

Through creating a foundation in all these areas seems difficult, but here at the Seattle Athletic Club we offer a myriad of classes and opportunities to become the “Perfect Athlete”. With a wide variety of group classes, you can easily add several tools to your fitness arsenal with no additional cost. If you want to take things to the next level, any of our highly qualified Personal Fitness Trainers can help you fill in any gaps you may have in your regimen.

Here are a few examples of how to develop each component.
Strength

  • Weight Training
  • Bodyweight Exercises
  • Resistance Bands
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Flexibility

  • Yoga
  • Band Stretching
  • Pilates
  • Active Range of Motion (Leg swings, etc)

Endurance

  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Circuit Training
  • Spinning
  • Martial Arts
  • Squash

Agility + Coordination

  • Squash
  • Basketball
  • Jump Rope
  • Olympic Lifting
  • Martial Arts

If you have any questions or want more information please take advantage of our educated staff to help guide you with your fitness needs.