3 Moves Guaranteed to Reduce Low Back Pain

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  Whatever you do to reduce this pain never seems to work right.  You take ibuprofen, try to stretch in some way, even stand once-in-awhile to take the pressure off.  All to no avail and the vicious cycle continues.  I promise you are not alone in this struggle!

Let’s face it, your job description is not changing to give you more freedom away from that laptop, phone, and tablet.  So you have to do something different for pain relief than before or it is the definition if insanity.  Only because you haven’t studied like I have, do you understand which muscles to strengthen and which ones to stretch.  Luckily for you I took the guesswork out and created a self-paced course you can follow online.  It is simple to follow, easy to understand, and guaranteed or your money back after completing it, if you do not get the results you desire.  The course is Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  Click on over to it and take a look.

Today, I’m sharing a little secret from it and giving three movements you can do from home to help alleviate that nasty low back pain! 

Erector Spinae Stretch
  • Prone floor cobra – lay face down on the floor, your arms are at your sides with palms down.  Slowly raise your chest off the floor, squeezing your glutes and shoulder blades together.  Keep your face looking down and head aligned with your spine.  Hold for a count at the top of the movement and lower yourself down in a controlled motion.  Some people also lift their legs to activate their glutes, and that is fine also.  Perform 15-20 reps for 1-2 sets
  • Erector spinae stretch – sit with one leg out in front of you, the other leg crossed over with your foot flat on the ground next to the knee of the extended leg.  Turn your body towards the up leg and place your opposite arm against the outside of the up leg.  Push slightly on that leg as you rotate your upper body as far as you can.  Feel the stretch on the outside of your glute and in your lower back.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds then switch.  Perform this 1-2 times per side
  • Plank trio – get into a plank position with your forearms and toes supporting your body weight.  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds depending on your strength level.  Immediate turn to one side with that forearm supporting your weight, your legs are straight with one on top of the other.  Hold this for 20-30 seconds then repeat on the other side.  Place your hand down for support if needed, and stagger your legs with each foot on the ground if more help is needed.  Perform the sequence three times with 60-90 seconds rest between each sequence
Prone floor cobra
Side plank

Some of the muscles you my know involved with low back pain are the piriformis, psoas, and erector spinae.  Sitting keeps the erector spinae and piriformis weak and overlengthened, while keeping the psoas constantly contracted and overly tight.  The muscles in your abdominal region:  obliques, transverse abdominus, and rectus abdominus, are shortened/contracted, further pulling your low back muscles into an overstretched position.  What a person has to do is stretch the ab muscles and strengthen the low back muscles.  Doing sit-ups till you can’t move after sitting on your couch with your laptop only makes the problem worse.  By lengthening and strengthening simultaneously with the plank trio, you are helping to stabilize and reduce pain in your low back. 

These three movements can be integrated into your existing workout routine or become the start of a daily healthy lifestyle regimen to feel better overall.  Your golf swing, tennis serves, squats, gardening, etc., will all benefit from these simple exercises.  Remember, my course goes over these moves and more that can make a major impact on your quality of life.  I guarantee your satisfaction after completing it or your money back, I promise.  Click Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening to sign up today!

15 Minutes of Stretching and Strengthening a Day Preserves Your Back and Brain, Guaranteed

The virus rages on across the globe doing exactly what a virus does, spreads and mutates.  What also rages on is the push to work from home and not go back into the office.  Some companies like Google, are offering a split work week to compromise on the benefits of both.  While it’s not my place to opine on how a company needs to manage its workforce, I can take an expert position on what constant connectivity can do to your physical and mental health.

There’s a popular commercial that says, “15 minutes can save you hundreds on your car insurance.”  My phrase says, “15 minutes of stretching and strengthening a day preserves your back and brain, guaranteed.”  How can that be you ask?  Let’s look at this from a simple time standpoint:

  • Hold a stretch for each leg @ 20 seconds each twice a day = 1 minute 20 seconds
  • Perform a strengthening exercise for each leg for 15 reps twice a day = 2 minutes
  • Repeat the sequence for a similar stretch/strengthen on the shoulder area = 3 minutes 20 seconds
  • March in place at your home “desk” for 4 minutes twice a day = 8 minutes
  • Total time is 14 minutes and 40 seconds
Glute bridge activation
Dumbbell scaption

You don’t need a gym, health club, or heavy dumbbells to do any of it.  You can also break it into a morning and afternoon break.  No athletic skill, talent, and coordination is required.  Gender equality also exists because these benefits apply to all HUMANS! 

