Coffee or Exercise for More Productivity at Work?

An important meeting is 30 minutes that needs your utmost attention and participation.  Your boss is expecting you to fill in vital details that can close a huge sale.  The problem is you’ve been sitting and staring at spreadsheets for the past hour and about to fall asleep.  What is the best course of action?

  • Drink 2-3 cups of coffee to wake up
  • Do nothing
  • Walk up and down the stairs in the emergency exit for 10 minutes, 15 minutes before the meeting
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Typical thoughts would be the first choice.  Some may try to push through and step into the room like a superhero and nail the presentation.  Science and the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report by the CDC states the last option is best. 

I know what you’re thinking, “how can walking up and down the stairs for 10 minutes do anything but get me sweaty and out of sorts?”  Let me calm you fears, my friends, with some facts not fake news.  These are some of the findings in the CDC’s report from 2018.

  • 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.

Granted, the CDC is under fire for their confusion on pandemic guidelines.  These came out two years before the word coronavirus was trendy.  Also, they spent 10 years researching and updating their original report from 2008 to deliver these guidelines, not 10 days as it seems now. 

You can apply these principles to any complex task you have at work.  They also apply equally well for your children before taking tests.  Maybe schools should read this evidence, but that’s another story for another day.  Of course, you know the physical benefits a few added steps can do for your heart, lungs, and weight loss. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The key phrasing in all of this is moderate-to-vigorous.  That means your breathing is a little labored, yet you can still hold a conversation.  It is not a leisurely stroll around the parking lot or to the break room for another donut.  Some exertion is required, also does not require playing a 90-minute soccer game.  Using that as your template, there are many activities you can do that you enjoy achieving moderate-to-vigorous.  Point is, do it!

An even better part of these findings is they occur naturally.  You do not have to make crystallized intelligence and processing happen, they do automatically in the brain just from elevating your heart rate to moderate-to-vigorous.  How awesome is the human body?!  All of these are organic byproducts of moving around a little more with slightly higher intensity.  No purchase necessary and no negative side effects. 

If you do not experience what a 10-year study says, I will send you a $10 gift card to the coffee store of your choice!  Email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com and give me your details why the evidence did not work for you.  If you need more suggestions, email me also.  My aim is to help you perform better in your career.

Move or Die! Sitting All Day Is Not Natural for Humans

Fact or Myth:

  • Ancient gladiators had a fully equipped gym with an outdoor area for tire flips and pushing the sled
  • Native Americans based their nomadic movements on where the local gyms were at
  • The United States Colonial Army used TRX classes to prepare for defeating the British

Which one of the above statements is correct?  That’s right, none of them!  Without gyms and health clubs, these people were studs and could literally kill a bear with nothing but a knife or bow and arrow after stalking the animal on foot for miles.  No Group X classes either for the women left at home while their husbands were away fighting or kidnapped by the enemy.  They too had to be strong and survive physical tasks just to get food on the table and care for the children.

Why am I going to this extreme to discuss health and fitness?  Because over 1/3 of American adults are considered obese.  Millions of workers and older adults increased their sitting time over the last 18 months from the pandemic, making them more susceptible to death from heart disease, COVID-19, diabetes, stroke, and falls (older adults).  As our ancestors showed us, you don’t need a modern gym to be healthy and active.

Movement throughout the day is natural for mammals, and humans are mammals.  Sitting and staring at your laptop and devices are not instinctual lifestyle patterns.  This is why you get that feeling to stand up and move around after being seated for hours, it is hardwired into our brains that movement is natural and must happen regularly. 

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.com

If you read LinkedIn articles, you have seen the topic about mental health problems from isolation and being chained to laptops for longer than when people went into the office.  Physical health problems are directly related to mental health problems, and both could be resolved with more physical activity daily.  This goes for adults and children on distance learning programs.  I’m not going down the rabbit hole of reopening schools or not.  Physical exercise and physical activity are mandated by the CDC for children to have proper mental and emotional health.  In fact, 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, with two days per week of bone and muscle strengthening, is the bare MINIMUM.

