Are You Ready for Your Workout?

Have you heard the discussion around warming up, static stretching, dynamic stretching and unsure what this means to you?

Recent research recommends the use of a dynamic active warm-up prior to exercise. Studies have found that dynamic stretching before exercise helps to increase performance and decrease the potential for injury.

What is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching involves a more active warm-up. During the warm-up, joints are taken through their full functional range of motion. These movements are initially performed slowly with a gradual speed increase, and with an arc of motion which mimics that of the sporting activity you are about to perform. Dynamic stretching is an exaggerated but controlled movement where the muscle remains active while it is being lengthened.

It is important that dynamic stretching not be confused with ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretching involves trying to force a part of the body beyond its available range of motion in a bouncing or jerking movement. Dynamic stretching however involves much more controlled movements that are limited to the current range of motion of that particular joint.

How does it work?

Dynamic stretching has been found to provide a positive response to the neuromuscular system. This results in enhancing performance related to force and power production.

What about static stretching?

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that warm-up static stretching can actually be detrimental to performance.

Studies have found that static stretching can actually cause reduced muscle activation, depressed reflex activity, and a diminished maximal force production. When compared to dynamic stretching, static stretching had a negative influence on vertical jump performance.

It is therefore recommended that dynamic stretching and warm-up is to be used immediately before play, whereas static stretching is used as a cool down after exercise.

Tips to get the best out of your exercise session

  • Perform an overall aerobic warm-up prior to any dynamic stretching (get that heart pumping!)
  • Practice dynamic movements with one body part moving in relation to another
  • Apply sport specific movement patterns (ie. if your about to kick the football do some dynamic leg kicks, if you’re about to run, do some dynamic ‘butt kicks’)
  • Don’t forget about rotation! Rotation of the trunk and torso is a movement that is integral in connecting the lower limb with the upper limb.  Good trunk rotation will allow force to transmit from the lower limb to the upper limb and vice versa; thereby helping reduce the risk of injury and improve overall force production.

Try these exercises below!

Please note that this method of stretching does require increased control and coordination when compared with static stretching. It is therefore important that you set aside some time to do these movements correctly. Start with a smaller range of movement and slowly increase your movement range.

Leg Swings/Kicks

Aim: To warm up the legs and elongate the hamstrings

Movement:

  • While standing, bring one leg forward in a kicking motion.
  • Return and begin again.
  • Be careful not to bounce or over-extend your back. Once warm, you can also try this in a walk.

Butt Kicks

Aim: To warm up the legs and elongate the quadriceps

Movement:

  • While standing, bring the foot of one leg towards the bottom.
  • Return and begin again.
  • Be careful not to bounce.

Walking Lunge with Rotation

Aim: To coordinate the leg and trunk movement and maximize trunk rotation. Great for any sport such as golf and tennis involving transferring of force from lower limb to upper limb

Movement:

  • Drop into a lunge and rotate the trunk over the forward leg.
  • For more support, you can have your back knee resting on the ground.

Push Up to Walk

Aim: To warm up the chest, wrist, hand and elbows while also elongating and warming up the hamstrings

Movement:

  • Start in the push-up position.
  • Then walk the feet toward the hands until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.

Call us today and discuss your warm up routine with one of our experts. We can personalize a program for all body types, sports and activities.

Exercising from Home: Optimize Exercising Using Bodyweight & Limited Equipment

Stay Active: Not having access to a gym is not the end.

With many gyms temporarily closed and an explosion of bodyweight workout routines popping up on social media, we want to help you figure out what you should be doing. Keeping active is important during this time for many reasons including for physical health and mental health (1), and to make sure you can stay on track with your fitness goals. If you are uninjured and otherwise healthy, and want to keep active and busy, do whatever is fun and enjoyable to you. However, if you have specific goals you want to stay on track with, here are some guidelines to help you continue to reach your goals without being able to get to a gym.

If you have chronic or acute injuries that require special consideration for the exercises, or if you cannot find a way to exercise without pain, please contact info@acesportsclinic.com to set up a training session (virtual sessions via Ace Virtual Care are available!).

DO NOT DO ANY EXERCISE THAT CAUSES PAIN.

Why are you working out?

It is first important to understand why you are working out so that you can make sure you are exercising in a manner that is appropriate for your goals. It is also important to understand the restrictions of working out with limited equipment and/or bodyweight only. The old adage of “if you don’t use it you lose it” is quite appropriate for these circumstances. Your body develops fitness specific to the format in which you exercise. Therefore, while random workouts you see on Instagram are potentially great ways to keep active and healthy, they may not help you continue progressing towards YOUR fitness goals.

