Let’s keep the holiday train rolling along. In Part 1, we discussed just getting moving more using dynamic warm-ups.
In Part 2, we are going to look at a bunch of different stretches that you can utilize to avoid ending up a complete ball of stress and knots come January.
Back on Thanksgiving morning, I started sharing different ways to help get people through the holiday season without having to give up exercise.
I even suggested that it is NOT a crazy thought to begin doing some extra activity or exercise during this time of year.
Understanding that many people would view that as crazy advice, I gave examples of things you can do.
One thing that is common for most people this time of year is eating a lot of extra food. There are lots of parties and very nice people bringing in tons of goodies to where you work.
This is also the time of year when exercise is sacrificed for other commitments and food choices can be made because of proximity (goodies at work), less time to prep (holiday shopping, parties, and all the extra traffic) and stress (not everyone enjoys this time of year).
If you have ever talked to someone about nutrition or anything food-related, meal prep (preparing food ahead of time) is something you have probably heard, and maybe even tried.
I am not going to lie, meal prep is kind of a big deal and a big piece of figuring out how to eat better consistently.
Some people shot down the idea immediately with something like, “I don’t have time to do that.”
Or maybe they do not know where to start or how to cook that well.
Either way, I am going to give you a real-world example of how it works and a cool recipe that you can make after you prep.
Pancakes are delicious. Now, I know I am not telling you something so earth-shattering that you did not already know it.
But, depending on your fitness goals, pancakes may not be part of the current plan. Or could they?
Most people stretching their hamstrings are really stretching their sciatic nerve. The hamstring runs from the bottom of your butt to the back of the knee.
Rounding your back to stretch the hamstrings makes no sense. It does not improve hamstring flexibility but it does tension the sciatic nerve.
Most people attempt to stretch the hip flexor incorrectly by moving too far forward and arching the low back too much. If this is you, watch the video. The key is the setup.
Rows, pulldowns, pull-ups, and other movements that initiate movement through the scapula should make up a good amount of your upper body exercises in your program.
Rows and other horizontal pulling movements should outnumber both pressing movements and vertical pulling movements.
Single leg hamstring drops w/ ball.
For now, this one if the grand daddy of the hamstring drop family.
Set up with your feet under something that will not move. A dumbbell rack works great but not all are low enough to the ground.
I have used a standing hamstring curl machine to perform hamstring drops when the DB rack was not an option. See below.
Set up with your feet anchored under a dumbbell rack or other solid structure that will not move. Focus on bracing the abs, staying tall throughout the motion and not bending at the hips. Perform the hamstring drop with only one leg on the way down and both legs coming back up. Try to keep the emphasis on the hamstring, not the arms and shoulders. The upper body is definitely assisting the movement, but the hamstrings should be the focus. Enjoy.
This will punch your hamstrings right in the mouth. Set up with both knees bent, feet flat on the ground with a slider under one of your feet. Lift the foot that is not on the slider off the floor. Perform a single-leg bridge with the other leg. Once at the top of the motion, straighten the knee by sliding the foot away from the body. When the knee is extended, keep the hips on the floor, bend the knee and start again with the single-leg bridge.
This is a great alternative if using some attachment for the hands increases back pain or you find yourself pulling too much with the arms. Start by setting the pulley so it is around hip-height. Set the strap so it goes around the front of your hips. Set and brace your neutral spine position. Focus on keeping pressure through the heels and sitting back through the hips. To return to the start position, squeeze the glutes and push the hips forward. Avoid overextending the hips and straightening the body as this will cause you to lose your balance and fall back.
Stand in front of a bar (or another surface that is stable and will not move - kitchen counters also work great for this).
Walk the feet back, perform a hip hinge and pivot forward until you feel so resistance to the movement in the thoracic spine. Hold this position for 5-6 seconds. Repeat as needed.
NOTE: this may cause the back to crack. Not getting a crack in the back does not mean the movement was ineffective.
Mobilizing the first rib is not something many people know about which is unfortunate. The first rib is right under your collarbone and can be elevated which causes all sorts of issues for the neck and shoulder(s). Check out the video to see how to mobilize the fist rib.
This is an excellent movement for mobilizing and stretching the hips. Start with the first position and progress to the others as needed. Remember, focus on a mild-to-moderate intensity in the hip and glute area when performing these. Start in a pushup position. Bring one leg forward to the outside of the arm. In the second video, bend the elbow and try to get it as close to the floor as you can. In the third video, rotate the arm up towards the ceiling. Make sure to rotate the body, not just the arm. One way to help do this is to keep your eyes on your hand. The arm should not travel where the eyes cannot follow it.
When I first started as a Physical Therapist, I used to get nervous any time one of my patients came in with any neck diagnosis.
I mean, its the neck. I could snap their spinal cord and the person would never be the same after that.
Now, that is not true at all, but that is what I thought. What a weirdo.
Once I worked with some of these patients, I started to realize there were commonalities to most of my patients. Once we fixed a few underlying issues, they got better.
Almost 100% of them.
After awhile, I started to look forward to treating any neck issue because the outcomes I was getting were so good.
The fact of the matter is, pain can bring each one of these situations to a grinding halt. Even worse, if the pain is left unchecked it usually gets worse and can even cause pain in different parts of the body.
It is not uncommon for a right ankle or knee issue to cause pain in the low back or the opposite hip and knee. I will explain how at a later date. The short answer as to how this happens is that everything is connected.
If life seems to always interfere with your training, this guide is for you. There are strategies you can apply right away whether you are new to exercise or are a grizzled, lifting maestro
Here is a really easy recipe that sets you up for success in the morning. These are mini egg omelets. You can also call them egg muffins but I wouldn't trust a person that said that.
Once these are made, stick them in the fridge and wait.
In the morning, put one, two or three in the toaster oven (or microwave, if that's your thing) to heat up. They take as long to heat up as a piece of toast.