Here is the research that supports my guarantee:

  • The effects are found across a variety of forms of physical activity, including aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking), muscle-strengthening activity, yoga, and play activities (e.g., tag or other simple low organizational games)*
  • A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, improve sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve cognition on the day that it is performed.*
  • Strong evidence demonstrates that acute bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity have a transient benefit for cognition, including attention, memory, crystalized intelligence, processing speed, and executive control during the post-recovery period following a bout of exercise.*
  • The largest positive effects are observed from 11 to 20 minutes after the bout of activity.*
  • *Source: 2018 CDC Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

I called said insurance company to a quote to reduce my current rate, they couldn’t do it.  On the contrary, when you follow these CDC guidelines in conjunction with specific exercise I can provide you through my programs, you are guaranteed to reduce risk factors for diseases, improve your mood and boost productivity.  For more information on how 15 minutes a day preserves your back and brain, guaranteed, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com TODAY!

You Have “Text Neck”. Why? Because You’re Staring Down at Your Phone All Day

“Text Neck” is a term coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, after he noticed more and more  people were coming to his office with the same complaint — they all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. This was concurrent with the rapid rise of smartphone usage.

After studying the new phenomenon, it was found that text neck (also called “iHunch” by some) leads to premature wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration. It’s also become a pretty widespread condition. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”[1]

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

You might ask, “So what’s the big deal with putting your head down to check out an email?”

Fair enough. Let’s start with the fact that the typical human head weighs about 12 pounds. And the neck is fine with holding that amount of weight up, it was made to carry heads around, right?

Right. However…

When you bend that neck forward and down to check out something on your phone, the weight impact increases on your cervical spine (the structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders). For example, at a 15-degree angle, your head puts 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds. At 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.

That’s a lot. 

Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours a day (and just imagine it, don’t try to actually do it!) and you’ll get the idea.

As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore and inflamed. That causes muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. And the other thing to keep in mind is you’re also engaging in poor posture when you’re in the “text neck” position and that causes other problems. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent as well as cause neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

Oh, and those headaches you might think are being caused by the tension and stress of your job? The truth is it’s highly likely they’re being caused by text neck because it’s another common symptom. They feel exactly like tension headaches…but aren’t.

I know it’s silly to think all these bad things can happen just as a result of staring at your smartphone. But Google “text neck” for yourself and you’ll see for yourself — these physical outcomes are all the real deal.


[1] Lindsay, Bever, “Text Neck Is Becoming an Epidemic and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post, 11/20/2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/

If you want to read more about “Text Neck”, and other chronic pain issues, go to my website and order my new book Athlete in the Game of Life.

Low Back Pain: The Silent Killer From Sitting

Back pain.  What does your mind conjure up when you read those words, someone says they have back pain, or you hear about it from an advertisement?  The back is a large general area on you body and pain can radiate from all areas.  I have hurt my back a few times lifting weights on maximal type lifts, and moving in the same manner I do on a daily basis in the gym.  Where do most people who sit all day experience pain?  In their low back, and that’s also precisely where I injure myself also.

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  What executives, professionals, and older adults don’t often understand is their posture from sitting all day is the main culprit to their back pain.  You don’t have to sling heavy loads on a farm or construction site to put your low back at risk for chronic pain.  Overuse injuries are also based on posture and position, not just physical actions of the same repetitive motions.

