Myofascial Release: Why It’s ESSENTIAL For Athletes Of ALL Disciplines While once considered “junk tissue” we have now come to understand that fascia is the “mesh” that holds the muscles and organs in their proper place. That said, as with all systems of the body, it is critical to properly care for this one as well. This is where myofascial release comes in; it is the maintenance regimen needed to ensure that this important component of the musculo-skeletal system continues to function as it should and is able to respond appropriately to the demands of your particular sport. Being the connective tissue that binds the muscles in their place, fascia is constantly called upon to perform its job, whether that be during exercise, or just as part of our day-to-day lives. Knowing the functions and abilities of fascia allows us to better understand why it is so imperative to care for it. Fascia has the ability to instantly respond to stimuli, both external and internal, tensing or relaxing as needed in an anticipatory fashion prior to the muscular contraction demanded to perform whatever task the body is engaged in. It also stores cellular memory, meaning that for better or worse, it will retain certain shapes or positions which are constantly demanded of it. As athletes, many of us are constantly repeating the same positions or movements and holding them for a protracted amount of time. Since it also possesses the ability to elicit pain, it becomes easier to understand the importance of proper care. On top of all this, fascia, when maintaining the muscles in an optimal position, helps to contribute to fluidity of motion. It also has a tensile strength equal to that of steel cables of comparable size. Myofascial Release is the missing component for many of us who always have those “sticky” spots, muscular tightness or more than normal training soreness. By engaging in this practice regularly, these effects can be minimized, reduced, or even eliminated altogether. Many if not all of us have seen someone we know rolling out a tight hamstring prior to or immediately after training, but just as many of us usually fail to realize that what is in fact happening is the releasing of the connective tissues that make the muscles stay tight. Regular manual myofascial release lengthens tight or bound fibers, allowing weaker or looser fibers to be strengthened and therefor allows better recruitment of more muscle fibers during exertion. Imagine the possibilities this creates for you as the athlete when you are better able to use your existing muscle fibers during training or an event; faster times for runners and cyclists, ability to lift more weight for the bodybuilder or powerlifter, being able to throw or hit a ball farther etc.! All of this while minimizing soreness, pain, and the risk of injury with an investment of 10-15 minutes 3-5 times per week? Absolutely, and we should all GLADLY make such a small investment for such a great return! Most of us are familiar with the tools used for myofascial release, whether we recognized them as such before or not. The foam roller has become a staple of most gyms and training facilities and is wonderful for the bigger areas such as the back, quads and hamstrings. Most of us have also seen the small, inflatable balls, which I’ve found to be invaluable for getting to smaller or harder to reach areas such as hip flexors and the rotator cuffs. Another fairly-well known one is the small roller with handles on either end and multiple different individual tubes, balls or wheels around a central shaft. This is great for areas such as calves, glutes and traps that may not be accessible with the roller or ball, or those spots that may require a more targeted release than can be achieved using other means. If you want to take your performance further, faster and to entirely different levels than you’ve ever experienced before, try myofascial release for yourself and you will be simply amazed at the results.
Shoulder Bridges by Alana Ouazzani How many times have we heard our Pilates instructors say, “Use your Glutes!” Starting to sound like a broken record. Right! So a quick summary of why Glutes are so important: They help with posture, they help us lift boxes and grandkids, help us climb up and down stairs, they help us rotate our hips for the golf swing, make it where we can sit down and stand up, protect us from injury to our back, and knees, and strong glutes can help reduce the potential of getting pulled hamstrings and groins. So we are going to talk about a Glute exercise called the Shoulder Bridge. The Shoulder Bridge targets the Glutes, Transverse Abdominus, Erector Spinae, Hamstrings. Adductors, and Rectus Abdominus. Advanced modifications also works the quadriceps, hip flexors, and obliques. How to Do a Shoulder Bridge Lay on Your Back with your arms by your side palms down. Bend your knees up where your feet are closer to your seat. Your spine is in a neutral position. Inhale to prepare Exhale- stabilize pelvis and spine in neutral (engage your foot) and press through your heels and extend hips to lift the pelvis off the mat creating a bridge from shoulders to knees Inhale- to stay and lengthen Exhale to lower Repeat about 10 times Modification Lay on Your Back with your arms by your side palms down. Bend your knees up where your feet are closer to your seat. Your spine is in a neutral position. Inhale to prepare Exhale- stabilize pelvis and spine in neutral and press through your heels and extend hips to lift the pelvis off the mat creating a bridge from shoulders to knees Inhale- Maintain level hips, lift one foot, flexing hip, and plantar flexing ankle, then extend knee to reach toes to ceiling Exhale- Dorsiflex ankle (flex foot) and extend leg at hip as low as neutral pelvis can be maintained Inhale- Plantar flex ankle gently pointing toes, and flex leg at hip Exhale- flex knee and lower foot to mat, articulating through foot Repeat each side 3 times
