Yeaeh, it is.
Who starts a fitness program and says, “Gee, I’d like to look worse as a result of my exercising.” Young or old the answer is no one! Even my 90+ year-old clients often ask me if there is anything they can do that will help them slim down, lose their tummy or become more toned. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward or, in the case of fitness, their best 6-pack. Often, in our need to look good in a mirror, we forget that there is a whole other side to fitness that we can’t easily see: our back side!
Now, when I say, “back side,” I’m not only referring to your buttocks, (glutes, fanny, butt, rear-end, caboose, assets or whatever you choose to call it) I am referring to all of the muscles in the back side of the body from the neck and shoulders all the way down to the calves. The muscles in the back of the body are known collectively as the “posterior kinetic chain.”
Why Focus on the Back?
The muscles in the back of the body are responsible for deceleration during large functional movements. Basically, these muscles work against gravity to slow down limbs thus minimizing impact on joints. Some examples of deceleration are sitting in a chair from standing, descending stairs or taking something down off of a shelf.
When I’m working with my clients, those with weak PKC muscles may flop down into a chair, or their feet will “thud” upon stairs as they descend (because they are using momentum and not controlling their motions against gravity). Also, those with a weakness in their PKC can exhibit a rounded thoracic spine and shoulders because the muscles in the back body responsible for posture are weaker than those in the front of the body.
A weak PKC can also mean that the muscles in the front of the body are picking up the slack for their weakened counterparts which can cause lead to joint injury. When your foot hits the ground after jumping, walking, or descending stairs the amount of force of that impact can be 2-3x your body weight! So now you’re descending stairs with poor body mechanics and you’re nearly doubling the amount of force on your joints.
My aunt used to take me hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains when I was a kid and told me to be careful when going down the mountain because my thighs would “jackhammer.” My quads would twitch and shake because I was using them to absorb the impact of my body descending the mountain. In an ideal world, your glutes and hamstrings would take over as you descend minimizing impact and taking strain out of the knees.
Break It Down, Now.
Now let’s talk about some of the specific muscles and what we can do to not only strengthen them but to also make sure that these muscles are being activated. This means that the prime mover muscle is working throughout the whole movement and the bulk of muscular effort is not being controlled by synergists (other muscles that work together with the prime mover).
Glutes and Hamstrings – The Squat is an exercise that teaches a client how to properly engage the muscles in the back of the upper leg. A squat is a functional movement akin to lowering oneself into a chair. Although a simple-seeming exercise, the squat can be difficult to execute. The client needs to be able to lower themselves into the squat position, rise from that position, keep their torso up, tummy in and they have to maintain balance. A progression I use with my clients is squats with a chair behind them, squats where they are holding onto a bar, wall squats, etc.
Another exercise that I use for hamstrings is called “The Flamingo.” The Flamingo is a standing leg curl where the client either wears ankle weights or a band around the ankles for resistance. This exercise isolates the hamstrings but also challenges the client’s balance and proprioception (body awareness). I actually love cueing this exercise: “rest your toe on the ground behind you with your heel up. Lift your heel from the ground as if you are trying to kick yourself in the buttocks.”
Actually having a client walk up and down stairs and cueing them to descend heel first, helps to activate the glutes.
Lats, Upper Back – The most effective exercises to work the Upper Back are rowing exercises where the client is activating postural muscles as well as maintaining upper body strength. The big “wing muscles,” Latissimus Dorsi can be targeted by an exercise called a pull down. Pull-downs can be executed with a cable machine, a Lat Pull down machine or therabands. The military press is also effective at targeting lats and shoulders.
Erector Spinae – These muscles are responsible for maintaining an erect spine and can be targeting with back extensions. This can be as simple as asking the client to stand against a wall and pull their tummy in while trying to bring their shoulders and upper back toward the wall. Back extensions can be isometric or dynamic.
Don’t ignore the back of your body! It is important to maintain function and fitness as we age. A healthy back body can encourage proper body mechanics and minimize joint issues. It is especially important for seniors to strengthen their back body as, over time, these muscles can weaken more than those on the front body leading to a rounded upper back and loss of function in the low body.
Anatomy and Strength Training for Women by Mark Vella
The Muscle Manual by Dr. Nikita A. Vizniak
NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
Yes, I know we’re already a week into 2013 and here I am already behind the times! Well, thanks a lot, you Negative Nancy, for spinning it that way! See, I’m the kind of person who generally doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions on the first day of the year but I usually way a couple of weeks to see who January shakes out before I commit to anything, so, by that logic, wishing everyone a happy new year a week late is really on time…right?
Okay, anyway, so it’s 2013 and this year I actually can’t wait until February to make my resolutions because this is going to be a BIG HUGE YEAR with LOTS OF STUFF TO DO! First, here’s a recap of 2012:
I finished my Master’s degree which I did in just under a year and a half. I got promoted to Fitness Director at Scandinavian Living Center and consequently got the hours of the fitness center extended so I can see more clients. In March I was dealing with chronic sciatica and lower back pain which I still deal with but it’s not nearly as bad because I put the rehab work in and am now on my way to a solid fitness program for myself. I put on 25 lbs. And I got engaged.
1) I’m getting married in September so I’ll be working on that project for the next 9 months.
2) I’m in the process of updating my personal training certificate which is proving to be a lot more research and I’m excited to learn more!
3) I have loads to do in the fitness center including developing more cohesive fitness programs, purchasing new equipment and sharing an in-service presentation with the SLC staff.