Low back pain is very complex with several potential causes, which include but are not limited to muscle imbalances, decreased mobility, disc pathology, facet joint dysfunction, joint degeneration (spondylosis), and spinal instability (Cheatham & Kolber, 2016).   Let’s take a person who sits an average of eight hours a day between the commute and their career.  The muscles of the Lumbopelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), take on the brunt of sitting sins, which manifest themselves into low back pain (LBP).  Sitting weakens the glutes and hamstrings while tightening the quadriceps, hip flexors, and adductor complex.  In short, this means a person cannot bend their knees to lower themselves down into a squat position.  Whenever they bend down to pick up a box, bag of mulch, barbell, etc., they use the muscles of their low back instead of their glutes and quads in unison.  The low back is not built to take on such loads and is now compromised for high injury potential.  The weight of the load itself also does not need to be of a maximal resistance.

In my upcoming book, An Athlete in the Game of Life, due out in late 2020, I specifically discuss how these types of muscle dysfunctions in your 40’s can negatively affect life 20 years and more into the future.  Let’s give one example in my blog of the how and why LBP can be detrimental.  The body likes to be efficient in all movement, using the path of least resistance.  When one muscle group dominates another, it creates dysfunction and altered length-tension relationships.  In normal language it creates what I explained in the previous paragraph, one muscle group substitutes doing the work of the primary group because the body is used to moving in that way from tightness and weakness.  This in turn makes other joints of the body compensate for the dysfunction and imbalances leading to pain in say the knees or neck because everything must shift just to pick up that case of water.  Over time, you repeat this process as the “new normal” and the nerves reroute everything to this altered pattern.  One day you shift a little differently and BAM!!!  Now you’re stuck hunched over in extreme agony and out of work.

Did that scenario ring a bell for you or someone else you know?  Hopefully it rang an alarm also!  Hurting your back once makes you prone to hurting it again worse the next time unless you stretch, strengthen, and relearn the proper movements for picking up that case of water properly.  Obviously, you’re very successful in your career and don’t have time to workout hours daily.  This is where involving a Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself can assist you to be your best while not compromising your career and income.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Suffering silently and thinking LBP is part of the sacrifice you pay for being a successful executive is false.  You don’t need surgery as the first responder.  Stretch those quadriceps and hip flexors a few times a day and add some hamstring and glute strengthening exercises before or after work in your bedroom. 10 minutes a day can pay big dividends now and 25 years down the road, guaranteed!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

How do You Know if Pain in Your Knee is From Your Knee?

Have you ever been to the doctor for pain or injury in one area, and come to find out it was caused by a weakness from another body part you had no idea was weak?  Pain radiating in your knees could be caused by a dysfunction in your hips or ankles.  All you know is that your knee hurts when you step a certain way, for example.  The term explaining this phenomenon is called regional interdependence.  What it basically means is the body relies on the surrounding areas of a joint to make that joint functional and stable.  A more scientific explanation when referring to your hips is, the body is an interconnected chain and compensation or dysfunction in the LPHC (Lumbar-Pelvic-Hip Complex) region can lead to dysfunctions in other areas of the body (Cheatham & Kreiswirth, 2014).

Poor posture causes pain throughout the body

Relax, regional interdependence doesn’t mean you’re a hot mess because your knee hurts.  By understanding the signs your body gives that something isn’t right allows you to make a more informed decision on what may be the cause.  Let’s continue on with the example of your knees experiencing pain.  The knees play a critical role connecting your ankles to your hips.  They show compensations from tight muscles, weak muscles, and any injury you have or had above and below them.  In previous blogs I discussed a few specific knee injuries, their causes, and ways to prevent future recurrences.  Please read them if you haven’t to get a better understanding of a problem you are experiencing.

When I work with clients as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, this regional interdependence is what I first assess to determine where is the cause of their pain or muscle dysfunction.  Most people don’t understand how much their daily sedentary patterns play on their joints.  The typical response of “I’m just old,” is not the answer to why you have troubles bending down to tie your shoes.  Let’s examine overall the lower body response to sitting for 6-8 hours daily:

Tight hip flexors, groin muscles and quadriceps

Weak hamstrings, glutes, and hip rotators

Tight calf muscles if your feet are in high heels or don’t touch flat on the floor

Weak shin muscles (anterior tibialis)

The results of these general muscle imbalances are overall fatigue, inability to use proper lifting form per OSHA (bending at the knees not hips to lift heavy objects), and higher injury potential if you’re physically active (gym, pickleball, tennis, golf).  Your “new normal” is not normal at all.  Your brain has adapted its neural pathways to align with your muscle imbalances to make you feel like this the way your body should move.  Does this start to make sense and ring a bell for why you have that nagging pain or discomfort?

