Tag: stretching

Pilates Exercise Of Month: Roll – Over

 Purpose: To stretch the lower back and hamstrings; develop spinal articulation and improve control of the abdominal muscles.

Note: if you have a bad neck or lower back, leave this exercise out.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60-degree angle from the mat.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle. Initiate from the abdominals; bring your legs over your head peeling your spine off the mat. Keep reaching the arms long, shoulders pinned down. Don’t press onto your neck.
  3.  Exhale, open your legs just past shoulder width and flex your feet. Keep the back of your neck long to avoid any tensing. The arms continue to press into the mat. Your body weight should rest squarely in between your shoulder blades.
  4.  Begin rolling back toward the mat, feel your spine stretching longer and longer as you articulate down until the tailbone touches the mat.
  5.  When the tailbone reaches the mat, take the legs to just below 90 degrees and squeeze your legs together again. Repeat the sequence.
  6.  Complete 3 repetitions with legs together when lifting and 3 times with legs apart.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Keep your upper body glued to the mat- avoid rolling onto the neck
  • Don’t use momentum to roll over; use abdominals
  • Palms press into mat, arms long throughout.
  • Shoulders are stable on the roll down.

Visualization: Imagine your arms are lead bars pinning you to the mat.








Inspirational Member of the Month is Jamie Osbourne

The Seattle Athletic Club is thrilled to announce that our Inspirational Member of the Month is Jamie Osbourne!  I’m certain you have seen Jamie working out in the club; he is here nearly every morning and utilizes every square inch of the club including the weight room, cardio room, the Pilates Studio, Cybex room, and the stretching area.  He loves to share his amazing journey of struggle and triumph, and here is a peek into his recovery process from a devastating cycling accident in 2007 and his incredible climb to where he is today.

1) Jamie, we see you here each and every day! What inspires you to workout every day?

a) To rebuild strength, balance and posture which have all been compromised by paralysis and other residual deficits due to a bad road cycling accident in 2007 rendering me quadriplegic b) Working out produces endorphins which by far are the best pain killer of anything I take c) Community – it’s great for my mental health to see friends, familiar faces, and other like-minded folks committed to exercise and fitness d) Energy – it’s a great way to start the day e) Most importantly, although progress comes very slowly, I always have goals, and over the last 6+ years since rejoining the club have made significant improvements in many areas that have allowed me to go places physically I never thought possible in 2007 when I was injured. Btw, my doctors are very intrigued by my continued progress, which for spinal cord injury was generally understood to flat-line after 1-2 years. I’ve had more recovery in the last 6 years since rejoining the SAC than I did in the first 3 years by many fold!


2) We know you are facing some incredible physical challenges.  What advice would you offer to those facing any physical obstacle?

a) Have goals of some kind, achievable goals that you can build on, produce small victories that will accumulate over time and become bigger victories. Perhaps a goal is just getting yourself to the club, and do some stretches. Check off a goal and move on to the next, and reward yourself in some meaningful way. b) Consistency – it doesn’t have to be 5-6 days/wk but do it on some consistent frequency and the gains will come. c) Work to overcome fear, which our bodies often do to protect ourselves when injured. At some point that fear becomes an impediment. One of the best pieces of advice I received at the club was “Jamie, you need to learn to trust yourself.” It changed everything in my recovery. c) Visualize. I picture in my head in great detail the next goal I want to accomplish. I sometimes think of myself as a movie maker – actor, writer, producer, director. Every time I do this for some big goal I want to accomplish it has come true. d) Make the best of it. Focus on the things you can do, not what you can’t or used to do. I spent way too much time in the first couple of years stuck in the past, and having difficulty coming to grips with a new reality. As a famous football coach once said, “play the hand you are dealt.” e) Be willing to try new things, and don’t get discouraged or stop doing something because everyone else can and you can’t. I’ve tried many different things where I struggled mightily. Instead of giving up and saying I can’t do this, I viewed it as a challenge. What I do when I first start something new with difficulty is to view my starting point as a baseline “I’ve found my baseline” I’ll often say and build from there. Weights, Machines, Bands, Pilates, Barre,Yoga and pushing the sled are all exercises I’ve struggled with initially but gained much from.