It’s time to stop the excuses for no gym membership.  Walking, doing push-ups and pull-ups at a park, and some basic stretching costs nothing, requires no home equipment, and suitable for all ages.  Pills, potions, and shakes do not and cannot replace physical activity and exercise.  To stay ahead of the Grim Reaper, you must get off the couch, turn off the device, and get moving!

Back to our ancestors, movement was part of their normal lives.  In today’s culture, you must make the decision to stay moving, or face the consequences of early death by disease and viral infections.  For me, it is a no brainer to stay active with hobbies I enjoy.  There are plenty of options that trick you into thinking you’re not exercising while you actually are.  Use your social networks to find bike rides, fun runs, baby & me, pub crawls, anything that includes moving while enjoying the company of others.  There is not a wrong answer for picking any activity that involves movement, fun, and socialization.

Get out and do something active daily for 30 days.  Share it on my Facebook page @athleteinthegameoflife, Twitter @MattPeale, or LinkedIn @MatthewPeale. Invite family and friends to participate with you.  Getting used to physical activity on a daily basis can do wonders for your mental health and positive attitude! 

To signup for my monthly newsletter, go to my website mattpeale.com.

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!

1 Move to Diagnose Your Mobility and Flexibility, Guaranteed

“I haven’t got time for the pain,” was the jingle for a commercial in the 80’s and maybe 90’s.  Granted, it was for menstrual cramps and this pain specific pain does not apply to everyone!  The mantra, however, is what most people live by as they just figure pain can be hidden, avoided, and swept under the rug.  While you think this is possible and will stick to your story regardless of how bad it hurts your quality of life, I know better as a Corrective Exercise Specialist! 

Am I a soothsayer, profit, or wizard?  It’s distinctly possible if you ask me.  The truth is I’m trained to look at your movement patterns and can diagnose why you have problems with your mobility, flexibility, and strength from one simple exercise.  Is it magic?  Well my one of my nicknames is Magic Matt, but the ability to slip into VIP areas unseen has nothing to do with helping you to relieve your chronic pain.

What is this unseemly exercise I talk about?  It is the overhead squat.  A simple move raising your arms straight above your head and performing a squat.  You can hold a PVC pipe or broomstick above your head to show more of what pains you if so desired.  How can this simple, not necessarily easy, move show all your postural sins?  The movement places you in an extreme, not damaging, position that requires motor control, mobility, flexibility, and strength from every joint in your body.  Because you have nothing to hold for balance and form, everything has to work in unison to function properly.

The main culprit that destroys overhead squat form is sitting for long periods of time.  It is easy for me to diagnose these issues by the way you lower yourself, raise yourself, and what happens to your fully extended arms in the process.  Here are three areas that cannot be hidden no matter how hard you try:

  • Arms falling forward – this shows me how tight your chest and mid back muscles are, in addition to the weakness in your upper back and shoulder areas
  • Excessive forward lean – this shows the tightness in your hip flexors, calves, and quadriceps, in addition to weakness in your hamstring, shin and glute areas
  • Knees caving in – this shows the tightness in your groin muscles, in addition to the weakness in your hip rotator area

Performing the overhead squat is one of the first assessments I do with clients and is the basis for their exercise program.  Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.  We all have tight and corresponding weak areas to work on.  The pros and cons are that this struggle never ends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and we like to be efficient to use minimal physical and mental energy in all we do.  Your job makes you do the same thing for hours daily, and yest, sitting is a repetitive movement through lack of movement.  This repetitive pattern produces overuse injuries and pain when not dealt with properly.  Humans don’t like change, even though change is where growth happens physically and mentally. 

The goal of using the overhead squat is to quickly and easily assess progress through an exercise program to keep challenging you and giving you the results, you desire.  The cool thing about the human body is that change happens when you stay consistent to stretching and strengthening.  I see it daily in my clients and they comment about the pain they don’t feel anymore.  Can it work for you?  Absolutely!  I’m offering a free overhead squat assessment to the first 10 people who email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and put OHSA in the subject line.  What’s the catch?  You will be amazed how much I can tell about you!

