Fitness Guru- How to build muscle and lose fat at the same time

The best way to keep your fat cells a healthy normal size is to do a resistance training program at least three times a week.

Like it not, we’re stuck with 25-35 billion fat cells, for life. Our immune system breaks down around 10% of fat cells every year, but otherwise all our fat cells are busy expanding and shrinking in size during weight gain and loss. We need fat, as without it, we would freeze. Fat cells are also our fuel tanks, holding on to fatty molecules called lipids, and releasing them as a source of energy for the body. Fat also cushions our vital organs, stores crucial supplies of certain vitamins, and helps us have a functioning immune system. 

If you struggle with fat, turning to “gut-busting” diets and fat-burning supplements won’t “burn” fat. Fat cells don’t go away, as they are stored properly in fat cell layers under the skin. Where they are not intended to be is around organs, like the kidneys or heart, or even inside organs.

The best way to keep your fat cells a healthy normal size, and your body weight under control, is to do a resistance training program at least three times a week. Building more skeletal muscle mass and losing fat mass is one of the main reasons athletes and avid exercisers lift weights.

Within a resistance-training program, intensities, volume, and exercise selection all stimulate muscle growth. Your baseline body composition also factors in to the rate of muscle gain and fat loss.

In the first few weeks of training, newcomers to weight lifting see changes and definition in their biceps and butts. New research shows that trained individuals, not just beginners, can continue to build muscle and lose fat at the same time with two key factors: progressive resistance training and evidence-based nutrition strategies.

Mix it up

Recent studies published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal show that trained individuals can get stronger whether you train two days a week or four. In another study, there was no difference in training frequency of three times a week versus six times a week. Using a volume matched power-lifting program, both groups similarly gained a significant amount of fat-free mass and lost fat mass. It was noted that participants didn’t alter their normal nutrition habits for these particular studies.

A little more protein

Typically, to improve athletic performance it’s common practice to eat less for fat loss, and eat more to maximize muscle mass. But studies show that your post workout snack could be key to improve body composition. The authors of the resistance training studies found that approximately 70% of the subjects improved their body composition with a high-protein diet.

In one study, female collegiate volleyball players, all receiving guidance from a sports nutrition/registered dietician, added 25 grams of whey protein immediately after each power-oriented, full-body workout or a strength workout. Whether working to maximize power output, or participating in workouts specifically for strength, all athletes in each group gained muscle and lost fat. Although approaches to diet can vary with each person, the authors noted that a moderate protein intake and a more balanced nutritional approach came out at the top of the list to keep those fat cells where they need to be, no more, no less.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBBM-CES) Follow her at www.conniearonosn.com and Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-how-to-build-muscle-and-lose-fat-at-the-same-time/article_bf38694e-27a4-11ec-8266-b7268e71e762.html

How to use the lat-pull machine for a stronger back

There’s one stellar piece of equipment in almost every gym, hotel, or community center that you don’t want to miss, and that is the lat pull-down machine. Often overlooked or misused, the lat pull-down—used correctly—can make your back stronger, build arm and shoulder strength, improve posture and stabilize the spine.

The latissimus dorsi, commonly known as “lats,” is the large muscle that extends across your back, shaped like a triangle: wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Marvel at the wide shoulders of Tokyo 2021 Olympic champions Lydia Jacoby and Caelib Dressel, and you’ll know why they are sometimes called the swimmer’s muscle.

The lats attach to the spine and pelvis and insert into the top of the arm. The lats work together with the pectoral muscles to control the movement of the arms, as they swing forward when walking, running, throwing or swimming.

The strength and structure of the lats allow you to pull or reach: casting a fishing line, pulling a rope, hoisting the body on parallel bars or placing a big vase on a top shelf.

Additionally, the broad lat muscles depress the shoulder girdle, and stabilize the lower thoracic and low back, important pillars of good posture. If you always slouch, the lats can become chronically shortened, limiting arm and shoulder movement. Typically, this results in internally rotated arms, evident when the thumbs are turned inward, rather than facing forward, when your arms are by your sides. No wonder you were always told to keep your shoulders back!

Traditional pull-ups, chin-ups, and bent-over rows are all great back exercises, but don’t miss out on a highly effective tool, the lat pull-down machine.

