Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gift certificates for the holidays!

It's the holiday season, and you probably have some people you'd like to buy gifts for, and just can't figure out the perfect thing.

Give your friends and loved ones a gift that you know will benefit them, and which will be custom-tailored to be just what they need!


You can contact me directly to purchase gift certificates, purchase them in person, or we can even take care of it entirely online, through my Square Marketplace Storefront! Just select the service or services you'd like to purchase gift certificates for, and be sure to include your contact information at checkout.  I will contact you and will email you a printable gift certificate!


Don't forget yourself this holiday season, either!  You can also put a massage in your cart while you're at it, and save a gift certificate for yourself!


Have a fun, safe and thankful holiday season!


--Eric

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sorry your legs are sore. Would you like to do lunges today, instead of squats?

Melody Shoenfeld had a guest post on her blog recently, by Benjamin Bergman, and it’s one that I generally agree with.  He notes something that we all probably see all around us - if we just take a second to look: people with impressive upper bodies, and toothpick legs.  I saw a guy in the grocery store a couple weeks back who had plenty of mass and shape in his upper body, but whose legs literally (yes, I’m using that word correctly, here) couldn’t fill out the biking shorts he was wearing.  I guess every day is chest day for that dude...and he wouldn’t be my first pick to get me out a jam in the woods, or from a Glasgow Pub (I don’t mean to be macabre, but I’m training to be efficient in, and prepared for, life’s surprises.  Not for vanity).
Bergman also mentions that our legs are the basis for almost every single athletic endeavor, and points out that training your legs for lean mass has more benefits: hormone levels (though it could be argued that this goes for all strength and conditioning), and of course, the looks.  I may not train for vanity, but I sure do like the way I look when I’m on my game.  I feel great inside, and feel like I look great!  Men - it’s nice t have legs that aren’t total toothpicks (I’m genetically predisposed to skinny legs, but they’re a lot better than they used to be).  Ladies - squats, lunges, jumping, will all tone your legs, and lift and shape your butt (heck, this applies to us men, too).  Running and the elliptical just won’t do it that same way.  It doesn’t take a lot of weight - it’s more about the movement, and making sure you’re doing them regularly.
So, the next time you’re in a training session with me, and you think I’m insane because yesterday’s workout had a lot of leg-based movements, too, hopefully you’ll understand where I’m coming from: I want you to be reliable in life’s physical challenges, and I want you to have the legs and butt you probably want, in the back of your mind (or the front!).


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making long term change manageable

I tell our personal trainer students all the time: “hold your clients accountable.”  There are a number of things I mean to hold them accountable for: showing up, putting in the work, eating right, and tracking all of these things.  I encourage our students to hold the line on this one, too.  Be tough.  I encourage them to stop the handholding on a day-to-day basis.  There is no reason health, fitness or wellness professionals should have to tell their clients exactly what to lift, eat, manage their mobility every day.  It is up to the client to take some ownership.  If the client does not take ownership, then they are setting themselves up for only limited success, and only for as long as their hand is being held.
A client who comes to me without tracking their results is a client I cannot help change their lifestyle.  It demonstrates that they are not invested for the other 23 hours of their day, and the other

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are your training partners helping you?

At Atlanta School of Massage, and in all of our programs, we believe in creating a safe space for supportive teaching and learning.  We have formalized this expectation for our personal training clients in a dimension we call “Spirit of Learning.”  Each individual may contribute to the learning environment in their own way, so we kept it simple; students either detract from the learning environment, they remain neutral, neither adding or subtracting, or they support the learning environment.  Very simple.  We encourage all of the students to contribute in their own way, and when opportunities arise, but we don’t tell them how they have to do so. We believe that this kind of environment allows for better learning, and greater personal growth, and I believe that it transfers to gym, and to life.
I saw this post the other day on Catalyst Athletics’ blog, and it reminded me of our Spirit of Learning dimension, and it also reminded me of my experiences in the gym. We have some amazingly supportive people in our gym - great teammates. People who encourage me to push my limits and my boundaries, but don't force me to push them. People who want to see me succeed on each new lift, each rep, while understand that pushing for that next rep may mean failure, and that making the attempt is where the real growth lives.
I love my gym family. Our team. I think that our team, and every teammate's willingness to not only push, but respect, my limits, is what sets our gym apart. Are you, are your training partners, good teammates?


