Blog Archives

Breathing: more than just keeping you alive

Breathe
There are a lot of systems that function subconsciously in your body that you likely take for granted and very rarely, if ever think about; among the most important of these is breathing.  It is an amazing physiological process that allows you to draw oxygen from the air and filter it into your blood stream to keep you alive.  Your brain and spinal cord automatically just do it for you.  You breathe faster when you run and slower when you sleep; it’s a great deal, your body just figures it out how much oxygen you need and alters your breathing rate for you.  The drawback of not being an active participant in your breathing pattern is that you can lose touch with what is ‘normal’ for your body and be unaware of how things like pain, stress and posture are affecting you.

A basic understanding of the biomechanics of breathing and posture will help you understand what I mean.  Your ribcage and thoracic spine are the structural foundation of your torso. The rigidity of it protects your organs and supports your shoulders and neck, while the mobility of it helps you breathe, twist and move.  Your lungs line the inside of your ribcage.  In order for you to draw air into them, your ribcage needs to expand slightly and your diaphragm needs to contract and pull down; this will create a negative pressure and air will be pulled in.  The elastic recoil of your ribcage and diaphragm passively push the air out to complete the breathing cycle.  This keeps you alive.

The diaphragm

There is a difference between being alive and breathing well.  Just because you can breathe, does not mean you are doing a good job at it.  Just because you can stand, doesn’t mean you have good posture.  Just because you can walk, doesn’t mean you are using your body properly. 

Read More
Posted in Blog, Fitness, Mid Backs, Posture Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
4 Comments ↓

The Deep Inner Unit: "light core"

Your deep inner unit consists of four muscle groups that should work subconsciously to stabilize your pelvis, spine and ribcage under low load postures and movements like standing, bending and walking.  Accidents, injuries and developed muscle imbalances can cause portions of the deep inner unit to not do their job properly; the result can be pain and/or compensation from other muscle groups to try and brace to hold everything together.  Some of your other stronger muscles can make up for the deep inner unit, but this usually leads to too much compression on the joints and immobility in the area.  You function best when your body can use the little muscles to do light stuff and the bigger muscles to do harder stuff.  You can get away with purely building strength in your outer sling muscles, but you will be prone to breaking down more often if the little guys aren’t firing.

The four muscle groups are your pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, multifidus and diaphragm.  They form the bottom, front, back and top of your abdominal and pelvic cavity.  Recruitment of these muscles is more about thinking than doing.  They provide gentle compression to stabilize so your bigger muscles can move you.  I don’t like to re-invent the wheel so the best resource to learn about recruitment of these muscles can be found on Diane Lee’s website here: Training the deep muscles of the core

Although becoming aware of these muscles and consciously training them can be very important, they are supposed to act subconsciously and if you align your body in the proper way they will likely fire on their own.  I find it is the compensation strategies people choose in their posture that are inhibiting these deep inner unit muscles and that helping a person unlearn bracing strategies helps to fire up the deep inner unit more than trying to focus on them alone.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Fitness, Low Backs, Pain Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments ↓

What is my core? Depends who you ask

The word core has been very popular for quite a while now in the health, fitness and rehab worlds, but there isn’t really a true agreement as to what it actually means; it really depends on who you talk to.  If you ask physiotherapists, most will focus on the deep, subtle, picky muscles like your transverse abdominus.  If you ask strength and conditioning coaches, most will strive to build bracing stability using the obliques.  If you ask a Pilates instructor, most will focus on breathing and dissociation of movement.  Finally if you ask a lay person, most will just pat their stomach and say ‘I know I need to work on my core,’ without really knowing why.

You can watch the associated video at the end of this article.

So who’s right and who’s wrong?  The answer is you should be able to selectively use your body for whatever task you ask it to do.  The picky little muscles should work subconsciously while you stand, sit, walk and breathe.  The bracing muscles should work when you pick up or push something heavy and you should be able to bend, twist and stretch if you choose.  The people that are wrong are the ones that think their method is the only and best thing for everyone.  Typically the personal trainers need to be introduced to the Pilates instructors and the Pilates instructors need to do some personal training.  Most people have a need to work on something, but it is a misconception that building more strength and stability is always the best option.

Some people are naturally strong and stiff as a board while others are loose jointed with low muscle tone.  The first and best thing you can do for yourself before you attempt to do more of anything physically is to learn about your body type and learn what type of exercise would give you the most benefit.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Fitness, Low Backs, Posture Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
No Comments ↓

How to Sit: The Plight of the Desk Jockey

Who taught you how to sit?  I’m guessing nobody, you probably just figured out how to do it by trial and error when you were a baby.  You learned how to stay upright and eventually not fall over while resting on your butt; that was a major milestone when you were 8 months old, but you haven’t been given much credit for it later in life, have you?  Unfortunately, it’s later in life that you are going to need to be good at it, because chances are you are going to be spending multiple hours a day staring at a computer screen.  It is time you learned how to sit properly.


*Movements and postures demonstrated well in the video at the end of this post

Our bodies are built to deal with the vertical load of gravity, but at the same time are inherently lazy when it comes to holding everything up properly.  We have a tendency to get engrossed in what is visually in front of us with little regard to how we have positioned our bodies to allow our eyes to see what we want to see.  Your brain has a head righting reflex that tries to keep your head looking straight forward in the easiest way possible; unfortunately this usually comes at the expense of your neck and back.

The goal of sitting properly is to effectively vertically stack your torso and head on top of your pelvis and hips in a nice gentle S-curve.  The odds of you doing this properly are stacked against you for a few reasons.  First, most people have one, two or three of the following: forward head posture, an overly braced lower torso, and/or really flexible or really stiff hips.   Second, most chairs are not designed very ergonomically and promote slouching more than support.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Posture Tagged with: , , , , ,
6 Comments ↓

How to Stand: Postural Pulp Fiction

The goal of standing is to vertically stack your spine with a gentle S-curve from your tail bone up to the base your skull.  If you look at your side profile, you should be able to draw a straight line down from your earlobe, through your shoulder, the mid line of your torso, your hip, knee and ankle.

This is my Pulp Fiction video/post (the video captures the movements you need to learn).  I am showing you the ending first, so you know what you are working towards.  You may find yourself coming back to this frequently and will progressively find it easier and easier to accomplish.  To start with, standing the way I am describing may feel weird and be really hard, but will look a lot more normal than it feels.  It will challenge everything you are bad at and your brain’s perception of what is vertical.  A mirror to look at your side profile can be an important tool to help you see what I am showing you, but you need to learn to progressively feel it instead of having to see it.

Step 1 is to learn to use your diaphragm to support your torso upward and stop leaning backwards.  Imagine there are two half balloons inside the lower part of your ribcage that you can inflate by taking a deep breath into your lower back ribs.  This should lengthen and stretch the lower part of your thoracic spine.  It may also feel like it tips you forward.  This is the part of your back that was accommodating your neck, but we are going to try and stop that.  If you look in the mirror, you will likely see that it is your head that is forward and that your trunk is now actually quite vertical instead of tipped backward.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Posture Tagged with: , , , , , ,
2 Comments ↓

Follow Me!

Instagram125
Facebook1k
Facebook
YouTube406
YouTube
RSS

Subscribe to the Movement School

Update Me! Get notified when Brent writes a new post

*No Junk! I promise! Boo Junk!