300718 Building Athletic Movement-part 2

300718 Building Athletic Movement-part 2

Physical athleticism requires precise mastery and powerful execution of specific sport movement/motor system patterns. In order to accomplish these multifaceted demands on the body each of the interacting sequential muscle groups within the kinematic chain and kinematic system have to be functioning and producing their peak tension at the exact right time.

Each exercise or sport movement is formed by and evolves from a cause and effect relationship with the individual elements making up the pattern. The line of force which is developed to successfully complete these movements depends on the efficiency of the neuromuscular system. The relationship between these mechanisms is constantly changing in an effort to find the most balanced response to the required movement pattern. Meanwhile additions to the dynamic element are being added to the equation.

This latter represents the ‘rigid framework’ i.e. the determination of the spatial time parameters and the working effect of the movement. It is this dynamic concept that is vitally important to the athlete and their coach.

The dynamics of the patterns depend on the interaction with the sport implement; in the case of the lifter, the loaded barbell of dumbbell. This interaction is further divided into concentration and the dynamic reaction to the load.

Expanding on this interactive process leads one to the conclusion that we are not just discussing the physical expressions of the movement but also the process that evolves during the active accentuation of the motor unit’s responses to the external stimuli, i.e. the load.

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2

150218 An introduction to Tai Chi part 2 of 2 

There are different styles of Tai-Chi, some are more aggressive than others and involve faster paced movements. Those most commonly practiced utilize gentle slower motions that are suitable for everyone.

As with anything in life there are positives and negatives in the practice of Tai-Chi. The pros seem to outweigh the cons though in these respects:

  • The movements are self-paced and non competitive, which to a competitive person may be a negative attribute.
  • The physical space requirements are negligible as well as the attire. You don’t need a lot of space or fancy gear to take part in Tai-Chi. It’s easy to do; you can do it anyplace and anytime either alone or with others. Once you become accustomed to the activity and more proficient in the art then you can add in your own to make it even more individualized and specific to your needs.

The negatives are almost non existent but do include the usual warnings of possible soreness if the first few sessions are overdone beyond your current physical fitness levels.

Beginning a new activity starts with learning how to do it correctly. In the case of Tai-Chi this will mean seeking out a competent instructor who will guide you in the technical aspects of posture and movement. Pay strict attention to your breathing and body position throughout the training session. Develop the ability to perform the motions effortlessly and without conscious thought. Doing so helps avert muscle strains and damaged joints.

Tai-Chi classes are taught throughout the world. In the United States contact your local senior center, the YWCA or YMCA or check with the gyms in your area. You can even look it up on the internet; there are scores of sites listed.

080218 An introduction to Tai-Chi part 1 of 2

080218 An introduction to Tai-Chi part 1 of 2

Tai-Chi is an ancient art that uses a series of gentle continuous movements which place an emphasis on joint leverage based on coordination and relaxation instead of muscular tension. Practioners of the art have discovered increased balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular benefits. The elderly have reduced their risk of falling after learning and applying Tai-Chi training practices.

Healthy individuals also have reported reduced pain while using Tai-Chi as an alternative exercise method along with lowered blood pressure readings, decreased pain from arthritis and the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Progressively self paced, Tai-Chi is a noncompetitive gentle exercise that is performed in a very specific defined series of movements and postures. Each of which flows gracefully and slowly from one to another without a pause.

A major benefit to older people is the reductions in falls that accompany the art of Tai-Chi due to the increased enhancement of their balance and coordination skills. Since these movements are low impact they place minimal stress on the joints and muscles which is ideal in some situations for those with advanced arthritis or osteoporosis.

Anecdotally the relationship of Tai-Chi to reduced stress, increased flexibility, improved muscle strength and definition along with the development of greater energy, stamina and agility are well documented. These benefits all contribute to a greater sense of well being. However the art has not been scientifically studied until recently. The findings, thus far, are supportive of the anecdotal reports.

