Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!
What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.
In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.
Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.
Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.
Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!
Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a popular form of self-massage used to reduce soft-tissue stiffness, aid post-workout recovery, and maintain normal muscular function. SMR can be done with a variety of tools such as foam rollers, lacrosse or tennis balls, and handheld rollers.
SMR works by applying pressure to tight or knotted muscles in order to trigger relaxation. It can be an intense experience, but consistent use will maximize the benefits and decrease the discomfort.
The Benefits of Myofascial Release:
SMR is great to use as a warm-up, a post-workout recovery routine, or as part of your daily mobility routine. Watch the videos below to see how to release various muscles using a tennis ball.
Calf: Place the ball under the mid-calf. Slowly roll the calf over the ball until you find a tender spot. Flex your ankle back and forth a few times, or hold pressure on the ball until you feel the trigger point release. Repeat for other tender areas around the calf.
Hamstrings: Sitting on a box, place the ball under the mid-thigh. Keep pressure on the ball and extend at the knee until your leg is straight. Relax your leg and repeat for a few times. Move the ball to a different area of the hamstrings and repeat.
Glutes/Piriformis: Place the ball in your glute and lay back. Grab on to your knee and gently pull it to your chest. Release your knee and repeat.
QL: Lay back with the ball above your hip and to the side of your spine (be sure to not be on bone). Grab your knee and pull it to your chest. Relax the tension on your knee and repeat.
TFL: Place the ball below your hip bone (where your pocket would be on pants). Flex your knee to 90 degrees and slowly rotate your foot back and forth.
Pec Minor: Pin the ball between your chest and a squat rack or door frame. Raise your arm up as high as your can while keeping pressure on the ball. Slowly lower your arm and repeat.
Suboccipitals: Lay back with the ball directly under the base of your skull. You can roll the ball from side to side, nod your head yes, or just relax with pressure on the ball.
Are you going to the gym to train or to exercise? Are they the same thing? Exercising can be defined as any activity that requires effort carried out to improve health and fitness. Perhaps you go on a morning run, or play tennis, or do your “routine” in the gym. Often, many come to the gym every day and walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes, move to the elliptical to another 20 minutes, go into the weight room and pick up some weights, do 15 reps of certain exercises, get a sweat going, perhaps do a circuit, finish with some ab work and stretch out. All are really great forms of exercise to be doing consistently. If you’re doing one, some, or all of these, you’re on the right track!
Training is different. It is often geared for competition to reach a particular goal for a sport or hobby. Training uses programs to reach these goals. There are progressions, overloading muscles, planned rest days, one rep max testing, and many other ways to reach a specific goal. For example, if a person wanted to increase her vertical jump for volleyball, she might start by measuring her current jump height. The program for her might look like: Box jumps, followed by power cleans, squats, and some hamstring curls. Each of these would be tailored with weight, repetitions, speed, etc. Then perhaps in a few weeks, she’d retest her jump height again.
Or, perhaps someone would like to lose 10 lbs. One could easily do cardio every day, do a workout routine, and try to eat healthily. Will this work? Possibly. But a person would have a better chance of reaching a goal with a training plan. The assistance of a registered dietitian to help measure your carbs, proteins, and fats is a fantastic tool. A personal trainer could create a plan for helping make a person become stronger, leaner, and more flexible.
Both approaches to fitness are great. The main difference is “exercise” is a little broader of a goal and “training” is specific to a person’s goals.
If you have a specific goal in mind or are stuck in an "exercise rut" and need some guidance to get you to that next level reach out to our Personal Training department today and get connected with the right trainer to help you customize a plan that will help you succeed!
This week I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the box squat. I will be going through an explanation on why the box squat can be beneficial to you, how to properly perform the squat, and a few other details regarding different training variables. A few great reasons to try out this squat are the fact that it will help reinforce proper form as well as help break through strength plateaus.
When you have a target below you and you get to briefly pause on the box, you can pinpoint certain weaknesses in your form. You will not have any momentum to help you up from the bottom of the squat which will also help you increase your strength over time. To set this move up, you will need a squat rack with a barbell and a box to sit on.
