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10 Facts to Save Your Back

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For those of you who have severe lower back pain, only you know how debilitating it is. Only you know how it affects every part of your life. You can’t sleep, you can’t get comfortable and even standing to walk to the toilet can be excruciating.

But probably the most frustrating thing about severe lower back pain, is that no one else can see it and or feel it. No one else can share your pain and really know how frightening it is.

Everyone you speak to has their own piece of advice. You should walk. You should apply heat. You should see my guru therapist.

Information can be overwhelming. Doctor Google it seems, has only made it more confusing. Many news websites and newspapers carry blogs on lower back pain. The problem is that almost all authors have not treated a single person with back pain and if they have, they are not at the “coal face” or in the trenches helping people like you daily to cope, to have hope and to see the possibility of a way out of the haze.

Whilst articles may be “evidenced based”, the information is so general that it can be dangerous. To lump everyone who has severe back pain into the same boat maybe downright reckless. A disc herniation is not the same as a joint sprain or canal stenosis. To say to everyone who has severe lower back pain, you just need to get up and walk or that it will just get better on its own, can be both cruel and misleading.

To help you, here are 10 facts that you need to know to help you manage your back pain.

  1. Back pain that has come on for no reason, is constant, keeps you awake and doesn’t change, indicates that your back pain is inflammatory in nature and you need to see your doctor immediately

  2. Whilst you may not remember a specific incident that brought on your back pain, there is almost always a cause. Not understanding this, can lead to you re-aggravating your back injury, the number one reason, why many people don’t get better.

  3. If your pain is throbbing, constant and wakes you at night, apply cold packs in a damp tea-towel for 15 minutes a minimum 6 times each day (and up to hourly) for at least 3 to 5 days (be sure to check your skin every 5 minutes for adverse reactions). If your pain is more like a general soreness, is intermittent and you are able to sleep soundly, apply comfortable heat.

  4. See your doctor to find out which medication can help you cope best. Research has now shown that there is little or no evidence that paracetomol and other over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen actually help. And be aware that prolonged use of anti-inflammatory medication has been shown to delay healing

  5. In contrast, there is evidence that “hands on” therapy performed by physiotherapists and other manual health professionals does offer benefit. But again you need to understand that this benefit is likely to be short term if the underlying cause isn’t addressed

  6. We are told “not to take back pain lying down” and to stay moving, but what movement? Lying down might be the only position that reduces your pain. If so, get into the most comfortable position possible, apply cold packs for 15 minutes at a time hourly (helps to reduce inflammation and pain)Generally, there will be a direction of movement that provokes your pain and a direction of movement that eases it. Move gently and slowly in the direction that eases your pain and perform as many of these movements (perhaps 6-12 hourly) as you can as long as they are pain free. At the first hint of an increase in pain or a reduction in form, stop. If you always stop before pain, the chances in making your problem worse are minimisedIf you are lying down, you need to get up and go for a short walk every one to two hours to reduce the pressure in your back. If walking is painful, a back brace and walking with elbow crutches often relieves the pain

  7. Back pain is more common in smokers. Smoking has been shown to reduce blood flow to all parts of your body, including your back, meaning that it is unable to stay healthy and resilient to the stresses that are applied to it every day. This leads to injury, inferior healing, deficient recovery, chronic inflammation and constant pain – not just in your back but your whole body

  8. Staying positive and improving your nutrition, sleep and stress levels will all help you to overcome your back pain. Understanding that your body’s natural default mechanism is to heal and then allowing it to do so by nurturing the most healing environment possible will lead to a quicker and better recovery.

  9. X-Rays and scans (including CT and MRI scans) are often a waste of your money because they:
    •        a. frequently show up completely unrelated abnormalities that can be both scary and confusing;
    •        b. don’t influence or change your treatment: and 
    •        c. they expose you to radiation which can increase your cancer risk.

Having said this, it is important to get further investigations if you have been injured in a trauma involving a forceful knock or blow. Additionally, if your signs and symptoms are worsening (and not improving within a week), you are feeling unwell and losing weight or have pain, numbness, tingling, pins and needles or loss of power in your bladder, bowel or legs. These are medical emergencies and it is critical to see your doctor or health professional as soon as you can.