The scientific research into Tai-Chi have indicated reduced anxiety and depression, improved balance and coordination which helps to reduce falls in those prone to falling and improved sleep patterns. The time spent in sleeping was found to be longer and with greater alertness reported during the following day.

Practicing Tai-Chi was shown to slow bone loss in post menopausal women an especially important issue to those with osteopenia or osteoporosis. It also reduced high blood pressure and improved cardiovascular fitness along with providing relief from chronic pain. All of these healthy benefits made for better daily living functioning.

191217 Balance

191217 Balance

Beginning around the fourth decade, we start to lose a small percentage of the ability to keep our equilibrium . Losing your balance leads to falls and possible fractures, or other injuries if not prevented.

Prevention begins with daily practice. Standing on one foot or with heel to toe for multiple seconds at a time (60-120) will help stave off this decline in balance. Leaning toward the floor on one leg with arms to the side or rear will change the center of gravity and will change the feel of the exercise. In each instance it is important to have the ability to catch yourself on something solid to prevent a dangerous fall from happening in the event you do lose your balance while doing these.

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:
• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side or heel to toe fashion.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:
• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:
• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don’t sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:
• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:
• Feet are still in the side-by-side or heel to toe position.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.
Another advanced example:
• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.
• Or you can move your head from side to side in a rapid manner while maintaining your balance.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

Of course there are many other ways to practice balance training but this article is not being written to list them all. Suffice it to say balance is a critical part of living a healthy life.

270217 Checking your posture

270217 Checking your posture

While viewing an individual from the side, imagine a plumb line dropping from the middle of the ear downward to the floor. From the ear, the line will continue through the middle of the shoulder, down through the hips, mid knee and onto the ankles. Viewed from the rear this same line will be seen dropping from the middle of the head, middle of the back through the Gluteal cleft and between the knees and ankles to the floor.

This line divides the body into the front and rear sections with equal weight on both sides. This dividing line makes no effort to be symmetrical nor is it passing through any obvious anatomical structures equally.

Poor posture can contribute to low back pain, shoulder joint pain, and can even affect how you walk (your gait). If left unattended this pain could become chronic in nature and in a worse case situation could cause long-term damage to the body. This column will include suggestions to improve standing, sitting and lying-down posture.

But first off do you have proper posture? A quick check may offer a revealing glance at how you carry yourself day in and day out.

Begin by standing in front of a full-length mirror. Do you look even from side to side, are your shoulder’s straight across with both sides on the same level as the other side, i.e. one is not higher or drooping when compared to the other side. Imagine a straight-line beginning from the middle of your head through your nose, through the middle of your breastbone, down between your knees and feet. The spaces between your arms and sides are equal, your hips are level, your kneecaps face straight ahead, and your ankles and feet are straight.

Now stand sideways to the mirror and check that an imaginary line beginning at your ear lobe continues down your body. As it drops down it should be hitting the middle of your shoulder. It should pass just behind the hip joint and finally end up in front of the knee and the ankle joint.

Basically, that is how you should look. Do you?

130217 Balance

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:

• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side, or heel to toe.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:

• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:

• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don’t sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:

• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:

• Feet are still in the side-by-side position or heel to toe.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.

Super advanced example:

• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

190916 Measures That may Reduce Your Risk of a Fall

190916 Measures That may Reduce Your Risk of a Fall

The prevention of a fall is important for those diagnosed with Osteoporosis due the fragility of the bones and the potential consequences of damage to the skeletal structure. The disabling nature of a broken bone can be devastating to an older person, especially a broken hip.

Falling results from a variety of sources. The elimination of as many of these as possible will help reduce your chances of taking a tumble. Keep in mind the older we all get the more dangerous a fall can be, especially one that breaks a hip. A few of the ways to help lower the risk of falling can be summed up into a few words-exercise to stay strong, remove the hazards in your home and regularly consult with your doctor about the medications you are taking.