“Banana Knees” By: Alana Ouazzani I confess, after being a dancer most of my life, I used to be a Platinum member of the “Guilty of Banana Knees Club”. I am now paying the price at 40 with my crackling knees and occasional pain. What is “Banana Knees?” (AKA Hyper Extended Knees) The knee joint, when you are standing, should be a straight line between the Femur (Thigh Bone) and your Tibia (Shin Bone). The Patella is the Knee Cap that most people call their knee. The Femur and Tibia are carefully held together by ligaments and tendons. If the knee extends beyond it’s normal range of motion, then this called Banana Knees (AKA Hyper Extended Knees). Basically, the ligaments and tendons around the joint become too-loose and the joint becomes hyper-mobile leading too Banana Knees. Banana Knees is not just a condition of the dance community, this can happen as the result of a sports injury, or bad posture. The symptoms of it could be light or they could be very severe leading to torn ligaments, limited mobility, pain, water on the knee, and cartilage damage. So how do I fix Banana Knees? The key is to remember that a straight line between the Femur (Thigh Bone) and Tibia (Shin Bone) is the Best. In order to do that, the hamstrings have to work. If you are guilty of Banana knees, the quads are probably already working too hard. So the key is to strengthen the hamstrings and make them work harder. An excellent exercise to strengthen the hamstrings at home is the shoulder bridge. While you are in class, focus on the tracking of your knees on foot work and bend and stretch. Focus on what the glutes and hamstrings are doing and don’t let their friends the quadriceps do all the work. Last but not Least- Please Keep Calm and Don’t Go Banana’s
By: Alana Ouazzani The Serratus Anterior is a mysterious muscle, that is not widely spoken of probably because it is a mouthful to say; but this muscle is important for your Right Hook (in case you need to throw a punch), pushups, doing Pikes and long stretches on the reformer, and your golf swing. It is also referred to as “The Big Swing Muscle”, or the “Boxer’s Muscle” for the importance of it in the Sport of Boxing. The Serratus Anterior muscles look like powerful claws. They originate on Ribs 1 through 8 on the sides of the chest and insert on the entire anterior length of the medial border of the scapula. The Serratus Anterior’s job is protraction of the scapula. It pulls the scapula away from the midline and around the ribs forward. Serratus Anterior is also an upward rotator of the scapula. If the Serratus Anterior is weak, the scapula literally cannot get out of the way. This leads to pinching at the top shoulder. The other function the Serratus Anterior does is anchor the shoulder blade to the Thorax with use of the arm. If the Serratus Anterior is weak, it puts more pressure on the Rotator Cuffs and the Rotator Cuff Muscles must work harder. This can lead to Rotator Cuff Tendonitis. How can I strengthen my Lazy Serratus Anterior? Protraction of the Shoulders. Hold the Arms straight in front of you and reach like you are reaching toward someone you love to give them a hug. The point is to let the scapulas move away from the midline of the back and around the ribs toward the front of the body. On the Inhale. On the Exhale, pull your arms and shoulder blades back to a neutral position. 10- Reps Scapula Pushups- Set Up like Regular pushups, or Lady style pushups, or you can also do push ups against a wall. Keep your arms straight. Push away (protraction of scapula), then Retraction of Scapula, (Scapula’s together in back) 10-Reps
Teen Fitness By Rene Craig Fitness that begins in childhood is a lifelong investment. Studies have shown that young adolescents who participate in fitness activities stay active throughout their lives. However, according to the AMA nearly half of American youths 12-21 are not vigorously active on a regular basis. 14% report no physical activity Only 19% of Highschool students are active for 20 minutes or more 5 days a week Daily enrollment in P.E. classes dropped to 25% among H.S. since1995 Teenagers need to exercise to avoid high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and other heath risks. Beyond physical benefits, sports can provide teens with self-confidence, like minded friends and a chance to excel at something they love. They don’t have to participate in competitive sports. Non-competitive activities can help test their own limits. Activity Goals for Youths 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity doing and emphasizing cardiovascular muscular endurance, muscular strength, and weight bearing activities. 6-9 years largely anaerobic, non- sustained activities such as the game of tag 10-14 organized sports 15-18 more structured programs Research has shown there is a large diversity between teens of the same age. Find a trainer or coach who’s able to challenge the entire spectrum of youth from the young and fragile up to the confident teen. The ultimate-goal is to help students blossom and meet their own particular-goals.