10. Your back pain will only get better, if you address the cause of your problem. This means changing, if only slightly, the way that you move that has caused the problem in the first place. Whilst “hands on” treatment often provides only short term relief and rehabilitative exercise medium term relief, fixing the cause of your pain will give you permanent relief. It is this package of “hands on” therapy, rehabilitative exercise and posture and movement correction that the evidence has shown is the best way to achieve long lasting relief and sustained physical improvement.

If you have back pain and would like help to get rid of it, call 1 300 bodywise (1 300 263994) to organise an initial gap-free assessment and treatment so that you can begin your road to recovery.

All of us here at Bodywise Health look forward to helping you,

Yours sincerely,

Michael Hall

Director Bodywise Health


How to know if you are over-training and what to do if you are

rehabilitation centres melbourne

If you are preparing for the Melbourne Marathon, no doubt your training has been in full swing. If however, instead of getting fitter and stronger, you are feeling more tired and lethargic and your performance is deteriorating, you may be suffering from Overtraining Syndrome. This is a disorder of the nervous and hormonal systems of the body which is caused by inadequate recovery of the body following intense training.1

Intense training = Intense Stress, Prolonged Training = Chronic Stress
You see, intense training puts intense stress on all the systems of your body. The emphasis of the body's functioning is shifted away from growth and repair to optimising physical performance. The need for energy stimulates the release of cortisol from your adrenal glands.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, stimulates all the physiological processes of your body to give you the "get up and go" to perform everyday tasks. It does this by causing your muscles to be broken down to release sugar for energy but at the expense of suppressing your immune and digestive systems.2

Stress = Tissue breakdown and suppression of Your Immune and Digestive Systems
Essentially, therefore training breaks down (catabolic process) your body's tissues so that they can rebuild (anabolic process) to be better, stronger or faster. The problem with overtraining syndrome is that your body's systems don't get sufficient time or have an adequate environment to regenerate before the next intense training stimulus is delivered leading to further breakdown and muscle weakness.

Any perceived demand for energy will cause the release of cortisol. We are the only living thing that can activate the stress response by thought alone.2 Work deadlines, home demands, financial stresses, relationship issues, poor eating habits and lack of sleep all cause the release of cortisol. Add to this an intense, prolonged training program and you can see how easily overtraining syndrome can develop. Disorders then occur when a person's perceived stress levels get beyond coping.

Initially, your adrenal glands are stimulated into producing increasing amounts of cortisol which may lead to metabolic disturbances such as:

  1. Lack of quality sleep (Important not to exercise at night as cortisol breaks down Tryptophan an amino acid that is an ingredient in Serotonin that is a precursor to melatonin the sleep hormone)
  2. Inability to concentration and sugar cravings (due to dysfunctional sugar regulation)
  3. Headaches (due to increased muscle tension)
  4. Loss of appetite and poor digestion (due to shut down of digestive enzymes)
  5. Gut disturbance – constipation or diarrhoea (Imbalance between good bugs Vs bad bugs)
  6. Malabsorption of essential nutrients (due to decreased gut permeability)
  7. Increased vulnerability to disease and infections (due to decreased number and function of immune cells)
  8. Sexual dysfunction and low libido (cortisol is made instead of sex hormones)
  9. Muscle weakness and aches and pain (cortisol made instead of testosterone)
  10. Heightened sensitivity to pain (cortisol impedes Serotonin production, the happy hormone that inhibits pain)
  11. Learning and memory impairment( as excessive cortisol damages the brain’s hippocampal cells)
  12. Exaggerated inflammation throughout your body.1

Eventually your adrenal glands become exhausted leading to insufficient cortisol being produced resulting in extreme fatigue.2

Diagnosis of Overtraining
Whilst there are many symptoms associated with overtraining, only a few have been shown to be valid and reliable indicators of this syndrome. These include:

  1. Performance deterioration
  2. Persistent, severe fatigue
  3. Decreased maximal heart rate
  4. Reported high stress levels
  5. Sleep disturbances
  6. Changes in blood Lactate threshold
  7. Elevated resting adrenaline levels1
  8. Other reported signs and symptoms for which there have been conflicting studies include:
  9. Increased early morning heart rate or resting blood pressure
  10. Frequent illness such as colds and chest infections
  11. Persistent muscle soreness
  12. Loss of muscle
  13. Moodiness
  14. Apathy, lack of motivation
  15. Loss of appetite
  16. Irritability or depression1

Many of the signs and symptoms of overtraining syndrome are remarkably similar to those of depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.1

Prevention of Overtraining
The most important factor in treating overtraining is preventing it in the first place. Having a correctly planned training program which incorporates adequate time for rest, recovery and regeneration as well as employing techniques to enhance recovery will go a long way to preventing overtraining.