      Good Practices

  • Once you check your seat height, grasp the bar with both hands, shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly sit back down and keep your feet on the floor.
  • Brace the core and lean back slightly as you pull the bar to chest level, contracting your shoulder blades down.
  • Keep your chest up, neck in a neutral position, and pull your elbows towards the floor.

      Common mistakes

  • Lifting up off the seat because the weight’s too heavy. Unless you are a power lifter, needing that extra effort, a good rule of thumb is that the limbs should never be stronger than the core.
  • Not bringing the elbows down far enough, missing out on hitting the entire back musculature.
  • Returning the bar too quickly, and not maintaining shoulder and lat contraction. The lengthening phase of an exercise, called eccentric, is where you can gain strength. Make sure you keep tension on the bar going all the way back up until your arms are fully lengthened.
  • Pulling the bar behind your neck. Jutting your head forward to pull the bar behind your head can be damaging to the anterior capsule of the glenohumeral joint. Along with wearing your shoulders out, excessive stress is placed on the cervical spine. In addition, pulling the bar down to the base of your neck can cause muscular tightness in several large neck muscles. The levator scapulae, for example, assists in extension of the neck, and heavy loads places strain on this important neck muscle. Equally important, protruding the head forward is a common musculoskeletal imbalance, as it promotes forward head posture. Instead, practice good body mechanics with a neutral cervical spine posture.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_442ece8c-fbad-11eb-8ada-7f7bd322ee30.html

Fix your low back pain with better body mechanics

Too much sitting is hard on our bodies and can add to the prevalence of low back pain. Twenty-six bones make up the spinal column with three gentle curves from top to bottom. For many with low back pain, the cumulative effects of constant or repeated small stresses over time, like sitting, result in back pain. Too much sitting, combined with faulty posture, can flatten these curves over time. The spine is designed to function best as a weight-bearing structure, with the lumbar curve in a neutral position. Sitting rounded, or slumped in a seat, multiplies damaging pressure on lower back discs and soft tissues. Another concern is that prolonged sitting chronically shortens the hip flexors. Once again, too much sitting, prevalent in our modern age, has other drawbacks and can cause secondary health concerns, such as high blood pressure and increased risk for diseases like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disorders.

The good news is that low back pain can dissipate. Body composition, strength of the core musculature and faulty movement patterns are all potential cause of low back pain. Most back pain is easy to reverse; the secret is addressing common musculature imbalances. Too much sway or arch in the lower back, too much bending, weak or overstretched muscles, or poor posture are contributing factors that can be corrected to ensure a healthy back.

If you are in pain, but not dealing with diagnosed or undiagnosed medical issues, nerve impingement, or traumatic injury, you fall into the category of mechanical low-back pain.

Faulty Movement Patterns

The easiest way to fix your own pain is to correct faulty body mechanics. We know we shouldn’t bend wrong, but we do. We bend over wrong picking up laundry, petting the dog, making the bed, or looking at a phone. We work over our desks, drive and ride bent forward every day. Look around the gym and it’s a minefield of bent backs. You’ll see people lifting weights bent over, and bend over wrong to place them back on racks.

Integrated Core

The spine is at its strongest, most resilient and most supported position when it is in a state of muscular and skeletal balance, and in a neutral position.

The abdominal brace is an important way to use the core to find neutral position. Bracing, says Dr. Stuart McGill, a leading spine researcher, is a different concept than that of simply holding in your stomach, or “pulling your belly to your spine.” Rather, it’s mild contraction of the abdominal muscles, as though you are preparing for a punch in the mid-section. In his book “Back Mechanic,” he asks his back patients to gradually adjust the amount of contraction to find the optimal stiffness, much like how a dimmer switch gradually adjusts light in a room. Whether you are sitting, walking, or are a high-performance athlete, all movement is orchestrated from this fine-tuned control of the core.

Next time you pick up a package, try to brace your core, hip hinge, and use your gluteus muscles, which help extend the hips to assist in standing up, sparing the lower back from over-use.

