Posts Tagged ‘Strength training

19
Nov
13

How Flexible Should I Be and How Can I Measure My Flexibility?


Low back pain SwisschiroWatching a dancer her leg to her nose is an impressive sight, and many of us can perform similar feats when we’re children. But we begin to lose flexibility as we age if we do not make a conscious effort to remain limber. Inactivity causes muscles to shorten and stiffen, and muscle mass is lost with increasing years as well. However, maintaining flexibility as we get older is of great importance, since it allows us to retain our mobility and reduces the likelihood of aches, sprains and falls as we age.

Optimal flexibility means the ability of each of your joints to move fully through their natural range of motion. Simple activities such as walking or bending over to tie your shoes can become major difficulties if your flexibility is limited. Unfortunately, sitting for hours at a desk, as so many are forced to do on a daily basis, eventually leads to a reduction in flexibility as the muscles shorten and tighten.

There are a number of different tests used to measure flexibility, but the one test that has been used as a standard for years is the sit and reach test. It measures the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back. The simple home version of the test requires only a step (or a small box) and a ruler.

Before the test, warm up for about 10 minutes with some light aerobic activity and do a few stretches. Then place the ruler on the step, letting the end of it extend out a few inches over your toes, and note where the edge of the step comes to on the ruler. Sit on the floor with your feet extended in front of you, flat against the bottom step (or box). With your arms extended straight out in front of you and one hand on top of the other, gradually bend forward from the hips, keeping your back straight. (Rounding the back will give you a false result). Measure where your fingertips come to on the ruler. They should ideally be able to reach at least as far as the front of the step. Any measurement past the edge of the step is a bonus. No matter how far you can reach on the first measurement, do the test periodically and try to improve your score every few weeks.

If you find that you are less flexible than you should be, some regular stretching exercises combined with visits to your chiropractor can help to restore flexibility and improve range of motion, helping to ensure that you remain limber into older age.

 

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29
Nov
12

Core Strength: What it is and Why it Matters


Core strength is a concept often talked about in health centers, gyms and yoga studios but what is it and why does it matter?

In human beings, the majority of movement originates from the lower part of the torso (the lumbar spine and abdomen).  This is the part of the body that tenses first and keeps the body balanced during running, lifting, twisting and other normal day-to-day movements.  Strength in this region is a basic building block from which to develop power in other areas of the body and is fundamental to maintaining good posture and spinal alignment.

Anatomically speaking, the core region of the body consists of the lower back, abdomen, pelvis and diaphragm.  The main muscle groups include the transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae.  It is these muscles that often need strengthening due to the fact that on a daily basis most of us are far less active than our ancestors who worked at more physically demanding jobs.

We’ve known about the importance of core strength for a long time.  Yoga and Pilates teachers, martial artists and qi gong practitioners all move from the same center of gravity and balance in the core region and view this area as the nexus of human power and energy.  They stress the importance of strengthening the core through breathing exercises and meditation as well as physical movement.  Since the core region of the body contains the diaphragm, ease of breathing is both a sign and result of good core strength.  Back pain, on the other hand, may well be a sign that core strength needs to be improved.

For those who practice sports, proper alignment is particularly important to prevent injuries during physical exertion.  If the core muscles are not strong enough to support the spine during movement, then other muscle groups will be used to perform the action with a much greater risk of damage.  The rest of us also need to be conscious of our core strength since we all engage in strenuous action at various points in our lives (lifting boxes, running to catch a bus, playfully swinging a child, etc.).

While chiropractors are always willing to help patients in need of treatment, the ultimate goal of chiropractic care is for everyone to have the best possible spinal health.  Good core strength definitely contributes to that, whether you are otherwise healthy or have an ongoing postural problem.  If you want to improve your spinal health and posture and reduce your chance of injury, working on core strength through a balanced program of exercise is a very good, and inexpensive, way of going about it.

Dr P. Dubois, DC, CCSP

 




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