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!

How to Retain Clients: Experiences of a Fitness Professional to Help Your Business Grow

Client retention is the key to any successful business.  While acquiring new clients is the lifeblood of a growing business, it cost a lot less to keep them than constantly having to find new.  The fitness industry operates the same way.  How can professionals retain clients for services that are 100% based on disposable income?  There is no one single answer.  I will share my experiences to help you in whatever line of client business you are in.

The first step in retaining clients in a business based on disposable income is to have a salesperson mindset.  A huge problem in the fitness industry is that personal trainers think people will come to them because they look good and like working out.  That is the farthest thing from the truth!  Unfortunately, personal trainer certifications wait until the last chapter of a 500-page book to give any information on sales and marketing.  38 chapters are dedicated to anatomy, biology, physiology, and how to partner body parts together for an effective workout routine.  One chapter half the length of all the others gives any info on how to gain and retain clients.  The same goes for doctors, lawyers, and accountants to name a few.

Janet MacDonell

The second step is to work with a wide variety of clients with different goals and ages.  To many trainers want the perfect client who does everything like them and has the same amount of time to spend as they do.  The overwhelming majority of clients have jobs and families that require 99% of their attention.  A couple hours per week with you is not their life.  By working with a variety, you learn how to relate and adjust your style to different people based on where they are in their life.  I had a female trainer co-worker who only wanted to work with other females who were “serious” and had time two days per week at 5:00PM or 6:00PM.  Because she was so restrictive, she missed out on a long-term client that became one of my best friends.  Needless to say, she isn’t employed by the health club anymore or has any clients attempting to train privately.

The third step is to be a product of your product.  People only invest when they see a potential ROI.  Fat and out of shape trainers are broke.  It doesn’t mean you have to be a fitness model or competitive bodybuilder.  You do have to represent a healthy, active lifestyle, and be able to do the workout yourself that you’re making the client perform.  I say this because sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.

Rob Tepper

The fourth step is to be authentic.  People hire other service providers based on some type of emotional connection and justify with logic.  If you are fake, good luck in retaining any clients beyond an initial package.  Because fitness professionals are completely optional, clients are not required to stay with you or even finish out a package they purchased.  A person invested in you because they felt a connection that makes them want to show up before or after work when they have better things to do than waste it on a flake.  Some of my best friends were and are current clients.  You can maintain professionalism and cultivate personal relationships outside the gym when you are authentic.

Hank Adams

The fifth and final step is be teachable.  Continuing education credits are required for any professional service provider.  I’m not talking about going through those motions.  Listen to other gym members, co-workers, managers, and industry news.  Don’t be afraid to implement new ideas and techniques to keep your clients and you interested.  I always have my ears and eyes tuned to other trainers on how they work with their clients.  Give credit to them when you use their ideas and techniques.  It fosters a giving relationship at work and one of trust.  A couple other trainers bought and read my book.  I was honored they thought highly of me enough to invest into my philosophies and practices.

It is easy to think your business is different.  The truth is it really is not when dealing with people.  The service or product you represent is different, how you interact and relate to other humans is the same across all businesses.  For more info on how I work with clients, please email me, Matt Peale, at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and go to my website, mattpeale.com.

Tips for Healthy Eating While Working From Home

You are what you eat.  I’m sure you heard that numerous times in your life.  March is National Nutrition Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  If you’ve been working from home or sheltering in place, your eating habits may not be as healthy as they used to be last year.  Without dressing up for work, moving around much, and easy access to your kitchen for random snacking, the “WFH 15” may have invaded your waistline.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Fear not!  March is the perfect month to regain control of your eating habits, and it can taste good too!  Week 1 encourages you to eat a variety of nutritious foods daily.  Try a new fruit or vegetable this week.  Raw is always the healthiest way and gives you the true flavor.  Pick fruits and vegetables with different colors because they have different antioxidants and nutrition profiles.  Also drink plenty of water, not soft-drinks and juices.  If you haven’t read a nutrition label before, read a few on the items you normally buy, could be eye opening!