Self-Test

Here’s a simple test to see if you have neutral spine alignment, or back sway. Stand barefoot with your back to the wall, with heels, butt and shoulders against the wall. Then try to place one hand, palm down, behind your lower back. If the space is up to and in-line with your second knuckle, you have neutral pelvis. Normally the pelvis is rotated approximately 10 degrees. But if the space is large enough for your whole hand, you have a deviation, an anterior tilt of the pelvis called lumbar lordosis. Tilt the pelvis posteriorly by bringing the front of your waistband up to learn neutral, engaging the core.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Movement Specialist (TBBM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and

Instagram @conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9e3c776e-e5b7-11eb-a0ba-5730f013cbf7.html

Three exercises to keep your shoulders healthy

Fitness guru

All -star pitcher Pedro Martinez was one of the lucky players to return to the major leagues after a complete rotator cuff tear, typically a season-ending injury. The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Over time, damage to the rotator cuff can become significant because of the stress placed on these structures.

You don’t have to be a world-class pitcher to have shoulder problems. Ideally, we want our shoulders open and back. The shoulder girdle is unique in that it has few joints, but many muscles that attach to the upper back, as well as the chest and arms. The upper back region is important in shoulder health, as the lower trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles stabilize and retract the shoulder blades.

To understand how the upper back coordinates with the shoulder, notice if you raise your shoulder when moving your arm. Notice if you tighten or raise your shoulders to turn your head to look over your shoulder when driving.

Professional baseball players have to manipulate their bodies in an incredibly complicated way to throw at astounding speeds. On the mound, pitchers have to work with asymmetries in the body, using one side of the body for many, many repetitions. Their training must involve unwinding the damage caused by this imbalance and make both sides of the body function well. For the rest of us, at play and during the day, we can train and be aware of symmetry in our upper backs and shoulders.

Her are three exercises for proper functioning of the upper back and shoulders.

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W Stretch || Photos by Connie Aronson

1.    W Stretch. Stand up, with your core engaged. Pull the shoulders down and back. Externally rotate and fully extend the arms. You should feel it in the chest and front of the shoulder. The W stretch strengthens the rhomboids, traps and external rotators of the shoulder and arm. Hold 20-30 seconds, 2-3 times per day.

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2.    A’s on the ball. Lie on your chest on a ball, legs straight with feet firmly on the floor. The arms are straight and close to the body, resembling the letter “A.” Raise and lower the arms, externally rotating the arms from the shoulder so that the thumbs point out and up. Throughout the exercise, keep shoulder blades down and back, chin gently pushed back. Ten reps.

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3.    T’s on the ball. Lie on your chest on a ball, legs straight with feet firmly on the floor. Raise the arms to form a T position, palms down, then lower arms. Throughout the exercise, keep shoulder blades down and back, chin gently pushed back. Ten reps.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.comand Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9606c44c-cfae-11eb-8de5-cbf3271af76c.html

21-06-18 Weekender Fitness 1@.jpg
Photos by Connie Aronson

Fix your pain with self-myofascial release

Tennis ball rolling can improve flexibility and restore movement function

If you feel sore and stiff, you might want to consider foam or ball rolling. Whether you’ve skied too hard, or overdone any activity, you can fix your post-exercise pain with a technique called self-myofascial release. Rolling can improve flexibility, restore movement function and help with delayed onset muscle soreness. The technique also relaxes stored tension in the muscle and releases endorphins to help reduce pain.

Combining rolling an area of muscle with an immediate stretch for that particular muscle is the best strategy for fixing tight, sore muscles. Research shows a greater improvement in joint range of motion compared to stretching or foam rolling alone.

It may sound technical, but self-myofascial release is really a simple concept. Myofascial refers to muscles and fascia; the prefix myo means “muscle.” Self-myofascial release is basically massage, where external pressure is applied to sensitive areas in the muscle, which are either tight, inflexible, knotted or contain scar tissue. The sustained pressure stimulates circulation to the area and increases flexibility.

There’s a reason muscles feel tired and tight either from doing too much or doing too little exercise. The benefits of exercise are myriad, but there is a downside of repeated loads on the body: microscopic damage in muscle and fascia. That typically results in sore or tight muscles, or diminished movement quality. Massage and trigger point therapies by clinicians can help, but you can also fix your own pain at home with a roller or balls.