3) What have been your greatest recent accomplishments?  (I heard there was a recent ride around Mercer Island?!)

a) Being able to live independently with little/no accommodation with exception of using trekking poles for walking longer distances. b) Most recently, I’ve cycled around MI 3X in the last 2 months, each time without stopping and each time after I’ve worked out Sunday mornings after 2.5hrs in the gym, including Shari’s spin class. It helps loosen me up. c) In 2015 I rowed in an 8man crew shell at my alma matter in Ithaca NY. d) I was able to hit golf balls on the driving range, even make reasonable contact without falling down d) I hit my best results in average wattage on the spin bike for 60 minutes e) I took several ski runs at the base of Backcomb last Christmas (on the green run!).

Of course all of these efforts are very painful which is why I don’t do them on a regular basis. There is always a price to pay in anything I do. When I do though I feel so alive!


Please help us in congratulating Jamie on his nomination for Seattle Athletic Clubs’ Inspirational Member of the Month!


Common Squash Stretches

Considering some of the common injuries associated with the sport of squash, here are a few to work on as you prepare for the upcoming tournament this weekend.

Hip flexibility – A common side effect to doing 100’s of lunges is tight, overactive glute muscles. An effective stretch for the hip region is the piriformis stretch (Below Left), which targets the internal hip muscles that act as a hammock for the hip and assist larger muscles in movement. This one you may have heard it referred to as thread the needle.

Squash Stretch

Another good hip stretch that will also target lateral hip muscles including the illiotibial band is in a similar position with the leg bent and hugging the knee toward the chest (Above Right).

Shoulder flexibility – Large deltoid muscles can be stretched by bringing the arm across the body with shoulder blade back and down (Below Left).

Squash Stretch

A great stretch for the rotator cuff muscles and smaller stabilizers of the shoulder is the arm wrestle (Above Right). Lying down on your side with elbow level with shoulder height, press your arm down toward the ground.

These just tend to be two regions of the body that become overactive and fatigued from playing squash, but there are many more to address and the body should be treated as a whole.

Reciprocal inhibition and how it applies to you

The term reciprocal inhibition might not mean much to you but there are few things that affect your body more regularly. The theory of reciprocal inhibition states that “When the central nervous system sends a message to the agonist (muscle causing movement) to contract, the tension in the antagonist (muscle opposing movement) is inhibited by impulses from motor neurons, and thus must simultaneously relax”, taken from Massage Therapy Principles & Practices by Susan Salvo. What this means is that our muscles act in pairs and coordinate with each other by simultaneously relaxing and contracting as a protective measure to help keep us from injury. If both opposing muscles were to fire simultaneously, not allowing the other to relax, a tear in the muscle may occur. A common example of this is running. The action of striking the ground will send impulses from the central nervous system to contract and relax opposing muscles (hamstrings and quadriceps) to ensure a fluid and safe motion.

Although much of reciprocal inhibition is controlled subconsciously, we can use this principle to “trick” the body during a stretch in order to achieve a greater range of motion. For example, if the goal is to stretch the hamstrings, contracting the quadriceps upon reaching a near end range of motion will allow for the hamstrings to relax further, thus increasing the stretch. Another example of this is during a stretch involving the chest muscles (pectoralis major/minor). Upon reaching the end range of motion of this stretch, contract the muscles located directly behind the shoulder (rear deltoid/mid trapezious) to send a signal to your body forcing the chest muscles to relax further.

Stretching should be an essential part of everyone’s workout, however simply stretching alone is not the most efficient way to ensure a proper muscular balance in your body. Although there are many different forms of stretching that can have dramatic effects on increasing range of motion, without addressing strength and tension imbalances of the opposing muscles, these results are often only temporary. If the goal is to stretch the muscles of the chest in order to correct a forward shoulder tilt, it is crucial to also strengthen the muscles of the back that are responsible for holding the shoulders in place. To correct the pelvis from excessive forward tilt, it would be important to not only stretch the hip flexors but strengthen the glutes as well. By strengthening these opposing muscles you will ease the pull created by muscles that are too tight, allowing for the range of motion gained through stretching to have a long lasting effect. If you would like to know more about properly balancing your workouts or more information on how to stretch effectively, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

The Power of Proprioception

All athletes will face the danger of getting injured during their sport. This is why we train the muscles and practice the movements. By practicing, we help provide the body and mind with the confidence that we can perform the tasks required of us. One of the largest components to this sense of confidence is proprioception. Proprioception refers to the sense of a joint position in relation to the rest of the body. This allows our body to know where we are in space; more specifically, while we are moving in relation to the rest of the body as well as the environment. The more balanced our body becomes; the more efficient our movements will be, making ourselves stronger. Once the body can control the hips and spine, the primary muscles can take over to perform the power required. The true key to any sport is efficiency. Can I prepare my body for any type of movement that may occur during performance? Can I avoid getting hurt while still going all out and not holding anything back?