Generally speaking, a common goal is to squat with your upper legs parallel to the ground. Everybody is at different levels when it comes to mobility and injuries so I would suggest using a box that you feel comfortable with. You can slowly decrease the height of the box as you become stronger with this move. However, depth is not the most important factor and I do not want anyone to feel like they are forced into an uncomfortable position, do what works for you!
Once you have your box, place it in the rack about one step behind you. You will step under the barbell, put the weight on your upper back and take a step back so you are over the corner of the box. Position your feet around shoulder width and point your toes forward or slightly out. Break at the hips first by pushing your butt back and then follow by breaking at the knees. As you descend you want to focus on keeping your back neutral and your knees in line with your toes. Once you control yourself to the box you will sit down and pause briefly to take any momentum away. Then drive through your feet and stand up.
Posture is also very important with this squat variation. Make sure you can control the weight down and you don’t smash into the box, this will add unwanted stress on your lower back. As I mentioned earlier, this can help pinpoint issues in your form. If you drive up from the bottom and see you knees cave in or you feel you back rounding, you can start by taking some weight off and correcting those issues. If you are making those mistakes with a box, there is a high chance you’re making them without the box as well. I am describing a slow and controlled movement but if you want to train more explosively, the box squat is an excellent option.
You will repeat the same form but when you touch down on the box you will explode up with power and drive to the top as fast as you can. When you look at rep ranges for this type of move you have tons of variety. If you want form, 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps are a great start. If you looking to add size or strength you could shoot for heavier weight and rep ranges closer to the 5-10 mark.
At the end of the day if you are pushing yourself and focusing on good form don’t worry about getting caught up in the little details.
It’s all about balance, right? In our diets, lifestyle, workplace, and our bodies!
Balance is your body’s awareness. Both internally and externally your body is looking for ways to assess your current condition. It’s rare that we are going to have 100% awareness of our surroundings, but we can build our bodies to optimize our daily, and adventurous, movements. Whether hiking over logs, stepping off a curb, or playing sports, we shouldn’t wait until we injure ourselves to strengthen our balance.
And how do we strengthen our balance? Ankle and foot stability, and a little mental override.
Below are a few balance and stability progression movements. Start from the top and move on once you are confident and comfortable. Through each movement take a moment to assess your body. What muscles are firing up? What are my feet and toes doing? Where am I looking? Looking to strengthen your feet even further? Try these moves without your shoes! Let your feet hug the ground. Stay safe, keep a chair nearby, and have fun!
1. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart.
2. Lift one foot off the ground in front of you.
3. Switch feet.
4. Try lengthening the duration of each balance hold.
5. On each foot, add in some eye and head movement. Look left, right, up, and down.
6. On each foot try closing your eyes.
Continuing progressions with ankle and foot movement:
1. Standing on a single foot, press up onto the balls of your feet, raising your heel off the
ground. Lower and repeat
2. On each foot, and add in the eye and head movement, while continuing the above.
3. Try closing your eyes.
Continuing progressions with lateral movement:
1. Standing on one foot, hop to the side landing on the opposite foot. Land lightly by slightly
following through with the movement.
2. Repeat movement by hopping from side to side and lengthening the stride each round.
3. Add in the eye and head movement, while continuing the lateral hops.
4. Be aware of your surroundings and try closing your eyes.
Add balance and stability training into your workouts:
1. Single leg movements
2. Box step-ups
3. Box jumps
4. Lateral movements and ladder drills
5. Progressive movements
6. Mobility work
7. Coordination drills
By practicing these movements we are letting our body learn to embrace new movements, body patterns, reactions, and terrain. Strengthen the body, strengthen the mind. Strengthen the mind, strengthen the body. This is just a small list of how to get started on allowing our bodies to trust us more. Add these movements little by little into your daily routine, workouts, or standing at your desk. There’s no better time to enhance your life than right now. Ground our feet, stabilize our ankles, align the body, and our minds will follow.
Friends don’t let friends skip leg day! This has been my motto for a while now and I say it frequently at the club! I know leg day isn’t everyone’s favorite, and it doesn’t have to be, but it should be a part of your normal fitness routine. Or maybe you don’t have leg “day,” but you incorporate some leg moves throughout your other workouts, which is great! Hopefully, you all know the benefits to including some leg exercises into your fitness regimen, but do you incorporate any single leg moves? Or know the benefits of them?