Techniques such as ice baths, mindfulness meditation, remedial massage, exercise in water and Bodyflow therapy have all been proven to enhance recovery and regeneration.

Likewise, getting at least 7 ½ hours' sleep (and being asleep before 11pm!) as well as taking time out to laugh and enjoy life away from the pressures of your life are important to reducing the build-up of stress and tension that may lead to less than optimal health. 3

To prevent overtraining syndrome from a nutritional standpoint, you need to consume adequate amounts of:

  1. fluid (1.5 to 2 litres of water per day)
  2. protein (grams = body weight in kg x 0.9 x 1.5 each day if exercising at a high intensity 3-6 times each week)
  3. carbohydrates (7-12 g per kg of body weight each day)
  4. micronutrients such as activated vitamin B, magnesium (need to check zinc levels), iron and coenzyme Q104

At the same time, you should reduce your alcohol following exercise intake as this adversely affects muscle function and glycogen storage.1

Treatment of Overtraining Syndrome
Immediately after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome, it is important to have complete rest and to sleep as much as possible over the next 48 hours. If acted on early enough, this may be sufficient for you to recover and perform at an even higher level (super-compensation).1

However, if this rest period does not reduce your tiredness, overtraining syndrome may be entrenched and it may take weeks or months to resolve. Treatment then consists of rest as well as nutritional and psychological support.

The starting point for all treatment programs is a comprehensive medical, nutritional and physical assessment. This will give clues as to the important factors that may have contributed to the development of overtraining syndrome such as viral illness, nutritional deficiencies, glycogen depletion, inadequate protein intake, sleep disturbances and anxiety / stress levels.

Viral Illness
Viral illness is a common cause of persistent tiredness in sportspeople. Prolonged intense exercise depresses your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to viral illness, especially chest infections.

If you have a viral illness with a raised temperature, it is important for you not to continue with intense training as it has the potential to either prolong your illness or cause a more serious illness such as myocarditis or post viral fatigue syndrome. Similarly, if you have a viral illness along with systemic symptoms such as muscle pain, training is prohibited.

If however, you have a mild temperature, light training that keeps your heart rate below 70% of your maximum heart rate (220 – age), may actually have a positive effect. To ensure that you are not at risk of worsening your condition, it is important to get a medical clearance before continuing with training if your general health is not 100%.

Nutritional Deficiencies
A common cause of tiredness among endurance sportspeople is depletion of iron stores. Menstruating women, adolescent sportspeople and athletes who diet are especially susceptible to iron deficiency due to either inadequate iron intake, increased iron loss and / or inadequate absorption of dietary iron.

If you have been training intensely and are suffering from tiredness and weariness, you would be well advised to seek a medical examination from a sports physician and have your iron levels checked as well as be tested for digestive and kidney function. Following this referral to a dietitian, nutritionist or naturopath may be required.

Gycogen depletion
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate and the major source of energy for activity. Intense bouts of exercise drain glycogen stores and if they are not replenished prior to the next training session, they will become further depleted. If this pattern continues glycogen depletion will result leading to fatigue and a deterioration in sports performance.

In times of intense training, consuming at least 1-1.2g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight within the first hour immediately following exercise is especially important as this is when the rate of glycogen production is greatest.1

Finally, not only has it been shown that consuming carbohydrate during and following prolonged intense exercise prevents the depletion of energy stores, but it has also been proven that carbohydrate enhances the immune system’s ability to ward off infectious illness.

Protein Replacement
Protein replacement is critical for good health because prolonged intense exercise causes a substantial breakdown of muscle tissue, protein contains the building blocks (amino acids) which enable it to be rebuild in the next 24 hours and beyond. This process is optimised, if 10-20 g of high quality protein (containing the essential amino acids) is consumed within an hour following exercise. Eating protein after this time still promotes tissue regeneration, it just occurs at a slower pace.
Adequate protein replacement is also important to reduce pain and enhance sleep.1

The strategies listed for preventing overtraining syndrome will also assist in its treatment. Other treatment tips might include:

Other treatment tips for Overtraining Syndrome

  1. Avoid exercising if you have a virus and a high temperature. If you are not sure, seek a medical opinion
  2. Whenever you can, allow yourself to sleep in until 8 or 9am
  3. Take time out for massage, meditation, yoga and other relaxing activities to "quieten" your mind and body
  4. Avoid strenuous exercise at night as excess cortisol makes it difficult to sleep
  5. Take a nap in the afternoon if you are tired. 20 to 30 minutes is great value
  6. Avoid working late and burning the midnight oil
  7. Eat protein at every meal avoid high carbohydrate foods to optimise your insulin and blood sugar levels
  8. Eat 5 to 6 servings of vegetables each day and avoid fruit early especially those high in potassium
  9. Take fish oil to reduce tissue inflammation and prevent hippocampal damage
  10. Avoid hydrogenated fats, caffeine, chocolate, refined sugars, sugary drinks, processed foods and those that create allergic reactions
  11. Optimise vitamin D levels
  12. Get regular exercise2

It is important to realise that it is not just elite athletes who are at risk of overtraining. Even more vulnerable are people who lead highly stressed lives who then undertake intense, prolonged training programs. For these people it is especially important to organise their home, work and training schedules in ways which prioritise adequate rest and recovery.

"Listening" to your body, finding balance, training smarter not harder and understanding that "less may be more" may not only help you stave off overtraining syndrome as well as many other injuries and pain syndromes, they may just help you to achieve your "personal best". Good luck and until next time!

Be Bodywise and enjoy the best of health.

Best wishes,

Michael Hall
Bodywise Health

For a FREE physical assessment and advice, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994)

Please note: 

• Rebates are available through your private insurance extras cover;

• For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the EPC (Enhanced Primary Care Program) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).

1. Brukner and Khan and Colleagues. Clinical Sports Medicine. McCraw Medical. 4th Edition, 2012.
2. Chek, Paul. How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. California: C.H.E.K. Institute, 2006
3. Chadwick V. Mcphee R. Ford A. a Practical Guide to Clinical Nutrition for Allied Health Professionals. May 2014
4. Chadwick V. How to Live a Life Without Pain. Global Publishing Group. 1st Edition, 2012


Worried about your child's posture? Here's what you can do to help your child avoid a lifetime of pain


Worried about your child’s posture? New research indicates that you should be. Here’s what you can do to help your child avoid a lifetime of pain.

The rates of back pain are on the rise for children1 as well as adults despite the fact that we have more health professionals2, more health gadgets, more health information and more treatments, therapies, training programs and health promotions than ever before.

In fact, our physical health problems only seem to be worsening, with a recent UK study3 showing that up to 10% of 10 year old children have signs associated with bad backs and 9% already having at least one degenerative disc.

Something has changed! Whilst the researcher acknowledged that lugging heavy school bags, watching TV, playing video games and poor diets (obesity) have always had adverse effects on physical health, it is now thought that there is another factor at play with texting and excessive tablet use now being implicated.

In 2013, some 1.91 trillion text messages were sent in the US, according to CTIA, The Wireless Association4 Smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day hunched over their devices, which amounts to 700 to 1,400 hours per year that they are exerting this stress on their spines. School children may be even worse off, spending an additional 5,000 hours in this position, according to the study.

The term “text neck” has been coined to describe a group of physical conditions associated with excessive use of smart phones and tablets.

New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj performed a study to assess the incremental effects of a forward-tilted head posture on the neck. He concluded that:

“Text neck” may lead to early spinal degeneration as excessive loading of the small bones, joints, muscles, nerves of the neck can result in muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated discs and abnormalities to the neck’s natural curvature.5 This forward neck posture has also been linked to headaches, neurological problems and heart disease.