Exercise by its very nature will help prevent a fall by making your body stronger and better balanced. When you lose your balance the power in your body has to be sufficient to immediately regain your equilibrium and set you back on the right path. Strength training is designed to make you stronger and this, coupled with the ABC’s of agility, balance and coordination will enable you to protect yourself to a higher degree than without these attributes.

Your home is a prime site of accident hazards that may be eliminated by simply taking the time to look it over and removing them. Start by getting rid of, or putting up all the things that you can trip over; this includes the small rugs that are notorious for slipping out from under you. If you have extension cords in the home make certain they are picked up and out of the way to prevent stumbling on them.

In the kitchen place rubber backed rugs near the sink and when water or other stuff gets on the floor clean it up promptly to eliminate that potential accident source.

Stay away from the old step stools most of us at one time had in our homes. In your bathroom have grab bars installed around the tub, shower and if need be the toilet. While you’re at it put a no slip surface in the tub and shower area and install adequate lighting so you aren’t groping around in the dark dim light. A nightlight in the bathroom is a good idea as well.
Keep your halls and doorways well lit, even better when you get up at night turn on the lights.

Wear good shoes with non-slip soles and make sure you have handrails on all of the stairs in your home. Keep your stairs in good repair and don’t set junk on the steps-keep them clear at all times; they are for walking on, not storage space.

The next time you see your doctor take in all of the medicines, herbs, vitamins and other supplements you take in each day. Some of these may interact negatively with one another and just be setting you up for a fall. Medications that treat blood pressure or muscle soreness (relaxants or sedatives) can cause dizziness and subsequent loss of balance.

Finally have your vision checked out to make certain you aren’t contending with glaucoma or cataracts. Both can limit your vision, which increases your chance of falling.

Falls occur from medications, hearing problems, lack of muscle strength, coordination difficulties and from conditions that affect balance and the reflex systems of the organism.

These basic precautions will go a long way in helping to make your home more fall proof.

220816 Healthy movement

220816 Healthy movement

Healthy movement is beneficial to your body and at its lowest level, even some activity is better than doing nothing. If you are just starting out then gradually build up your endurance with 5 to 10 minute exercise breaks throughout the day. At the 10-minute level, your body begins to adapt and then noticeable changes become evident.

After you are able to exercise aerobically for at least 10 minutes, it is time to branch out by adding resistance exercises to the daily routine. One way to begin is by doing one 10-minute session of endurance work and then later on in the day doing 10-minutes of resistance training.

Alternate between aerobic and resistance training for at least thirty minutes for the day.

The aerobic exercises can be brisk walking, skipping rope, riding a bike or any other activity that is continuous and places a demand on your breathing and heart rate. After you are finished then cool down with static stretches, holding each one for fifteen to thirty seconds. Do this three to five times for each stretch.

For the resistance training start out with body weight calisthenics by doing 3-5 sets of fifteen to thirty bodyweight squats, push ups, calf raises, prone back extensions, curl ups, leg raises or others of your choosing. You can do these in a circuit or one exercise at a time. Stay with it for the full 10 minutes.

If you are over sixty-five, the health benefits of activity are just as important to you as they are to the younger people. Start slowly and build up your fitness levels over time. If you have chronic health problems, work around them and do what you can.

If you aren’t able to ride a bike or have access to a treadmill or other such equipment, then get one of the hand ergometers available at Costco for about $49.00 and exercise your upper body. Do counter top pushups by standing two or three feet away from a counter top and then doing pushups on it.

Do chair sits. Sit in and stand up from a chair without pushing on your legs with your hands as you stand up. Practice sitting down on a chair; standing up, walking away briskly for 10 feet, and then coming back and sitting in the chair again. Repeat this for a minute or more. This builds up leg strength and helps with your balance.

Practice your balance to help prevent falls by walking sideways, standing heel to toe; practicing the stork stand on one leg with the other bent ninety degrees at the hip and knee or any of the many other balancing exercises.

130816 Coordination and Fall Prevention

130816 Coordination and Fall Prevention

The premise is development and continued training of coordination and strength will help prevent falls from occurring.