This blog is similar to an entry I wrote for ASM Wellness, both inspired by that Catalyst Athletics Article.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A special for gobble joggers!

So you got up, you went out and you ran on Thanksgiving morning. Good for you!

To help you recover from the run and from all the food, I'm offering a hearty 20℅ off a massage for any gobble jogger who presents their race number at their massage!  This offer is good for new and existing clients.

Contact me at Eric@squaremassage.com or by phone at 404-425-9593 to book your appointment, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Massage Therapy Research Continues to Grow

Massage therapy has seen a lot of growth in the past decade.  Some of that growth has come with growing pains, and there’s a treasure trove of information to be explored and debated in all of the growth.  Much of this has gone hand-in-hand with an increased re-acceptance of massage therapy as a therapeutic, non-pharmaceutical, nonsurgical intervention, beneficial for a lot of different conditions (let’s call this “technique” clinical massage).  With social and cultural shifts regarding wellness and medicine, as well as the economy factoring into peoples’ healthcare choices, it’s tough to pin down a primary force that’s driving the re-acceptance.
Consumers are more savvy, these days.  Information is so easily found and shared, and consumers want evidence, and will seek it out.  So, regardless of the key driving factors, we know that reception of clinical massage as an alternative treatment has come with an increase in research.  Whether the research is driving the acceptance, or the acceptance is driving the research is unimportant –  we know that we are seeing a steady increase in the amount ofmassage therapy research.  A quality scientific study will validate anecdotal evidence, and help make cases for subsidies (read: insurance coverage) for certain types of massage treatments.
The Massage Therapy Foundation now offers grants for studies in amounts up to $30,000, and research conducted by medical and research organizations not associated with massage is also increasing.  Increased research and support for massage therapy will also continue to make it easier for clinically-minded massage therapists to gain traction with physicians, physical therapists and other medical professionals.  Research conducted by organizations that are not massage-focused will put that evidence in the hands of a wider audience, and further help to spread awareness and acceptance.
As I mentioned, this is already in motion, and we can expect to see continued emphasis on massage research, as evidenced by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork’s recent changes in Continuing Education requirements.  NCBTMB has repositioned their Board Certification Credential as an advanced credential.  Just as their former National Certification credential helped to set apart practitioners with proper education and qualifications, the revamped Board Certification credential poised to help move clinical massage into greater acceptance as an effective alternative to more common medical treatments, for certain conditions.  It will also require certified therapists to get a certain amount of their continuing education credits in the field of research.
NCBTMB’s changes are further indicators of the gradual sea change in the public perception of massage therapy, and the standards to which massage therapists are likely to be held by the public and by medical professionals.  In the near future, the therapists and organizations that will set themselves apart will be those with research literacy, and affiliations with organizations conducting massage therapy research.

*This blog is cross-posted at ASM Wellness.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Exploring Whole30 and the Merits of a Paleo Diet, Part 3