Others claim that the pressure on your neck and upper back doubles with every 2-3 centimetres of forward head tilt.6

As your head weighs about 4.5 to 5.5 kilograms and is balanced on two tiny joints of the first neck bone, it acts as a weight and cantilever on top of a highly mobile neck. Normally, the stresses that the weight of the head places upon the neck and upper back is reduced by the fact that the neck moves over 600 times an hour. However, if movements become repetitive or slouched postures are maintained for prolonged periods of time, stresses on the structures of the neck and back build up and eventually lead to stiffness and pain.

Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of excessive tablet and smart phone use. The positions and movements that young people “practise” are likely to become lifelong habits. If young people spend their time in slouched postures then not only they will tend to default to those postures but as their young bodies grow, all their body structures and tissues will adapt to these positions, further reinforcing these habits and making them difficult if not impossible to correct without intensive treatment and training
Posture is More Than Just Physical
Posture has been shown to have powerful effect on your entire health and wellbeing, not only affecting your physical health but also influencing your thoughts, feelings, actions as well as how others perceive you. Posture can even affect your memory recall.7

“When sitting in a collapsed position and looking downward, participants in a study found it much easier to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories, than empowering, positive memories.

When sitting upright and looking upward, it was difficult and for many of the participants nearly impossible to recall hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories and easier to recall empowering, positive memories...

Sitting up straight helps increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and according to some accounts, by up to 40 percent.”

Some of the wide ranging detrimental effects of poor posture include:
• Shoulder, neck and back pain;
• Degenerative disc disease;
• Tension headaches8;
• Excessive forward curvature (kyphosis) of your upper back;
• Depression, increased stress and diminished levels of energy9;
• Decreased libido10;
• Digestive issues such as constipation, acid reflux and hernias11;
• Restricted breathing;
• Cardiovascular irregularities (related to vagus nerve irritation)12,13

The Best Cure for Your Posture
The best cure for postural problems is to avoid poor positioning and movement patterns in the first place. This means being aware of maintaining good posture by standing up straight, sitting up straight up (and/ with a lumbar roll cushion in the small of your back) and moving from position to position without dropping your chest.

Beyond this, it means maintaining full mobility of all your joints as well as the strength of all your muscles especially in the opposite direction of the positions and movements that you perform routinely on a daily basis.

It also means not staying for too long in one position, but rather moving from one position to another at least every 30 minutes.

Tips for maintaining good posture
1. Use your eyes. When operating electronic devices, practice looking down at your device with only your eyes, instead of bending your neck—and try holding your device up higher. If you wear glasses, make sure your prescription is current.

2. Stand up as much as possible. You might want to experiment with a stand-up desk. You certainly don’t need to stand all day long but you are likely far better off standing as your posture and your likelihood of movement tends to improve. If you cannot work standing up, make an effort to interrupt your sitting frequently throughout the day. Stand up and walk when taking phone calls. It will help you feel better, have more energy and be more creative as well..

3. Walk more. Wear a fitness tracker and set a goal of walking 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day, which is more than eight kilometres. While you could probably walk this distance all at once, it’s best to spread it out evenly throughout the day, as much as your schedule will allow. Get in the habit of using the stairs and parking further away from entrances.

4. Take 30- to 60-second exercise breaks. Every 30 minutes, stretch gently into the opposite direction from the position that you have been in. If you have been sitting, this might mean stretching backwards over the back of a chair or standing up with your hands on your buttock and leaning backwards. Aim to hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds and do 5 of them at a time.

5. Anti-gravity Strength Training. Strengthen the muscles which move your body into the opposite direction of the positions and movements that you perform routinely. Doing this will help to relieve stress on body tissues and structures, restore joint mobility, correct muscle imbalances as well as build strength and endurance so that you can maintain an upright posture. To learn more about this, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994);

6. Posture Training. The only way to achieve permanent results is to permanently correct posture and movement habits. To do this takes intense training, involving freeing up stiff joints, supporting and strengthening weak muscles whilst preventing the adoption of faulty postures and movement patterns with tape or bracing.

