Half Kneeling Desk

Sitting with bad posture for long periods of time is not good for you. This is nothing new. Many people have switched to standing or sit/stand desks, which are great. 

Another great option, perhaps even better than standing for some issues, is to put yourself in a half kneeling/high kneeling position. You can use your existing desk, but lose the chair and grab yourself a thick pillow or soft pad. 

Just a few minutes, a couple times a day can have lasting effects. 

Place yourself close to the desk and make sure you have a straight line from your knee up through you hips, shoulders and ears. Tuck your hips under you. Pretend like your pelvis is a cup of water, or IPA; Don't let any spill out. 

  • Tuck pelvis under you
  • Make sure hips are square to the desk. 
  • Be as tall as you can from your knee up to the top of your head. 
  • Don't lean forward. 

For many people you will feel a stretch down the front of your leg that is on the pad. When standing with both feet on the ground it is easy to "dump" you pelvis forward due to tight hips and thighs. In half kneeling your front leg helps keep the hips level from front to back. 

Alternate knees every couple of minutes. Try this a couple times a day for a week or two and you will start to notice a difference in your alignment. 

Shovel Away Back Pain

That time has come again here in Minnesota when we head out in to the cold morning air with great enthusiasm. We put on our boots, say hello to our neighbors, and set forth to clear off our driveways and sidewalks.

For the first few minutes we can't help but marvel at the beautiful fresh fallen snow. We breathe in the cold air and feel invigorated by the task at hand. 

Unfortunately, before long, many of us ourselves standing up frequently to give our low backs a rest. When we are done we head in side for some hot chocolate, a couple ibuprofen, and some icy hot. After a few weeks of this, many find themselves making chiropractor appointments or walking the aisles of Walgreens looking for a back support brace. 

 

SHOVELING ISN'T BAD FOR YOUR BACK

Shoveling isn't bad for your back. Shoveling POORLY is bad for your back. If done correctly shoveling can actually improve your back health! 

So what is the trick? Well, for starters, avoid the "Hunch Back" position. Shoveling, or doing almost anything, in a rounded or arched position puts undo stress on the muscles of the back. 

Furthermore, putting ourselves in this "arched" back position, then adding a load, THEN adding in rotation is a recipe for disaster. 

A NEUTRAL SPINE IS A HEALTHY SPINE

The best way to avoid having an angry back is to maintain a healthy neutral spine position. When we lean over to scoop up snow the movement should come from our hips hinging/rotating and not our backs flexing. 

 

TRAIN AWAY PAIN

Fortunately, there are some simple exercises that we can do to move better and strengthen our backs. Here are three exercises that can improve your movement quality, develop strength and help you say goodbye to that sore lower back for good. 


BEGINNER: The Dowel Drill

One of the easiest ways to test and teach our bodies to hinge properly is to use the Dowel Drill. Simply grab a wooden dowel, broom stick or your old hockey stick. Standing tall, hold the stick behind your back so that you have 3 points of contact: 1) Your tail bone 2) in between your shoulder blades and 3) the back of your head. 

Once you have all three points of contact simply "hinge" forward by pushing your tailbone the the wall behind you. Have a friend or family member watch to make sure you are maintaining all three points of contact. Practice the Dowel Drill until you have mastered it. 

INTERMEDIATE: The Deadlift

There are no shortage of manuals, ebooks, youtube videos, websites, and blogs that can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about how to perform a proper deadlift. However, for our purposes we just want you to practice picking up some weight (kettlebell, laundry basket, etc) while maintaining that same neutral or "flat" back. 

ADVANCED: The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing can be a great tool for creating balance, stability, motor control, and YES, a strong, strong back! The swing is a simple exercise. However like with most exercises, when done correctly can improve your strength and resilience; But when done incorrectly can lead to injury. So please seek out proper instruction. 

 

PURPOSEFUL MOVEMENT

According to Dan Buettner, author of 'The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest' and Minnesota resident, one of the the secrets to longevity is to engage in purposeful movement. Shoveling snow falls well within the category of purposeful movement, so get out there start shoveling; It may help you to live longer. 

