These are not the Blogs you are Looking for

Hey everyone.

The Fit Ferret has officially launched it’s official site. All future updates, blog entries, and going on’s will be found there.

Head on over and join us!

http://www.TheFitFerret.com

-Ferret

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Now Is The Winter Of Your Discontent

calvin-hobbes-shoveling-snow

Happy Friday friends! Boy has it been a while. Now that the dust has settled and the big move complete, expect our regular schedule to resume as well as new and big things close on the horizon.

But I digress; let’s get to the article at hand!

If you’re up here in the North East then like me, you’ve been slammed with snow. It’s as if all of a sudden winter woke up, and realized it was late for work, speeding down the freeway, spilling its coffee and crashing into the guard rail because it was texting, throwing its contents ALL over us.

So, needless to say, snow removal has been the activity most of us are undertaking in lieu of other physical exertions.

Anyone who is anyone and has spent a day shoveling snow can tell you a few things.

  • After a metric butt load of shovel strokes, even fluffy snow feels like an elephant.
  • Lower back pain or tightness is sometimes inevitable.
  • “Eff” Snow.

Today, in an effort to help alleviate the stress of this grueling task and to help any of you in the future who live in the New England area or any area that gets snow really, we are going to discuss the proper mechanics of shoveling efficiently and effectively to reduce the prevalence and intensity of lower back pain and tightness from this necessary and evil task.

Warm Up:

  • Warm your body and muscles up first, cold tight muscles are a recipe for injury in ANY situation.
  • Arm Circles for the shoulders.
  • Forward and backward chest height arm swings for the back and chest.
  • Stretch your hammies!
  • 20 – 30 seconds of jumping jacks.

You’re all warmed up? Awesome! Let’s look at some key points of improper snow removal first.

Improper Techniques:

  • Bending at the lower back.
    • If you bend at the lower back when doing anything, you’re asking for an injury. If you do it with a weight on the end of a shovel, you’ve pretty much put a bullseye for injuries square on yourself.
  • Twisting the torso to throw snow.
    • It may not seem like it, but when holding a load at the end of a lever, twisting your torso will put a lot of stress and pressure on muscles in the lower back to try and maintain core integrity. DON’T DO IT!

Good, now you know what NOT to do. So the only place left to go, is proper technique!

Proper Snow Shoveling Technique:

  • Face the intended strike destination of the shovel head with your hips squarely.
  • Push rather than lift whenever possible.
  • Bend at knees and hips with spine straight and chest puffed out with shoulders back.
  • Place bottom hand as close to blade as handle will allow when lifting.
  • Turn hips squarely and face destination of a snow toss.
  • Lift with Legs, Core, and Shoulders; NEVER YOUR BACK!
  • ALWAYS enjoy a hot cup of cocoa when finished.

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, go out there, give a metaphorical middle finger to the feet of snow piled up in your drive way and shout “I’ve got a secret weapon you dirty rat!” then proceed to dominate it with super amazing skill and technique. Enjoy the reduced amount of stress in your back, and appreciate your earned rest afterwards.

Was this article helpful? Let me know what you thought and I just might put it into a video for visual aides.

The Knee

The Knee: The Body’s Shock Absorber

The knee is a stabilizing joint in the lower body that transfers force from the ground up, and the upper body downward. It is this act of force transfer that can often lead to injuries in the knee. The menisci are cartilaginous cushions on either side of the knee joint that help absorb these forces and protect the knee.

kneeopen

www.theknee.com

The most common mechanism of injury to the menisci are excessive lateral force, often seen in aggressive contact sports, or twisting with weight-bearing, which often occurs when landing during sports such as gymnastics, dance, and snowboarding. There are several different types of meniscal tears that can occur, depending on the mechanism of injury.

kneeinky

www.inkymousestudios.com

While some of the more minor tears can heal with non-surgical intervention, the more severe tears, such as the bucket handle tear, require surgery and rehabilitative exercise. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the primary goal after surgery is to regain range of motion as soon as possible. For meniscal tears, and most other knee injuries, this can be achieved with an exercise called the heel slide. During this exercise the patient lies on the ground with their shoes off so the heel of the affected knee can slide away from and towards the body. This exercise should be repeated multiple times throughout the day for the first 7-10 days of recovery. Once the knee has regained sufficient mobility, the patient can then progress to stabilization exercises using a bosu or wobble board to work on proprioception.