General Health & Fitness

If your health and fitness goals are non-specific, and instead are to reap the general benefits of physical activity, then here are some guidelines for how you can maintain cardiovascular health and develop muscular strength-endurance for healthy living and aging.

1. Cardiovascular Health Workout

Accumulate at least 30 minutes of steady state activity with an HR of 135-155 BPM 3x a week. These 30 minutes can be accumulated in either 3x 10-minute or 2x 15-minute bouts.

  • Run or power walk on a treadmill
  • Use a stationary or recumbent bike
  • Climb the stairs continuously
  • Use workout rubber bands for tempo runs

2. Muscle Strength & Endurance for “Functional Tasks”

Perform muscle strengthening exercises at least 2x per week (1). Use weights or resistance bands if you have access to them. Try to incorporate all of the fundamental movement patterns;

  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Carry

Try the workout format outlined in the “Weight loss Workout” section.

Weight Loss – Don’t Lose Momentum

Key considerations for staying on track for weight loss goals without being able to get to a gym include: maintaining/increasing lean muscle mass and exercising to increase caloric expenditure.

Maintain Lean Mass & Exercise to Increase Caloric Expenditure

Strength training exercises that create a high-tension stimulus are required to maximize muscle mass retention (2). This means that you must find a way to increase external load creatively or modify the tempo of the exercises you are doing.

  • See muscle gain section for ways to increase tension during the strength exercise circuit listed below.

We also want to stimulate protein synthesis and elevate it as high as possible to increase or at the very least, maximize muscle mass retention. The circuit training format outlined below will work both to maximize caloric expenditure through short rest periods, and to drive protein synthesis via metabolic pathways (5).

Circuit Training:

  • Choose 6-10 Exercises.
    • Alternate between 1 lower body and 2 upper body exercises.
  • Set a repeating timer for 30s.
  • Try to do 15 reps with full range of motion in the 30s.
  • The next 30s are a rest period to get ready for the next exercise.
  • Do 15 reps in 30s of each exercise.
  • Repeat this circuit 3-6 times without resting between rounds.
  • Do this type of circuit 3-4x a week.

Aerobic Exercise:

Do some form of aerobic exercise at least 2x per week; see cardiovascular health workout guidelines above.

Muscle Gain & Building Strength

To grow muscles, we need to recruit/stimulate as many muscle fibres as possible AND fatigue those fibres (2)(5). To fatigue as many fibres as possible with bodyweight exercises, exercise as close to muscular failure as possible (4). To simply maintain muscle you have developed, continue exercising with approximately 30% of the volume (weight*reps*sets) you were using (3). You must be realistic with what you can accomplish from training at home. To give yourself the best chance to continue building muscle, you must work very close to muscular failure. This is difficult and uncomfortable and can take a lot more reps than you think. When working towards or close to failure, technique also starts to break down, making it important to be cognizant of your posture and positioning to avoid injury. If you are newer to exercise, working to failure may not be safe or necessary.

Beginner & Intermediate Exercisers

If you are a beginner or intermediate exerciser, you will likely be able maintain muscle that you have gained for up to 32 weeks if you just keep exercising (3). You may even be able to make progress in muscle mass if you are now doing unfamiliar exercises consistently, (exercises you have not done before, but repeating them over the next few weeks) and working hard (probably close to muscular failure) (4).

Advanced Exercisers

If you are an advanced lifter (>3 years training), there is a good chance you will lose some muscle mass and that strength will regress. This is simply because the more trained you are, the more tension and volume is required for further muscle growth. However, that muscle will come back relatively quickly when you begin retraining (3). In order to maximize increases and retention of muscular strength and mass, you will need to present a high-tension stimulus to the muscles (5). Simply working to failure is likely insufficient at bodyweight due to the amount of volume and muscular tension required for advanced adaptations.

Maximize Muscular Tension:

There are a few things you can do to influence muscular tension, and to present some external load to maximize your ability to retain muscle mass. 1) Emphasize working close to failure, 2) exercise your full range of motion, 3) modify tempo, 4) lift heavy objects around the house, 5) emphasize technique to increase muscular tension. These strategies may help to increase muscular work through higher tension and muscular recruitment.