There are two kinds of self -myofascial release techniques: general and specific. General involves using a foam roller for larger muscles, such as the front thighs. More specific would mean working on your calf or foot, where tennis balls, golf balls, baseballs, or other massage tools can pinpoint a precise area of muscle. The specificity of using a tennis ball is also practical if you’re traveling and can’t take a foam roller along with you.

Rolling and athletic performance

The influence of rolling on athletic performance remains unclear. A review of nine studies reported no change in vertical jumps or multi-directional sprints. In another study of 24 athletes published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, joint range of motion increased but power and agility declined after five minutes of rolling. For pre-event warm-ups, the recommendations are not to roll for more than a minute to prevent power loss.

How to roll

For the rest of us, at present there is little concern regarding how long you roll. Research suggests five seconds to three minutes, or three sets of thirty seconds on each area in need. Once you find an area in the muscle that’s restricted and tight, take your time to explore the tight spots with either a roller or a ball. Try to relax to allow the hormones to release into your body to encourage further relaxation.

Watch the link for an example of neck myofascial release combined with a neck stretch at

vimeo.com/516004574.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/community/fitness-guru/article_ac72a5dc-77bd-11eb-8267-ebbc34eee6d4.html

Work ( out ) from home

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Try this new six-move fitness routine to break your pandemic rut

One way to feel better is to get back on a routine. The best approach to longevity, vitality and independence is through consistent exercise.

Did you ever imagine living through a pan- demic? More than ever, we’re all chal- lenged to be resilient. For many of us, our routines are shot and the new normal is still unfolding. One way to feel better is to get back on a routine. The best approach to longevity, vitality and independence is through consistent exercise.W

The human body has more than 635 muscles, 206 bones and 360 joints—an incredible wonder. Now is a good day to start taking good care of that wonder.

Here’s your arsenal, a creative, effective home program to help you get started or relight your pas- sion for a routine. Keep it short and sweet by pick- ing a few key muscle strengthening and flexibility/ mobility exercises. The following six moves use simple home exercise equipment: free weights or a milk jug, a golf ball and resistance bands. You can do the routine while catching up with the news or a show. Try to do each exercise for one minute and repeat the circuit twice.

1. Golf ball roll

Massage your feet with the golf ball roll to reju- venate the plantar fascia on the underside of your foot. All the muscles of the lower leg attach on the bottom of your foot. This connective tissue can get irritated and sore if you tend to continually stand with your feet falling inward, or after a summer of wearing flip-flops. Also, if your ankles don’t bend easily in a squat, this self-myofascial release exercise will help.



Place a golf ball under each foot and roll it back and forth until you hit a sore spot. Don’t overdo it, but increase pressure on that particular spot until it feels better. If a golf ball is too uncomfortable, use a tennis ball instead.

One minute each foot, preferably daily.

2. Step back with arm reach

Stretching your calf right after golf ball rolling helps immensely, as you’ll feel this stretch all the way up the back of your leg. This big bang-for-your- buck stretch targets the calf muscles, the hip flexors and the whole front body.


Start with your feet hip width apart and take a normal-size step back with the right leg. Simulta- neously fully extend the right arm up. Be sure the feet are placed straight forward. Keep your inner arches lifted and press down through your heel. Do three to four times and repeat on the left side.


Strengthen all your leg muscles with this move. Lean back against a wall, knees slightly bent. Pick up your left leg and cross it over your right knee. Try not to laterally shift your hips more than an inch or two. Slide down until your knees are level with your hips. Extend your arms and hold posi- tion for as long as you can. Build up to one minute. Switch legs.

4. One-minute clamshell

This is a time-tested favorite of clients who want the best butt exercises. The one-minute clamshell focuses on the gluteus maximus, an external rota- tor of the hips. This big muscle also pushes the hip forward. The glute maximus attaches to your lower leg via the IT band. When working properly, these muscles help to slow down pronation and internal leg rotation. In other words, if your butt muscles are weak, your knees will typically fall inward.

Place a mini-band above your knees. Lie down on your side, with knees bent and feet stacked on each other. Lift the top knee up, like an open clamshell, until there is tension on the band. Keep tension on the band for one minute. Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Minimize any spine or pelvic motion through strong abdominal bracing.

5. Single leg bridge with extension

This is an important exercise for the lumbo-pel- vic hip area, the core. There are 29 muscles attached to this area and keeping your core strong is essen- tial for a strong and stable spine.

Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent. Feet are flat on the floor. Relax your arms by your side.
O

Simultaneously tighten the glutes and brace the core. Smoothly raise the hips off the floor until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Extend one leg out at knee height. Lift and lower the extended leg up towards the ceiling and back to knee height 10 times.

Tips: Focus on a powerful glute contraction. Keep the load on your shoulders, not your neck. Try not to rotate through the hips.

If you can’t fully extend in the bridge position, it could mean the hip flexors are tight. (Go back to move No. 2.)

6. Half kneeling halo

You can make a standing core exercise more effective by dropping to a kneeling position. When you kneel, you have to engage your core to keep balanced, as your knees can’t grip the ground in the same way your feet can when standing. Plus, by driving the back foot into the ground, you recruit more glute muscles. The half kneeling halo also allows for another great hip flexor stretch, interwoven into a great core and shoulder move.

Start in a kneeling position with a weight or milk jug in front of your chest, elbows pointed to the floor. Brace the core, and “trace” or halo the weight around the head. Keep the weight very close to your head. The weight makes a full revolution and ends directly in front of the chest, elbows pointing to the floor. Immediately repeat in the oppo- site direction.

Tip: A common mistake is for the weight to complete the halo, but not the elbows. Make sure the arms and elbows return to the start position. Keep the chin tucked. R

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Cor- rective Exercise Specialist. Follow her at www.conniearonson.com and on Instagram @conniearon.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express- Remote Living: A guide to the new normal October 7, 2020

Can you really spot-reduce belly fat?

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Wouldn't it be nice if you simply get rid of belly-fat with a few crunches and ab work?
In reality, it takes a host of healthy habits to get a flat belly.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply get rid of your belly fat with a few crunches and ab work? After all, wouldn’t all that hard work melt the fat away if you really put your heart into it?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting a quick fix, but in reality, it takes a host of healthy habits to successfully manage outcomes like a flat belly. A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigating the effect of six weeks of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat showed that exercise alone didn’t change waistline stubborn fat, or other measures of body composition. Nevertheless, core-conditioning exercises build important strength and endurance of these muscles.

It’s well known that obesity has significantly increased in most industrialized nations over the past 20 years, and abdominal fat is linked to various diseases such as heart disease and type two diabetes. The increased levels of deep visceral fat can lead to metabolic complications such as insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and high cholesterol levels.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study questioned whether or not abdominal exercises alone support the notion of “spot reduction.” Do they affect abdominal fat, waist circumference and abdominal strength? Twenty-four sedentary young, majority male (58 percent) participants were randomly assigned to an abdominal exercise group or a control group. The exercise group performed seven abdominal exercises, each with two sets of 10 repetitions, five days a week, for six weeks. For these participants, including a five-minute warm-up on a treadmill, the total exercise session time was approximately 15 minutes.

The control group maintained their normal activities and diet.

During the first week, all participants were monitored so that proper exercise form could be taught and subsequently logged. The exercises were Bent Knee Sit-Up, Lateral Trunk Flexion, Leg Lifts, Oblique Crunch, Stability Ball Crunch, and Abdominal Crunch.

The exercise group had significant improvements in abdominal muscle endurance, proving that strength increases with resistance training exercise. However, from an energy balance perspective, it’s not likely that a 15-minute exercise protocol for the ab muscles would create a sufficient energy deficit to change body fat percentage and abdominal fat percentage. Though this study was small, it is a good reminder that infomercials claiming flat abs in five or 15 minutes a day is wishful thinking.

What can help is regular exercise and progressive resistance training to reduce not only belly fat, but overall health as well. A 2016 study found that losing as little as 5 percent of body weight improved fat tissue, liver and muscle insulin sensitivity. Research shows that this approach—a moderate one, up to a 10 percent weight loss—can lead to better long-term outcomes. While societal pressure to be thin unfortunately overemphasizes weight loss, a realistic goal should focus on habits you can control, including physical activity, nutrition, sleep and stress management, as opposed to a magical spot reducing program.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_42769d42-ee2d-11ea-94b1-6bbf8d6f54cd.html


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

The best way to target the glutes

Strength training has a myriad of benefits, from increased bone mineral density and lean body mass production, improved HDL (the good cholesterol) and improvements in functional ability in older men and women.