paleo-breakfast600
Paleo Breakfast with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
You’ve got a picture of what a Whole30 diet looks like from parts one and two, so now it’s time to understand the science behind this dietary lifestyle.  The fundamentals behind the Whole30 paleo diet is based on the 4 Good Food Standards, which requires that all foods should:
1. Promote a healthy psychological response.
2. Promote a healthy hormonal response.
3. Support a healthy gut.
4. Support immune function and minimize inflammation.
All of the Whole30 food and dietary recommendations unfold from these 4 principles.
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Endive, Watercress and Radish Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese
With the assumption that all food has a positive or negative impact on overall wellness the impact may be greater to lesser depending on the individual. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig applied these principles and developed strict dietary guidelines based on science and their personal experiences.  The result has been the Whole30,  a 30 day application of the strict diet, in order to allow each individual to identify the degree to which a given food type has a positive or negative effect on them.  Using this information, individuals can determine the optimum foods and diet for them while taking ownership of their own wellness. Ultimately, it’s an education and empowerment experience.  It just so happens to be built on a “paleo” platform, because that platform most closely accommodates the 4 Good Food Standards.
The science is vast and somewhat complicated, but from my perspective, and summarized in my own words, here is the upshot of it:
By eating a combination of foods that most closely resemble earth-to-mouth foods , and the proportions to which these are naturally available (without the intervention of high-tech agriculture), we can allow the body to appropriately self-regulate its craving for certain types of macro-nutrients, and stabilize our hormone levels throughout the day.  Then there are the less-obvious effects of improving gut health, lessening systemic inflammation and daily immune activity – all of which help a person have more energy and fight off illness.
paleo-pork-2-600
Garlic and Herb-Crusted Pork Loin
Despite all this, my first week on Whole30 was kind of a disaster. I was craving oatmeal like wild. My energy and moods were all over the map.  My first go-around, I hadn’t read It Starts With Food yet, so I only had so much patience with the process, and still really wanted my grains and sugars…I mean, I REALLY wanted them.
In my next post, I will discuss grains a bit more…they seem to be the cornerstone of the Engine 2 Diet, yet they are a bit of a gateway food for me to decline into inflammation and poor dietary choices.
Images and recipes courtesy PaleoSpirit.com:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Exploring Whole30 and the Merits of a Paleo Diet, Part 2

Before I go any further with this series, I should outline a little bit about the paleo diet and the Whole30 challenge.  In my previous post, I mentioned that I once thought that the Whole 30 sounded too restrictive for me to succeed.  Well, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, creators of the Whole30, suggest framing the paleo/Whole30 diet in terms of what you can eat, rather than what you cannot.
Food-Pyramid
LEAN MEAT + VEGETABLES & FRUIT + NUTS & SEEDS + HEALTHY OILS
Image courtesy AllPaleoDiet.com
I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit.  I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition.  And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible.
It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight.  In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine.  Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way.
Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body.  It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym.  It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Exploring Whole30 and the Merits of a Paleo Diet

Note: This series of blogs about my experience with Whole30 is one I am writing for ASM Wellness, and I am cross-posting from their blog to mine:

For the past month, Mycah Kirkland has followed Atlanta Institute of Aesthetics Instructor Carol Venclik’s journey, growth, and successes with the Engine 2 Diet. I’m very happy for Carol...she is an amazing person, and everyone who knows her wants to see her healthy.
But, as I read the blog series, I kept thinking that the amount of grains involved in the Engine 2 Diet would absolutely not be a good match for me. Personally, I don’t think I could get on board.You see...I am more of a “paleo” kid.  
For those not familiar with “paleo,” it is also often referred to as the “caveman diet,” and it’s a big deal in the CrossFit community. I personally feel that the paleo lifestyle is an optimal path to health and wellness. More specifically, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 program which began with a paleo template.
Before I tell you the reasons why I’m such a fan of paleo, let me first tell you how I discovered this lifestyle. My wife eats a pescetarian diet, and while I’m not opposed to eating vegetarian, I’m not a big fan of fish. For the longest time, we ate a lot of soy-based protein products, and a generally vegetarian diet. Sometimes, I would have meat and she would have fish.
My wife wanted me to try this thing called the Whole 30 - a 30 day paleo challenge. It sounded so restrictive that I was certain I couldn’t do it. Finally, I committed to doing a Whole 30 with the folks in my gym. Except I only halfway committed. I knew that I had some special events during that month, so I planned days “off” the program.  