4) I am seeking more clients who are looking to extend their rehabilitative work beyond what Medicare/Medicare Supplemental insurance is willing to cover.
5) I am working to lose the weight I put on after my back injury… yes, I am trying to do this before my wedding, but that’s mainly a benchmark for me. So far, I’ve lost 5 pounds of fantastic bloat and water weight. I’m tracking what I eat via pictures on Pinterest and will be logging my progress with my weight loss and strength gains. (I’ll come out with my weight now… I’m 185 lbs…).
6) I also plan to update my blog weekly.
It looks like I have a solid list of goals and resolutions for this year and it’s only January 8th! This doesn’t include the resolutions that my future husband and I have made about our life, but, well, I don’t think it’s necessary to share EVERYTHING here :).
Thanks for reading and letting me voice my plans here. Next week’s article: Posterior Kinetic Chain. What is it? Why is it important for seniors (and everyone!) to train it? Some sample exercises too!
Or Mayan Apocalypse Day or 4 Days until Christmas or whatever you want to call it.
Since this December has been pretty busy for family, work and video gaming shenannigans (yes, video games are another one of my passions) I’ve been off the blogisphere grid for a while. In the world of senior fitness, I’ve been studying to for CPT certificate through NASM which has a foundation in balance and stability training that I find compelling. Also, I’ve been working more hours at the Scandinavian Living/Cultural Center, now our Fitness Room is open M, W, F from 8am-2pm for all residents! I’m really excited about this as it gives me the flexibility to grow the fitness program more and give residents more time in the fitness center. I am the featured staff member in the SLC Annual Newsletter.
Here is some information that I’ve come across that I’d like to share with everyone regarding core stability training. This post from Mike Reinhold (he works with the Boston Red Sox) I enjoyed because of the wall modification of the plank/rotary plank. I’ve started using the basic wall plank with some of my clients already and am excited to see what results from this training.
Another piece of useful information is this core training program from Princeton University. In a recent post I noted that one of my hips drops to the left when I do a standard plank. I noticed that this is the case when I do Bird-Dogs and Single-Leg Deadlifts.
My assumption here is that 1) My proprioception is off… meaning when I lift my leg in the bird dog I feel like my back and hips are flat, but when I spot myself in a mirror, I see that they are not so in order for my hips to be level, my leg needs to be lower than I actually think it needs to be. 2) The rotary stabilizers in my core are deconditioned and also the stabilizers in my right hip are weak (this also loops in to proprioception). Soooooo now I know where to start.
More on this later and Happy Holidays to everyone!!!
Building muscle mass for Seniors is the same as it is for younger adults: hypertrophy is possible by working muscles to failure and by rotating muscle groups. It is important to remember that in a post-rehab setting or when working with frail seniors that “failure” will come earlier and can increase the risk for re-injury. Proceed with caution but provide clients with enough challenge so that their muscles grow.
This is a fine line for trainers for sure!
Yeah, so I’m getting married next September and one of the things that makes me the absolute most happy in the world (aside from working with Seniors) is dancing.
This video came across my Facebook news feed yesterday.
So, yeah, I don’t know if my fiance would do this with me, but I know some willing friends will be game for this.
Also, this is going to be the Daddy/Daughter dance… no surprises here…
I think my Grandparents will really get a kick out of this too!
After I posted about the Weekly Core Challenge, I started doing the series on a weekly basis, normally on Tuesdays since I am not in the Fitness Center. Two things have come up for me doing this series:
1) Last week, I did a WOD on Tuesday and the Weekly Core Challenge on Wednesday. As I was going through the core challenge in one of the 1 minute Plank phases a colleague stopped me and said, “Hey, can you see yourself in the mirror there?” I looked but the mirror is blocked by several cardio machines.
“It’s your plank form,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Did you know you drop your left hip, and your spine is rotated?”
“Really?” In my years of doing planks no one has ever corrected me. I wondered if this was caused by some acquired functional deficiency or if I had always done it this way or if this was related to one of my many wiping-out-on-my-bike injuries. “Can you spot me while I try this again?” I asked.
I moved into the plank position again and felt like I had to engage several muscles on the right side of my body that, once engaged, were obviously deconditioned.
2) I am doing some research for a client about the shoulder and discovered some material about the scapular stabilizers. How does this relate to the core challenge? Today while I was doing the side-plank portion with a straight arm like in yoga, that I might be short-changing my obliques and relying on my shoulder. I’ll be doing these on the elbow going forward. Additionally, I feel like I’m rather unstable in the shoulder when I do side plank with a straight arm.
What both of these illustrate is that there is some instability that is causing bad form and also pain. (Remember how important form is!) Also, thanks to my colleague for pointing out my plank form. Sometimes it helps to work out with a buddy!
Thanks to “Girl With Muscle” for sharing her thoughts on SQUATS! Also she lists a great leg workout for those of you who find squats difficult or painful. I had to share this with all of you!
1) Heels lift off the floor.
A common mistake in technique when squatting is your heels lifting off the floor. Squatting does not come naturally to some which find it hard to keep their feet planted on the floor. Is is very important to keep your feet planted to achieve a greater usage from your muscles when squatting. It is also very important as it helps to keep balance and helps to engage your core muscles.
With my clients that have this problem I use step boxes placed further behind them and ask them to try and bring their glutes to sit onto step boxes without moving their feet. This causes them to push further out with their hips which is usually the problem and the issue usually gets resolved.
However, if you still find it difficult to squat with your feet planted then this exercise does not agree with…
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