Calf Raise Challenge
How about a fun workout challenge??
How strong are your calves? Not, how large and/or tight and “ripped” do they look, but how *strong* are they *really*?
Calf raises. How far forward is your body translating when you raise up onto your toes? Check yourself against a wall (have something to hold onto!) or up to the kitchen counter.
Calf raises are a great way to strengthen not just your calves, but also your feet and ankles. There are so many ways to make them more challenging. Usually, people sway forward quite a bit and use the anterior (front) chain rather than the posterior (back) chain to create the movement. Cheater cheater pumpkin eater 🎃
Using the wall takes that cheat away and all you’re left with is foot/ankle, glute, and core strength. A.K.A. being faced with the truth of your back side.
The first time I tried these I couldn’t raise up a millimeter without holding on. Seriously. It was a gradual progression (mostly due to inconsistency) but the last couple weeks I have worked in a set at the wall each day and now it’s getting much smoother and I no longer have to hold onto anything.
Also, my calves were very unhappy initially. Clearly, I had never used them correctly before. When stationary, you should move basically straight up and down. When walking, calves work in concert with everything else to move you forward. Two different tasks with different demands. Work the isolated strength then move into dynamics and see how much better things feel.
Walking. Seems so innocuous, no? Notice how you walk throughout your day. Feet, arm swing, spine, hips/pelvis, breathing. The whole nine yards.
Here I first demonstrate the gait I see frequently, in women AND men. Lumbar (lower) spine rotates, thoracic (mid-upper back) spine stays still, arms going bananas in an attempt to create forward propulsion.
What we would like to see is some lovely cross body rotation (second demo), with shoulder rotating towards opposite hip as you step forward. A nice, relaxed, fluid motion. Of course, this can take some work to achieve, not the least of which is midback mobility (see my post on this from last August/September). But, in the meantime just notice what you feel and see. This is just a fun little test to see where you are at right now.
One of the things I see most often in women experiencing prolapse and diastasis recti is this lack of cross body rotation and general stiffness. And walking is the quickest way to spy this deficit. Complaints of low back pain are also often accompanied by the stiff upper body and overly-mobile lumbar spine.
The last part is a fun drill to do throughout the day to encourage more rotation. Exaggerate the rotation, and wiggle! Shake those sillies out!
Habit Stack: Crawling
Habit stacking with crawling because...why not?! I have been doing a lot more crawling lately to mix it up, work on serratus strength, core stability, and to keep my brain guessing by introducing novel stimuli every so often. Plus, it’s fun! Double plus, you’re already down on the floor with the kids, so get after it!
My pelvis used to rotate and rock side to side no matter what I tried, but once I stopped my reductionist approach to...everything...and started looking at the whole picture things started falling into place. Enter: the sippy cup. I can keep it standing and as close to motionless as I’ve ever gotten. Hooray!
It’s been good for my brain and body to get creative during this quarantine madness. Play, have fun, mix it up.
Habit Stack: Laundry Squats
Squeeze in your workout Wednesday ! I lovelovelove to stack my habits and my exercise throughout the day. It’s laundry day (wait, with two toddlers isn’t every day laundry day?!) so how about squeezing in some extra squats and hip hinge work?
Quick Tip: Aligned Handwashing!
Since we are all upping the hand-washing big time these days due to #coronavirus how about a little #alignment #tutorial since you’re spending way more time (at least 20 seconds of lather 12,147 times per day) scrubbing the nasties off your hands 😝
A few tips to consider: avoid leaning on the counter and thrusting hips forward, stand tall from the crown of your head, keep knees unlocked and soft, try aligning sternum over pubic bone, avoid hunching upper back to reach the water and instead reach through with serratus muscle (bringing shoulder blades forward), shake your #groovethang and maybe even practice getting some good 360 breaths in here, too.
Easy Strength: Serratus Anterior
I constantly battle my shoulder joints, have for a very long time. And I’ve been able to cheat and steal my way through mobility and strength deficits. I run, who needs strong arms?! 🤦♀️ But no more.
This year is the year of a strong upper body 💪. So I have enlisted myself in shoulder boot camp and am tackling those winging shoulder blades currently. Our shoulder blades aren’t supposed to look like bat wings in flight, what?!
Here it is, my new “favorite” serratus anterior exercise. I am a big fan of convenience when it comes to fitness because, well, compliance goes way up when it’s convenient. So I brought my gear downstairs while I immerse myself in a bit of shoulder boot camp.
”Oh lookey here, conveniently placed foam roller!” Each time I walked by it I would do 10 reps, set it down and be on my merry way. So that is how you make it work and get it done. Convenience.
This is sped up 2x, so take it slow. Set up like you are doing an awesome plank but on the wall...on a foam roller with a theraband . I like the foam roller at my wrists so I have enough to roll up, use arms to push yourself away to engage serratus anterior and glide shoulder blades along ribcage (no bat wings here!!). Next, engage core by zipping up your abs from pubic bone to belly button, knitting down your ribs with your abs (no #glutesofglory sticking up here!!). Speaking of, engage those glutes to help stabilize pelvis, and go slightly up on toes.
No you are ready. Keep elbows just wider than shoulders and make sure resistance is just enough to get those pec muscles to quiet down. Roll up and reach hands towards the wall (not straight up). If your band hits your face then you aren’t reaching towards the wall. You might need to readjust every few reps as the roller shifts.
When the movement was too hard for me early on I just did an isometric hold in the starting position. I still catch my pelvis wanting to rotate forwards (hence my adjustment on the second rep). So it’s a work in progress. But my serratus are finally waking up! Consistency is key, and for me to be consistent I also need it to be convenient **************************
I didn’t make this one up. The credit goes to what I learned from Dr. Sarah Ellis Duvall and the Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist certification I got last year. To say it has been life-changing is an understatement. So much amazing information, your brain will explode. But in a good way 😎 Click HERE to learn more as registration for the next class starts soon and you can save $150!
Bridges! Probably the second most prescribed exercise in physical therapy clinics across the U.S. Second only to clams. So much going wrong with them basically every time I see someone do them. And they are a great exercise for hip extension and building those #glutesofglory so today’s post is a quick tip on using better form.
Feet closer to bum = more glutes, further from bum = more hamstrings. Make sure to get a great 360 inhale first then exhale and use your lower abs to tilt pelvis posterior, pushing low back into the floor. Hold a nice brace at the end of your exhale and inhale again, still maintaining a gentle abdominal brace. On the exhale, tighten your brace slightly and push the ground away from you, contracting those glutes.
Remember 1.0: pubis in same plane as lower ribs, and ribs knit down with a nice abdominal brace. Breathing 360 under a brace is a skill and you may need to practice this. A lot. No breath-holding here, please!
Remember 2.0: don’t make your back work to create the movement. Keeping good core control will help keep the paraspinals soft so you can focus on using those glutes appropriately.
Remember 2.1: breathe throughout the entire exercise. NO BREATH-HOLDING!
Try it out and see what you think!
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot