Shoulders and T-spine Health

Opening up the shoulders and Thoracic spine

Hey everyone coach Ev here, following on from my previous blog, I said I would write a blog on how to free up the shoulders and thoracic spine.

Many of us have developed bad habits that have led to restrictions in our movement ability in our shoulders and t-spine. My experience of coaching has shown me that those who play hurling or rugby usually have greater shoulder and t-spine mobility in comparison to Gaelic footballers and soccer players. And those who sleep on their shoulders often have a huge imbalance in their shoulder mobility when both sides are compared. This could potentially lead to an injury over time which may vary from minor muscle strains to more severe disk issues etc. Almost all of the exercises below can be done at home and can hugely help in creating a little extra mobility.

T-spine

Side lying windmills

Get a foam roller and place this under your top knee whilst lying on your side. Bring your knee to 90° angle. Start by having your hands together with your arms straight. With your top hand, use your thumb like a pencil and draw around your body as you exhale. Keep your thumb in contact with the ground at all times. Your top shoulder will drop towards the ground during this process. Also keep your knee in contact with the foam roller throughout the movement. If you have never completed a movement like this before you may feel ‘popping’ or cracking in your t-spine and this is normal.

 

Bretzel

Whilst lying on your side, bring your knee to a 90° knee angle. With your top hand, grab your lower ankle and with your lower hand, grab your top knee, take a deep breath, on the exhale press your top shoulder back towards the ground. As with the side lying windmill, you may hear or feel a ‘popping’ sensation in the t-spine.

 

Quad t-spine rotation

Whilst in an all-fours ground position. Press your hips back and keep a neutral spine. Grab the back of your neck with one hand, fix your eyes to that elbow. As your externally roatate your arm outwards, keep your eyes on your elbow and maintain the neutral spine.  As with the 2 previous exercises, you may feel ‘popping’ in your t-spine if you have poor mobility.

 

Shoulders

Wall slides

Sit into a quarter/half squat against the wall, press your lower back into the wall. Place your hand and elbow in conatct with the wall, run your hands and elbows up and down the wall. This may be difficult if your mobility is very restricted. Throughout the movement keep your lower back in contact with the wall. A good cue for this is to keep ribs down.

 

Bench shoulder flex

For this you'll need a bench/chair and a dowel. Start with your knees dircetly beneath your hip, a dowel held by both hands behind your head/neck and your elbows at shoulder width on a bench. Take a deep breath, on the exhale press your hips back while keeping your elbows in contact with the bench.

 

Shoulder rotations/dislocations

For this exercise all you will need is a dowel/band/rope. Initially I would recommend for someone with poor molility to start wth as wide a grip as possible. Keeping your arms straight. Rotate over your head and backward. As you progress narrow your grip.

For those with severe lack of mobility I would recommend starting these execises at home on top of any training they may already be doing. 2-3 sets of 6+ reps is a decent rep and set range to start with. And remember, when it comes to mobilty and flexibility work, quality over quantity.

As always, if you have any questions, call in and ask or pop us a message here at PFP.

Thanks,

Ev Hennessy B. Sc

 

 

Lower back pain? 5 core exercises that may help!

Hi everyone, it’s Donogh here, I’m delighted to have recently joined the team at PFP as strength and conditioning coach.

At some point in your life you will most likely have suffered from lower back pain. I want to talk about my 5 go to exercises that helped me eliminate the lower back pain that I suffered from for quite a few months.

Before I get into it, I know low back pain can come from multiple sources but I also know the main source of low back pain is often from either a weak core or a poorly controlled core. I have a background in sports injuries and so have helped many people get over back pain, most of the time fixing the core helps.

I designed this core circuit for myself but have since given it to a lot of my clients and with proper technique it has reduced pain in every instance and eliminated it completely with a few. These 5 exercises cover every direction of movement and targets each of the main muscles of the core. The idea behind it is to learn how to switch on the core repeatedly and to teach the core not to allow movement in the trunk while other movements are occurring – this is called anti rotation. Anti-rotation for me is a crucial part of creating an efficient core. Whether you’re a footballer bracing for a challenge or a block layer shovelling cement, your back will not like the pressure of constant twisting. Learning how to control the core and getting it strong at limiting movement in the trunk will prevent back pain.

Everyone who is a member in PFP will know these exercises and those of you that aren’t a member (shame on you!) should know them too. There is nothing fancy to it but it’s about consistency and challenging all areas. Too often I see people training core either with poor technique (which can put added pressure on the low back) or not training the entire core.

The first thing everyone must know about the core is how to properly switch it on. If you can imagine having a beer can under your rib cage and trying to squash that can with your ribs, you will have switched on your core. Every core exercise should be done “squashing a beer can”.