The next step in recovery is strength training, which should begin with non-weight bearing isometric contractions of the quads and slowly progress to weight-bearing exercises for the quads, hamstrings, abductors and adductors, and commence with performing these weight-bearing exercises with resistance. Such exercises include squats, lunges, glute bridge, hip ab/adduction, leg press and leg extension. Only once the knee is COMPLETELY healed and the patient is not experiencing any pain or swelling should you progress to more complex workouts that include plyometrics and agility drills for sport specific training. Rehab can be a long and tedious process, but it is a necessary one in order to heal correctly and reduce the risk of reinjury!

Hibernation

Happy Friday friends!

Unfortunately, this will be week two in a row that I will not have a new article for you. Due to circumstances at the gym I work at, I have had a very large influx of clientele spill over into my schedule and at the present am unable to devote enough free time to this to give you the same quality you’ve received week after week. On top of this, I am also in the process of moving!

No need to fret though, these are great things! I have been privileged to meet a lot of new people and help them change their lives for the better, and as well, this upcoming move will allow for wonderful things to unfold in the future.

So it is with heavy heart I regret to inform you all that Friday’s With the Ferret will be taking a short hiatus or hibernation if you will.

I will post up things here and there as I am still always learning new things and little snipets of time will arise for me to write.

Keep working hard and take every opportunity you can to make a better version of yourself. See you all soon!

-Ferret

Mobility, Control, Stability and Strength

Recently a friend brought an article to my attention regarding mobility exercises. The article addressed how often times people utilize mobility exercises to correct or improve movement patterns that are more likely the result of motor control issues, rather than limited mobility. So, how do you know if your movement issue is a mobility problem vs. a motor control problem? One of the easiest ways is to remove one important factor… gravity!

For example, if you are having trouble performing a squat in the usual upright standing position, lye on your back and try to bring your knees to your chest. If you are capable of bending your knees and hips enough to get your knees to your chest, then you have the proper mobility to perform a squat, however you may not possess the proper motor control to execute the squat. Mobility is the body’s physical capability to move through a full range of motion, whereas motor control is the body’s capability to take sensory input from the environment and execute the proper muscle coordination in response.

The best way to improve motor control is with PNF. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is the body’s understanding of its position in space. Dynamic exercises work best to improve PNF because of increased sensory input from the environment. The more input the body receives, the more information it has to work with and respond to thus improving balance, coordination, and motor control!

Another somewhat confusing issue in the fitness and rehab fields is stability training vs. strength training. While it may seem like improving one would inherently improve the other, this is not the case. The larger muscle groups in our bodies such as the pecs, quads, and hamstrings are the ones we utilize all day every day to sit, stand, walk, lift, push, and pull, but it is the smaller stabilizing muscles in our neck, back, and extremities that we don’t think about that allow us to react to our environment, remain in proper alignment, and prevent injuries.

Many people think they are performing stabilization exercises, when in reality they are just strength training the large, primary muscle groups. The smaller, stabilizing muscles in our bodies are reflexive, and rely on motor control rather than strength to function properly. Therefore, the best way to improve stabilization is to improve motor control, and as we just discussed, the best way to do that is with PNF. It is also important to remember that whether you are training for strength or stabilization, especially when trying to correct a movement issue. First you have to deactivate the compensatory muscle(s) before you can properly activate the appropriate muscle(s).

In a nutshell, you have to have mobility before you can do anything else. Without the ability to move, it won’t matter how good your motor control or strength is! Once you can move, you then need motor control to be able to properly respond to the environment around you. Once you can move and respond, then you can work on stabilization to be able to respond more efficiently. Lastly and only once the first three factors are well established, should you add load to your body to improve strength. At a recent seminar Gray Cook said, “Stability is the body’s ability to maintain alignment with integrity under load.” The most important word in that sentence is integrity. If you cannot maintain integrity under a weighted load, then you have no business strength training!!