 

PROBLEM OR SOLUTION?

For most people, lower back soreness and pain is not something we have to live with. Try these exercises to improve your movement quality and overall back health. And remember, in regard to back soreness, when done correctly...

"Shoveling snow will go from being the problem to becoming the solution" 

 


GET SCREENED

Not sure if you move well? Get screened.  The FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREEN can help illustrate movement restrictions, imbalances, asymmetries, and dysfunction. Schedule yours today.

 

GOT PAIN?

If you have pain with everyday movement you may wish to complete SELECTIVE FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT ASSESSMENT. Contact Fundamental Strength for a list of providers in your area who can complete an SFMA. 

 


Simplifying Fitness (Part 1)

 

Simplifying Fitness

 

Step 1: Start with your body

Torso, Arms, Legs, Head. Check. 

 

Step 2: Add movement

 Movement is simply muscles contracting against bones to create movement. 

 

Step 3: Categorizing Movements

 Human movement can largely be broken down into 5 Categories:

  1. Upper Body Pushing
  2. Upper Body Pulling
  3. Squatting/Lunging 
  4. Hinging
  5. Core (Bracing/Stabalizing/Rotation)

Furthermore, some of these movements can be subcategorized (i.e. single arm/leg, double arm/leg, open-chain, closed-chain, but let's keep it simple)

 

Step 4: Combine Movements

By combining these basic movement categories/subcategories we are able perform a seemingly limitless amount of efficient, beautiful movements. 

Let's break down a few common exercises/exercise modalities to see what movement categories they utilize. 

Running/Jogging- Running is essentially an efficient repetition of shallow lunges, alternating single arm pushing and pulling, along with core stabilizing. 

Deadlifting- A proportional combination of hip hinging, squatting, core bracing and isometric upper body pull to hold the weight.

Carrying Groceries- Like running, it is repetitive shallow lunges, along with core bracing and isometric upper body pull to hold they groceries.

 

Step 5: Energy Systems

In short, energy for all movement (muscle acting on bone) comes from the synthesis ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Once the ATP is utilized it needs to be replenished through one of three energy pathways:

  1. ATP-CP System
  2. Glycolytic/Anaerobic System
  3. Oxidative/Aeribic System

If you feel a bit lost with the terminology just think of it this way:

  1. Shorts duration of high energy output (strength training happens here)
  2. Moderate duration of moderate energy output
  3. Long duration of low energy output

 

Starting to get a little confusing?

Look at it this way. Any movement or exercise can be used to train all three energy systems. Movement is not inherently good or bad, right or wrong; However, exercises do have there pros and cons. 

Let's take a look at a few common exercise modalities.

RUNNING

  1. Short Sprints (ATP-CP)
  2. Long Sprints/Intervals (Glycolytic)
  3. Long Distance Running (Oxidative)
  • PROS: Inexpensive, relatively simple, able to do without equipment/facilities, 
  • CONS: High impact, not suitable for all fitness/strength levels, limited and repetitive range of motion, difficult to build strength

FREE WEIGHT TRAINING

  1. Explosive/Heavy Lifting (ATP-CP)
  2. Circuit Training (Glycolytic)
  3. Low Weight/High Reps, Group Fitness (Oxidative)
  • PROS: Easy to increase load/intensity to build strength, lots of facilities, 
  • CONS: Need for equipment, requires technical proficiency, 

CYCLING

  1. Short Sprints/Hills (ATP-CP)
  2. Intervals (Glycolytic)
  3. Long Distance Ride (Oxidative)
  • PROS: Low impact, locomotion, easy to master basic pedaling
  • CONS: High cost, limited range of motion/variability, safety 

 

Keep it Simple

All forms of exercise, including yoga, running, weightlifting, jazzercise, elliptical trainers, etc. are all just variations of movement. How you complete the form of exercise/movement determines what benefits it will offer. 