Week 2 is about planning your meals.  From my experience, this is where people fall off the wagon.  When you don’t know what your next meal is, you make impulse choices which usually aren’t good!  You’re in a rush and find yourself starving!  The downhill spiral begins and it’s hard to stop.  Plan healthier meals with your family for everyone to learn new ideas and get on board with healthy lifestyle choices.  It doesn’t have to suck when one person is on a “diet” and can’t eat the same as others in the house.  By planning and cooking healthier, good tasting food, everyone enjoys together and reaps the benefits.

Photo by Sean Hayes on Pexels.com

Week 3 is taking your planning from the previous week and learning new skills to make delicious dishes that are good for you.  Try using fresh herbs, or new spices on meat, chicken, and fish that you already cook.  Stay away from breaded and fried, all you are tasting are breadcrumbs and flower anyway, not the protein you are frying.  You may even feel better and not have a stomach-ache after eating grilled and backed items instead of fried.  Wasting food truly is a sin in many ways.  Make smaller portions or reuse the leftovers in different dishes if you’re sick of the same taste.  Freeze what you don’t use after three days in the fridge if possible.  Your wallet will thank you also because a dollar can be stretched when you repurpose food items for other dishes.  How do you think gumbo and jambalaya became popular?

Week 4 is a good time to make an appointment with a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).  An RDN is educated on how to work with any special diseases and conditions you have.  They can also give more detailed guidance for weight loss and sports performance than a personal trainer or Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself.  Knowledge truly Is power and combining an RDN’s knowledge with a fitness professional’s knowledge gives you the total package for maximizing and enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle.

You can’t out lift, run, or cycle a bad diet.  Poor refueling choices have negative effects on everything you do and feel physically.  Being sedentary multiplies your bad choices to increase health risk factors like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.  Those are three of the top five killers of Americans annually, and many could be prevented.  Add to it COVID-19 as a risk factor, and you know who has the most negative effects and chance of death, people who are obese.  Approximately 1/3 of all adult Americans are considered obese by the CDC, this does not include the millions that are overweight and headed to obesity.

For more information on nutrition and healthy eating choices, go to myplate.gov, cdc.gov, and eatright.org.

3 Tips to Choosing a Fitness Professional For Your Exercise and Health Goals

What makes a fitness professional worth the investment?  Working out on a few machines every week isn’t that difficult right?  Adjust the settings to your size, figure out a weight to do 10 reps with for a couple sets, and you transform into a fitness model in 30 days or less guaranteed!  That’s what social media and advertisements have you to believe.

Since I was a early teenager I have been attracted to working out.  Even though I played soccer most of my life along with other sports growing up, weight training was something I knew I needed for better athletic performance and because I had little self-confidence as a thin kid.  As most teen boys wanted, I also had the desires to bulk up and look HUGE!  All I needed was to lift a bunch of heavy weights, read some bodybuilding magazines, and instant massive physique! Wrong.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, at the age of 18 I received my first gym membership after working out in my room with a curl bar and doing push-ups and pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was really doing until I studied for and became a personal trainer in 2008.  I went 15 years of bumbling along reading only the same bodybuilding magazines as a guide.  Let me guess, you have done basically the same thing with some kind of magazine and now YouTube sensation to guide you.  I’m willing to bet a large sum of money you also are still clueless and have not achieved what you want regarding your athletic performance and overall health.

A fitness professional is an investment, no doubt.  Remember that fitness professionals also made an investment in themselves by spending $400-$500 on a certification, sometimes multiple certifications.  Plus, they have continuing education credits to maintain that certification, which are also a financial investment.  Fitness professionals are not just the biggest guys and hottest girls in the gym. 

How do you know who to invest in for your health and fitness goals?  I’ll share with you three characteristics of a good fitness professional.

  • Relationship oriented: they show a true interest in their clients beyond taking their money.  You truly matter to them beyond the 30 or 60 minutes a couple times per week.
  • They are a product of their product: they “look” the part and enjoy being fit.  A fitness professional doesn’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best looking, they do need to exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle. 
  • Their own workouts are similar to what you enjoy: fitness professionals train others similarly to how they workout, it’s being human.  Watch them and see if you gravitate to their style.