Hundreds And Why They’re For Every Body The 100 is 1 of the most versatile exercises in the Pilates repertoire. It was part of Joseph Pilates original program, but has since been adapted to fit nearly every piece of equipment, body type and ability level. A core exercise whose purpose is to strengthen deep stabilizers and also help clients learn to control breathing, The 100 remains a valuable part of any Pilates instructors toolbox over 100 years after it’s creation. By flexing the shoulders and head off if the mat or equipment and then pulsing the arms according to the count, not only are the deep stabilizers of the core strengthened, but also the mind-body connection and the neck flexors, as well as scapular stabilizers to ensure proper alignment of the neck and shoulders. Strong clients for example can do this standard 100, while there are many variations for clients of lower ability levels, or those with physical limitations such as osteoporosis, which prohibit flexion of the spine. These include; tabletop legs, head down and straight legs to the ceiling too many others to list. Go see your Pilates instructor today and find YOUR 100, if you haven’t already
By Rene Craig Proper mechanics and swing plane require strength, flexibility, and a strong core. All of this can be accomplished in 15 minutes a day with golf specific exercises. The purpose of most Pilates exercises is to strengthen and tone the body while gaining segmental control. Strengthening the glutes and core translates to an increase in distance with the swing. Strengthening the deep abdominals and back muscles can lead to lower scores while minimizing pain and injury. These 4 exercise which can be done at home in just 15 minutes, will increase lumbar mobility, strengthen your glutes and core as well as focusing shoulder strength and stability. Pelvic tilt to imprint increase the mobility of the pelvis, hips, and lumbar spine. Lying supine on your back with knees bent, lengthen the low back to the floor by drawing your ASIS, or hip bones toward your rib cage. Be sure you are using your obliques and not your glutes to perform the exercise. 10 Reps Bridges Strengthen the Glutes increasing strength and stability of your golf swing. It also strengthens your pelvis, low back, and core. Lying on your back, with knees bent, exhale through pursed lips and press your hips up, inhale to lower your hips down. To increase the challenge, try doing a single leg bridge keeping the pelvis level on the way up and down. 10 reps Side lying leg circles increase the mobility of your hips which will improve hip turn on the backswing and downswing and reduce lateral motion. Lying on one side of your body in a straight line, circle the top leg 10 times and then revers and go in the opposite direction. Focus on the back of the circle and keep the body quiet as the leg moves. 10 Reps Each Side The Pilates Push Up is a full body exercise mobility of the spine, lengthens the hamstrings while it strengthens your core and shoulder girdle. Stand at the back of a mat and roll down, placing your hands on the floor, bending at then knees if necessary. Walk your hands out to plant and do slow push up, going down for 3 counts and up for 1. Walk the hands back to the feet and roll up. This will increase power from your core to your club. 5 Reps
Do you ever wonder why you feel tired, weary, or just plain old some days? You may not have done too much, or over exerted yourself, but you just don’t feel right? The answer may just lie in that old cliché saying “The weight of the world is on your shoulders”. The way that our bodies are put together, the shoulder girdle plays a huge part in our posture, breathing, and therefore has a large effect on our overall feeling of comfort and wellness. Improper carriage of the shoulders can also lead to nerve pain throughout the limbs, neck and even to tension headaches/ migraines. Using Pilates to strengthen lesser known muscles such as the S.I.T.S. muscles ( supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and sub-scapularis) as well as the mid and lower traps can dramatically reduce and even eliminate many of these symptoms and ailments. Arm Work on the Reformer such as simply Abduction, External Rotation, and Backhand are good examples of how rounded/stooped shoulders(the most common postural issue of the shoulders) can be corrected. As Pilates instructors this is one of the many things that we work on with our clients on a daily basis. Come try a session today and see if we can help you take some of the weight of the world off of your shoulders!