Single leg work is great for balance, stability, correcting muscular imbalances, and increases proprioception and focus. Plus, they are hard and usually get your heart rate up which is a great cardiovascular workout as well! PT Andy wrote about some great leg exercises a little while ago as well as a couple of single leg ones, so I don’t need to go into those (You can find Andy's blog post about Leg Workout Musts by clicking here.) I will give you some new ones to try though! When you think of single-leg exercises, you probably just think about lunges, but thankfully, there are a lot more exercises out there than just lunges (no offense to lunges as those are a great move as well).
What are these other single-leg exercises I speak of? So glad you asked! Check out the descriptions and videos below to help you out. I should note, you don’t need a lot of repetitions with single leg work. Most of these you will want to keep the reps lower to build more strength. Try using a barbell with all of them. You will be able to go a little heavier and really hammer your legs. Rest for 30-45 seconds in between legs and always alternate which leg you start with each set. The nice thing about these single-leg exercises is since you have a little support from the other leg, so balance isn’t that much of an inhibitor. I know a lot of people shy away from single leg work because they have poor balance. Well, these will help increase your balance as well as allow you to go a little heavier while having the aid of the support leg.
Here are four moves to try out.
Kickstand Romanian Deadlift (RDL) – All you do for a kickstand RDL is put one leg back a little bit and do an RDL except for using and focusing on the lead leg. You can put your rear leg up on a bench, or just place it about one foot behind your lead leg and focus on using your front leg only. Shoot for 4-6 reps per leg.
Kickstand squat – Similar to the kickstand RDL, place one foot about one foot behind where you would normally have your foot for a normal squat position and just squat down. Stay up on your back toe the whole time and keep most of the weight on your front leg. Your front knee will travel a little further forward than during a normal squat, but don’t worry! As long as you don’t feel any knee pain, it is good for your knee to get the increased range of motion, especially since you won’t have near as much weight on the bar. Shoot for 4-8 reps per leg.
Jefferson deadlift – This is like a sumo squat but emphasizes the front leg. Stand with one foot on either side of the bar a little wider than hip width apart. Keep your lead foot pointed straight forward and your back foot anywhere from 45-90 degrees out depending on your hip mobility. The main thing is keeping that back foot on the ground and keeping your torso facing straight forward towards your lead leg. Don’t let your back heal come of the ground or let your torso twist so it’s facing at an angle. Pick up the bar in between your legs keeping your back flat and straight, then set it back down. Do 6-10 reps per leg.
Rear leg elevated Kang squat – Kind of a cross between a good morning and split squat. Place one foot on a bench behind you. Bend over like you are going to do a good morning, when you hit parallel or slightly above, drop your rear knee down into a lunge position, then drive yourself up through your front heal. Shoot for 6-8 slow and controlled reps per leg.
Try a couple of these by adding them into your workout and let us know what you think. Check out the videos if you need a better visual and as always, ask one of the trainers for help if you need it. That’s what we love to do!
Let's face it. Nobody likes wearing masks all day. They can be uncomfortable, hot and sweaty. But...we're all in this pandemic together and so close to getting through, so we need to keep working together towards common goals so one day masking can be just a memory!
Working out is difficult enough, let alone wearing a mask while doing so. Due to our state mandate and wanting to follow public health recommendations for the safety of our community, we’ve required members to wear the masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Just like we’ve done at the beginning of the pandemic to where we are today, we’ve had to adapt and grow with changing policies and knowledge we've all gained throughout this pandemic. We’re learning ways to cope with the masks to make sure we get to the gym, stay strong and stay healthy.
Here is the rundown on why masking at Western is so important and how you can help keep your community safe!
1. It’s a state mandate, so we follow it! We are stronger when we work together as a state, down to even our smallest communities.
2. It helps reduce the spread of viruses. There’s a reason doctors, dentists, nurses and techs wear them all day, every day. Researches have found in a number of studies that masks led to a more than threefold reduction in how much virus people sprayed into the air. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include face masks in their recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus.