Working with a trainer or corrective exercise specialist like myself can help you integrate these types of movements safely and effectively.  To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!

The Side Effects of Sitting – An Excerpt from my book Athlete in the Game of Life

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, available on Amazon:

The Side Effects of Sitting

Just because you think you’re doing nothing doesn’t mean your body agrees.

For instance, some part of your body may have started hurting you on a regular basis. Could be your back, your neck, your hips, or another place entirely. And maybe you can’t get that part of your body to stop hurting. You ice it, get massages and try to avoid putting stress on it…and yet, it’s still bugging you constantly, despite the fact that you’re not overly active in your day-to-day life and you’re exercising regularly.

First of all, the place where it hurts you? It could be completely caused by another part of your body entirely. For example, knee pain could be the result of dysfunction or impairment at the hip, ankle or both. The term for this is “regional interdependence,” a relatively new idea conceived by therapists and rehabilitation professionals as a way to describe how one part of your body depends on the proper functioning of another part. 

Second of all, our lives — and our physical health — have been transformed by technology in ways we still don’t understand completely. Our work and home environments are filled to the brim with tech gadgets, such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and even a good old-fashioned TV set or two — and our eyes are glued to the screens of those gadgets for hours every day. Our jobs depend on it and our personal lives often revolve around it.

Result? As many as a quarter of Americans engage in no leisure-time activity at all, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This creates a “kinetic chain” in our bodies that is less prepared to adapt and recover from times when we do engage in activity, leading to increased injury rates. (We’ll get more into detail on that chain in a later chapter).

Photo by Robert Nagy on Pexels.com

This negative affect on our physicality directly impacts what happens to our bodies 20 years down the road. As I noted, we grow less flexible and mobile with our movements. When we do play that occasional game of tennis or golf, our motions become stiffer and more limited. A sitting position also puts huge stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine, especially if you slouch. There’s also the issue of postural decline. When you’re leaning over to look at your phone or tablet, your body does what’s called “remodeling.” It adapts to that position and locks it in as your natural state — and that can create some serious pain, because your body simply wasn’t built to be in that leaned-over position for long periods of time. For example, you’re probably sitting as you read this book — and that caused your body to automatically mold into what you feel is “normal.”

We also end up putting on weight — nobody gains 40 pounds in two weeks. You gain that much by putting on a couple month-to-month until you wake up and discover you’ve put on that 40 over time. Too much sitting can also raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. None of those conditions, obviously, are good things.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, there’s one more part of you that can be seriously affected — and that’s your mind. At present, sitting and staring at screens can actually boost your anxiety levels. In terms of the future, the damage can get much more serious. According to the National Institutes of Health, a lack of physical activity can boost your chances of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.

So…if you think just sitting around means you can’t get hurt, well, you should probably have another think. Because chronic pain can easily result from that lifestyle, along with all the other conditions listed above.

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 Muscles to Strengthen for an Improved Squat

You hit a plateau at the gym.  Don’t worry, we all do it.  The question is how do you overcome it?  Let’s talk about one of the mainstays of all lifts for everyone: squats!  If you’re a typical 9-to-5 worker who sits all day (yes WFH also), you have a constant battle of tight quadriceps (thighs), calf muscles, and hip flexors.  What you don’t realize are their weak counterparts that need strengthening to help you push through the plateau.

“I really don’t warm up except for a light stretch or 10 minutes on the treadmill, if that.”  Again, you’re a typical gym goer trying to maximize an hour away from kids, spouses, errands, and reality.  While you don’t really push yourself for fear of injury, you know there’s a hole in your heart because you’re capable of more.  I’m not talking about doing a 405lb max lift.  If you can get another 3-4 reps or add 20lbs more, the feeling of accomplishment is priceless.

What are those complementary muscles I previously mentioned that need strengthening?  They are your hamstrings, anterior tibialis, and glute medius.  You’ve heard of hamstrings and glutes, but what are the anterior tibialis and glute medius?  The anterior tibialis is the muscle in your shin, they contract when you point your toes up.  The glute medius is on the side of your butt muscles and help pull/rotate your leg out/away from your body.  All these muscles become weak and lengthened as we sit for hours each day.  True, there are more muscles that could be strengthened, we will stick to these as a foundation.

