Thursday, June 07, 2007

If You Had To Pick Just One Exercise

I spend most of my days in 1 position: hunched over my desk staring into the computer. Ironically, my exercise activity of choice, cycling, has me in the same position, hunched over my road bike. For years, I've had the same knot in my neck, some days worse than others, but always there. I call them 'trap knots' - its a knot of muscle tissue in a muscle called your Levator Scapulae.

Jennifer, my wife, has the same problem, but much worse than I do. She is also hunched over her computer and is a swimmer. The muscles in her chest, shoulders and traps are very strong, but very tight.

Only recently, and in all my years as a fitness professional, have I discovered a solution, with the help of my orthopedic doctor, that has me completely pain free. I've passed it onto my wife and she is starting to feel better too.

I now call the exercise Medicine Squats. I used to call them Overhead Squats, but that name connotes power-lifting to me and that's not what this is at all. Look for the exercise in Agile's Exercise Library under the Medicine Ball category.

My doctor helped me piece this together. I complained to her of my trap knots and said, "that's my Levator Scapulae right?"

She replied, "Well yes, but it's a larger problem than that muscle. You're entire thoracic spine is tight because you're always forward-positioned - you need to stretch out your thoracic spine."

Her eyes lit up when I asked her if an overhead squat with a medicine ball would be a good exercise to stretch out that region. She agreed whole-heartedly. Squatting stretches your lower back when done correctly. So placing your arms overhead, especially with a closer grip on a medicine ball, puts your Lats in a stretched position which extends the lower back stretch up your spine and all through your thoracic region.

I've been having different people try this exercise since then (i.e. my mother-in-law!) - and most of them cannot do this exercise well at all.

Now my wife and I do the exercise every day - not necessarily as part of an exercise routine, more apart of the brushing-your-teeth routine. Think: "after I take my vitamin C, I'm going to do my 2 sets of 15 Medicine Squats."

Now please realize that you probably are not going to be able to achieve the form shown in the drawing for some time. Instead, concentrate on only going 1/4 of the way down with your legs; focus more on keeping your arms straight overhead and close to your ears. When you squat, you're arms will want to either bend or tilt forward. This is because your back is tight! Only go down to the point where your arms can still stay straight up overhead.

With your lower body, keep your toes pointed straight ahead and feet spread shoulder-width apart. If you spread your legs wide and outward - sumo style - then you release your lower back from getting a stretch, which eases the stretch on your thoracic spine and negates the whole point of the exercise.

I hope you try it. Remember - Brush your teeth, take your multi-vitamin and do your medicine squats. :-)

1 comment:

David said...

Squats are one of the basic exercises I leant to do in Tai Chi.
With the believe that strong legs = strong heart.
It also helps with your balance as you get older

David

About Me

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NY, New York, United States
I'm 34 years old, the proud father of 2 beautiful children and husband to Jennifer, a beautiful, smart, and very caring woman. I'm an athlete - someone that was blessed with the ability to move fast and fluidly past, around, up and over my opponents. But, my body now reminds me that those days are numbered. I'm the Founder of Agile Fitness, a company dedicated to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Resume: - Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist ('96). - Bachelor of Arts & Science, University of Delaware, ('95) - Masters in Business Administration, Baruch College Zicklin School of Business ('01)