Step 1 – Mobility

Step 2- Motor Control

Step 3 – Stability

Step 4 – Strength

If you fail at step 4, go back to step 3… If you fail at step 3, go back to step 2. If you try to push your body when it’s not ready, you will fail and most likely injure yourself in the process….and then you have to start at step 1!!

Core Development and Toning

Happy Friday friends! A while back, one of our community members wrote in and asked what the best way was to tackle love handles. So, in traditional Fit Ferret fashion, I will be addressing this question in this week’s post and discuss with you how to firm up, tone, and shape the core musculature of the body.

Before we begin I want to put a few things out there.

  • There is no such thing as spot training. It is impossible to target problem areas of the body and expect weight loss in that specific section.
  • To attain the fitness magazine sculpted 6 pack look is a very time consuming and dedicated lifestyle process that takes time and a strict diet.
  • These guidelines are designed for balancing core strength and firming up muscle tone through the core as a whole.
  • There are no “Short Cuts” and anyone who promises you that is full of horse puckey.

Now that that’s out of the way … we can dive on in!

We’ve recently been discussing how angles and planes play a great deal in muscle development and strengthening. Fortunately, the core muscles function just the same as any other muscle group and require this same attention to detail to strengthen and tone properly.

Through a series of static exercises (exercises in which tension is held in the muscles throughout its duration) and dynamic exercises (exercises in which the muscles are contracted to maximum tension and relaxed in a repetitive fashion) as well as moving these muscles in a way that gravity pulls on them through the various planes we can begin to increase our core power and stability while simultaneously beginning the sculpting and toning process.

Let’s take a quick look at the “anatomy” of the core muscles.

As you can see, there is A LOT more going on down there than your “Abdominal” muscles and each of them plays an important role in balancing and powering up your core.

So where to start?

Since “planking” has become a fairly mainstream notion and a question I’m asked a lot is “How long can you plank?” This static exercise focused on the Rectus Abdominis sounds good to me.

I love that question because I answer it quite frankly “one minute.” Following that answer I often get a puzzled look as I can only imagine in their head they are wondering how someone who is fit could “only” hold a plank for one minute. I then follow that up with, but I can hold a plank that is 10x harder than a traditional plank also, for one minute. If their curiosity is piqued I then proceed to show them a plank held utilizing two medicine balls, one under the feet and one under the hands.

So then I ask, “Would you rather be able to hold a plank for 10 minutes, or do one of those for 1?”

My philosophy on the plank has always been: “If you can hold it for a minute, find a variation that’s more challenging.” Not only does it save you time and produce the same and in most cases better results, but it is difficult for an exercise to get boring if it is constantly changing and becoming more difficult with your ability level.

Your first static exercise in your quest for stronger, more toned abdominals is the traditional plank. You want to be able to plank from a level surface, a surface where your upper body is elevated, and a surface where your feet are elevated. This will ensure that every angle is accounted for and the strength is evenly built along the length of the abdominals. When you can execute this move 3 times held to 1 minute. It’s time to start challenging the stabilization of the exercise by using unstable surfaces such as medicine balls, or the BOSU, or even suspension cables like the TRX; or try removing one or two limbs (arm and leg, not arm and arm) from the equation to make your muscles work that much harder. (Planking tip: Feeling pressure in your lower back? Tuck your hips underneath you forcing you to flex your glute muscles. Then tighten your abdominals and imagine that you are sucking them up into your chest cavity. This will remove stress from your lower back, put you into a good form position, and focus all of the stress on your abdominal muscles.)

The next static exercise to master is the side plank. Very similar to its cousin the plank, the side plank is a static exercise focused on the oblique muscles that run along your side. Just like the plank, master it with your upper torso elevated, your feet elevated, and when it becomes too easy, start disrupting the stability of the exercise.

Moving along, let’s take a peek at some dynamic exercises that will aid us in our quest.