With work culture changing to working from home, more device connectivity, and less overall physical activity, these movement problems will continue at an alarming rate.  I haven’t even mentioned what happens to your back and neck!  Muscles work in tandem.  If one side of your joint is tight, say quadriceps, the other is week, say your hamstrings.  Another way to think is your muscles push and pull.  If either is tight, the corresponding is weak.  The NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook says, when a situation of overactivity-underactivity exists between muscles on two sides of a joint (e.g., the agonist is overactive/shortened and the antagonist is underactive/lengthened), a muscle imbalance is said to exist.

The goal of what I do with clients and what you need to think about, is bringing your muscles more into balance first, then work on improving the areas that are important for your hobbies and lifestyle.  Nobody is every perfectly aligned, and that’s ok, you always have something to work on!  Remember, regional interdependence affects how your body responds to pain from what you do the majority of your day.  Take a few minutes every hour and at least stretch the overly tight muscles.  I promise you will thank me now and down the road! To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Exercises For ACL Injury Prevention

You hear and read about them all the time in professional sports.  If you’re lucky, or unlucky enough to  watch a game when it happens, your stomach usually gets a little queasy.  Sometimes they happen and nobody even touches the athlete, he or she just goes down in a heap wincing in pain.  Have you guessed what I’m talking about?  If you said, “ACL injuries for $1,000, Matt,” then you are correct!

“But I’m not an athlete now,” or “I sit at my desk all day, there is no way I can have a torn ACL.”  Your statements may have some merit, but not totally.  ACL injuries are the most common type of non-contact knee injury in the United States.  According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook: ACL injuries can affect both males and females of all ages and it is estimated that there are over 200,000 ACL injuries annually in the United States (Donnell-Fink et al., 2015).  There are not 200,000 pro football, basketball, and soccer players in the U.S., so the numbers have to come from other sources.

Many ACL injuries occur from indirect contact, such as changing direction and cutting, due to altered lower-extremity neuromusculoskeletal control imbalances resulting from anterior forces, lateral forces, rotational forces or a combination of all three forces on the knee (Gagnier, Morgenstern, & Chess, 2013; Paterno et al., 2010; Weiss & Whatman, 2015).  What does all this technical jargon mean for you, the person over 35 who maybe is just a casual gym member or enjoys being active?  It means you are still susceptible to an ACL injury through overuse of muscles doing the same activity, and/or underuse from poor posture and sitting.

The good news, with a few adjustments to your workout routine, ACL injuries can be reduced by 51 to 62% (Gagnier et al., 2013).  Even if you don’t workout and just enjoy activities like tennis, hiking, golf, or gardening, implementing the following types of exercises can pay big dividends in keeping your knees safe.

Three exercises to lower your chances of an ACL injury:

Side lunge
  • Side lunges – step out to one side laterally with both feet pointing forward.  Keeping your knee also pointing forward, lower yourself to where your thigh is parallel to the floor and your opposite leg is straight, butt out like you’re sitting down.  Then extend your knee standing back up and return to the starting position.  Repeat all one side or alternate, using just your body weight first and progressing to added resistance as you get confident and stronger.  Do 12-15 reps per leg as a beginning point.
  • Side shuffles – get into athletic position and shuffle without crossing your feet.  Take it slow at first making sure you stay low with your knees pointed forward and not internally rotating as you take a step.  What’s athletic position?  Look at a linebacker before the snap.  Lead with the right foot then stop and come back leading with the left foot.
  • Side-step up to balance – stand next to a step/box/elevated platform of about 24’ high.  Step up laterally and hold that balance position on one foot for a 1-2 count, then step down under control.  Repeat 15 times and switch feet.  Add resistance when balancing becomes easier.
Side step up to balance start
Side step up to balance finish

