Monthly Archives: December 2011

Exercise of the Week – The Goblet Squat

The goblet squat could be one of the most unappreciated, as well as unheard of, exercises out there.

Holding the weight in front of the chest is the key to allowing for improved squatting technique and to get great depth.  Check the picture below and you can see the advantages:

  • knees are wide
  • chest is up and the spine is straight
  • head is in-line with the body and looking forward
  • feet are straight ahead

We use the goblet squat as part of our warm-up to groove the squatting pattern because it fosters perfect technique and great range of motion.  A fairly heavy weight actually makes  it easier as far as getting the technique correct.  As your squat pattern improves, gradually decrease the weight to make it more challenging.  You should be able to get into this position naturally, so ultimately this would be a great goal for injury prevention and musculoskeletal health.

Athletes that have a hard time squatting with a bar on their backs, can often goblet squat without any trouble.  If this is the case for you, try 2-3 sets of 10 with a fairly heavy kettlebell or dumbbell prior to your back squat work out.  Usually the back squat will look and feel much better after grooving the pattern a bit first.

Lastly, if you’ve been strength training using back squats and can’t do them without pain, then the goblet squat may be your alternative.  I’ve seen plenty of patients back squatting with shoulder, back, and knee pain who could goblet squat just fine.  As you can see from the picture above the spine is straighter, weight is back on the heels more, and the weight is in front of the body. All things that can make it easier on your joints.  If this is you, gradually increase the load for the strengthening benefit as long as you can keep your form perfect and there is no pain.

So there you have it, all great reasons to give the goblet squat a shot in your training regimen.

Any questions or other thoughts (or even other exercises to discuss)?  Please leave those comments below.

PT Minute- Preventing Falls

Slipping and falling on the ice results in countless injures and fractures every winter.  Here are a couple of simple ways to improve your balance and reduce your fall risk.

When most people think of balance, they think of the foot and ankle doing most of the work, however, the ability of your hip and trunk muscles to quickly react are equally as important.

A great way to improve the reaction time of the hip and trunk is to assume a 1/2 kneeling posture, kneeling on one knee with the opposite foot out in front flat on the floor.  Stay tall and try bringing your front foot to align with your down knee.  This is a difficult move and you may need to start with a wider base of support to be successful.

Once you find a position that you can balance in, but also feel challenged, hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.

As you improve, move to  single leg balance.  To activate the muscles of the hip and core while doing single leg balance,  pull on a band bringing hands to hips, stay tall, and balance for 10 seconds on each leg.  Bringing the knee higher increases the challenge but not to the point that your posture suffers so stop when the thigh is parallel to the floor as in the picture below.

To increase the challenge, simply face away from the band and pull forward.  Continue to emphasize a tall posture, and alternate balancing 10 seconds on each leg.  Usually 5-6 repetitions on each leg is plenty.

These are two simple, yet challenging exercises you can do right from home so take a little extra time to perfect your balance and stay safe through the ice and snow this winter.

To catch the PT minute featuring Fall Prevention and Balance, click here:  PT minute 3 – Balance

PT Minute- Snow Shoveling and Back Pain

Snow shoveling can be hard on your back, not just from moving heavy snow, but also from the postures that are used.

A rounded back places greater strain on the discs, muscles and other structures of the spine.  The safer posture is a flat back with the hips pushed back.  This is known as a hip hinge.

To work the hip hinge, simply place a stick along the spine touching the head, mid-back and tailbone.  Slightly bend your knees and push the hips back.  The stick should stay in contact with all 3 points.  Go as far as you can without losing contact.  The goal would be to feel a good stretch in the hamstrings.

 

This can be a difficulty move for many.  If so, practice the hip hinge pattern on your hands and knees first.  With a water bottle across the low back, push the hips back toward the heels maintaining a slight spinal curve.  If you lose the water bottle, you’ve lost posture.

Stay within a comfortable range of motion with perfect posture, and absolutely no pain.  Perform 10 repetitions to re-establish your hip hinge prior to taking on the snow.

Here is the link to the PT minute video:  PT Minute – Snow shoveling and Back Pain

 

PT Minute – Core Strengthening

I filmed a short ‘PT Minute’ on this topic this week, but wanted to write it up so folks had a place to go to get more information (it will be running on 7&4 during the morning news – I think between 5-6am).  It’s not comprehensive by any means, but should definitely get you thinking:

Core Strength has long been touted as a way to prevent or eliminate low back pain, but did you know that many of the traditional exercise like sit ups, crunches, and back extensions can actually hurt your back?

The plank exercise is a safe and popular alternative that works the abdominals to provide support to the lower back, but it too must be done properly to produce the desired results without creating additional problems.

To perform a plank, first assume a push-up position on your forearms and up on your toes.  Then lift your body off the ground, getting everything in a straight line.  Hold this position for 10-20 seconds for as many repetitions as possible with perfect form and no pain.

A typical mistake is to have too much of a curve in your low back, which puts too much stress on the joints of the spine.  To make sure your form is perfect, try placing a stick along your spine, touching the head, mid-back and tailbone.  This will give you the postural feedback needed to know if your alignment is correct.

You can see in this picture that I could fit 3-4 finger-widths between the spine and the stick which is way too much.  She’s resting on her joints and ligaments versus using her abdominal muscles.

What you want is 1-2 finger-widths.  To achieve this you must more actively engage your abdominals by tilting your pelvis backward.  Think about bringing your belly button closer to your nose to reduce this curve to a more neutral position.  The women in the picture below looks much better!

This is a great exercise for core strength and for stability of the low back when done correctly.  Once you’ve mastered the position, now work on belly breathing throughout the set.  You should feel your abdomen and sides moving in and out, not your chest and shoulders.  If you cannot breathe correctly, this also means your abdominals are not doing the job, and it’s time to take a break.

Here is a link to a short article that appeared in Newsweek on the danger of crunches and sit-ups:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/blogs/the-human-condition/2009/06/03/stop-doing-sit-ups-why-crunches-don-t-work.html.  They frequently quote Dr. Stuart McGill who is the foremost spine biomechanist in the world, and definitely knows his stuff when it comes to preventing injury and enhancing performance.  On the other hand, ignore the knucklehead trainer talking about the Transverse Abdominus – so far from the truth I bet McGill had no idea that would be in the article.

Any other questions on planks or core training just send them on over.  Thanks!

Here is a link to the PT minute video:  PT Minute – Core Strengthening