It was a good enough “dry run” that eventually, I would go on to commit to and execute a full 30 days of the Whole30 Program. I also read the companion book It Starts With Food. The combination of the two changed my relationship with and perspective on food...permanently.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

If knowledge is power, then here's a book you need to own...

He's already pretty well known in the CrossFit scene, but Kelly Starrett's work has a place in all athletes' self-care arsenal.  It feels cliche' to say it but the guy is really smart.  Beyond being smart, though, he has a way of organizing and presenting what he knows in a way that is very accessible...and not dumbed down.

I can't tell you how many times I've pointed clients to his website to find their self care instructions.  I will demonstrate or describe what I think they ought to do, but after a session, I'm often throwing more information at them than they are likely to remember.  So I like to give them an internet link to their reference material, instead of asking them to memorize everything.  I have found that this increases their compliance, since they only have to remember to pull up the info and do it.

Now Kelly has put an awful lot of that information into one very comprehensive, very approachable book, Becoming a Supple Leopard:

In the book, he lays out his approach to the body and movements.
He gives you the rationalization for this system, and  keeps it all very straightforward.
Then he breaks down common exercise movements, and the faults many of us are subject to in those movements.
Finally - and here's the payoff - he tells us how we can work to fix them.

When you move more healthily, you will see less pain and less injury, and greater performance.  Pick up Kelly's book, Becoming a Supple Leopard from the Amazon link below.  Get powerful.  Get knowledgeable.

Friday, September 27, 2013

New research indicates that stretching isn't enough to increase mobility

Ladies and gentlemen, flexibility and mobility are not the same thing.  This is not new news, but there is a new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which specifically aimed to look at the difference between the two, and what type of work aides in improving each.
First, let me help to distinguish the difference between flexibility and mobility.  Flexibility is the range of motion available in a joint.  It can be inhibited by limitations in the structure of the joint, or by “tight” muscles.  Stretching can help, if the limitation is due to shortened, or “tight,” muscles (I’m ignoring the debates over stretching, and sticking with the simple perspective).
Mobility is the ability to actually utilize the potential for range of motion allowed by flexibility.  This means the full range of motion that actually gets used in exercise and life, and requires control over the involved muscles.  So, if I can fold my hips into a pretzel with the assistance of my hands, while sitting, but I can’t squat my own body weight to full depth, then my flexibility is stellar, but I’m not especially mobile.
Many folks will assume that if a tight muscle is preventing them from getting their full depth squat, then stretching that muscle should help them gain better depth in their squat.  It may, to a degree.  But what this study has identified is that if mobility work is not employed, in addition to stretching, then the improved range of motion (as a result of flexibility) will not be utilized in movement patterns.

This is not entirely new information.  Systems like the FMS and NASM’s CES already employ efforts to reestablish flexibility, and then integrate that flexibility into real movements, in order to increase mobility.  If you want to maximize your performance, and minimize your risk of injury, make sure that your trainer is at least aware of these principles.  If you have a history of injury or chronic pain, then I would suggest seeking out a trainer with training and certifications in Corrective Exercise.  Then you can focus on building stronger performance.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The day has finally come!

Many of you probably already know that we have been working hard on getting a new office space set up, so that Square Massage will officially have a home.  Well, that day has finally arrived, my friends!

I am excited to announce that Square Massage now has a permanent home inside the new CrossFit on the Square location, near Marietta Square!  This space will provide a great environment that’s conveniently located (especially for CFSQ members) just off of the North 120 Loop.

CrossFit on the Square has also warmly opened up their space for me to work with personal training and corrective exercise clients.  This means that there is the opportunity for fluid movement from rigorous workouts, through corrective exercises and mobility work, right onto the table for massage or active recovery sessions.  All with plenty of qualified professionals around to help you perform optimally and with minimal injury.

Let’s not forget a huge congratulations to Mario and Ivy at CrossFit on the Square for their new space, and thank you for being so supportive and for sharing my vision with me.  This is a very exciting opportunity for me, and I hope to share the benefits with many!  