Starting with the ground up, the anterior tibialis is rarely thought of much less worked.  A very simple exercise to increase mobility and strength is to do ankle flips.  Ankle flips are walking like you have swim fins on.  Take a step and put your heel on the ground and point your toes up high as possible.  Walk about half your normal stride, repeating this process with each step.  Perform 24 steps total (12 per foot) for two sets as part of your warm-ups.  Or, have a friend hold a band or tubing around your toes and pull your toes towards you without lifting your leg.  Strengthening these muscles reduces your forward lean and helps you stay balanced and get lower on your squat descent. 

The hamstrings are usually worked in a leg routine.  I’m going to discuss how to isolate and strengthen them as part of corrective exercise, not just your normal workout.  If your gym has a leg curl machine you can do with one leg at a time, use it.  Here’s the difference: you’re doing a 4 second down portion of the lift, 2 second hold on the bottom, and 1 second to raise back up.  Do 12-15 reps for 2 sets.  You can use a seated or lying leg curl machine for this tempo. This method is called eccentric or negative training and is very effective for overcoming muscle imbalances.

The glute medius is more worked by women in their attempts to get a shapely and/or bigger butt.  It is what it is, I’m not judging.  What most women don’t know is what muscle and why they’re doing it, only they read it in Shape magazine or saw a YouTube video.  From a functional standpoint of squatting, stable glute medius muscles are important to keep the knees in line with your toes and to counteract tight groin muscles.  You can put a band or tubing around your knees, squat slightly into an athletic position, and side shuffle deliberately 15 steps out then back.  Another option with or without bands, is to get on you hands and knees, then raise your leg like a dog at a fire hydrant/tree.  Be sure to concentrate on using the glute medius and not the leg muscles to raise your leg.  Keep your lower and upper leg at a 90 degree angle.

Integrating these three types of exercises into your regular routine or warm-up can pay big dividends in posture, reducing pain in the knees and hips, and increasing the amount of reps and pounds you squat. 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!

Keeping Gyms Closed is Killing a Community

Gym members can be extremely OCD about their gym time.  Literally come hell or high water, “the regulars” will be waiting at their usual ass crack of dawn time, or whenever their normal time is, to get inside.  They question the safety and sanity of others who prefer waiting for the safe signal to be given before venturing back on to the roads after a storm.  Working in gyms since 2008 in various states, this same profile exists everywhere.  You know who these people are in your circle of friends!

As a personal trainer, gym members seem to think I spend 10-12 hours a day at my place of employment.  While it seems like that some days, I’d venture to say they are at the gym longer than I am.  Obviously being at work opposed to working out, are different mindset hours to me, but not to the members.  When they are at the gym, it’s off time and they think it’s similar for me.  My working and workout hours are very different. 

My senior small group training

The gym is an important part of the social fabric in a community.  It truly does serve as a social outlet for people of all ages.  Friendships and dating relationships are made in the gym.  When this cog in someone’s life is taken away for any reason, there is a feeling of loss and anxiety.  The old adage of the car driving itself definitely applies to gym people in their daily habits of showing up at the same time regardless.  Is that really healthy?  There are worse addictions and OCD habits!

When gyms were and still are forced to shut down, it does more than take away a place to exercise.  The daily contact with friends of years and sometimes decades, disappears.  Mental health is not a common aspect thought of for gyms and health clubs.  Eliminating this socialization has a negative effect that is the same as any other club or meeting group.  Unlike the WFH movement, you can’t really get the same workout physically and mentally in your spare bedroom or living room. 

Gym people are their own breed.  Their lives often intertwine outside the gym into comingling at social events in the area.  The common themes automatically lead them to showing up at a festival, restaurant, or race.  I taught a group class for older adults that turned into us having lunch out locally each quarter.  This was a highlight pre-COVID for everyone because of the relationships built from seeing each other multiple times each week.