Coordination is made up of many aspects, all of which contribute to the safe and efficient execution of daily tasks and sport participation. An oft-used definition describes coordination as the ability to successfully accomplish movement patterns that require the interrelated cooperation of various parts of the body to complete. These movements are completed with a minimum of effort and without tension or mental mistakes while doing so.

A properly constructed coordination training program will involve continual learning and subsequent perfecting of the basics which will follow a well thought out plan of attack. Consideration must be given to the following attributes of the program.

Continuous variation of the movement patterns, meaning inclusion of the acts of balancing, throwing, catching, jumping, and marching
Perfection of the basics of coordination as mentioned in an earlier paragraph (maintain a sense of rhythm, spatial orientation…)

Combinations of strength, strength speed, and endurance integrated within the coordination training will use the repetitive methods of achieving success in the development of coordination abilities. By using various methods during practice the body increases its repertoire of skills.

A very basic but productive coordination program is a combination of balance, quick controlled movements, mirroring another’s hand, arm and leg motions or executing familiar exercises in new positions. Other additions to the routine which are phased in on an irregular basis will be adding extra moves to an already mastered technique or exercise or doing them in different conditions such as on a balance pad or with perturbations via personal contact or elastic bands.

Of course each of these suggestions needs to be carefully evaluated by the individual or the individual and their doctor if osteoporosis is an issue. Broken bones derived from an exercise are not conducive to good bone health!
As would be expected the physiological basis of this component of living lies in the synchronization of the neurological motor processes of the body. These processes must function in such a manner as to excite one motor control center without a residual effect on another motor center directing another part of the body. Most individuals include agility and balance in the mix with coordination. Typically one will not see a well-coordinated person with deficits in agility, balance or strength. Additional attributes will also be seen in the coordinated ability to maintain a sense of rhythm, spatial orientation and kinesthetic differentiation along with proper reactions to sound or visual cues.

Coordination training has its roots in diversified movements, versatility and large global, expansive and expressive movements. The more exercises and movements that are mastered the better prepared the body will be to learn more complicated ones in the future. In order to vary the training, incorporate these twelve features into the program. Not all at once though. Explanations and examples follow.

1. Direction of movement changes
2. Vary the starting positions going into the movement
3. Change the finishing positions
4. Utilize larger ranges of movements
5. Fluctuate the pace of movement
6. Place time limitations on the movements
7. Add additional moves
8. Add additional tasks
9. Environmental changes
10. Practice coordination in an environmentally disturbed state
11. Changing responses to various cues for exercises that require a reaction to a signal
12. Performing another movement requiring coordination that upsets the balance and coordination of the previous move.

Direction of movement changes

Once a move is mastered it becomes second nature to repeat. Enlarging upon this natural pattern then becomes the training goal. For example when doing dumbbell curls it is easy to move both up and down at the same time or to do alternate arms but try moving one up for one repetition while simultaneously moving the other up for two repetitions.

Change the starting positions

Every exercise has a start, middle and finish position. A regular squat begins by standing upright with the bar on the back. And it normally ends the same way. Now start it in the down position. You will experience new challenges.

Change the finishing positions

As mentioned before all exercises have the three elements of start, middle and finish. In the previous example we started at the bottom of the lift. Now finish at the bottom instead of in the standing position.

Utilize larger ranges of movements

In some exercises the movements are very small compared to the larger gross movements of the body. The barbell curl can be made into a much greater range simply by ending with the elbows held high at shoulder level.

Fluctuate the pace of movement

Cadence counting is a reminder to keep smooth and on track with the exercise. The use of a metronome is a handy device for altering these patterns. Set one up for 30 beats per minute and keep up with it. Next set it for 50 beats and repeat the exercise or have your trainer or partner count in an off cadence manner as you exercise. The eccentric motion can be at a count of 1,2,3,4 where as the concentric is 1, 2. The next count could be at 1, 2 with the eccentric and the concentric also at 1, 2. The point is to disrupt the natural flow and force the body to accommodate to the new speed changes.