Balance training will do much more than make you less clumsy. Along with strengthening your hip and ankle stabilizers you will become more agile, developing the ability to control and change your center of gravity throughout movement. Again, this is why we train and practice just shy of maximum effort. The body loves to learn through trial and error. You have to start to lose your balance before the body can learn where it needs to step up and activate. Hiking provides a perfect example of this type of proprioception. While the start of the hiking season might require that your entire attention remain focused on the trail to avoid falling, after a few hikes, you start to notice that you are more confident in your ability to adjust to the terrain by foot feel alone, thus making you less focused on the trail below you and allowing you to look up and enjoy the scenery. This helps to establish your connection with your surroundings and will, in turn, help with your balance.

Proprioception can be incorporated into your regular workout routine easily. When standing performing front raise exercises, try standing on one foot. This causes the body to become more unstable and will recruit different muscles to help find the balance point. When that becomes too simple, try closing your eyes. Try keeping your eyes closed through an entire yoga class, or pilates mat session to see if you can feel where your body is in space, focusing solely on your movements. Try a yoga class that focuses on balance training or arm balances. This will teach you which muscles to engage and which muscles to relax to help become more successful. Once the neural pathways are developed, the body can use these movements as tools to help their efficiency on the court, out in the woods, or even in the pool!

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!

Stretching 102 Video: How to Target Your Calves, Inner & Outer Thighs and Large Hip Muscles

This video of a three-part series addresses different stretch techniques including: static, active, dynamic and resistance stretching by demonstrating some basic stretches for the calves, inner/outer thighs and large hip muscles.

When assessing when a certain stretch technique should be used, there is no right or wrong answer; however, here is what I recommend to my clients.

Static stretching should be done once a muscle is thoroughly warmed up. I recommend it primarily after your resistance workout following a cool down. If you decide to static stretch before a workout, make sure you do a long warm up prior.

Active stretching can also be done before a workout after a warm up, or in place of one. This technique is used a lot with team sports and group fitness. It’s a great and safe way to get multiple muscles firing and create length in muscles that are tight before beginning a work out. I also use it with clients to reinforce proper movement patterns before adding weight to them, and with some clients this can be used as a workout itself.

Dynamic stretching can also be included as a warm up if you are outside doing a sport. I recommend at least a small warm up (walk/jog) before attempting these moves. Ballistic movements have a higher risk of injury, but also can produce good lubrication in the joints in multiple planes of motion. These stretches also mimick the natural plyometric movements of the body, so it is good preparation before a sport.

Resistance (Ki-Hara) stretching is fairly new. It has a medicinal benefit in that it allows you to stretch more of the muscle belly versus the tendons. Stretching the tendon is typical if you have a very short, impeded movement pattern. Professional athletes, like Dara Torres, use it regularly. It would be best after a workout, or on a day you aren’t working out because you will have increased blood flow to the muscle.

– PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and basic assisted stretching are done with a trainer. PNF is along the same principles as resistance stretching only you squeeze the opposing muscle group isometrically, which shuts off (inhibits) the target muscle from resisting the stretch, and then relax as you are assisted into the stretch. During assisted stretching you can squeeze the target muscle in an isometric contraction to push blood into it, and then follow it with a relaxation during the stretch. These techniques I am more than happy to give you an introduction to if you would like further details.

Fascia Stretching and Strengthening

Fascia is a connective tissue that enwraps the muscles, different groups of muscles, vessels, and nerves. It binds these structures together and consists of several layers: superficial, deep and visceral. It forms a web sheath over the muscles the same as the whitish tissue between the skin and muscle of meat, like chicken. Fasciae are able to withstand tension forces, and reduce friction by allowing muscles to glide over one another.