3. It helps members feel safe so we can stay open! We love our members and we want to make sure we can stay open so that our community has a place to keep working on their fitness and wellness, which right now, is more important than ever. Following public health protocols like masking, extra cleaning and sanitizing, and physical distancing helps us stay open so we can keep meeting the needs of our community.
4. It helps the staff feel safe too! Our staff is part of Western's special community too, and many of them spend long hours at Western interacting with members and working hard to keep our building clean, build programming for our members, and run day-to-day operations. When you wear your mask, it gives our staff peace of mind when they go home to their families at the end of the day.
5. No, believe us, we DO NOT like harping on people who struggle with mask-wearing. We know that after a year of dealing with this pandemic, patience is wearing thin and everyone is doing their best to cope. That's why, if you’re not comfortable wearing a mask, we have options for you! If you're a Western member, you can reserve a private studio for yourself for FREE. There are treadmills, bikes, rowers, and weight equipment to use so you can get your workout in without the mask and without risking the health and safety of any of our staff or members. We also offer a large variety of virtual group fitness classes weekly and virtual personal training. Check out westernracquet.com to see schedules of classes and to learn how to reserve a private studio.
6. Please wear your mask correctly, covering both your mouth and nose. Wearing your mask correctly shows respect to everyone around you, and helps also set an example for our youngest members who also come to the gym.
7. Consider upgrading your mask for best performance! If you work out frequently, you may have a better experience when you use a face mask created for exercise instead of a typical surgical or cloth face mask. Check out this list of the best face masks for exercising.
8. Lastly, please wipe down the equipment after use. Handles, dumbbells, barbells, weights, mats, bands, and anything we touch our hands to need to be wiped down after use. Our staff continues to be extra vigilant in our effort to sanitize things around the club, but the effort of our members helps immensely in keeping Western clean and safe.
Thank you to our wonderful fitness community for helping each other these unprecedented times! We are all so excited to keep moving forward at Western and continue to work towards beating this virus together so we can keep growing our fitness community!
The sled pull is a dynamic move that will work on your legs, upper back, and grip strength, it's also good for getting your heart rate up. While these pulls do help with multiple muscle groups, this article will focus on the quads and why it is beneficial for your knees. In our gym, we set up the sled pull by attaching a TRX strap to our weighted sled in the carpet area between the cardio floor and weight room. You will then face the sled with the TRX handles in a neutral grip. Then you want to slightly bend at the waist and knees to get into an athletic position, this is followed by extending your arms straight in front of you and keeping good shoulder posture.
The actual movement is pretty simple - just start walking backwards! Posture plays a massive role in protecting the lower back and shoulders when doing this move. Try to focus on squeezing and activating the quad muscles with each backward step. If you are struggling with balance you can start by taking small steps, as you get comfortable with the movement you can increase your stride to your normal length. The reason we want to key on the quad in this exercise is because of the benefits of stronger quads and the protection they can give your knees.
The quadricep is comprised of four large muscles located on the upper, front part of our leg, the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and the vastus intermedius. This set of muscles are responsible for a few very important things, first of all, they are extensors of the knee joint, flexor of the hip, and they even help stabilize the knee joint when running. As you can imagine, these are crucial patterns when walking, running, squatting, etc. In other words, we could all benefit from what the sled pull has to offer on the quad involvement alone. In a study published by the Cleveland Clinic, a group of people between the ages of 40 and 79 took part in a test to see how quad strength would contribute to cartilage loss. After about three years of continued studies, 15% experienced a loss of knee cartilage. 44% happened to participants with quad weakness versus 11% with normal strength. This is one very specific study but I think it is a great example of how the move can truly help our body. Something like preserving knee cartilage probably isn't a specific goal for most people but it will definitely be something we would all appreciate in our future.
Watch the video below to get a moving visual on how to do the sled pull, then come over to Western and give it a try!
My name is Casey Alger-Feser and I am one of the Personal Trainers here at Western Racquet. Today I would like to take this opportunity to talk about a muscle that seldomly gets any isolation work even though it plays a large role in many physical activities and our daily life - the Anterior Tibialis is a muscle that sits along the lateral area of the tibia. In other words, to the right of the shin bone on the right leg and to the left of the shin bone on the left leg.
