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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:24 pm 
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In this essay I want to cover two important joints that are heavily affected by a sedentary lifestyle, the shoulder blades (scapular) and hip joint. Please note, it’s important to consult with a doctor if you are having recurring pain. It is best to have a thorough evaluation by a professional before proceeding with a fitness program.

Train smarter not harder. Some can intellectually understand but do not know how to apply this thought to their own fitness program.

For those who are hitting plateaus (a.k.a hitting the wall), coming back from an injury, training with joint pain, working the same routine for over 3 months, frustrated or just not seeing results- I have one thing to say “Regress to Progress”.

Nothing will change, specifically your results, if nothing changes. This is the time to step back from your routine and ask “Am I choosing quantity over quality of form?” For example, it’s counterproductive to keep increasing your jogging time knowing your knee knocks while running. Then, after the run you wonder why your knee hurts.

Another example is the aspiring weekend power lifter. This person will continue to increase the weight in their barbell bench press despite pain in their shoulders (rotator cuff) and neck strain.

Then comes the inevitable, despite using every pain medication on the market, he or she is unable to do their routine due to an injury and unbearable pain. What happened?

You chose quantity over quality of form. Granted, you are not an fitness professional, however pain/discomfort is a red flag from the brain signaling something is WRONG (and please stop).

You are limiting your potential by not taking the time to improve your weakest link. Our society is primarily sedentary at work, home and leisure. It is well documented that a sedentary lifestyle, especially one that has you in front of a computer for long periods of time, will affect your posture, joint mobility/stability due to overactive tight muscle.

I call this P.M.S, praying mantis syndrome. Basically visualize a praying mantis in a cubicle and place a keyboard underneath its claws and it looks very similar to someone in front of a PC ( add a wig if it helps with the visual). In this position we have the following; tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, tight calf, overextending back and hip extensors, rounded shoulder, tight biceps and forward leaning head.

The only difference is that nature designed the praying mantis to be in that position; it is unnatural for human to be in a sedentary position for long periods of time!

Over time a muscle imbalance will develop in the calves, hips, legs, shoulder blades, shoulders’ and arms to name a few. The extent of the muscle imbalance will be contingent on past injuries, repetitive movement and other physical activities. Many injuries occur due to overactive muscles affecting reciprocal inhibition of the antagonist muscle.

To make matters worse, without knowing any better, you repeatedly strengthen these overactive muscles at the gym via machines or group classes. Overactive muscles will affect the joint range of motion, mobility or stability depending on the joint.

Let’s use the knee joint as an example, tight hamstrings and calf muscles plus zero glute activation will affect this joint stability (not to mention your low back health).The analogy is driving a Porsche with 1 out of 4 shocker absorbers working properly. This car was designed for performance and speed, just like you. However, its system is compromised because you did not take the time to check/replace the shocks, and anyway the car looks good so why stop cruising? It’s just a matter of time until the car will slow down and come to a halt.

Our bodies have a primal survival mechanism for self preservation. Its first line of defense is to signal our consciousness with pain. If our ego or ignorance overrides the pain then the body will compensate, e.g. development of a muscle imbalance. If you continue to train without reprieve then you are more likely to get injured, e.g. ACL tear, herniated disc, rotator cuff strain.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to correcting muscle imbalances. There are always a number of variables contributing to the problem and some we cannot change, e.g. working with a PC. What we can do is integrate some exercises that will promote balance.

First scenario, for years you noticed that your knees knock when you run (aka valgus knee) and recently you have been getting pain below and above the knee cap. It is worth mentioning females are more likely to have valgus knees due to the female anatomy. Nature designed women to have wider hips than men. This creates a greater “Q” angle which is a measurement along the tibia, femur and ASIS of the hip. Research shows that the greater the angle, the more likely you are to have an injury IF you do not address the muscle imbalances. One more note, regardless of the gender, if you are sitting most of the day, your running mechanics may be compromised.

Usually the biggest contributor to knee pain is the hips. Ankle mobility, flat feet (over pronation) can also be a factor but for this essay I will focus on the hips.

My first suggestion is STOP RUNNING (temporarily)! Remember the Porsche shock absorber analogy. Let’s train smarter.

Basic tips for hip mobility and knee stability:

Email me for details or just google key words.

1. SMR self myofascia release with a foam roll. Focus on your piriformis, TFL, IT band, quadriceps, inner thigh (adductors), calf and even latissimus muscles. You need to make your muscles extensible. Your goal is to roll until you find a knot, tension or pain. Remain on the knot for 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets. Best before and after your workouts, roll 3 to 4 per week.

Ball roll your feet with a tennis, golf or baseball too! You can do this while you are eating, watching TV, surfing the net or reading. Roll for about 2 minutes at least 3 to 4 per week.

Foam rolling has been used by sports professional and physical therapist for years. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.

Stretch these muscle groups after foam rolling for 1 set holding for 15-30 seconds. I highly recommend learning dynamic warm ups too.