Increase External Load:

  • Spare tire – hold a squat or lunge, press it overhead.
  • Bag of garden soil/pet food/bag of sand – hold and squat or lunge.
  • Find random heavy objects or weights around the house that you can lift and hold during exercises to add external load.
  • Use isometrics (muscular contraction without muscle length change) during warm up/muscle prep to increase muscular recruitment.
  • Use slow, controlled eccentrics (muscular contraction while the muscle is being lengthened, loaded stretching) to increase muscle tension during working sets.
  • Work close to failure when it is safe.

Circuit Training:

  • Choose 6-10 Exercises.
    • Alternate between 1 lower body and 2 upper body exercises.
  • Do all 6-10 exercises for 10 reps with a tempo of 4.0.4.0 or slower.
  • Repeat this circuit 3-6 times.
  • Do this type of circuit 3-4x a week.
  • Use methods listed in the “Maximize muscle tension” section for exercises where you can.

Just like in the “weight loss” workout format, we are going to take advantage of circuit training. Use weighted objects from around the house to increase muscular tension and stimulate muscle retention and growth (4). We will also use metabolic stimulus of the circuit format to drive protein synthesis for growth (5).

If you experience any pain during exercising, do not continue without consulting a professional. If you have exercise equipment at home and would like a more personalized program, please contact info@acesportsclinic.com to set up a virtual training session so we can help you.

DO NOT DO ANY EXERCISE THAT CAUSES PAIN.

Written by: Josh Downer, Strength & Conditioning Specialist at Ace Sports Clinic

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(1) “ACMS’s Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription 10th Ed.” (2018). American College of Sports Medicine. Wolters Kluwer

(2) “Scientific Principles of Strength Training” (2016). Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD., Dr. James Hoffmann, PhD., & Chad Wesley Smith.

(3) “Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults” (2011). Bickel CS., Cross JM., & Bamman MM. Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21131862

(4) “Muscular adaptation in low- versus high-load resistance training: A meta analysis.” (2016). Schhoenfeld BJ., Wilson JM., Lowery RP., & Krieger JW. European Journal of Sports Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25530577

(5) “Mass 2” (2017). Dr. Pat Davidson PhD & Dr. Ben House PhD.

Blood Flow Restriction Training

What is blood flow restriction (BFR) training?

BFR training uses FDA approved cuffs that are applied to your arms or legs.  These cuffs are inflated to control the amount of blood and oxygen being delivered to your muscles.  With the use of these cuffs, you can exercise at a low intensity but still experience the gains of a high intensity work out. 

What is the difference between a low intensity work out and a high intensity work out?

During a low intensity work out, you are training at 20-35% of your one rep maximum.  During a high intensity work out, you are training at 65-90% of your one rep maximum.  For example, the maximum weight you can squat is 100 lbs.  BFR training allows you to exercise at a low intensity (i.e. squatting 30 lbs; 30% of your one rep maximum) to have similar gains of a high intensity work out (i.e. squatting 70 lbs; 70% of your one rep maximum).

What are the benefits?

There are over 820 research articles published on BFR training.  BFR training has been shown to increase strength, prevent muscle wasting, increase muscle size, improve cardiovascular function and supports soft tissue repair by indirectly triggering the release of Human Growth Hormone and IGF-1.

How is this helpful for my pre-habilitation / rehabilitation?

BFR training is effective for situations when you are unable to exercise at a high intensity and are restricted to a low intensity work out.  This can include several situations such as being in a cast due to a bone fracture, restricted to a partial weight bearing status, limitations due to pain, pre and post joint replacement surgery, strains, sprains, chronic concussion symptoms, osteoporosis, muscle deconditioning & many more.

How is this different than wrapping Voodoo floss bands or exercise bands around my arms or legs?

There is more consistency with amount of blood being delivered to your limbs.  Voodoo floss bands or excise bands are wrapped around the limb without knowing the actual amount of blood being occluded to the limb.  With BFR training, a cuff pressure is calculated specifically for you and is based upon the optimal occlusion rate determined by research studies.  This will ensure that the amount of blood being delivered to your arms or legs will mimic a high intensity work out.

Youth Strength & Fitness Training

Youth Strength & Fitness training has over the years been wrongfully considered dangerous and having the potential to interfere with normal growth patterns.  Research has demonstrated youth participation in resistance training has no adverse affects on structural growth, and may even favourably influence growth patterns (1).  Beyond influences on youth growth patterns strength and fitness training for school aged children is associated with many benefits, from psychological health, cognition and attention (6), overall health (4) and sport performance (1).

