May 27, 2012

Another Machine You Can Do Without

The pec deck, also called the chest fly machine is designed to work your pectoral (chest) muscles.  However, it can put your shoulders in an unstable position, causing stress and possible impingement of the shoulder joint.  Users often roll their shoulders forward; adding weight to this position leads to damage and pain.
A much better way to work the chest (and your shoulders, triceps and abs) is the pushup. (See post from Feb. 2011 for tips on pushup form:
 If you feel you must isolate the chest muscles try a dumbbell fly instead. For those who absolutely cannot give up the pec deck go light on the resistance, and try to keep your shoulders from rolling forward.

May 20, 2012

Tennis Balls To Reduce Pain?

Tennis balls are a great tool to help reduce muscle pain in the neck and shoulders.  This pain is often caused by constrictions in the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds every muscle, bone and organ in the body).  You may have heard of this technique as myofascial release.  This helps release adhesions, and frees up the connective tissue so you move and feel better.
To relieve pain in the neck and shoulders, place a tennis ball on your shoulder blade near the spine.  Lean against a wall and apply gentle pressure to the ball.  If you have knots or adhesions, this will hurt!   Try to hold for about 20 seconds.  You will feel the pain lessen (though it will probably not disappear).  Then roll the ball to a new spot and repeat.  If you feel you need more pressure you can try this on the floor, lying on the ball.  You will need to support your head with a pillow or it will be too uncomfortable. Once you have found the sore spot, move your arm in a slow circle across your body.
Most of us have chronic neck and shoulder pain caused by too much sitting and poor posture.  Performing myofascial release for just a few minutes twice a day is an easy way to help reduce the pain.

May 13, 2012

Inspirational Mom

At age 84 my mom is still working, and in great shape mentally and physically.  You can chalk some of it up to healthy eating and good genes, but I know she will agree that exercise has a great deal to do with it.  She works out at least three days a week and in fact was the star of her fitness class this week: After finishing a difficult move, her instructor announced to the class that my mom was the only one to complete it at the hardest level (and it was NOT a class for seniors). 
I tell you this hoping she will inspire those of you too tired or unmotivated to exercise.  On this Mother’s Day I realize how lucky I am.  Think of fitness as a gift to yourself and to your children.  Exercise will help you live longer, and make those years more comfortable both mentally and physically.  Some day your kids may even thank you for it.

May 10, 2012

Fitness Magazine's Meet and Tweet

I had the privilege of attending Fitness Magazine's "Meet and Tweet" event for fitness bloggers and tweeters.
It was an invitation only event, filled with info, networking and amazing giveaways.  (In addition to Reebok shoes, Birkenstock sandals and Oakley sunglasses, the colorful bags above were filled with products).  Thanks to author and speaker  AJ Jacobs (his book "Drop Dead Healthy was another bonus), I am changing the blog name to "Research Based Fitness".  I will post more about the event and AJ's book (funny and informative) in the next few weeks.

May 6, 2012

A Better Press

You can add the “behind the neck press” to the list of high-risk exercises.  A barbell (or dumbbells) is placed behind the neck on the upper back, and the arms are pressed straight overhead.  This causes you to jut your head forward and puts strain on the cervical spine.  It also places the shoulders in an unnatural position, causing stress on supporting muscles of the shoulder, especially the rotator cuff group.

You can make this safer by sticking with a press in front of the neck.  This can be done seated or standing.  If standing, make sure to keep your knees slightly bent. Keep the weight heavy enough to work your shoulders, but avoid lifting so heavy that you need to over arch your back.

For those of you who can't get enough of fitness blogs check out  Kim is a personal trainer who specializes in nutrition.  Her blog is excellent.