Call or email me to book an appointment and check out the new space (404-425-9593 Eric@SquareMassage.com).  Then, stay tuned for more updates on additional items to help make booking appointments even easier!

The new address is:
305 Cherokee St.

Marietta, GA 30060

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Just say "No" to gluteal amnesia

Gluteal Amnesia.  Yup, it's a thing.  Sure, it's not strictly the most technical term ever used, but it is very, very real.  Your glutes may have forgotten how to contract and function properly.  The fact is that many of us spend a lot of our time sitting on our glutes, keeping them partially stretched while we mash the layers of muscles together.  This takes it tough for them to get unstuck from one another, and since they stay somewhat lengthened for long stretches, they can wind up neurologically inhibited, too.  And getting the glutes to fire isn’t exactly like riding a bike…you don’t just hop back on and get going again.  In fact, training (or retraining) neuropathways and movement patterns always takes some time.  Keeping them active and efficient is a good deal easier.  You may be thinking that if you can stand up and walk up and down stairs you are A-OK.  You might even be thinking "Hey, I can squat plenty more than enough, how could my glutes not be working right?"  But the body is remarkable and will figure out how to get you through your squats, even inefficiently.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To ice or not to ice...is still the question

I know that I have mentioned icing vs. not icing before, and I keep hearing questions about it, lately. Why?  Because getting injured in part of life.  We are all exposed to injury risk every day of our lives, from the very first moment we get out of bed each day.  However, the best ways to deal with injury are not always agreed upon, or perfectly clear.  So I would like to simply share some of my thoughts, some supporting links and invite you all to think about them.
In the comments, post your thoughts and experiences...we are all unique snowflakes, and we're all alike.  So your special method of rehabilitation just might fit someone else's needs, too.

Mechanisms of injury repair:
Injuries heal through  basic process, and inflammation is one of the critical steps.  This outlines the 4 steps, and has some nice analogies to make the picture more clear.

Icing vs. Other options:
If inflammation is a critical part of the healing process, then why would we want to inhibit it?  Glad I'm not the only one asking this question... Do what I did and set aside time to watch that ENTIRE conversation while you're icing and injury.  Fun!

And if you're not in the mood to watch the whole thing right now, here's a similar concept in article format.

Beyond minor soft tissue injuries: supporting the body's healing mechanisms:
All things in moderation, right?  Too much inflammation for too long will eventually just wear the body out and make it unable to efficiently heal the little aches and pains we live with every day.  But don't take my word for it (as Lavar Burton would say)...read a book.

....and just what if you have already let it go, and the damage is done...can it be healed?  Some people think so.  I know a guy who's actually been to this doctor and absolutely swears by prolotherapy, which is intended to stimulate a healthy inflammation response. Go back and read that again....now think about it.  Make sense?

Browse through that information.  EDUCATE YOURSELF, and then decide what you want to do with your injuries.  It's your body, take ownership of it!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Self perpetuation and reciprocity

I was about 55 minutes into a 60 minute massage the other day when my client mentioned that I must be so tired after massages, not just physically, but energetically.  She said it felt like I had given so much of my energy that she felt stronger, internally, than when we started.  The funny thing is that, while she thought I must be drained, I was actually feeling energized because I knew she was enjoying and benefiting from the work.  She couldn't have been more delightfully wrong!

We had a conversation about how there can be a reciprocity in actions, intentions, energy, and so on. We talked about how this doesn't always need two people, but that there are opportunities to do this every day.  You can literally stop and smell the flowers. My wife does this routinely and every single time she does it, I admire that she's taking a moment to reconnect with all the beautiful things in the world, and it reminds me to do the same. Just 15 minutes ago, I paused and smelled the amazing roses in the parking lot outside the DeKalb Farmers Market. I thought it was amazing that I didn't see anyone else doing the same. They smelled so great! When we manage to find the strength, the happiness, the compassion in ourselves, and share that with the world around us, it will get reflected right back. You might consider that the self-perpetuation of your inner strength. What are you choosing to put out there, so it reflects back at you? Are you stopping to smell the roses? Next time you pass the floral department, or a nice flower bed, stop and smell them-especially if you are with other people-and then observe your reaction and the reaction of people around. I'd wager you'll see smiles.

Friday, April 26, 2013

CrossFit massage

I don't think I've ever said it directly in a blog post, but I am a CrossFitter. I do CrossFit, and I am a massage therapist and  personal trainer. There.  I've said it, officially.

CrossFitters push themselves really hard and CrossFit can be a really polarizing thing, due to its intensity and the intensity of some CrossFit athletes.  Some individuals only see risk and some only reward.  But there is a balance: one thing many CrossFitters share with triathletes is that we are willing to go to great lengths to pursue better performance and lower risk of injury in and out of the gym.  This includes extra time spent working on skills, mobility & flexibility (just look at the popularity of MobilityWOD), diet and self-care regimen.  Like triathletes, many CrossFitters have realized that massage therapy can really aid in recovery and injury (p)rehab, which can lead to greater and more rapid gains in performance.

As a massage therapist, and CrossFitter, I'm in a position to really be able to understand the drive that CrossFitters have, as well as the physical demands of CrossFit movements.  I'm in a unique position to be able to help efficiently address the needs of our community of athletes since I experience it, too.

Further, more and more members of CrossFit On The Square realize that having solid, basic movement patterns are critical to injury prevention, and are undertaking measures to ensure that their basic movements are aiding their wellness and performance, rather than inhibiting it.

I've already helped some of your CFSQ and PrettySTRONG coaches, and athletes.  If you want to find out what I can do to help you, just ask them, or reach out to me directly via email or facebook.  If you aren't a CFSQ member or a CrossFitter at all, no worries, I'm all about helping everyone I can.



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My left foot

I want to challenge you to think of any joint pain/issues you may have in your lower body, and to think up and down stream of these pains...towards the next joint up or down.  Keep this in mind as you read further...

I have addressed the general effects that poor footwear can have, moving upward through the body.  To be fair, sometimes the footwear doesn't even need to be involved to have issues in the feet which then move upstream to the knees, hips, etc.  One of these possibilities in overpronation.

Pronation is the ability of the foot to "roll" slightly inward, toward the arch.  This type of movement allows for adaptation to uneven terrain and shock absorption, among other things.  But, with this kind of mobility in a joint or limb, much of the stability must be provided by the muscles and soft tissue in the joint and surrounding areas.  So, when there is overpronation, it can effect this soft tissue, and the effects are felt upstream, just like the effects of the wrong footwear.  Pronation = Good.  Overpronation = Bad.

(Underpronation is also bad, but that's a different story, altogether, and far less common.)

There are several things which might contribute to (or "cause") overpronation.  Weakness in the muscles which control that movement (namely tibialis posterior) can allow for overpronation.  Multiple

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ankle mobility

I'm kind of going to cheat with this post, as I'm mostly re-posting someone else's work.  But it just works, so why should I tinker with what he's done?

This article, written by Jeff Kuhland discusses screening your own ankles for range of motion, and specific stretches and exercises to do to improve or restore your mobility, and is a nice companion to a couple entries I've written

The first one being "Solid Foundations," addressing how high heels will mess with your ankles, and then all the way up the line to the shoulders, neck and head.

The other entry I've written is "Improve the bottom of that squat," which addresses the range of motion available at the bottom of a squat, and how that can effect performance in not only the squat, but the receiving positions of the Olympic lifts.

Read my entries and understand why you may be missing range of motion, and why you might need range of motion, then read Jeff's and learn how to restore that range of motion.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

How functional is your training?