You can feel this muscle activate by simply trying to “touch your shin with your toes”. The technical term for that movement is called dorsiflexion, which is one of two functions of this muscle. The other function is called inversion. Again, the technical description for this is to move the sole of the foot towards the medial plane, but you can think of it like rolling the outside of your ankle. When you try these movements you can see how important these muscles really are. They help when you are running or walking by stabilizing the ankle when your foot hits the ground. It essentially helps decelerate your foot which means it's used every time you walk. It is especially valuable when you are landing from a jump in a sport or making other explosive moves like slowing down after a sprint. They will also help lift your foot off the ground as you walk, as well as “locking” the ankle if you were about to kick a ball with your toe.
My guess is most people do not know what this muscle does or why we need to strengthen it and that is why you will rarely see people working on them specifically. As I mentioned earlier I think this is a great opportunity to not only learn about what the tibialis does, but how we can make it stronger. I have personally added tibialis toe raises to my routine over the last few months and have seen an increase in lower leg stability as well as a reduction in knee pain as a result.
To perform a tibialis raise you want to start with your butt against a wall and put your feet about 1-2 feet in front of you. Without bending your knees you want to utilize the dorsiflexion we talked about by lifting your toes off the ground as high as you can. If it is too challenging to complete 15-25 slow and controlled reps, you can move your feet back slightly to ease the movement. If you find it is too easy to complete the reps just do the opposite and move your feet further from the wall. If you have thick soles to your shoes you can always take them off and try this exercise barefoot, this will also make the move a little easier. If you have never worked on the tibialis before you could start with 1 or 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps to gauge how it feels. These numbers can increase over time as you start to feel stronger and more confident. 2 sets of 25 reps would be a great goal to shoot for. Remember, if you can do these numbers at 1 or 2 feet away from the wall, you want to continue to move your feet away to make it more challenging.
Watch this video for a visual of how to complete this exercise.
I learned a large portion of this information from an awesome coach named Ben Patrick. You can find him on Instagram @kneesovertoesguy. He has a ton of great info relating to this topic along with ways to come back from chronic knee pain or other knee-related issues.
Leg workouts are a tough day for anyone. They’re hard, they’re exhausting, they hurt in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. Knees, hips and back hurt occasionally. Most of the time, the pain part is short term. Oftentimes, it’s a lingering ache that we just ignore and keep pushing through. Muscle and joint pain are usually signs of dysfunction somewhere in the kinetic chain. Short and long term overuse, weakness, muscle imbalances, tightness, poor posture, among other issues are reasons behind lingering pain. When “leg day” pops up during the week, many of us experience pain stemming from these dysfunctions.
Not every leg workout is the same, but it should have the same components. Below are exercises and movements that should be incorporated in your leg workout to keep the muscles strong from all directions. Not all need to be incorporated into one workout but maybe spread out over two workouts during the week.
Sit down and stand up. We do this all day long. It’s a basic functional movement and also an athletic move. You don’t need to lift hundreds of pounds (how often will you be lifting hundreds of pounds from a sitting position?) but you should be able to lower yourself and stand up again.
The single-leg squat is a great exercise to complement the double leg squat and it’s a simple movement to do. It helps correct muscular imbalances, improves balance, coordination and requires focus. Single leg movements should be used in every leg workout to help strengthen stabilizers and, oftentimes, neglected muscles.
Lateral lunge or Band shuffles
Both of these movements are great because we live in a world where everything we do is in front of us. Being able to move powerfully and quickly in a lateral direction in sports not only reduces the chances of injuries but also makes one’s game more efficient and stronger.
Single-Leg Hip Hinge
How often do you pick something up off the ground? Have you ever picked up something and felt a tweak in your back? The kinetic chain wasn’t firing correctly and the gluteal muscles did not do the work they were supposed to do. This exercise helps strengthen them and correct the imbalance and misfirings.
Just about every sport has some sort of rotation in it. Swinging a bat, a club, a racquet, kicking, throwing, etc. are some movements we need to be strong in if we want to excel in a sport. Unlike squats which are up and down and lateral lunges which are left to right, the transverse lunge is a movement with a rotational element to it. It stabilizes the core and teaches the body to move in a controlled direction, focusing on balance, stabilization, power, and flexibility, among others.