Health clubs are different from gyms like Anytime Fitness, so the community feeling is not as strong.  Smaller gyms do have their own sense of camaraderie with people who always show up the same times you do.  In this case, you’re forced into expanding outside the gym because there aren’t facilities like a executive locker room or café/grill to interact when not exercising.  When you see someone from your small gym out at the store or in a restaurant, you automatically have a friend! Sheltering in place has been especially hard on those over 65.  Many have not come back to their gyms, health clubs, and senior centers for fear of coronavirus.  Unfortunately, state, and local governments lump gyms in with bars as spreading centers, which is not true.  Research is out that shows gyms and health clubs are on the lower end of transmission compared to restaurants and bars.  The populations in fitness facilities are typically healthier with less obesity risk factors that lead to COVID-19 deaths.  Make your own decisions based on your health, please don’t lump fitness centers into the forgotten and trash piles as places you will never return.

3 Exercises for an Improved Golf Stance & Swing

The pandemic gave me an opportunity to renew my passion for golf.  I grew up playing it sporadically with lessons from my grandfather and father, who were close to scratch golfers themselves.  In my 30’s and 40’s, golf took a back burner to life and reduced to an annual tournament with my alumni Sigma Nu brothers.  Now as I get back into it, and have become the author of Athlete in the Game of Life and a Corrective Exercise Specialist, the importance of building mobility into your fitness and wellness regiment is crucial for a proper golf swing.

Getting ready for my next round

To hit a golf ball where you want and the distance you want is almost counter-intuitive.  It’s not a baseball swing requiring a massive amount of swing speed and torque.  With technology, golf clubs can be purchased to match your natural swing speed to hit the ball competitively regardless of age and gender.  Obviously getting lessons from a professional is a big help, yet that can only take you so far if you have back pain, neck pain, and poor mobility to execute even a fundamentally sound swing.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Working from home and being more sedentary since the pandemic started, has created more problems for older adults, executives, and golf enthusiasts.  While golf courses have been deemed essential and a “safe” activity, preparing yourself to execute a good golf swing has become harder.  Everyone thinks about working your rotational muscles as the only way to hit the ball farther.  If your posture, grip, and address aren’t right, it doesn’t matter how good your rotation is.  I’m going to share three exercises to help with your posture.

Dumbbell scaption
  1. Dumbbell scaption – Being able to retract your scapula and keep your upper back straight in address sets your rotation up for success.  Most people bent over a laptop all day have a weak upper back because your shoulders are rounded.  You can’t bring the club around into its on-plane position in a full back swing with rounded shoulders.  The dumbbell scaption strengthens and mobilizes your upper back and shoulders to stay retracted and in position to bring the club up to parallel to the ground, and positioned with your lever arm straight.  To perform, stand up tall with your shoulders retracted.  With or without light dumbbells held in a thumbs up position, raise your arms in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your body.  Bring them to shoulder height and lower in a controlled manner.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  2. Glute-hamstring bridges – Sitting lengthens and weakens your glutes and hamstrings, contributing to low back pain.  Addressing the golf ball with proper posture requires strength and mobility in your hamstrings and glutes to generate the power you need.  Your upper body hinges at your waist with knees slightly flexed depending on the club you’re using.  If your low back is in constant pain because it’s weak, you can’t even address the ball properly, and no golf lesson can fix that.  Lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent as you would for doing a sit-up or crunch.  Your arms are at your side palms up to prevent them from helping you perform the movement.  Push your feet into the floor and raise your hips to fully extend them.  Keep your knees in line with your feet and don’t let them flare out or rotate inward.  Slowly lower your hips to just above touching the ground and repeat the motion.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
  3. Straight leg/Romanian deadlifts – For the same reasons mentioned with weakened hamstrings, the ability to hinge at the hip is vital to maintaining proper posture in your stance.  Performing straight leg deadlifts requires you to practice hinging and strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, low back, and abdominals.  This exercise brings the benefits of dumbbell scaption and glute-hamstring bridges into harmony.  You can use a barbell or dumbbells, I suggest a broomstick or PVC pipe for beginners and I’ll explain why.  To perform the movement properly, you must half a straight back with retracted shoulders, knees slightly flexed (I call it soft), head in neutral alignment with your chin tucked, and push your hips back allowing your weight to be on your heels.  Hinge your upper body without bending your knees more into a 45 to 90-degree angle.  You will feel this in your hamstrings and possibly calf muscles if they are tight.  Raise your body up into full upright position again after the hinge.  For those beginners, hold a broomstick behind you with the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and at the bottom of your back all touching it.  Keep this contact on all 3 points and hinge.  If any of the points come off the broomstick, adjust your range of motion or posture.  Once you master this, move to a barbell or dumbbells for more resistance.  Beginners practice the hinge for 3 sets of 15-20 reps, more advanced lifters do 3 sets of 8-10 reps with resistance.
Glute-hamstring bridge