These exercises will strengthen the connective tissues on the outside of your knees in addition to the muscles in your glutes.  Stretch your groin muscles to help with proper muscle function and stability in these movements.  ACL injuries occur from weakness due to tightness on the inner thigh and weakness on the outer thigh.  Watch your confidence moving in all directions improve without over reliance on just your dominant side.  Typically, the subordinate side is the one injured from lack of use just from a simple step.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Reducing Knee Pain From Running Starts in Your Hips

Working from home and sheltering in place have changed the exercise and fitness landscape.  Home gyms popped up in garages and living rooms across the country.  Walking, running, and biking around neighborhoods gained a big boost in popularity also just to leave the house.  With a few posts from Instagram and YouTube, executives and older adults with little exercise experience found themselves going at with passion and fervor.  The common side effects of these new activities are overuse injuries from to hard, to fast, to soon without proper rest.  Some experienced workout peeps also have similar issues for the same definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Millions of successful executives and professionals enjoy running as their preferred method of exercise.  Running is great, and also has a huge overuse injury rate.  One of my most dedicated personal training clients is also a running fanatic and doesn’t understand the term rest and overuse which is causing her knee pain.  Couple this with the fact she’s a psychologist and sitting long hours daily working with her clients.  Even after encouragement, stern warnings, and threats I give her, she still does not stretch and do her muscular homework.  As a result, she has knee pain and consistent fatigue.

“Runner’s knee”, or the proper name, IT-Band Syndrome, is a common overuse injury among runners due to gait issues.  Pain is felt along the outside of the knee even though the cause originates along the side of the top part of the hip, the iliotibial band (IT-band).  IT-band syndrome is the result of inflammation and irritation of the distal portion of the iliotibial tendon as it rubs against the lateral femoral condyle as well as the compression of the fat pad, or less commonly, the greater trochanter of the hip, causing a greater trochanteric bursitis (Fairclough et al., 2006). In common language what the National Academy of Sports Medicine says is weak outside glutes cause the muscles along your outer thighs to takeover and compensate for them. 

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

Weak glutes can result from extended periods of sitting.  The outside glutes, glute medius, are responsible for actions such as spreading your legs and taking side steps such as a side lunge or side shuffle.  To much sitting causes the glute medius to weaken, the groin muscles to tighten, and the outer thigh muscles (tensor fascia latae) to do the job of the glute medius.  What you look like is your knees turn in or towards each other in a squatting movement.  For runners, you can see the knees turn inward with each step.  Multiply that out over the steps in a 5K run spread out over months and years, and you feel what is happening in your knees now.

Standing groin stretch

What can be done you ask, because quitting your job or selling your company isn’t an option.  Begin and end each run by including groin and quadriceps stretches in your routine.  Add in side shuffles along the run concentrating on using your outer glutes to pull your legs not just the outer thighs.  On off days, do fire hydrants or any lateral leg movements, again focusing on the glute medius to be the focus of the movement.  The third ingredient and most important for runners, REST!  I know it’s an addiction, find something else to do for exercise.  Stop the insanity as I say.  The body builds on rest days, not work days.  I give you permission to take three days off per week from running and find another active hobby or don’t run period.

Fire hydrant start
Fire hydrant finish

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

How to Avoid Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis plagues many people from all walks of life:  gym rats, weekend warriors, overweight populations, and seemingly just the average Joe and Jane.  You’re not sure why or how the bottom of your foot burns from not doing anything outrageous, but it just does. 

Plantar fasciitis

Let’s talk about what plantar fascia is.  The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band of connective tissue that runs from the calcaneus (heel) toward the base of each toe.  It spreads out into three bands on the bottom of your foot to help support the middle arch.  When you don’t have enough elasticity in this tissue as it spreads and recoils naturally during movement, micro tears occur causing the burning sensation aka plantar fasciitis. 