  • by Connie Aronson
  • July 10, 2020

Don’t think that this summer you can get away without doing any strength training for your legs. Sure, you’re out hiking and on the trails, and that kind of activity is important for your health. However, you need lower body exercises to keep your hips, spine and knee joints stable and strong. Strength training has a myriad of benefits, from increased bone mineral density and lean body mass production, improved HDL (the good cholesterol) and improvements in functional ability in older men and women. This month we’re going to focus on a great butt exercise you can do at home. In real life, the glutes, or gluteus maximus, need to be strong so you can move better. The glutes are a big muscle, originating at the tail bone and extending into the connective tissue in your lower back. The glutes attach to the lower leg via the IT band, a dense strip of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh.

The glutes—your butt—not only play an important role in the health of the lumbo-pelvic hip region, but also have great influence on movements of the legs and knees.

The derriere is a specific muscle in the gait cycle that works in a bungee-cord manner with other muscles in the legs. When you are walking, part of your gait cycle involves your leg swinging forward and your foot hitting the ground. It is natural for the leg to rotate inward first, in your stride. This motion sets off important tension in the gluteus maximus. Its role is to slow down the internal rotation of your leg. If your glute muscles are weak, your knee often collapses inward too much, putting unwanted stress on the knee.

To understand how the gluteus maximus works in real life, bend down and pick a wildflower. Try this a second time, but bend your knees more and more to feel how the glutes have to work. Next, sit down in a chair. When you sit down in a chair, notice how the glutes lengthen under the tension to slow your hips down as you sit. Another example of how the glutes work in real life is to step over an imaginary puddle, and notice how the glutes help extend your hip, lifting it, so you clear the puddle and don’t soak your shoe. Aside from moving well in daily living, a strong derriere enhances your athletic performance, be it running, Pickleball or whatever activity you love.


Gluteal activation over ball

If you don’t have one, it’s worth buying or borrowing a stability ball for this exercise. Not only are they fun to train with, but using a ball in this particular exercise helps you feel neutral spine, so you do it right. This exercise targets the gluteus maximus, as well as the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and the hip rotator muscles.

  • Lie over a stability ball. You should be on the apex on the ball, hands on the ground. Keep your neck relaxed and eyes looking downward.
  • Rest one foot on the ground. Tuck your tailbone under by tilting your pelvis. This will help you stabilize the body.
  • Lift your right leg slightly off the ground.
  • Rotate your right leg slightly outward, keeping it straight. Flex your foot.
  • Lift and lower your leg 10-15 reps.
  • Repeat on the left side.
  • Tips: Don’t arch your back. Don’t bend your knee or rock your hips to one side.

To see and share this exercise, click on vimeo.com/436311024.

As seen in

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_beb4ed2c-c223-11ea-92da-9703b9e79eac.html


Connie Aronson is a corrective exercise specialist and ACSM exercise physiologist at the Wood River YMCA. Check out conniearonson.comand follow her on Instagram @conniearon.

Sore neck? 2 quick fixes for forward head

If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, you can learn how to fix this common musculoskeletal imbalance.


  • by CONNIE ARONSON

If you feel like you have the weight of the world on your head right now, it could be time to change that situation. If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, muscular neck and head pain could be the culprit. It’s very possible that headaches, jaw pain or grinding noises in the jaw could be the result of your forward head. When you have a forward head position, your body’s center of gravity shifts forward and increases the weight of your head in relation to the body. Your head effectively weighs almost as much as two bowling bowls, if it is only 2 inches forward and out of alignment with your upper back.

Imagine the head as round as a ball perched on top of the spine. In real life, the head rests on the most mobile part of the spine, the neck. Because of the small base it sits on, the head becomes more like a large ball sitting precariously on a seal’s nose. The numerous neck muscles that hold your head up all work together to keep your head sitting correctly on top of your shoulders, whether you’re riding a bike, doing crunches, walking or running. However, if you are constantly looking down at your phone, or watching a lot of television, the front neck muscles become weak from being continually stretched forward. When you align the head in an optimal anatomical position, you align the entire upper back, shoulder girdle and ribcage.