The Muscles That Make Up Your Core Part I Everyone knows that Pilates is good for your core. But what exactly is your core? Most would say it is rectus abdominis or our six pack muscle. But this muscle ideally creates big movements without finesse. So, your core muscles are actually deeper muscles that stabilize and fine tune movement. We refer to these muscles as the inner unit. If you think of this inner unit as a canister, there is a top, bottom, front and a back. The top muscle is the diaphragm which can provide stability to the ribcage as well as being a primary muscle of respiration. The front muscle is our deepest abdominal muscle the Transverse abdominis. The back is a deep muscle called the multifidus. It is shaped like a Christmas tree, wide at the bottom and narrower at the top and is provides stabilization of the lumbar spine. The bottom of this canister is our pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are poorly understood and often overlooked when working our core. But this group of muscles when injured, tight or weak can wreak havoc on our quality of life and athletic performance. Multiple muscles make up the pelvic floor. Some are more superficial and run horizontally from sitz bone to sitz bone. These muscles provide support and draw our sitz bones together. When you squat down the sitz bones move apart and the pelvic floor muscles lengthen or stretch to accommodate this movement. When you return to standing these pelvic floor muscles draw your sitz bones back together. There is another group of muscles that run from tail bone to pubic bone and we refer to these as the pelvic diaphragm. Rolling up into a bridge activates these muscles. All of these muscles form a type of “hammock” that support the bladder, uterus and bowels in women, and the bladder, prostate and bowels in men. A well -functioning pelvic floor supports sexual function, assists in lumbo-pelvic stability and work synergistically with the transverse abdominis, glutes, and adductors during voluntary abdominal work. You may think that pelvic floor issues are just a woman’s issue, but a weak pelvic floor is one of the biggest causes of chronic prostatitis. 1) 1 in 11 women will require surgery to repair a pelvic floor disorder in their lifetime. 2) 1/3 of postpartum women 49% of women under 50 are affected by pelvic floor issues. 3) 1 in 4 women suffers from stress urinary incontinence. 4) 30-50% of childbearing women will experience a pelvic floor related issue by age 40. `5) 63%of stress-incontinent women report their problems began during or after pregnancy. 6) Pelvic floor dysfunction is one of the biggest causes of chronic prostatitis in men. 7) Diabetes can weaken pelvic floor muscles. Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor: 1) Leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, laughing or sneezing. 2) Failing to reach the toilet in time. 3) Uncontrollable breaking of wind from either the anus or the vagina. 4) The feeling that you need to have several bowel movements in a short period of time. 5) The feeling that you can’t complete a bowel movement. 6) A frequent need to urinate. 7) Painful urination in men. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor: 1) Kegals 2) Hiprolls 3) Single leg bridges 4) Hip Hikes 5) Side leg series
Improving Thoracic Mobility with Pilates Thoracic spine and ribcage position dictates the function of our shoulder girdle and torso. In today’s society rounded shoulder/forward head is a common postural fault. Driving, working on computers and texting on cell phones all contribute to this dysfunctional posture, sometimes referred to as office posture. Poor postural alignment and movement in the upper spine creates stress in the neck, shoulders and low back as well as a lack of mobility. In ideal alignment the head floats over the shoulders, the shoulders are open and in line with the ribcage, the ribcage is stacked over the pelvis, the pelvis is in line with the knees and the knees track over the second and third toes of your feet. The body is able to hold this ideal alignment with a minimal of energy expenditure and stress. When we don’t have this alignment the body must work hard to keep upright not to mention the daily activities we ask it to do. This lack alignment decreases mobility, inhibits sports performance and can cause neck and shoulder pain or injury. Ribcage Arms An easy way to test thoracic mobility is with a Pilates exercise called: Ribcage Arms Lay on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Reach your arms up to the ceiling and then overhead trying to bring your arms in line with your ears. Your low back should not arch and ribs should not pop toward the ceiling. If you are unable to do this, you have limited thoracic mobility. In the pilates studio, one of the first things you learn how to do is to breathe properly. By learning to breathe into the posterior and lateral aspects of the ribcage you improve oxygenation of the blood, relax neck and shoulder muscles and engage deep abdominal muscles responsible for stability of the pelvis and torso. This breathing pattern also stretches the intercostals, obliques, rectus abdominis, serratus anterior and the latissimus dorsi muscles. It is a stretch from the inside out. Adding spinal rotation with directed breathing will also help to improve thoracic mobility. Learning how to articulate through the thoracic spine into extension is vital. To get good thoracic extension, you must also have proper movement at the shoulder girdle which includes the clavical, scapula and humerus. Lateral flexion is another important part of thoracic mobility. By improving the alignment and mobility of the thoracic spine you will improve your posture, reduce the chance of injury to rotator cuff and neck muscles and be able to accomplish daily activities more easily such as putting groceries away. But you will also feel better because you are able to breathe more easily and provide oxygen to the muscles and organs of your body.