Benefits of Youth Strength & Fitness Training

School aged children benefit from physical activity in many aspects of overall health (5) and academic achievement measured by mathematics and reading achievement (7).  Aerobic fitness, which can be developed through resistance training and sport participation is positively associated with academic achievement in school aged children.  The opposite is seen with BMI (body mass index) which is shown to be negatively associated with academic achievement (7). Research also found school aged children dealing with ADHD saw improved motor skills, behaviour reports and information processing in school following regular pre-planned physical activity over a 10 week period (6).

Participation in sport does qualifies as physical activity and is beneficial for many school aged children to achieve health benefits of physical activity.  Simply participating in sport is a great first step towards improved health and academic achievement.  However, literature has demonstrated that sport participation on its own may be an insufficient stimulus for developing the connective tissue strength required for reducing incidence of injury.  Strength and fitness training can form the important bridge between sport participation and injury prevention required for children to stay active and reap the health benefits of sport participation. Strength and fitness training can ensure appropriate development of all normal movement patterns and facilitate reduced risk of injury.

Bridging the Gap Between Sport Participation and Physical Inactivity

Structured and supervised strength & fitness training may be of even greater importance for youth who do not participate in recreational sport and regular physical activity.  The health benefits of physical activity were found to be multiplied in high-risk youth (overweight and obese, high blood pressure, etc.) (5).  Unfortunately high-risk you may have an inability to participate in physical activity which in turn affects a child’s desire to participate due to negative feedback and low self-esteem (1).  This is where fitness professionals can provide assistance.  In private and small group settings children can participate in physical activity that is appropriate to their ability and skill level without social anxieties in a positive environment.

In the last 25 years childhood obesity rates have tripled (2) making physical activity participation at a young age an important tool to ensure children experience healthy growth and development.  Youth participation in physical activity and resistance training can facilitate development of lifelong exercise habits leading to improvements in cardiac function, blood pressure response, body composition, psychological well-being and improved bone density (strong bones).  Improving bone density in young girls through participation in resistance training and exercise will help to reduce risk of bone diseases later in life.

Studies suggest the more physical activity the greater the health benefit (4) and greater potential for academic success (7).  Physical activity should be a regular part of school aged children’s lives.  On average to improve and maintain health youth should participate in 30 minutes a day of physical activity.  This can be achieved through 30 minutes a day or 3-5 sessions of 45-60 minutes of exercise spread through a week (4).

Safety of Youth Strength & Fitness Training

Resistance training for youth of course comes with some risk of injury.  However injury from resistance training is caused primarily due to mistakes in technique and not a result of underdeveloped youth musculature highlighting the importance for a qualified fitness professional.  Consider that the forces a child experiences while playing recreational sport, in gym class or running around with friends are significantly higher than the forces their bodies will experience during appropriate resistance training.  Bodyweight running, jumping and landing expose a child’s body to forces 3.5-5x greater than bodyweight (3).  During resistance training very few individuals outside of highly trained elite athletes with years of training are capable of lifting weights of this magnitude.  With proper supervision and coaching from qualified and experienced professionals resistance training for youth likely presents significantly less risk of injury than recreational sport participation and can contribute to reduced risk of injury during physical activity and sport participation.

Appropriate Age to Start Training

There is no minimum age that children can begin participation in resistance training provided a qualified and experienced coach is programming and supervising the resistance training sessions.  Generally if children are ready to participate in sport activities then they are ready for some type of resistance training.  Before beginning a resistance training program youth must however be mentally and emotionally ready to comply with a coaches instruction (1).

Youth Strength & Fitness Program at Ace Sports Clinic

A resistance training program for youth at Ace Sports Clinic provides a safe and positive environment as well as qualified and experienced coaches for youth to develop physical fitness and sport performance.

 

  1. Science and Practice of Strength Training 2nd Edition, Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky & Dr. William Kraemer
  2. Canada Health Services, https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/childhood-obesity/childhood-obesity.html
  3. Ground Reaction Forces associated with effective elementary school based jumping intervention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2005
  4. Evidence Based Physical Activity for School-age Youth. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2005.
  5. Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-age children and youth. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2010.
  6. A Physical Activity Program Improves Behaviour and Cognitive Functions in Children with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2010.
  7. Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement in Third and Fifth grade students. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2007.

Should You Be Stretching Your Hip flexors?