The 5 exercises are done in a circuit for 3 sets with a 1 minute rest after all 5 are done.

The exercises are:

1.       Plank

2.       Side Plank

Everyone knows what a plank and side plank are but not everyone can perform them correctly. I would suggest videoing yourself doing it to provide visual feedback or to ask a qualified trainer how to do it. If you were to look at someone doing a plank they should be completely straight (like a plank). A lot of people do planks for long reps (60secs), what I suggest is more reps but shorter time (6x10sec with 1 sec between reps). You still get the 60 seconds of work on your core but instead of long shakey reps, you instead teach your body how to go from a relaxed state to an engaged state in the core. I have found this method helps more with low back pain because throughout the day we go from a relaxed state to needing our core (picking an object up).

Key Points for plank and side plank

·         Squash can

·         Body in straight line

·         10 seconds on 1 second off, 6 reps

 

3.       Deadbug – The deadbug is my favourite core exercise, it teaches core control while moving the limbs. This closely mimics running and if done properly can take a lot of pressure off the low back. It also teaches coordination between arms and legs which some can find challenging. To do this exercise correctly, lie on your back, drive the back flat into the floor, squash the beer can and allow no movement from the trunk for the entire exercise. With straight arms point your hands to the sky, bring your knees up towards your chest with your hip and knee angle at 90 degrees. I perform 20 reps per set, 5 dropping the right arm behind your head while dropping your right leg straight down to the ground. Repeat on your left. I then perform opposite hand to leg on each side. Each of these challenges the core in different ways and provide great stability.

Key Points

·         Back flat against ground, squash can

·         Arms pointed towards sky directly over shoulder

·         Knees directly over hips and knee angle at 90 degrees

·         5 reps with same sided movement and opposite side movement – 20 reps total

·         Avoid trunk movement

 

4.       Landmine Rotations – Another exercise that works on anti-rotation by preventing movement in the trunk while movement is occurring. With the bar either fixed in a landmine fitting or in the corner of the wall, pick up the bar and lock both arms straight out in front of you. Drop the bar to one side keeping your trunk steady in one position. The only movement should come from your arms and a little from your upper back. Your low back and hips should stay locked in the starting position. Repeat these 10 times on each side.

Key Points

·         Squash can

·         Movement from arms and upper back

·         10 reps

 

5.       Barbell Rollouts – These can be done band assisted or without the band depending on your ability. Again, squash the beer can while doing the exercise and roll out until your body is fully straight, then roll back to the start position. Rollouts, again, are providing movement while your core fights to stay stable.

Key Points

·         Starting from your knees with or without a band

·         Squash the can

·         Roll out until fully straight but without touching your body off the floor

·         Roll back to start position

·         10 reps

 

So, they are my 5 go to exercises for low back pain. Before doing this circuit, make sure you know how to do each exercise properly. Any questions don’t hesitate to come in and ask.

 

Donogh Flannery

 

Can exercise help you beat anxiety?

We all know how good working out is for our physical health, so let's start a conversation today about the benefits of working out for your mental health. 

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Exercise is underutilized as a method of managing and treating anxiety. It has no negative side-effects and it can be free, if you do it at home or outside.

Several studies have shown that there is a very powerful connection between exercise and anxiety. In fact, the coloration between both is so strong, that exercise on its own may be enough to drastically diminish the symptoms of anxiety. 

How can exercise do this?

1. Endorphins - the body releases endorphins when you exercise. These are your body's natural 'painkillers',  and in addition they play a massive role in regulating your mood and relaxing your mind. You know that 'feel good' feeling after a workout ? Yep! That's the endorphins. 

2. Sleep - exercise tires out the body and  can enable those who have anxiety to get a better night's sleep. A lack of sleep, or inability to sleep, makes the symptoms of anxiety worse. Exercise can release all of the excess energy in the body and mind - in fact, high intensity exercise has been shown to tire out the body and the mind simultaneously. 

3. Inactivity anxiety - a lack of exercise can lead to an excess of energy and this energy can be misplaced by the body, resulting in increased tension and stress. An increase in stress levels can exacerbate anxiety. This is very much linked with the above point on sleep. A lack activity can feed into a lack of sleep, and together both of these elements can accumulate and worsen the symptoms of anxiety. 

4. Healthy coping strategy- managing anxiety through exercise is a healthy coping strategy. Sometimes we turn to things like alcohol to manage anxiety. But the consumption of alcohol, as a coping strategy,  will usually have a negative impact on anxiety and will often lead to a worsening of symptoms. Exercise, on the other hand, is a positive means of dealing with anxiety with lots of additional benefits such as improved overall health. If you are in a gym or a group, such as a running group, the camaraderie and friendships can be an additional support in managing anxiety.