This is a staple in just about every leg workout. Why do we need strong hamstrings?
The key to any workout is balance. You need to workout opposing muscles in different planes of motion to prevent potential injuries. So keep mixing up your program, incorporate the above exercises, and reduce your risk of injuries so you can continue doing the activities you love. If you have any questions, please ask a trainer because we love helping!
About 85% of women will become pregnant at some point in their lifetime. Exercise is an important aspect of growing a healthy baby inside you as well as for the mother's well-being. Most doctors recommend exercise throughout pregnancy if the mom is cleared to do so. There are many benefits of working out throughout pregnancy. There are also some do’s and don’ts to follow. If done right, keeping an active lifestyle throughout the duration of the pregnancy will lead to easier delivery and quicker recovery. As always, consult with a doctor before beginning or changing a fitness routine during pregnancy.
According to The Bump, the benefits of exercise of pregnancy include:
Exercise in general makes you feel good, have more energy, sleep better, improved heart health, and increased self-confidence. So why not keep doing it while you are pregnant? As long as it is done safely and effectively, there is no need to skip the sweat sessions while creating a new life!
So now you know it’s good for you, but what should you do or not do?
Speaking from experience, as I’m in the process of growing human number three, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or uncomfortable, stop doing it or try something else. There are really only a handful of exercises that should not be done, which include activities that have an increased risk of falling down - things like skiing, rollerblading, horseback riding (fast), gymnastics, etc - and activities that require you to hold your breath, like scuba diving, or certain weightlifting or yoga breathing techniques. You want your baby to get all the oxygen it can. Temperature-extreme workouts like hot yoga or cardio sessions in extreme weather- should also be avoided. Some women also get lightheaded when they lay flat on their backs, so instead of doing a regular bench press, opt for a machine chest press version or dumbbell incline chest press.
30 minutes of cardio activity three times a week is a great way to achieve some of those benefits. Swimming, walking or jogging, biking, or using the elliptical are all great ways to get that heart rate up a little. Upper and lower body weightlifting, as well as core work, is also a great way to grow a healthy baby and look good and feel good while you’re doing it. Just remember, keep hydrated, use common sense, get your doctors approval, don’t keep your heart rate super high for extended periods of time, and don’t let your internal core temp get above 98 degrees. As always, if you have questions, feel free to ask me or one of the other trainers; we would love to assist you! Otherwise, have fun and be proud of the miracle that is growing inside you by showing off those moves!
One of my personal favorite leg day exercises is to do pistol squats. For those of you who do not know what a pistol squat is, it is a single leg squat that requires a great deal of balance. The idea of the pistol squat is, while standing on one leg, squat to the lowest point without letting yourself fall back or rest on the ground.
Benefits: Develop full range of muscle recruitment, isolation of each leg for balancing strength deficits, increases flexibility and mobility, increases ankle joint mobility and flexibility, and greatly improves balance.
The best way to start a pistol squat in the beginner stage is to use a cable or TRX straps. This way, you will have some assistance and you can get into the habit of correcting your form as well as becoming familiar with the range of motion. As you progress to more difficult stages, such as using a BOSU ball to balance on or adding weight, it is important to be aware of your limitations. It is exciting to push yourself and watch yourself accel at something you have never thought to even try, just me, I am one of those people. But injury can set you back in more ways than just exercise, so be cautious when attempting a difficult workout. Also, please do not be afraid to ask one of the trainers on the floor or behind the desk for help! It is our job to help, so don’t hesitate if you need it.
In the current state of today’s world, it has become imperative that we take care of our bodies in order to stay healthy. Many of us are beginning to re-think or re-focus how we go about daily activities that would normally have never required a second thought. This attention to detail, which keeps us from getting sick, is a concept that can also help us stay healthy during our workouts.
As a new member of the 30-year-old club, my body is starting to remind me that, if I want to continue to work out at a high level, I need to make sure I am properly warming up and cooling down properly. For example, while coaching softball just last week, I decided to join in during practice and play the outfield when we were short a few kids. I did not warm-up, I did not cool down, and I paid the price with three days of feeling like I got hit by a truck and not being able to work out.
My point here is not to let you know I’m not as young as I used to be; many of my friends already remind me frequently. What I want to express is that our bodies are amazing machines that can perform at a high level, but we need to maintain them regardless of our age so that we’re not paying the price later. For many of us, adding a proper warm-up and cooldown to our routine is somewhat of a foreign concept that we need to wrap our brain around, so here are a few things to keep in mind to help cement the way you think about those parts of your workout.
Warm-ups and Cooldowns Are for Everyone. Many people, including myself at times, think, “I don’t need to warm-up before and stretch after my workout. I know my body.” I’m here to tell you that these concepts are not individualized; they are important for everyone. There is science behind how our muscles perform when warm and loose, and this science applies to everyone, including you and me.
Warm-ups and Cooldowns Save Time. This is a weird concept to think about, right? But, let me ask you this: how much time will you lose if you have to sit out in order to recover from an injury? Weeks? Months? That’s a long time without any workout. When you think about it in that context, a five-minute warm-up and five-minute cooldown seem like a pretty good use of time to help prevent those injuries.
Recovery Is as Important as Your Workout. We all have a reason that we work out. These reasons are called goals. To reach your goal in the quickest and most efficient manner possible, your body needs to function at its peak. This cannot happen if you aren’t taking care of yourself and allowing your body to heal. Pushing our limits is great, but those limits will push us back if we don’t let our bodies recover. Many of us fall into the mindset that we are lazy if we take a rest day, but that’s not the case. In actuality, we are allowing our bodies to do more because they will be healthy and recovered.
If you are unsure of how to get the most out of your workout, with a proper warm-up and cooldown, get in touch with one of our trainers. We’ll keep you safe, healthy, and at peak performance for years!
Today I would like to discuss how increasing your ankle mobility can improve your squat form. While increased ankle mobility can help with multiple moves in and out of the gym, today we will key in on the squat. The first issue we need to address is some of the causes of poor ankle mobility. Some common causes include ankle sprains, high-heeled shoes, tight calves, arch pain and even genetics. When the joint and muscles around the ankle are tight and restrict your range of motion, your ankle will not be able to fully flex. This will inhibit your ability to get below parallel when you squat. Two ways to help improve this issue include self-myofascial release and static stretching. Self-myofascial release is basically a fancy word for foam rolling, you could also use a lacrosse ball or barbell to get the job done. Start by sitting down and placing the foam roller under your calf muscle and roll up and down the length of the muscle for 30-60 seconds. If you feel one spot is a little more tender than others feel free to spend extra time on that area. The second strategy involves static stretching which is holding a stretch in one position for around 30 seconds. My favorite way to incorporate these types of moves is finding a small ledge about 4 inches high, I then place the ball of my foot on the ledge and keep my leg straight. Once I'm in that position I will lean forward until I feel a good stretch in the back of my lower leg. I will then repeat the move with my knee bent because that will represent the bottom portion of a squat. If you start with these basic moves and stay consistent this will open up a whole new level of mobility which will, in turn, improve your squat depth.
Let’s go over a few details when it comes to squat stance and depth, so that you can make sure you’re doing your best squat every time you squat!
This article is meant to clarify a few things I have seen done differently in the gym and my own personal experience with squatting. Many people use a standard "toes pointed forward" and feet "shoulder width apart" when squatting. If you have the mobility and strength for that set up, go for it. If you feel restricted and unable to reach the depth you want, a wider stance with your toes pointing out could help, as long as the knees track your toes. This can sometimes be the case for taller or longer legged individuals.
In terms of depth or range of motion (ROM), each person will be at a different point. We squat every day, so I encourage you to work on ROM before adding weight. It is fun to compete with your friends and push yourself to lift heavier weight but increasing your ROM before doing that can set you up for long term success.
Remember, many things play into how low you can get on a squat. Everything from ankle mobility, femur length, the hip joint and so on. You could walk through the weight room and see five people squatting and each one might be using a different piece of equipment, a different stance, and different ROM. Keep an open mind and choose your squat based on your body and goals.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer