Now that is an important topic we all are hoping for, eh? Now let’s see if I can deliver…
I am super passionate about this. I’ve been for quite a while. It’s always been a focus, but definitely since I had my rotator cuff (the muscles under and over your shoulder blades) injury back in August 2018. You can read about it on my blog here.
At the time, I read a book about shoulder injuries called Framework for the Shoulder and the author, Nicholas DiNubile, mentioned that once we are in our 40s the rotator cuff muscles have received so much wear and tear and with changes in our tissue composition as we age we are quite likely to injure those muscles. A bit disheartening I should say, but I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. Nope. My plan is to not experience that pain again.
Being a Corrective Exercise Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) I knew exactly what happened. I was training 6 times a week with heavy weights with loads of volume (think 6 back exercises in one day), and because I was so busy studying I wasn’t performing proper recovery methods (stretching and foam rolling), in addition I was sitting for hours on end studying with poor posture. Bad mix.
And what does any smart fitness pro do?
I changed the way I trained dramatically. I went from heavy loads with large volumes to lighter loads with medium to high volume (think Barre). I must say making that switch felt so much better on not just my rotator cuff muscles, but my joints as well. Heavy loads put a lot of pressure on joints (I can explain that in another post). I also focused on changing some of my habitual movement patterns and building my postural muscles. At this point I began exploring Pilates and Barre to compliment my training program, along with continuing with Flow.
And you know what happened? I became leaner with more defined muscles with a stronger core to boot. Win-win! All within my safe pain-free zone (never exercising to the point of pain in a joint).
Here is a secret about how I exercise: I don’t normally push myself super hard when I work out. Of course, I do challenge myself. But I rarely push myself to exhaustion. And I always only work so hard that I can maintain proper form. And that, my friends, is the key to staying injury free. Just add consistency to the mix (working out every day) and dial in your nutrition, and you are on the path to becoming fit!
The hard part is moving our bodies with proper form. All. The. Time. And that is where the NASM Corrective Exercise method shines. To slightly oversimplify: it’s about looking at your habitual movement patterns (we all have them), applying measures to lengthen a certain group of muscles that are tight while shortening the opposing group of muscles that are weak.
If you've ever worked with me, you know that I put a lot of emphasis on certain muscle groups. I focus a lot on glutes (our butt cheek muscles). I often see de-activated gluteals in most people (me included!), which is super normal because those muscles are often lengthened for large periods of time (sitting). The opposing muscle group, the hip flexors (at the front of our hips), are usually super tight as those muscles stay in a shortened position for long periods of time. This unhealthy habitual pattern often leads of low back pain and hip pain.
Another emphasis is packing our blades. Often I say squeeze our shoulder blades together and down our backs. Why? Because our upper back muscles are often weak, while our chest muscles are tight, which leads to our shoulders rounding forward. When our shoulders round forward and we add load (carrying groceries, a baby, lifting weights), it’s guaranteed to lead to injury at our shoulder joint.
One way to start is to mindfully fix your posture throughout the day. Standing and sitting in Posture Pose. Feet shoulder or hip width apart, feet parallel (don’t have your toes out), feet-knees-hips-shoulders-ears stacked, shoulder blades hug in and down your back. Start strength training (like Barre), using light hand weights to begin, with an emphasis on your posterior chain (back, gluteal, hamstring, calf muscles). Make sure you stretch after every workout, especially your front body (chest, shoulders, hip flexors). Add wonderful recovery practices, try Pilates, Flow, and self-myofascial (SMR) release (like foam rolling).