Do your hip flexors always feel “tight”? Have you been performing the same hip flexor stretches everyday without any improvement?

Although the stretches may feel like they are working and are releasing some of the tension, in most cases of hip flexor tightness the issue is often due to the hip flexors being overworked as a spinal stabilizer. Therefore, it is perceived tight because if you are in an anterior pelvic tilt (refer to figure 1), then your core isn’t in a position to stabilize the spine, thus, the overworking of your psoas to take up the slack.  With that said, in order to ensure that their is not a fundamental shortness in the tissue or some other neurological driver causing the “tightness”, it is important to first visit a healthcare practitioner (i.e., Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Exercise Physiologist etc.) to assess the hip joint and the surrounding tissues.

Our hip flexors attach to our femur with several other parts up the chain, eventually connecting to our lumbar spine and diaphragm. The specific muscle I am referring to is called the Psoas. As seen in Figure 1, the psoas flexes our femur, tips our pelvis forward (Anterior Pelvic Tilt) and can externally rotate our femur (turn the femur out), which are all important functions during walking.

Figure 1. Anterior Pelvic Tilt caused by hip flexors tipping pelvis forward and erector spinae (back muscles) pulling up

When I tip my pelvis forward (Refer to Figure 1) the psoas becomes short, and in order to maintain some semblance of stability, it pulls the lumbar spine forward (extension). This in effect causes our abdominals and deep spinal stabilizers to be weak and elongated, The Psoas now has to pick up the extra work to stabilize the spine so that we can stay upright.

So, why does this matter? Well, by performing all of those hip flexor stretches, you are attempting to lengthen a muscle that seems to be the only thing stabilizing your spine! This can lead to back pain, anterior hip pain, knee pain, and other possible pathologies.

However, if the muscle is not tight, then why do you feel like you need to stretch the hip flexor all of the time? You may feel tightness in the front of the hip, especially when extending your leg because you are lengthening a muscle that is stabilizing the spine as mentioned previously and this action causes the psoas to contract as a protective strategy in order to prevent you from stretching the muscle further, and possibly to the breaking point. Think of the muscle as an elastic band, what is happening is like pulling an elastic band as much as possible, and then trying to pull it even more. Eventually the band will reach a point where it can’t be pulled any further without breaking.

The question now becomes, if I am not supposed to stretch, then what should I do?

Firstly, we need to restore the position of the pelvis in more of a posterior tilt (belt buckle to the ceiling, which flattens out our lower back, and exhale through the mouth to drop the rib cage towards the pelvis. This posterior tilt and rib cage position will now give the abs and deep core muscles leverage so that they can stabilize the spine and restore the psoas to its optimal position.

After restoring position of the pelvis and restoring the optimal length of the psoas, we also need to strengthen it as it has been overworked and we want the body to remember this position so it does not default to the anterior pelvic tilt.

With all of this in mind, give these three exercises a try instead of making stretching your go to:
90/90 Hip lift 2-3 sets of 4-5 full breaths:

Key Tips:

  • Lay on your back and place feet on bench/wall/chair with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees
  • Place Foam roller/rolled up towel between your knees and squeeze
  • Inhale through your nose
  • Exhale through mouth, press lower back into ground, drive heels into bench and tilt pelvis while maintaining the lower back on the ground
  • Hold this position for 4-5 breaths trying to go further and further without compromising position

Deadbug with reach 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each side: 

Key tips:

  • Lay on back, arms reaching up with knees and hips bent at 90 degrees
  • Reach long through the arms towards the ceiling
  • Before you move any limbs exhale to bring the ribs down and press your lower back into the floor maintaining this position the whole time
  • Inhale through the nose without losing back position
  • Extend your leg then Exhale through the mouth, letting all the air out of your lungs

 

Front plank 2-3 sets of 8-10 full breaths:

Key Tips:

  • Start on elbows and knees, extend legs back, knees straight (can perform this on your knees)
  • Make sure palms are on the ground, and reach through your forearms, slightly rounding the upper back
  • Tuck the pelvis (belt buckle to ceiling) as much as you can while keeping abs tight
  • While maintaining the previous position, as you exhale try to reach longer through your forearms (push ground away and fill upperback) each time

References:

  1. theptdc.com/2014/06/5-steps-dealing-anterior-pelvic-tilt/ Figure 1 Diagram of Pelvic Tilt

Visit us today: Ace Sports Clinic

 

 

 