You can integrate these exercises into your regular workouts if you’re not doing so already.  The golf swing is about tempo and rhythm, not raring back and being out of control.  Unfortunately, most of us rare back with poor posture at address and we’re doomed to only be lucky when he hit a good shot.  Putting everything together: lessons, mobility, strength, and practice, yields you the results you want.

Straight leg deadlift

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 Muscles to Stretch for a More Powerful Tennis Serve

The feeling of a hard-overhand smash for the winning game point, or the bullet ace serve to preserve a victory can be indescribable!  To accomplish this feat, the body has to work in harmony with all of your joints having the mobility to act as a unit.  Any dysfunction in one area such as your ankles, and you can’t generate the power needed to hit that winning shot.  Because you sit most of the day at work, your body molds itself into movement patterns that aren’t conducive to a winning tennis game, even if you are taking lessons.  I’m going to help you with the three body parts to stretch than can give you the mobility you need to be the consistent winning player.

Prone Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. Hip Flexors – When you sit all day, your hip flexors and quadriceps are in a constant contracted position, which makes them overly tight.  Over time, this pulls your hips into a forward and downward tilt, making it difficult and painful to stand-up straight.  Tight hip flexors and quadriceps do not allow full hip extension at the height of your overhand smash or serve.  You limit your power and ability to flex your lower back and also bring your shoulder back into proper position.  Stretch your hip flexors and quads before and after each practice and match.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds each, you can do one or two sets of stretches. 
  2. Biceps – Having your elbows bent, typing on your computer keeps your biceps in a constant slightly contracted state.  Over time, this leads to tightness and an inability to extend your arms fully.  If you can’t get full arm and shoulder extension, there is now way to get on top of the ball to hit it accurately and with power.  Tight biceps can also lead to tight forearm flexors, which contributes to tennis elbow.  Racquet sports such as tennis have been linked to tennis elbow due to the high biomechanical stresses placed on the forearm and wrist with gripping and swinging the racquet (Abrams, Renstrom, & Safran, 2012). In an overhead tennis serve, the wrist extensors must contract to assist in decelerating the forward moving arm.  Making sure your biceps have flexibility and full elbow range of motion is crucial to proper form in any overhead motion.  Similar to the hip flexors, perform a couple sets of stretches for each arm before and after practice or a match.
  3. Pectorals – In performing overhead squat assessments with clients, a typical symptom seen are the arms falling forward from tight pectoral muscles.  These muscles are also typically contracted from hunching over a computer or device all day.  The shoulders round and close in from hands being on a keyboard and wrapped around a phone or tablet.  Leaning into your screen also adds to this tightening with a forward head position.  You can see this noticeably on people who have a closed off appearance with their shoulders.  Tight chest muscles don’t allow for full shoulder retraction to get the racquet behind your head and extended for power and accuracy.  Bend your arm into an L position with the forearm at a 90-degree angle to your upper arm.  With erect posture, lean into any doorway and hold the stretch for 20 seconds.
Standing Pectoral Stretch
Static Biceps Stretch

Obviously practicing and working with a professional is optimal for developing a powerful and consistent service game.  Don’t underestimate the power you lose from these tight muscle groups.  Integrate the stretches into your practice and training to see better results than solely working with a coach.  You’re not investing time and money just to be average, take this info and raise your game to the next level!

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!