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My Overhead Squat Needs Some Help!

My Overhead Squat Needs Some Help!

Even a personal trainer needs help with her fitness program.

This past weekend, I took a Corrective Exercise Training workshop offered by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). The eight-hour workshop provided a lot more than some of the needed Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) for my personal trainer re-certification. It also forced me to take note of some of the issues with my body that could quite frankly be setting me up for injury.

The purpose of corrective exercise is to create a training program that can help someone maximize his or her movement efficiency. This happens by identifying dysfunctions and correcting muscle imbalances with a plan of action.

Thanks to Karl Sterling for snapping some pics

Thanks to Karl Sterling for snapping some pics

In my case, that concept boils down to this: my calves, hip flexors and hamstrings are overactive and need to be stretched while my glutes and tibialis anterior (the muscle closely located to the shin) are underactive and need to be strengthened. The catch is the muscles that need the corrective work are only on the right side of my body.

How did I figure this out? Brent Brookbush, our NASM instructor, used me as a case study for the rest of the workshop participants to observe.  Without getting too deep into functional anatomy, the group focused their attention on my feet, knees, lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and upper body as I banged out multiple overhead squats. After giving them an anterior, lateral and posterior view, they assessed my right foot turned out and I have an excessive forward lean.

Of course, both actions are indicators of less-than-optimal movement. In order to increase my muscle efficiency, they then put together a four-part training strategy that would first inhibit and lengthen the overactive muscles through self-myofascial release and static stretching. The last two steps target the underactive muscles with activation through isolated stretching and integration using a full-body exercise.

Breaking it down again, my program involves foam rolling my right lateral Gastrocnemius (calf), TFL (hip) and biceps femoris (hamstring); static stretches of those same muscles; then activation of my glutes with clams or bridges; and the grande finale is an integrated exercise, like a squat to row. This whole program should take me about 20 minutes, which means there’s no reason for me to not make it a part of my workout routine. I would still have time to get on the elliptical and/or hit the weight circuit. The key is once I do move on to the core part of my workout, I’ve worked to correct the imbalances in my body. My form will be better, the muscles that are supposed to “fire” as prime movers will do just that and other muscles won’t be compensating for the action. Those compensations can lead to injury over time.

One final plug for corrective exercise: After we all practiced the techniques and exercises outlined in my program, I performed another series of overhead squats for the class to observe. I can’t say I was perfect, but my form looked tremendously better compared to when I first got up in front of the group. My foot was no longer turning out and my lean was nowhere near as significant.

Considering how much better I felt after one afternoon of corrective exercise, I can’t wait to see how I feel after making this program part of my normal routine. In my book, anything we can do to make our muscles move better is a surefire way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Why Laura Loves the Foam Roller

Welcome to yet another Workout Wednesday!

The last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on some pretty intense exercises that get my heart racing courtesy of my small group training class. For today, I decided to shift gears to address what should be a key component in everyone’s exercise regimen regardless of his or her fitness level: flexibility training. Click here for a reminder on why we all need to make more time to incorporate stretching into our daily routines.

Every stage of flexibility training –  corrective, active or functional – incorporates one common denominator: self-myofascial release, or SMR. My NASM textbook defines this stretching technique as one that focuses on the neural system and fascial system in the body. Here’s a video where I demonstrate how SMR works on one of the most common problem areas – those aching calves!

Many thanks to director/producer Larry Saperstein and the crew at C & C Studios for their help with this production and to editor extraordinaire Rob Romas for putting it together. (Check out Rob’s new business Sports Media Recruit which provides video resumes for student athletes.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if I could go back in time and change one thing about my life-long love affair with fitness, it would be to incorporate much more flexibility training into my routine. It’s truly one of the best things we can do for ourselves in order to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

My Aching Calves – Part Two

So glad you came back for more information on how to stretch your way to relief of those tight, sore calf muscles!

I start by coming clean about what I call my “love-hate relationship” with the foam roller. My friend and former personal trainer, Rich, introduced me to the foam roller years ago, but I have to admit I stopped using it for quite some time. Now, I truly wish I stuck with it.

Just how does the foam roller fit in to flexibility training? It is an integral tool used in a stretching technique called self-myofascial release, often shortened to SMR. The idea is that by applying pressure to a muscle adhesion, commonly referred to as a “knot,” you initiate a process called autogenic inhibition. My NASM textbook defines autogenic inhibition as:”the process when neural impulses sensing tension are greater than the impulses causing muscle contraction. Stimulation of the Golgi tendon organ overrides the muscle spindle.” In simple terms, you use the foam roller to apply pressure to the most tender spot in your tight calf muscles and you will eventually feel the knot “release” itself.

Here’s how to effectively use the foam roller on the calves:

  1. Sit on the floor, and put the foam roller under the mid-calf of your right leg. You can cross your left leg over the right to increase the pressure. (This is optional)
  2. Roll back and forth ONLY until you find the most tender spot on the calf and then HOLD there for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.  You need to hold on this spot to allow time for autogenic inhibition to kick in. Keep breathing in and out and before you know it, you will actually feel the muscle release. (This may take up to two minutes.)
  3. Repeat the same process for the left leg.
The jury seems to be out on whether you should do SMR before or after you workout. Personally, it helps me to perform SMR on my calves both before and after my workout, as my goal is to perform exercises like squats and lunges as optimally as possible. If time is an issue, I’d say make sure at a minimum you add the foam roller a part to your cool down.
    Self-myofascial release can help with more than just your tight calves. Be sure to check back for more foam roller stretches that can help you have fun, be fit and be fabulous!
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