I was talking with a massage client today about my philosophy on training and he was asking what kind of exercise makes the most sense to me.  In the most basic terms, you could say that I'm a fan of functional training.  My reason for this is largely a result of my own journey into my current lifestyle.

I didn't exercise until I was in my late 20's. I'd always hated the idea of a gym with meatheads flexing their biceps in the mirror, and thought that most people in a gym must be there for their own vanity.  Then, through a series of events, I wound up finding myself training at several Crossfit gyms and enjoying the results I had outside the gym.  I eventually came to understand that what I was loving about it (beyond the much-discussed sense of community), was that I could actually understand how the movements I was doing in the gym would translate into real life.  My muscles might get bigger, but my workouts weren't about getting "the pump" in my biceps while I stared at myself in a mirror - they were about feeling better as I moved through life.

So when my client asked today, "If I work all the muscles by using different machines to work them all evenly, that's OK, right?"  I had to reply that I didn't think so, because that means you've never trained your body to use all those muscles together, or trained your core to transfer the weight of your child, or your groceries from your hands and shoulders through to your hips and legs.  Immediately he said it made perfect sense, and I got the impression I may have shifted this guy's paradigm a little bit with that touch of logic.  I can imagine him coming into the gym this week, looking at the sea of machines and asking himself: "what do I really stand to gain out of using these machines?  Are they helping me in my daily life?"

The training you are doing, including the movements you are performing, should logically support the activities you are training for.

Personally, I don't play any sports.  I'm not competing in bodybuilding or physique competitions.  I'm training for life, meaning that the movements I'm using should be the ones I will see in daily life...sitting, standing, lifting, running, walking, pushing, pulling, throwing...the things I might have done on the playground because they came naturally.

So, ask yourself: how functional is your training?



Friday, January 4, 2013

Ahhh...the rotator cuff.

We all hear a lot about it, and they get injured a lot with professional athletes (especially baseball players - pitchers, in particular).  But for most people, the anatomy and mechanics of the rotator cuff remain a mystery.  I've even encountered this in clients who have had rotator cuff tears and subsequent surgeries.  Either their doctor never took the time to explain it to them, or they forgot.

But even if you aren't a professional athlete and even if you haven't severly injured your rotator cuff, there's a pretty decent chance that yours is harboring some limitations and giving you some grief.  Have an itch in between your shoulder blades?  Can you scratch it easily?  With both hands?  If your answer is no (as mine is at the moment), then your rotator cuff most likely has some restriction.

The tricky thing with rotator cuff issues is that they are often elusive and sometimes present pain in less than obvious ways.  Sometimes, dysfunction in the muscles of the rotator cuff  present pain or weakness in the attachments of the muscles or even in the referral zones of rotator cuff trigger points.  This can mean pain anywhere around the shoulder joint, along the edge of the shoulder blade, and even down the arm to the wrist.  Most frequently, when I am able to trace a client's pain back to a rotator cuff issue, they report pain or weakness in movements that include even just a little bit of rotation of the shoulder.  Sometimes the rotational component of those movements can be subtle and difficult to identify, such as with the rollover movement of olympic lifts, or the combination of slight rotation and rotational stabilization of an overhead press.

With limitations of the rotator cuff, you might have impaired performance in any of those movements, and a whole host of other movements.  You may also be at increased risk for injury, if you find yourself in a situation that calls for a good, strong range of motion in the shoulder - including nonathletic situations (I once met someone who tore his rotator cuff slipping and falling on a gravel driveway with a slope).  In order to minimize your risk for injury, you should also seek to strengthen the rotator cuff, and to strengthen it through the entire range of motion.

So, if you are experiencing any odd pains or weak spots in your shoulder movements, ask yourself if you are doing any rotation of the shoulder? If so, then try the stretches in the video below.  If the stretches don't do the trick, consider booking a massage, or at least getting into the accessible rotator cuff muscles with a lacrosse ball or other self-massage tool, like the Theracane.  If nothing else, don't you want to be able to scratch your own back?