2. Basic glute activation, strengthen glute medius and hip mobility drills: Here some suggestions…single leg bridge ups for glute activation. Fire hydrants for hip mobility. Quadruped for core stability, focusing more on the posterior chain. Side planks and leg abduction with foot turned inward targets glute medius. Standing hip swings. Monster walks and glute kick backs with mini band. Again, quality of form is more important than how many reps you can do.

3. Learn movement patterns & develop skill before adding resistance to bilateral and unilateral leg exercises: Learn how to move in all anatomical planes. Examples: Squat progression, lateral squats, lateral lunges, lateral walks. Transverse lunge and squats. Bodyweight bench squats, single leg bench squats, single leg dead lifts, Romanian dead lifts, step downs, reverse lunge, forward lunge and crossover steps/curtsies. Suggested 8-10 reps with 4 sets.

4. Back off running for 1-3 weeks and switch to non impact cardio. Preferably a non seated cardio machine excluding rowing. After your knee pain subsides you should add resistance to your lunges by first cradling a dumbbell/ball (chest height/close to the body). Next phase is holding 1 dumbbell by your side and maintain good form. Advanced phase is overhead lunges with stick, body bar, dumbbells and single arm overhead lunges with dumb bell. It’s important to integrate the exercises that work best for you into your weekly routine. Suggested 8-10 reps with 4 sets.

Return to running after you have a noticeable improvement in the quality of the exercises and lessening of joint pain/discomfort.


Tips for the scapular stability and shoulder mobility:

Email me for details or just google key words.


1. SMR self myofascia release with a foam roll. Focus on your latissimus, rhomboids, pectoralis major and piriformis. You need to make your muscles extensible. Your goal is to roll until you find a knot, tension or pain. Remain on the knot for 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets. Best before and after your workouts, roll 3 to 4 per week.

Stretch these muscle groups after foam rolling for 1 set holding for 15-30 seconds. I highly recommend learning dynamic warm ups too.

2. T-Spine mobility (thoracic spine). A MUST. This is the only part of the spine that was designed for mobility/limited rotation unlike the lumbar spine which is for stability (very limited rotation). Email me for suggestions or google for exercise descriptions. There are a number of variations e.g. laying down, standing, half kneeled.

3. Rotator cuff exercises for mobility/stability. Internal, external rotation and post cuff and transverse e.g. drawn sword.
My tip with this is never lift heavy. Stick to 8-12 repetitions, 4 sets.

4. Y, W and L scapular/shoulder exercises. These will strengthen your mid and lower trap and improve scapular stability.

These are prime muscles that retract and depress your scapular. My tip with this is never lift heavy. Stick to 8-12 repetitions, 4 sets.

5. Back off the barbell press for a 1-3 weeks and lat pull down machine too. Instead perform single arm horizontal bench press. Alternating incline dumbbell press (1 up and then 1 down). Inverted rows. Cable pull aparts for the mid traps and low traps, single arm pull aparts. T-bar rows and old school push ups with variations (focusing on scapular retraction). I would stick to 8-10 reps with 4 sets and max out on the push up.

6. Gradually return to barbell bench pressing after you have a noticeable improvement in the quality of the exercises and lessening of joint pain/discomfort. It’s important to integrate the exercises that worked best for you into your weekly routine.

One more tip, focus on the eccentric/negative phase of your exercises. Slow, lengthening contractions will yield more results. It will promote lean muscle growth, nerve muscle connection and help strengthen your joints. Count to 2-4 seconds while lengthening the muscle in the negative phase.

For best results, get a fitness assessment from a certified fitness professional, preferably one who is familiar with the principles of the “Functional Movement Screen” and more importantly knows how to use the data to design a progressive, customized, challenging and effective training program. No trainer should work you out without knowing your background and fitness goals!

There are other simple solutions that may help your overall health. For example, you might benefit from orthotics or appropriate footwear too. My only advice is to go to the root of the problem and stop putting a band aid on the pain e.g. pain medication, expensive knee braces (unless prescribed by a doctor).

Regressing your exercises will not only help address muscle imbalances it will also bring challenge back to your routine, reset motor patterns to make your workouts more effective, promote lean muscle, improve muscular conditioning, flexibility, balance, muscle elasticity, improve joint stability/mobility, help avoid plateaus and burn more calories to name a few.

The best part about regressing to progress is that it’s progressive. You will relearn movements, improve performance and develop skills that can be applied to more challenging and fun exercises e.g. Val slides, TRX, Kettle Bells, plyometrics, Olympic lifts. The end result is maximizing your time with long term results!

For more information email me at juliosalado@fitnessfoundry.net or visit fitnessfoundry.net

Be well and stay ACTIVE!!
Julio A. Salado, NSCA C.P.T.
Fitness Foundry designed for healthy living.©
Personal Trainer & Kettle Bell Instructor
Author of Maximum Boost Workout© Advanced Core Training
Email: juliosalado@fitnessfoundry.net
Fitnessfoundry.net


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