Place time limitations on the movements

This is similar to the preceding but in this case the exercise is executed an exact number of repetitions during a precise amount of time. Jumping up and landing ninety degrees from the starting position four times in fifteen seconds. Sticking the landing and in the correct ending position with each repetition.
Add additional moves

Additional moves added into an already mastered exercise develop the coordination process by adaptation of an altered motor control sequence. Jumping up and down while moving one arm up and the other down, or kicking the legs outward as you move your arms to the sides are examples of such added moves.

Add additional tasks to the exercise

This is a commonly used tactic for trainers on a limited time line. In the military press you could add shoulder shrugs top and bottom as the extra movements

Environmental condition changes

This implies adding extra weight to the athlete, altering the height of an obstacle that must be jumped, doing the exercises in water, in a very limited space or with distractions surrounding the athlete such as noise, crowded conditions in water.

Practice coordination in an environmentally disturbed state

Do the exercises while blindfolded, with added perturbations using tubing, elastic bands or partner disturbances to the balance practice positions. One example out of hundreds will be while standing heel-to-toe have a partner gently tug or push various parts of your body as you remain balanced and continuing on with the exercise.

Changing responses to various cues for exercises that require a reaction to a signal

In this case we are making the body adapt to external cues before performing a maneuver. For instance, a light could signal a squat whereas an audio signal would mean a jump squat was to be performed or both signals at the same time could mean a twisting jump squat where the athlete jumps up and turns a specific number of degrees before landing.

Performing another movement requiring coordination that upsets the balance and coordination of the previous move.

For example, spinning in a circle and then standing on one foot, doing a rolling forward somersault and then standing heel to toe immediately thereafter.

Each of the preceding examples are parts of a coordination training program; but simply practicing coordination is not enough to prevent falls from happening. It seems as though some falls are inevitable. Those that aren’t are the ones we are working on fixing at this juncture. Coordination without strength is an oxymoron; the two are mutually supportive and must be included in any sensible program.

Strength and coordination

A well coordinated person implies adequate strength to maneuver the body in such a fashion as to move gracefully with the utmost of efficiency while doing so. Adding extra weight to the body increases the demands made upon the coordination processes within the organism particularly if the balance properties are being challenged to any degree.

250616 Older adult exercise guideline

250616 Older adult exercise guidelines

The previous adult guidelines apply to the older population but with a few moderate stipulations that are just for this group. If you are an older adult but are unable to do at least 150 minutes of medium intensity aerobic activity each week due to chronic health conditions then continue to do what you can do. It is far better to be a little active than none at all.

Let your physical abilities and health conditions guide your exercise response. Just don’t quit.

Exercises that help prevent falls by maintaining balance capabilities are essential to good health. Strength training keeps your muscles ready to prevent a fall should you find yourself losing your balance and beginning to fall. If you don’t have the strength to catch yourself then you will more than likely fall.

Schedule periodic discussions with your doctor to determine if the exercises you want to do are appropriate for your particular health conditions. Don’t delay going in if you have questions.

You can ride a stationary bike or use a hand device that allows you to pedal with your arms if you aren’t able to maintain your balance on a bike. Other options are to walk with a friend or joy a local fitness center.

If you decide to join a health center follow your gut instincts when it comes to the exercise program they put you on; if it doesn’t feel right don’t do it! Ask for clarification as to why you are supposed to be doing the exercises and then have the instructor demonstrate each one before you try it. If it hurts don’t do it, there are scores of other exercises that will provide a similar result.

If you decide to go it on your own plan on doing some cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance training two to three times per week for twenty to thirty minutes a day. The thirty minutes a day is a high end number. Don’t kill yourself in these workouts. They should be enjoyable and fun to do. If not then change your program.

Most professional strength coaches or personal trainers will be more than happy to assist you, if not, go to another gym, and find someone with a little compassion. It’s not always about the membership and the money you pay to be a part of the club.