There are two common muscle imbalances in the head and neck. One is your head being too far forward, (forward head) and the second one is excessive cervical lordosis, when the muscles in the back of the neck are chronically shortened. For example, suppose you are watching a great movie on a big screen, and you sit slouching, looking up. Sitting like this causes the position of your neck to arch backward to keep your eyes on the show. This position of holding your head up, with your eyes looking up, is a deviation. You’re slumped. When you later try to correct your posture by tucking your chin, those very muscles and fascia on the back of your neck can feel painful or irritated.

Quick fix: How to tell if your head is too far forward

Here is a quick and easy assessment to see if you have forward head. You can also do this alignment check at any time during the day to see if you are practicing good head carriage and posture.

  • Sit on the edge of a chair. With your index finger, find the part of your cheekbone that protrudes outward most, just below your eye. Gently place your index finger there.
  • With an imaginary line, place your other index finger directly below your top finger, on your collarbone. They should be vertically aligned.
  • If the end of the finger on your cheekbone is ahead, your head is too far forward

Tennis ball rejuvenation

A tennis ball is a great inexpensive tool to help you loosen up tight sore muscles. Lying down, place a tennis ball on one side of your neck, and move around a little to find a sore spot. Once there, try to breath and relax on that particular spot. Do for one minute, every day, on each side of the neck. Click on video to see the exercises: vimeo.com/manage/427520367/general.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_2a3367a6-ac2e-11ea-b3ee-d73273a6435f.html

Your feet-why they need extra care

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this.

During this overwhelming pandemic, walking is like a lifeline. People are walking more than ever. You can use this time to improve your alignment and movement skills, starting with your feet.

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this. Your feet have 52 bones and over 100 ligaments, with 40 muscles and tendons connecting the muscles to these bones. They all form the foundation of the human body. Having healthy feet and ankles means that they can keep your body balanced and can withstand the pressure of standing and moving. That pressure needs to be evenly distributed throughout the lower legs all the way up to the head.  

The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. When you walk, the pressure on your feet increases by 50 percent, and increases even more during an hour of strenuous exercise, cushioning up to one million pounds of pressure. If the feet and ankles are not functioning optimally, it could create some problems through the entire muscular system.

Other areas of the body will be affected as they shift further out of alignment to try to maintain balance.

Our gait affects the whole body, from the moment your heel hits the ground and your weight is transferred through a system of arches that displace forces. The muscles of your feet and lower leg react as our arches drop and roll with gait. The feet and ankle also must know how to adapt to changes in surfaces, like steps or uneven terrain. If your ankles don’t bend, for example, or your knees roll inward, called pronation, not only is your walking gait off kilter, but the knees, hips, lower and upper back can be affected because of musculoskeletal imbalances.

  1. How do they look?

Take a moment to look at your feet. Notice if your big toes have bunions or calluses, or if that toe has moved towards the other toes, rather than pointing straight ahead. Are your lesser toes curled up and flexed?These conditions are called hammer, claw or mallet toes. Are your arches collapsed? Are your feet turned outward as you stand? All of these checkpoints affect the position of the knee, so you can begin to understand the importance of distributing your weight evenly through your feet.

2. Golf and tennis ball roll.

Give your feet a home massage by rolling a golf ball under your foot for a few minutes every day. This exercise helps rejuvenate the plantar fascia, a broad dense tissue on the underside of your foot, where the muscles of you lower leg attach.

Place a golf ball under your foot, and roll the ball back and forth, until you feel tender or sore spots. Pause on the sore spots, until you feel the sore spot release. If the golf ball is too painful, use a tennis ball. You can also add an active stretch by pulling your toes up while rolling.

Do this myofascia release exercise as you sit watching TV, or by your bed to do first thing in the morning.

3. Toe Stretch.

After you golf or tennis ball roll, stretch the underside of your foot to increase the flexibility of your toes and ankle. Stand barefoot, one foot forward, with your toes pushed up against the wall. Keep the ball of your foot and base of the toes in contact with the floor. Slowly lean in, moving the knee inward. Hold for 10-15 seconds, and repeat.

Take at look at the exercises at

https://vimeo.com/user77012133/review/415371796/a971589693

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_10c8774a-90b1-11ea-8d1c-3b262b6c1d24.html