Research shows that to create a habit takes about 300-500 repetitions, but to correct a faulty habit takes about 3,000-5,000 repetitions or about 4-6 weeks of training. If correct postures and movement patterns are achieved, the benefit is a lifelong reduction in mechanical pain and problems.

However, the opposite is also true. If children start off with poor postures and movement patterns, they are more likely to suffer from physical, psychological, cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive problems for the rest of their lives.

This is why it is so important that children be shown correct posture and movement and be taught the detrimental effects of bad posture. Correcting your child’s posture and movements early will profoundly change their lives forever. If you notice your child is stooping or you have any concerns about their posture, please get this checked. It might just save them from a life of pain and misery.

Be Bodywise and enjoy the best of health.

Best wishes,

Michael Hall
Bodywise Health

For a FREE posture check and advice, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994)



1 BMC Pediatr January 2013 Surg Technol Int. November 2014 (full text)
2 Pattern Movements.  A Neurodevelopmental Approach to Conditioning. Correspondence Course. Paul Chek. 2003 Surg Technol Int. November 2014 (Pub Med)
3 Daily Mail November 6, 2014 
4 Fox News August 15, 2014
5 Washington Post November 20, 2014
6 CNN September 20, 2012 The Atlantic November 25, 2014
Medical Daily June 24, 2014

9 New York Times September 19, 2014
11 Biofeedback Fall 2012
12 Medical Daily September 23, 2014
13 Livestrong February 6, 2014
14 Posturebly
15 Life Offbeat November 11, 2013
16 J Amer Coll Cardiol June 2001
17 Diabetologia November 2012
18 WebMD October 15, 2012
19 Br J Sports Med 2009



Want to get stronger, faster? Here are 7 secrets and 5 tips that no one will tell you!

Pilates 2 04

I see it all the time.  It’s frustrating. People performing strength exercises which are at best doing little to enhance their strength and at worst, making them more injury prone.  So here are 7 secrets that you can use to enhance your strengthening exercise program so that you can perform better, live better and achieve more.

Secret 1                                  Stabilise First

“You can’t shoot a canon from a canoe.”  In other words, you can’t perform strong, dynamic movements off a flimsy and unstable base.  And there are many reasons why supportive, stabilising muscles stop working as well as they should. Remember, these are the small muscles that attach closely around each joint to hold the joint surfaces in optimum contact so that they form a strong, stable platform.  The more stable your platform, the more resistance or weight that you can lift and the stronger you will get.  

Pain, swelling, inactivity, poor postures, repetitive movements can all reduce the activation of these muscles leading to joint instability and potentially injury.  Research has shown that these muscles do not begin working again without specific training.  They must be specifically targeted and activated.

To stabilise, “clench” or contract all the muscles around your joints to what is maximally comfortable.  Even better, position yourself correctly by having your knees slightly bent, feet apart and on a slight diagonal.  Then, stabilise your whole body by pulling your stomach in, tightening your butt and pelvic floor up and tucking your chin in.

Secret 2                                  Isolate

As mentioned above, pain, swelling and general deconditioning, can all act to stop muscles from being effectively activated.  And just because you perform a movement, doesn’t mean that these muscles start working again.  They need to be “woken up”. Research has shown that not only do these muscles need to be trained specifically to begin working normally again, but that if they’re not, people will begin to substitute other muscles and use different strategies for movement which mayl eventually lead to injury. 

To isolate a specific muscle for strengthening, you need to know what the muscles attachments are as well as the precise movement that the muscle performs.  For example to best strengthen your biceps, muscle on the front of your upper arm), you need to start with you hand turned with the palm facing backward and then turn to bring the palm forwards to the front of the shoulder as you bend your elbow only. 

Almost all muscles have a rotation component as well as an angle and direction at which they are best activated.  Know these and you will better target that muscle for strengthening.

I see so many people trying to strengthen muscle with the wrong starting points, wrong actions and with poor control, all making these exercises less effective whilst at the same time potentially putting themselves at risk of injury.  If you are going to exercise and you want the best results, learn to do the exercise correctly the first time.  It will save you much time

Secret 3                                  Activate

The more nervous impulses that enter a muscle and the more effectively and efficiently muscle fibres are activated, the faster your muscles will adapt and get stronger. 