So that's it - a brief overview of how exercise can help to cope with and manage anxiety. In the long term, a regular exercise schedule can dramatically alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. If you, or someone you know, is suffering with anxiety, please do seek medial advice - medication is may sometimes be necessary, but exercise can, and should, compliment it.

As always, feel free to get in touch,

Nigel

If you need to talk to someone please phone one of the numbers below:

Aware (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety)

www.aware.ie
Tel: 1800 80 48 48

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House)
1800 247 247

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)

www.pieta.ie
Tel: 01 623 5606

Grow (Mental Health support and Recovery)

www.grow.ie
Tel: 1890 474 474

IACP (Counselling & Psychotherapy)

www.iacp.ie
Tel: 01 230 3536

Shine (Supporting people effected by mental ill health)

www.shine.ie
Tel: 01 860 1620

Teenline Ireland Helpline

www.teenireland.ie
1800 833 634

For references and further info please see below :

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201506/sitting-all-day-increases-your-risk-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/mindfulness-the-power-thinking-about-your-thinking

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/exercising

 

 

It's too late to start now...

Over the past few days, I've had a few people say that they feel it's too late in the year to start working towards their fitness goals and that they'll start back in January!! 

January!! That's eight weeks away. 

Imagine the difference eight weeks of consistent training and good food choices could make. You could make great strides towards your goal in that time-frame.

But really the thing is that eating right and training shouldn't be something that we stop and start - of course there will be times when we are more dedicated than others - but if they are to be sustainable in the long-term, then your food and training choices should easily fit into your lifestyle. Get rid of all the extremes. 

My advice to anyone who is wondering whether to start a training plan now is to just do it.

  1. Make a start. I know that sounds obvious - but it's usually the hardest part.
  2. Don't jump in head first and do a complete 360 - you'll find that very difficult to maintain. Instead, start off with small changes - go to the gym twice a week, make healthier food choices.
  3. Don't eliminate any food groups - find healthier alternatives if you want, but try to avoid a situation of 'good' and 'bad' foods. Educate yourself on what is in your food.
  4. Take photos - photos will show up progress far better than the scales. 
  5. Find a type of training that you enjoy and surround yourself with like minded people.

So the conclusion is that - it's NEVER too late to start. I guarantee that you will NEVER, EVER regret taking steps to improve yourself and your health.

With Christmas just around the corner, I know that there is a pressure to look your best around this time of year. So fear not - by starting now you will be well on your way to feeling and looking your best by the time the party season begins. But not only that, but you will have the tools in place to continue on your journey and to build on the good habits that you have created.

If you've any questions about training, macros, plateaus  - anything at all - then shoot me a message and I'll get back to you. Or if you need someone to give you a good kick start then I'm happy to do that too!!

Cheers,

Nigel

 

5 healthy things you can do TODAY

Sometimes it is hard to feel motivated to make healthy choices and do what's best for our bodies, especially, after things like bank holiday weekends, holidays or even just the good weather :). It's always easier to start 'tomorrow', 'next Monday', 'next month' anytime really, except today.

But I think that the more you make 'healthier' choices the easier it becomes, so here are 5 healthy things you can choose to do TODAY.

1. Drink water - after the weekend, especially if you had alcohol, or if you were just out and about in the warm weather you will need to hydrate your body. Aim for 2.5 - 3.5L per day depending on levels of activity. If you find it hard to drink water - add flavour with slices of lemon, lime, berries, oranges, cucumber, mint. Set reminders on your phone if you tend to forget.

2. Sleep - rest and recovery is just as important as exercise. You need sleep. You can't function properly without it. Sleep loss is vital for health, in particular, for fat loss. If you do not get enough sleep you will reduce your insulin sensitivity and increase inflammation in the body. Do yourself a favour and put away all electronic devices about 40min - 1 hour before sleep. Try not to watch TV. Turn off room lights - light candles if you want. Make sure your room is as dark as possible. No caffeine after late afternoon. Belly breathing before you sleep.

3. Eat protein with every meal - From talking to clients in PFP gym, I know that getting the required levels of protein into the body everyday can be hard. So try to be mindful of eating protein with every meal - eggs, meat, protein shake, dairy. Make it a priority.

4. Meditate - meditating for even a few minutes a day is a great way to counteract the stresses of daily life. There are load of apps that you can download to meditate.  Focus on breathing - breathe in through the nose, deep in to the stomach, hold for 5 sec and exhale through the mouth, pushing out every last bit air.

5. Move - move as often as you can. Stand up from the desk every 1/2 hour and take a 2 minute walk, have a stretch and move your body. Go for a walk or run, do a gym class or yoga class, go for a cycle or hike, play sport, dance - put on the music and dance at home - do whatever you enjoy but make sure that you move!