Yoga Therapy at Ace Sports Clinic

Yoga is a tradition that originated in India and dates back thousands of years.  Within the past century, it has made it’s way to the west and is now a popular physical activity for people who want to get some exercise but who also want to connect to their deeper selves via the union of mind, body and spirit.  Yoga therapy is a fairly new term that refers to the application of traditional yogic techniques such as asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath work) and meditation to improve specific health ailments in a particular person.  Because everyone is unique in terms of physical body, ability and health condition, yoga therapy is usually done one-on-one to holistically address one’s particular goals or health issues.  It is a more gentle approach than what one would typically experience in a ‘regular’ yoga class because the goal is less about exercise and more about health maintenance and healing.

In addition to treating physical ailments, yoga therapy is extremely successful in addressing issues that exist in the energetic plane such as anxiety, depression and insomnia.  It has been proven to help reduce risk factors for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease through simple techniques using the breath, and can also alleviate side effects from harsh medical treatments such as chemotherapy/radiation. Although it is not a cure, a successful yoga therapy course can lead to lower drug dosages for individuals living with conditions such as type II diabetes or asthma.

Performed on a daily basis, yoga therapy will help maintain and enhance existing good health, prevent future ailments and speed up recuperation and/or complete eradication of specific health issues.  Considered to be a ‘complimentary system’, yoga therapy can be beneficial on it’s own but it can also be applied in addition to other types of medical treatments and physical therapies for maximum results.

If you or anyone you know could benefit from this kind of holistic, non-invasive, therapeutic approach to better health please contact Ace Sports Clinic to book a consultation.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

..and some quick, easy things to try at home to help settle it down

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries we see at Ace Sports Clinic. Often it’s of gradual onset, creeping in slowly, starting as occasional discomfort and eventually being a consistent uncomfortable or painful niggle. Sometimes it’s a full-blown crisis where we can barely move without intense pain.

In all of its forms, low back pain is often multi-faceted in its origins and while it’s rare to identify only one cause, there are common culprits that we see. Often when one area is functioning poorly, we find that the body compensates and shifts the blame elsewhere; meaning the source of the pain and the problem area may not be the same. This is why we can’t just look at the back when it comes to low back pain.

Below are three of the most common things we see which contribute to low back pain and some gentle exercises you can perform to try to help settle down the pain.

1. Tight hip flexors / Too much sitting

Your hip flexor, or your iliopsoas, is an incredible and powerful muscle. Made of two muscles which share a common insertion, the psoas major originates in a spinal attachment in your mid-low back. Psoas major makes its way forwards through your abdomen where it picks up the iliacus muscle at the front of your pelvis and together they descend into a shared attachment on your femur.

The massive iliopsoas has many attachments, including those at the lumbar spine, the hip and pelvis.
The massive iliopsoas has many attachments, including those at the lumbar spine, the hip and pelvis.

Since we spend so much of our time sitting, the hip flexor is often in a contracted or shortened position, which means, it can become tight without you even realizing. Due to its attachments, when your hip flexor is tight, it can have ramifications not just at the hip, but also in your lower back. Tight hip flexors often manifest in an excessively arched lower back, or flexion through the hips. Over time these postures put stress on the joints and muscles of your lower back and result in pain.

This can be common for those who participate in exercises or sports which cause us to lean forward such as hockey, cycling, tennis or squash as these activities tend to shorten our hip flexors

Hip Flexor Stretch

We often find that a correctly performed hip flexor stretch, is one of the most effective ways to settle low back pain contributed to by a tight hip flexor.

  • Begin by comfortably kneeling on one leg on the floor – place a towel/mat under your knee
  • Ensure you are straight and not twisted through your hips. Tuck your tailbone under to flatten your low back
  • The purpose of this stretch is to lengthen your hip flexor. If you have any excessive arching in your low back, you are effectively shortening your hip flexor because of its attachments to your spine.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. The sensation you feel should be a gentle stretch and not discomfort.

2. Lazy glutes

Your gluteal muscles are collectively one of the most powerful muscle groups in your body… when they work. A common finding in low back pain is overactive and tight quads, hip flexors and/or hamstrings and poorly functioning gluteal muscles. This can put strain on the joints and muscles of your lower back and alter your mechanics resulting in pain. If your quads are on fire after a leg workout and you feel nothing in your buttocks, this one is probably for you!