The simplest and easiest dynamic abdominal exercise that comes to most people’s mind is the crunch and or sit-up. However, before we dive too deep into that, recently there has been a lot of controversy in the fitness field involving the crunch and whether or not it may actually be hurtful to your spine. That being noted, things like this pop up constantly in the fitness field and there has not been enough research or documentation yet for me to change my ideas on it.

One thing to note when you start doing dynamic abdominal exercises is that you may initially feel fatigue in your neck and jaw. This is due to the mind muscle connection being weak as well as the muscles themselves being too weak to pull your torso up. When you start to feel that fatigue, it is in your best interest to give that exercise a rest. That being said, while you are engaged in your first rounds of dynamic core exercise try to be very aware of the muscles that are activating to help build that connection. In time, the fatigue you feel in your neck and jaw will subside as the muscles become stronger. DON’T OVER DO IT.

Getting stronger? You’ll want to add in sit-ups from a declined position. As well, you’ll want to do leg lifts to get the tension moving up and down the length of the muscles for that even build.

Next up, we’ll look at two dynamic exercises for the obliques. This first one is a tad bit difficult as if you have never done it before it feels incredibly awkward and you may not be sure if you are working the muscles at all.

From a laying down position on your side, curl your bottom leg underneath you, and extend your top leg. Curl your bottom arm towards your head and rest your head against your hand. Bring your fingertips of your top arm to you ear and now you’re in position. The objective from this position is to now crunch up the top half of your torso, right along the imaginary line dividing you into bottom and top halves, about where your belly button is. You should feel a small group of muscles in your side activating really hard to even generate the slightest bit of movement. The good news is, this exercise doesn’t take a lot of movement to be correct! As long as you feel those muscles in your side contracting and pulling the top half of your torso up, you’re doing it right. Practice makes progress.

Of course, the dynamic work of the oblique wouldn’t be complete without an exercise that also worked the legs. From this same position, you can lift your top leg up, contracting the oblique muscles!

You are now on your way and armed with the knowledge necessary to start strengthening evenly and toning evenly your mid-section, reducing “love handles” and making them “love grips.”

Remember though, these exercises will eventually become too easy and you will stop seeing progress. Use your knowledge of the planes and angles and keep increasing to more and more difficult exercises making certain you hit all of the abdominal muscles in every direction, not just some of them. Happy planking friends!

Muscle Development 101: Snakes On A Plane

Happy Friday friends! This week we are going to continue our discussion on muscle growth and development via the most efficient and effective ideologies. So last week we discussed angles and their importance on activating certain muscles and muscle groups. This week, we are going to talk about the planes and how muscles are more than just unilateral tissues.

We exist in several dimensions and as such can manipulate the environment and objects in it in many different planes of motion. With this in mind, and knowing that our muscle groups exert certain forces based on the activity, we can ask ourselves, “Does the tissue exert the same force outward even after elevating or descending the plane of motion a few degrees?”

The best example of this question would be analyzing the Bench Press and the Incline Bench Press side by side.

Each of these motions recruits the Pectorals as the prime mover, but what force is exerted on the tissue and is it uniform for either activity?

The simple answer, is no, it is not. Join me now for a quick experiment!

I want you to extend your left arm forward straight out ahead of you and towards your bodies mid-line so that your pectoral muscle is flexed. Take your free hand, and apply pressure to the tissue with your palm so you can feel the flexed muscle. Now, raise your arm up slowly, keeping the pectoral flexed.

Did you feel the tension in the tissue travel up with your motion towards the top of the pectoral muscle?

Pretty cool, right??

Using this knowledge it would stand to reason that when we manipulate an object through the various planes and continue to use the same muscle tissue, we activate more of a section of the tissue based on this.

So, let’s tie this all together now. If you are trying to develop your Pectoral muscles uniformly and grow the strength in the tissue so that it matches no matter the angle or plane you are moving it through, you MUST work the muscle in the different planes of existence.

This goes for ANY muscle.

Trying to tone your arms faster and get the statuesque even look? Perform movements that work those muscles with your elbows behind you, at your sides, in front of you, and even above your shoulders!

This same train of thought applies to all of the muscles. Use different moves, different angles, and produce work through the various planes. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t limit your results. Happy lifting!