Injuries like plantar fasciitis often result from overuse, it doesn’t happen after one game of tennis or kickboxing class.  Over weeks and months, the tears begin to occur until one day you feel the sharp pain when you stand up in the morning or after standing for a long period of time.  My clients don’t realize plantar fasciitis is self-inflicted from a lack of foot and Achilles mobility.  To often people rush into a workout or sports activity without properly warming up.  As you age, lack of warm up time catches up to you with nagging injuries like plantar fasciitis.  Even then, some people are to stubborn to adjust their routines and are forced to stop exercising for weeks or months.  When one part of the body is hurt, other surrounding joints and muscles compensate for the injury leading to more injuries and dysfunction. 

Standing calf stretch

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) says to focus on increasing ankle mobility through myofascial release on the bottom of your foot and stretching the calf muscles.  Myofascial release is using a tool such as a foam roller, to roll and apply pressure on the tight and affected areas.  Using a baseball, for example, by rolling your foot and applying pressure on the ball can help restore mobility.  Also using a foam roller and stretching your calf muscles before and after exercise and physical activity improves flexibility of the ankle to alleviate pain symptoms. 

Foam rollers

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include limited mobility in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon (Hedrick, 1996), excessive impact forces (overuse), an everted foot type (Patel, & DiGiovanni, 2011), increased body mass index in a nonathletic population, and insufficient ankle mobility.  If you fall into any of these categories, it’s best you take a few minutes as I mentioned, and reduce your chance of injury through proper self-care.  People are always in a rush and don’t spend enough time for warm up and cool down.  I was one of those people until studying more about corrective exercise and becoming a personal trainer in 2008.  Now in my mid 40’s, taking the extra few minutes pays off by keeping myself in the best shape of my life.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Get Your Ass Into It! – Glutes Are Not Just for Sitting On

“Get your ass into it!” yells your coach as you half heartedly go through the motions of a workout or practice.  Does he really mean to use your butt muscles, or more metaphorically to put more effort into your movements?  The answer is likely a little of both, and you know that from way back when.

Let’s drill down into why “using your ass” in sports and gym exercises is critical to power, strength, and speed.  Regardless of your age and talent level, being able to successfully incorporate the glutes can transform your workouts, give you more distance off the tee, and allow you to hammer that ace first serve.  Unfortunately, most executives, professionals, and older adults use their glutes for resting their body weight on, aka, sitting a majority of the day.  Obviously sitting does nothing to make the glutes stronger.  Sitting makes your glutes lengthened and more difficult to generate power for working out and playing any sports.  Most people don’t know the potential that lies in the biggest muscle on their body.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The main function of your glutes is to extend your hips.  The easiest way to explain it is standing up.  When you stand up from a seated position, your glutes contract along with your quadriceps, to get you off the chair.  Most people over rely on their quadriceps for these movements, which are shortened and tight due to sitting hours daily.  The quadriceps cannot generate the power and strength of the glute muscles when they are shortened, and often lead to knee-cap pain when they dominate in pushing movements. 

Training the glutes to be the prime power generator is not simply doing squats, lunges, and deadlifts till they fall off.  It starts with smaller isolated exercises like lying face down and raising your straight leg high as you can off the ground.  Another move called a bird dog helps to activate your glutes and your rear shoulder muscles.  Being able to contract your glutes for full hip extension takes the strain off your quadriceps and knees, allowing for more range of motion for any squatting movements.  This also means picking up a bag of mulch or dog food from the ground easier and putting less stress on your lower back.  Being an athlete in the game of life isn’t always about lifting weights or playing sports, it’s about doing life’s activities easier and more often.

Photo by Florian Doppler on Pexels.com

For women, they love training glutes for that curvy look.  Aesthetics are important and I’d be telling a lie saying I don’t look at a woman’s butt that’s shapely.  Ladies, you look at women’s butts too AND men’s.  Everyone knows it. From a functional standpoint, learning how to activate your glutes helps you to stand up taller, shift your weight in a golf swing for more distance, explode into an overhand smash and serve, and sprint faster in a race.  Look at a Thoroughbred’s rear legs and glutes.  That’s what powers those amazing animals to run at the speeds they do.  Once you learn to activate the glutes in a lunge, squat, and deadlift, your lifting amount increases while chance of injury decreases. 