Here are a couple of tips to engaging your muscles better. 

The first is to “clench” or contract your muscle first to the maximum you can comfortably. 

The second is to hold the muscle at this maximum tension throughout the movement and not allow it to be turned on during shortening of the muscle and off during the lengthening of the muscle.

Further from this, the third tip is to perform the movement slowly engaging the muscle with maximum tension and use holds at different parts of the movement.  This might mean that with very heavy weight (and only if you have been training for longer than a year) that you are still trying to perform the movement explosively but because of the high resistance, that you can only move very slowly. 

The fourth tip is to understand patterning.  In other words, position your body to better activate the muscle. For example, if you hold your hand open and backwards whilst trying to perform a bicep curl, you will be less effective at activating the muscle than if you clench your fist and hold your wrist slightly forwards.

The fifth tip is to know how to use your breathing to assist with stabilising your body but not so much as to increase the pressure within your body to dangerous levels.  Some authors have suggested that better results from strengthening may be achieved by breathing in during bending or closing down movements and by breathing out during straightening or opening up movements. 

Furthermore, if the breath is held just to a catch point (most difficult point of the contraction) the increased abdominal pressure will assist in stabilising your spine.  However, to prevent possible adverse effects of this pressure, you must breathe out just after this point to release this pressure. 

Secret 5                                  Use Feedback

Mirrors are not just there to show you how good you look! Visual feedback along with the voice and touch actually play a crucial role in ensuring the correct technique, maximum activation and optimal performance that is needed for the best results.

This feedback can be gained from mirrors, a coach or partner and even your own fingers placed on then muscles that you want to contract.   It is especially vital early on when learning an activity, as generally the more the better feedback, the better and faster you will learn.

It has been said that to learn a new skill requires about 300 to 500 repetitions and can take about a month.  However, to correct a poorly performed skill with a better technique can take about 3000 to 5000 repetitions.  So better to learn how to do things correctly the first time.  It can save you weeks and months of poor results as well as the possibility of injury.

Secret 6                                                          Integrate

For better transfer of strengthening over to everyday life, isolated strengthening exercises must be followed strengthening exercises that use these muscles in functional activities.  Muscles must work in co-ordination to perform an activity to achieve a result and the only way to improve at these functional activities is to practise and progress them. 

There are seven types of movements that are the basis for most of the activities that we do. They are bending, twisting, pulling, pushing, squatting, lunging and ambulation (walking / jogging / sprinting).  I call them Primary Movements as they are the movement patterns that you need to be able to live and function optimally. 

So to get better results, follow an isolated strengthening exercise with the functional strengthening of the muscle in a related everyday activity in which it is used.  This will enable you not just to look better but to live better as you will have greater strength and co-ordination in the activities that you do every day. Examples of this might be to follow a knee extension strengthening exercise with a double or single leg squat. 

Secret 7                                                          Automate

You can’t live by thinking about activating every single muscle during every single movement.  To live effectively, correct muscle activation and movement have to occur automatically and without thinking. This means that you must train your brain as much you train your muscles through performing these exercises with varying speeds, directions, amplitudes and on varying surfaces, progressing from very stable to unstable.

You must keep your brain guessing by progressively reducing feedback to the point that your brain is literally anticipating and automating muscle co-ordination and movement without thinking at higher and higher levels of control. 

Think about the primary movements of bending twisting, pulling, pushing, squatting lunging and ambulation.  Break them down into their component parts and then combine them again and progress them with ever increasing levels of co-ordination, speed and agility demands.  Activities such as learning to balance standing on one leg.  Then progress this by standing on your toes, then squatting, hopping first up and down and then at different angles and speeds whilst catching a ball.  Or progress from kneeling on a swiss ball to standing, squatting, catching a ball on and so on. You are only limited by your imagination.

If there is one thing that we are all short on these days its time.  Don’t waste your time by doing ineffective, inefficient strengthening exercises.  Use these techniques and strategies to enhance your program and you will enjoy the benefits of looking younger, feeling stronger and performing better in all areas of life.  

Be Bodywise and enjoy the best of health.

Best wishes,

Michael Hall


Bodywise Health

For a no obligation, FREE assessment for any injury or physcial problem that you might have, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994)

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