Not all clients stay with the same professional, and that is fine.  Work with a few until you feel comfortable.  Ask them questions about their experiences both in fitness and life overall.  If you’re a 55- year-old male, a 27-year-old female may not understand what’s going on in your stage of life.  The relationship has to be win-win.  Fitness professionals are also counselors because our clients are in a vulnerable state and they feel comfortable sharing about their lives.  Being able to trust each other is crucial for maintaining a long-term relationship.

You are investing in their knowledge and expertise to get you where you have not been able to go.  If you’re health is worth it, then hiring a fitness professional is worth it.  Just like having a CPA.  Sure, you can do your own taxes, is it worth the risk of fines, penalties, and levies if the job isn’t done right?  Only you know the answer to that.  Your health is the same risk assessment.

For questions about my experiences with clients, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and learn how to be on the Athlete in the Game of Life Team to receive a FREE copy of my book.

What is the Best Kind of Cardio Workout?

I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts.  In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog.  The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!

Photo by Mary Taylor on Pexels.com

“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.”  If running indeed clears your headspace, then run.  For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen.  The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it.  This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point.  When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.

The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process.  This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart.  The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference.  Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities.  Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training.  In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata.  The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement.  The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website.  The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity.  Benefits of interval training:

  • Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
  • Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
  • Doesn’t need any extra equipment
  • Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component

Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients.  So, here’s your free insight!  Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment.  There’s that enjoyment piece again.  FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment!  Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity. 

Frequency is how many times per week.

Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.

Time is how long are you doing the activity.

Type is whatever activity you choose to do.

Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.

Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session:  twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.

Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.

Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples.  It loves the process and results either way.  Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it.  Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment.  I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!

For more help, please email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  My coaching programs are also available on my website.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

On Your Butt and In Pain – From My Book The Athlete in the Game of Life

I have a client who has no choice — she has to sit on the job.

That’s because she’s an amputee who lost her left lower leg in a lawn mower accident as a child. She now works in medicine, assisting surgeries for most of the day and in her office for the remaining hours—and during all that time, she’s sitting. When she started experiencing pain because of it, she came to me. Since I’m a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I was able to assess and work with her in addressing the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings, the result of prolonged sitting.

Many fitness trainers, however, ignore those particular muscles. They’re used to guys who want to bulk up the upper half of their bodies and women who focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. So, I felt gratified and validated when my client showed me an article in a magazine dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article suggested all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips — and she was impressed that I knew to focus on those muscles, since I had never worked with an amputee before.  I told her it was simply a result of all my experience working with executives and other individuals who were relatively sedentary — I learned over time where the physical problems hit the hardest and how to correct those imbalances.

It all centers on the hips. From an evolution standpoint, we weren’t built to sit for long periods of time. Your muscles have to work overtime to support it, and you end up stretching hamstring muscles, tightening your quadriceps and remodeling your hips. Also, nerves can become compressed and common issues such as sciatica (back pain) can occur.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When you stop sitting and decide to get upright, you’ve got more potential problems on your hands — or more accurately, in your hips. When you go to stand up, you end up trying to put the pelvis back into a standing position and some of these muscles get irritated and strained in the process. Lower back pain is a frequent result. The hips, while often overlooked, are critical to your body’s alignment of your legs and torso. They must be strong to do that job — but sitting weakens them and gravity suddenly becomes your worst enemy. Your legs will collapse inward, put pressure on your kneecaps and eventually cause flat feet.

But at any rate, now you’re standing. When you go ahead and take a step, however, and the hips are no longer strong enough to hold themselves up, you end up with hip pain. Meanwhile, the lower back tries to take some of the burden off the hips — and that’s not good for the lower back. The pain that results travels up the spine and in your neck. And you can also end up throwing out your lower back.

All of this negatively affects your posture, because you’re twisting your muscles into positions they don’t much care for. Those muscles become strained and it creates more weakness in your body.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

The fact is mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. All those movements become much more difficult when your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. As you grow older, you begin to have basic balance issues and falls are the unfortunate result. I actually see this developing in people as young as their early 40’s!

To order my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, go to my website mattpeale.com and click the banner at the top. You can also download my free report on back pain to enter for a free signed copy of my book. You win either way!

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.

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!