To learn how to train your glutes as part of a total body exercise program, sign up for my executive or active aging coaching program at mattpeale.com.  I just scratched the surface in this blog on why getting your ass into it is the game changer your posture and athletic performance need.  You can take any tennis or golf lessons you want, unless you learn from me how to activate the muscles you sit on all day, you’re missing out on your potential.  Go to my site and invest a few minutes into what Competing as an Athlete in the Game of Life can do for you!

Attention Ladies Who Wear High Heels: Do Your Ankles Hurt? Let Me Tell You Why

Ladies can spend ungodly amount of money on shoes.  It blows my mind, honestly.  Heel sizes of all heights, shapes, and styles for a plethora of outfits to be worn once, multiple times, or a permanent fixture in the wardrobe rotation.  Not everyone has a separate closet dedicated to shoes, those that do are very proud of it.  Why do I choose to write a blog post on high heels?  Because the damage high heels can do for a woman’s ankles, knees, and hips can be detrimental to their fitness goals.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Elevating your foot in a high heel shortens the calf muscles and weakens the muscles of the shin (anterior tibialis).  Good posture begins where the body contacts the ground, and that’s at the feet and ankles.  Proper ankle mobility allows you to squat with more power, push off for running and cutting, and reduce potential injuries like a torn Achilles tendon and plantar fasciitis.  Often ankle joint dysfunction is seen in the position of the knees when doing any type of squat movements.  The knees turn inward putting pressure on the outer connective tissues which can lead to ACL injuries and pain in the knee cap.  Bet you didn’t know any of that!

When the ankle joint doesn’t work right, other areas of the body must compensate to produce normal movements.  Over time, these compensations are seen in how a person stands (static malalignments), and in their movement patterns (dynamic malalignments).  According to the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist textbook, “Joint dysfunction is one of the most common causes of pain in an individual.  Static malalignments are frequently the result of pattern overload from either chronic sedentary positioning or repetitive stress injury. The most common example of this is seen in people with computer-based jobs.”  If you’re reading this blog, typically that means you.  Pain felt in one area of the body does not mean it originates from that spot.

As a personal trainer, I see many women perform squats with their heels elevated on a weight plate or other small platform.  Why?  Because they read somewhere in Shape Magazine, or another women’s focused source, that raising your heels can activate the glutes more.  Women love working their glutes!  The truth is elevating your heels with already tight calf muscles, reduces the amount of weight you can squat, increases potential for injury, and exasperates already tight and weak muscles from your daily routine.  Typically, you shift forward during a squat and your feet turn out, which causes pressure on the knees and hips to compensate for the lack of ankle mobility.  These issues are not mentioned in said periodicals and media sources catered to women.

To ensure the muscles around your ankles work in good order, begin a workout using a foam roller on your calf muscles.  “The myofascial roller (or other myofascial tool) should be held on the tender area for up to 60-seconds then perform 4 – 6 active movements. The intensity should be such that there is some discomfort felt, but the user should be able to relax and breathe. Lastly, total rolling duration should last for between 5 – 10 minutes, with 90-120 seconds per muscle group,” says NASM. 

After foam rolling, stretch the calf muscles lightly.  You can hold a stretch for 20 seconds.  Besides stretching the tight muscles, it is important to strengthen the weak muscles of the shin (anterior tibialis).  You can use an elastic band tied around a bench and around your toe area.  Pull your toes toward you and away from the bench to activate the anterior tibialis.  You can also do ankle flips, which is like walking in swim fins.  Walk your regular stride and point your toes up as high as you can with each step, pausing briefly to only have the heel contact the ground before completing the step.  Integrating these stretches and movements into your warm up and/or cool down routine can give you the results you’ve been missing in the gym and in any sport you play.  Don’t believe the hype of women’s fitness magazines.  They write articles to sell magazines, not necessarily to help you truly get the most out of your fitness routine.  Want more specific help?  Sign up for my coaching program at mattpeale.com. I promise you’ll be glad you did!