Tag Archives: Physics Lessons

ACL Pre/Post Surgery Knee Exercises

Torn ACLs and knee injuries are surprisingly common, and a prime example of how muscular imbalances create wear on the joints. Proper awareness, balance, and strength training are key to preventing and rehabbing any and all injuries… knees included.

For a knee injury, it is important to build the entire leg: maintain quad strength, build stronger hamstrings, and focus on balanced strength in the hips. Pay attention to proper traction and alignment of the ankle, knee and hip as you exercise – in other words, make sure everything is lining up. You can easily do a movement, but without proper alignment of the joints, muscular imbalances can be created, resulting in continued strain.   The best way to build overall strength and better alignment is to incorporate some form of balance into your exercises. Balancing coerces lesser developed muscles to engage, as well as to kick in a little core support.

Your doctor or PT will probably gave you some similar movements, like squats, leg presses, and lunges, but my recommendation would be to try to incorporate an element of balance with each:

Wall Squats with a balance ball behind the back – Angle out the legs and work your way to bringing them under your hips. Pay attention that the knee lines up with the center of your foot. Don’t let the knees extend into flexion past the toes, or a 90 degree angle. Hold the squat for 30 seconds.

Single leg wall squats – This is a challenge. Be careful with these.


Standing on one foot Hip hikes
– Using a yoga block, encourage balance work on the standing leg. allow the opposing leg to tap the floor and lift up. Works the hips and standing leg stability.


Balance on one foot
– Balance on an upside down bosu ball, foam roller, or a wobble board at the gym
Practice balance on this for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time.


Lunges with bosu ball – You can flip the bosu either way.  Arm movements are optional.  Here’s an alternative with the Bosu Ball flipped.

Swimming over balance ball – Lying over the ball. Core is centered. Opposing hand and leg lift, other two remain in contact with the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds each. Keep both arm and leg completely straight, hold and balance. Switch.

Hamstring curl, pelvic lift series on balance ball or bosu ball – Lying on the floor. Soles of the feet flat on the ball (don’t hang in just heels), curl hips up towards the ceiling and roll back down through the spine. Keep ball stable. Can do with legs together (harder) or shoulder width apart. Curl up and down 10 – 20 times.
1. Next progression: you can keep hips elevated and carefully push the ball out and in. Don’t move hips as you move legs. Be careful with this one.
2. Next progression: you can do single leg pelvis lifts, with opposing leg stretched upward towards the ceiling – again, be careful with this one.

Leg presses on the gym equip. Don’t just power through. Keep body aligned and lengthen spine and low back away from the leg movement.


Foam Roller IT band massage If you have a foam roller at the gym, you might want to roll out the outside of the leg. Actually, investing in a roller for home is a wise purchase. There are a multitude of uses and benefits. Rolling out the IT band can be painful, depending on how tense is. The roller helps release hip and leg tension, while reducing strain on the knee.

Better Health by Walking Tall. Building Postural length and muscle awareness.

80 year old catwalk model Daphne Selfe has amazing postural grace

When a muscle is shorter than the optimal length, it not only effects the opposing muscle but can have repercussions on the entire [body]…If you continue to exercise with poor posture you will recruit the wrong muscles and build your body disproportionately…If you do not correct your muscular imbalances the cycle will repeat over and over again and get progressively worse. – askthetrainer.com

The above statement is a difficult lesson to learn, yet it is the most crucial. People ponder why it is they have done exercise for years and yet their body is still riddled with aches and pains. The answer is never simple, but a few simple answers are often missed.

The simpler the concept, the harder it is to master.  Walk tall. Breathe. Lengthen muscles and release tension. All of this translates to proper muscular support of the joints and spine. Although a good cardio regime is important for the body and mind, so too is understanding posture.

We all fight gravity and posture issues. Think of how much time we spend sitting.  The damage cannot be completely reversed by three hours of weekly fitness. The in-between moments matter most. You could be a daily runner, or someone who sits all day, if there is no postural awareness there is a more rapid deterioration of the body structure.

In a recent lesson a client had a personal break-through, and in her own words, she found that by stretching a muscle, you are “canceling it out” of the exercise. In other words, when stretching a muscle long, it can’t be tensed inward. This is a simple way to think of how lengthened muscles will create less stress and tension in both the body and mind.

lifting up, stretches open the chest and shoulders

Here are some ideas designed to create postural awareness.

- Roll Downs and Pelvic Tilts against the wall

- Other awareness exercises against the wall

- Work on your breath.

Take a moment at your desk, in the kitchen, wherever you might be, and focus on your breath to allow tension to melt away and bring your body and mind back into focus. My favorite breathing cues come from Mary Bond and her book “The New Rules of Posture.  #1. Inhale beauty: as if you are smelling something wonderful, like fresh-baked cookies or roses.  #2. Exhale surrender: Exhale and focus on one part of your body releasing, letting go, and becoming heavy.  Don’t over-breathe or force the breath. Just let it happen lightly and without strain.

- Most importantly. Go back to basics.

Even if you are an advanced fitness person, consider going back to the basics. People often know how a movement should look, but are doing it with the wrong muscles. The most common example is overuse of the hip flexors which take over for the abdominals, making it impossible to get any benefit from certain core exercises.

overuse of the hip flexors causes back strain and lack of abdominal strength.

Take a basic pilates class, yoga class, tai-chi, or dance. Any movement practice that focuses on fundamentals. A strong understanding of basic movements and how they relate to your body is what makes someone truly advanced.