In Part 2 we will discuss some of the fine points of choosing exercise including:

  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Strengths and Weakness of certain forms of exercise
  • Tools of the Trade

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THE FUNDAMENTALS: Working Out is Stress(ful)

Exercise can be a great way to relieve mental stress through the release of dopamine and endorphins. Despite the mental relief, it is important to remember that exercise is actually the application of physical stress on our bodies. 

Specific stress elicits specific adaptations. (SAID Principle) Simply put, lift weights and you will get stronger; Go for a run and you will improve endurance. However, it is not the application of stress alone that makes us get better. Rather it is the combination of exercise and proper recovery that helps us to become stronger and more fit. 

For years I tried to stress (no pun intended) the importance of recovery with my college athletes. I would say "after your workout is when you really need to get to work". I emphasized the importance of cooling down, followed by, proper nutrition, sleep, cold baths, foam rolling, etc. Making the most of their recovery meant getting the maximum benefit from their previous workout. 

To put it bluntly, if you do a hard workout and follow it up with a bag of chips, an energy drink and 5 hours of sleep, you may have been better off just skipping the workout in the first place. 

"A workout is only as good as the adaptations it produces" -Lou Schuler, New Rules of Lifting 

So next time you hit up the gym or head out on a run, just remember when your workout is over is when it is time to "get to work." 

Since we don't all have training rooms complete with cold baths and electric stimulation machines, here are a couple of ideas to help with your exercise recovery:

  • Protein shake and/or meal within an hour after working out
  • Foam Rolling and Stretching
  • Cold or Contrast Showers (most peoples tap water is cold enough; 50-60degrees)
  • 8-10 hours of sleep. Seriously.
  • Active Recovery (light activity within 4-24 hours of workout) 
  • Proper, Healthy Nutrition including ample Water
  • Restorative Breathing/Meditation

One final thing to consider is how much stress can one person's body can handle? If a person has a lot of stress in there job, or life, and they couple it with high intensity (high stress) workouts it may be a recipe for disaster. If you function all day in your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) you may be better off with a low intensity forms of exercise that will allow your body to shift back into parasympathetic (rest and restore). 

 

"Cardio" or Strength Training for Fat Loss?

I don't think it will come as a huge galloping shock to anyone that the answer is... both. Actually, more accurately I should say a combination of both. 

This article in the NSCA's Strength and Conditioning Journal addresses the short-term and long-term benefits of both aerobic training and resistance training.

In short, Aerobic training burns more calories during a workout, but the metabolism slows shortly after your workout is over. Conversely, resistance training burns less total calories during a workout, but continues the "burn" for up to 24 hours after you are done pumping iron. 

"So you're saying...?" The author sums it up nicely by saying:

"Strength and conditioning professionals should prescribe a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance exercise for directly burning calories and for indirectly burning calories and maintaining lean body mass, respectively. "

Furthermore, in a recent article in US News and World Report, the author also also reminds us that we have three energy systems, not just two.

Without going into a Physiology 101 lecture think of it this way:

  • Anaerobic (ATP-CP) System- (Weightlifting, 100m dash, Shot Put)
  • Glycolytic System- (HIIT, 400m dash, Bootcamps/CrossFit)
  • Aerobic System- (Jogging, Cycling, Marathon)

Training all three energy systems may just be the best recipe for overall fitness, including fat loss.  So if your training currently only includes one of these types of training you may want to consider adding in one or both of the other modalities to enhance your overall fitness gains.

I like pasta. (...thought you may just want to know that) When it comes to training multiple energy systems think of it this way; Spaghetti noodles, pesto sauce, or parmesan cheese by themselves are not very appealing. However, put them together... You get the point. 

 

 

 

Introducing Fundamental Strength

We would like to take this opportunity to introduce Fundamental Strength, a Minneapolis based fitness and strength training company dedicated to getting you the results you deserve. 

At Fundamental Strength our goal is simple: To provide a results driven, strength and conditioning service to our clients. Using comprehensive assessments and individualized programming, we take the arbitrary out of fitness and give you measured results

Whether you are looking to improve your performance, move pain-free, or just enjoy an independent, active lifestyle, Fundamental Strength will help build a stronger, healthier you!