Why are the glutes lazy? As with all questions regarding the body, it can be for various reasons. Sitting is a huge contributor because it shortens the structures at the front, which re-positions your pelvis and inhibits the proper functioning of your glutes. Over time this results in the glutes becoming lazy and turning off.

Often poor workout technique or imbalance in your workout routine can be to blame. You should ensure that you balance exercises which target the front of your body with those which target the back 1:1.

In terms of technique, if you are finding exercises that are supposed to target your glutes aren’t making you ‘feel the burn’, come and speak to one of our exercise specialists and get some advice on how to make your exercises more targeted.
Some general advice is to avoid over-arching your back and to make sure your weight is in your heels rather than your toes.

Hip Bridge

The hip bridge is an excellent exercise to both open up your hips and also target your glutes and hamstrings. This is one of the most commonly prescribed exercises for low back pain where the gluteal muscles are one of the culprits

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up and feet hip distance apart
  • Breathing in to prepare, on your exhale, press through your heels to evenly lift your buttocks off the ground to make a straight line with your body
  • Ensure that you do not over-arch your lower back to lift your buttocks higher.
    Slowly lower your body and repeat.
    Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions

3. Poor Mobility

Mobility is an essential component of any healthy spine. When one area of your back is tight, it will impact other areas. It’s very common for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting to have poor mobility in their upper and mid-back, which can put excess pressure on the muscles and joints of your lower back, causing pain.

Poor seated posture is a huge contributor to poor spinal mobility. We recommend that desk workers or anyone who spends a lot of time in their car, have an ergonomic assessment done every 12 months at a minimum.

A major predictor of poor spinal mobility is previous low back injury. If you have a history of low back pain, you may be habitually protecting your low back by avoiding movement in that region, which could in fact be contributing to your pain. A lack of movement may be causing over-activity in the muscles of your back (and elsewhere), which can cause them to be tight and sore. It can also cause compensation patterns which can result in problems elsewhere.

Mobility is one of the most important things for a healthy body and we should all be including it as a regular part of our exercise routine. Including a weekly Pilates or yoga session as a regular part of your routine is a wonderful way to get some movement in your body.

Low Spine Twist & Arm Openers

Below are two gentle, easy mobility exercises which target your upper and lower back respectively. They can both be done in bed or on the floor and are an excellent way to start or end your day. We often encourage people to use these as a warm up exercise for sport as a way to gently get your body moving before launching into higher energy movements.

Low Spine Twist

  • Lying on your back, cross one knee over the other.
  • Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, drop your knees towards the side which is crossed over i.e. if you have crossed your left knee over your right, drop to the left hand side.
  • Keep your head, neck and upper body and hands flat to the floor to feel a stretch through your lower back and side.
  • As you inhale, bring your knees back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions before swapping your legs over and performing 10 on the other side.

Arm Openers

  • Begin by lying on your side with your head supported by a pillow. Your knees are bent and your hands are stretched out at shoulder height with hands stacked one on top of the other
  • Ensure your shoulders are relaxed
  • Take a deep breath and as you exhale, float your top arm up and keeping the elbow straight, rotate through your rib cage to reach out to the opposite side
  • Allow your eyes to follow your hand to feel a gentle stretch through your rib cage and upper-mid back.
  • Remain in the stretch for a breath, before returning on the following inhalation. Repeat for 10 repetitions before swapping sides and starting again.

Conclusion

Any back pain is often a multi-faceted and complicated issue. Rarely is there one single cause and every person will have a different cause and different needs, however, we do know that mobility in your spine and equality in your movements are two of the things which reduce the re-occurrence and incidence of low back pain.

* If you feel any pain while performing these exercises, you should stop immediately and seek the opinion of a medical professional.

Victoria Chambers is an Australian trained osteopathic manual practitioner who is currently completing her certification in applied functional science and has previous dry needling qualifications. Victoria believes in empowering her clients to take their health in their own hands by giving them the tools to manage and prevent injury through effective education, hands on treatment and rehabilitation.

Osteopathy is a holistic, hands-on approach to healthcare which addresses the whole body’s needs to aid in pain, injury management and prevention. Osteopathy recognizes the important link between the structure of the body and the way in which it functions.
Your Osteopathic practitioner will utilize a variety of hands on techniques, alongside exercise prescription and education to work with you to achieve your health goals.
At Ace Sports Clinic we also collaborate as a team with our other expert health professionals towards the optimal well-being of our clients.
Call us today on 416 792 4223 to experience “The Ace Difference”