Excessive repetitive movements and trauma can increase the density of fascia. Even though there are no nervous system innervations, this increased density can impede proper movement and sometimes form adhesions or tight knots. These adhesions or knots can become trigger points that cause pain. Often times traditional stretching will just produce thicker fascia, compounding the issue. An easy treatment consists of breaking the fascia up by massage and resistance stretching techniques. Resistance stretching relies on a weighted eccentric (negative) movement taken to the point of stretching, or manual resistance similar to active stretching (activating a muscle through a full range of motion).

Fascia is a very energy efficient material that acts like a rubber band and springs back into position; releasing the fascia can increase biomechanical efficiency and allows normal length tension relationships. Training the fascia can be done through plyometrics, which simulates the catapult-like motion of the body bringing the fascia through a rapid lengthened state followed by a rapid shortening; or during multi-muscle exercises or calisthenics.

If you can your actively stretch and strengthen your fascia system, it will allow you to move through a freer range of motion and increase the functionality in your daily life as well as your workout routine. For more information on how to correct any issues with your facial system please contact Amber Walz or any other PFT on staff.

Holiday Travel Stretches – Stretching 101

If you are traveling this holiday season, remember to be kind to your body. In a plane, train, or automobile your muscles are forced into a shortened position for a prolonged time. Here are some basic stretches that can be done to mitigate the effects.

Chest stretch- A muscle commonly associated with poor posture is the pectoralis, or chest, muscles. As shoulders droop forward and upper back becomes stretched out, the chest muscles become shortened. An easy way to stretch the chest is in a doorway or against a wall. Make sure your shoulder blade is back and down, shoulder joint is back, elbow level with the shoulder line, lean in and slightly angle away from the wall. Putting the forearm flat against the wall makes it easier to have the correct alignment.

Lat stretch- In bad posture the shoulder blades move away from each other and you fall forward into a collapsed ribcage. This shortens the lattisimus dorsi of the upper back. It’s easiest to do this against a wall with the hands against a wall, hinging forward with straight limbs, shoulders down, which also effectively stretches the hamstrings.

Neck and upper trapezius stretch- The collapsed upper body slouch also causes shortness in the upper trapezius area. To stretch this muscle along with the side flexors of the neck take one arm bent behind your back, drop the opposite ear to shoulder and make sure to keep the shoulder back and down.

Spine stretch- To align your spine after being in a prolonged seated posture sit straight, twist to one side, focusing on an open chest and twisting the neck to look over the shoulder.

Piriformis stretch- Inside of your hips the muscles and ligaments can become tight and pull your sacroiliac joint out of alignment. This can cause all kinds of discomfort along the back. An easy way to stretch the hips is sitting straight with feet flat then crossing one leg up and over the other with the ankle over top the upper thigh. This opens the hip to allow a deep stretch.

Hip flexor/ quadricep stretch- The front of the hips also becomes tight from sitting in a fixed posture for a long time. Sit on the edge of a chair and swing the outside leg back while pushing forward with the back of the hip to ensure that you’re not arching your lower back. You should feel the front of the hip and thigh being lengthened.

Another great way to create length in the spine after gravity has worn on you is to hang from a bar above you. This just allows space between the vertebrae and can release any vertebrae that are subluxed, or misaligned. If you do these basic stretches, you can help alleviate any accumulated discomfort in the body that sets in because of travel. For any specific stretch advice contact me, Amber Walz, at the club (206)443-1111 ext.242.

Yoga Pose of the Month: Post Workout Stretches

This month, the Yoga Pose of the Month is actually a simple series of four basic “feel good” yoga poses for a post work out stretch.

The first, Downward Facing Dog (Adho Muka Svasana), is a yoga classic. It’s purpose is to stretch all the major posterior muscle groups, as you strengthen your core, and let oxygenated blood flow to your brain.

The second is Pigeon (Raja Kapotasana) which is designed to create flexibility in the hips, glutes and inner thighs.

The third, Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandasana) will open the muscles of the chest and create flexibility in the anterior body, as well as strengthen your back side if you push firmly into the floor and fire up your hamstrings and glutes.

The final, Resting Pose (Svasana) is an important piece to muscle recovery as it allows the body and mind to be totally still, and feel the wonderful effects of your workout and deep relaxation of Yoga Asana.