Both the final image and the first quote are found at askthetrainer.com


The Pelvic Debate – Spinal stability Sitting and standing

Know anybody who looks like this:

imagesOkay, maybe not quite so animated and less cantankerous, perhaps more like this:

SwayBackYour sitting and standing postures only reinforce overdeveloped tense muscles, as well as the weak and overstretched muscles.

Truth: You could do pilates and core stability work until the cows come home, BUT, unless you learn what you are doing, how to do it properly for your body, it will be less than entirely effective.  It is important to learn how with every strengthening of a muscle there should also come a lengthening. This combination of stretch and strength in tandem, create better posture and a healthier body.

posturebad-posture-cartoonHere are a few exercises to help find better standing and sitting posture. They are simple enough to do at the office.

Using the wall can help identify a slumping posture and where to focus on stretching, opening muscles, like the shoulders and chest, while strengthening other muscles for support, such as the mid back.

#1. Pelvic Tilts against the Wall:

Pelvic Wall tilts

Pelvic Wall tilts

#2. Wall Roll Downs

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

#3. Pelvic Tilts sitting on a ball

Pelvic_Tilt_Tuck-215x249

As the pelvis tucks under, do not allow the shoulders to round forward, stay lifted tall.

do not let the pelvic movement affect the posture of the chest and upper body

As the pelvis arches, do not allow the rib cage to jut outward. Keep the rib cage knitted inward.

Proper posture and alignment is beneficial for both the body and mind, it allows deeper more efficient breathing and joint mobility, and psychologically, an upright posture exudes confidence and can lift not only your spine, but your mood. Walking tall is a win-win.

The physics of you – A postural perspective

newton3Used for various poetic and theoretical metaphors, it’s the common simplified version of Sir Issac Newton’s third law of Motion:

for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In other words: forces come in pairs.

In some ways, not too dissimilar, metaphysically speaking, Athanasius Kircher, the Jesuit Polymath and  a 17th Century contemporary to Newton, was on the same track. Kircher argued that magnetism was the principal force organizing and controlling nature. Propelling and repelling. Pushing and pulling. Lengthening and Contracting.

The human body can fall under both Newton’s 3rd law and Kircher’s theories as well…at least in my metaphorical analogy. Our muscles stretch and contract. Whether we recognize it or not, we are constantly doing both. And as linear as these principles sound, they are constantly acting upon us in various levels and dimensions. Ohhh. deep. But true.

Look at this guy.

slouch

He’s slumping. The Back muscles are stretching. The back top of the neck is contracting. The front of the shoulders are contracting. The front of the neck is stretching.

Reverse all that. Contract the mid back. Stretch the back of the neck. Stretch the front of the shoulders. Contract the front of the neck. You might get something like this:

uprightIf upright posture were that easy, why don’t we just do that all the time? Lots of reasons. One is that our eyeballs are in the front of heads. If they were on top, it would be a different story. Not to mention most of our senses are geared forward.

Secondly, gravity gets us down. Our center of gravity gives into force exerted on our bodies and senses over time.

Collapsing into gravity from the center of the body, causes the shoulder to go up, the spine to compress, the hip flexors to contract, and the neck to strain. It’s like you have two opposing magnets, one on your head and one at your feet, smushing you in the center.

Human Corkscrew 1b

Try lengthening from the inside out. Stretching your center of gravity outward in all directions. Imagine you have 2 attracting magnets, one on your head and one at your feet, pulling you long in both directions, and stretching your vertebral discs apart. As your spine stretches long, you will find you shoulders will drop down and you hips will release.

Human Corkscrew Shoulders Downaimages-1

It’s your personal orientation to gravity. Why not use “the force” to your advantage. Playing the laws of gravity and motion to your advantage can create a more an upright posture, which is not only physically beneficial, but mentally as well. “Huh?” You say… Standing tall exudes confidence and creates an overall sense of well being. You also breathe deeper, creating a more relaxed and calm mind.  It’s very hard to slump and be in a good mood at the same time. Cheer yourself up and use the pull of the earth for good posture and new muscular strength.

Remember, it’s all in your perspective…or your relative perspective to the gravity of your situation.

The World is Bound in Secret Knots

The World is Bound in Secret Knots

(For more information on Athanasius Kircher, check out the most wonder-filled museum in the United States: The Museum of Jurassic Technology)

Finding Your Center Fulcrum Point

fulcrum

There is no better place to take on the universe than from the CENTER.

Finding your own center can be a bigger undertaking than we often realize, but infinitely beneficial.

Have you ever known someone who has been fiercely into yoga or exercise, only to find that after years of practice, they have back problems?

This can be done when we overdo any activity, mental or physical, without knowledge of ourselves and without an awareness of a quiet, strong, and stable center point of balance from which to work outwards. We need one point of perfect stability. Depending on where you are in relation to your activity, gravity, etc., this point can move around. It is stable, but also must be flexible.  Finding this is a challenge for the advanced athlete and the novice who just rolled off the couch for the first time, the philosopher, and the ADD adult who’s just trying to get their to do list done.

And so to get you on the good foot, I present a simple exercise to help find a center…I’ve always refered to it as DEAD BUG.

deadbug

Lying on your back. Keeping the spine feeling long and heavy like iron from the base of the neck all the way through to the tailbone. lift the right knee (in a table top position) and the left arm up towards the ceiling, while keeping both shoulders and hips firmly down and even. Over a slow count of  5, take one long deep breath and simultaneously (and SLOWLY) switch arms and legs, while maintaining complete stillness and stability in the spine. That means, no tensing of the neck and shoulders or gluts. The belly pulls down to the back, the spine stays super long and stretched out, but does not move. Did I mention the slower you do this the better? Again the main arc: moving the arms and legs freely, but not moving the torso head and neck AT ALL.