Category Archives for "squat"

How to Activate Your Glute Muscles

Properly activating your glutes before starting any exercise is important to ensure safety and optimal performance. Complex lifts such as deadlifts or squats not only require a strong and engaged core, but also activation of your large leg and glute muscles to help generate a desired level of power for the movement. 

The glute muscles consist of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medium, and gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles and its primary function is to extend and externally rotate the thigh at the hip joint. The gluteus medius, which spans laterally to the side of the hip and thigh, works to abduct the thigh at the hip joint. Lastly, the smallest muscle in the group is the gluteus minimus works in conjunction with the gluteus medium to abduct the thigh and helps prevent the hips or knees to collapse inwards. Engaging all three muscles will help stabilize the hip, pelvis, and trunk. Try these exercises below to engage your glute muscles:

1) Side Stepping with a Band

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a circle band placed just above your knees. Bend at your knees and hips to maintain a squat position. Then step to one side, driving the leading knee outwards and engaging the glute muscles. Bring the trailing leg back to the starting position. Continue stepping for another 10-15 repetitions before stepping in the other direction, driving the opposite knee outwards. 

2) Clamshells

Lie on your side with your hips at 45° and your knees at 90° with a band above your knees. Keep your feet together at all times as you open your top knee up against the resistance of the band. Slowly bring the top knee back to meet the bottom knee. Repeat for 10 repetitions. Then complete on the other side. 

3) Sidelying Leg Holds


Begin by lying on your left side to strengthen your left Gluteus medius “Butt” muscles. Keep your right hip stacked on top of your left and place your right hand on your right hip. Then bring your right foot on the ground in front of your left knee and bend the left knee to 90 degrees. Bring your left foot up, while maintaining the ninety degree bend in your knee. Hold this for 10 seconds; Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

4) Lateral Step-Downs / Runner’s Step-Ups

Stand with one foot on a step box and your hands on your hips. Then bring the other foot down to the side and touch the floor. Engage your glute muscles at all times and repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg. Progress the exercise by beginning in the same starting position with one foot on a step box and the other leg straight out to the side. Then kick back with the side leg to about 45° behind your body. Repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg. The third progression is a step-up. Begin in the same starting position, step down with one foot, then drive the same leg and opposite arm upwards. Repeat for 10 repetitions for 3 sets on each leg.

5) Ball Raises on the Wall


Wrap a resistance band around your inside hip.Lean your inside hip onto the exercise ball against the wall and pull with the band towards the outside hip with your hand. With your inner core engaged and your posture tall flex your inside knee up to your chest. Start by driving your outside hip into the ball to bring the inside hip upwards so it’s level with your other hip. Then release and drop your inside hip back down and repeat. Do 10 repetitions for 3 sets.
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Whole-Body Partner Workout

Looking to try something new for your next workout? Try these fun and challenging exercises with a partner at the gym or at home. 

1) Medicine Ball Pass: 

Lie on your back with a mat with your feet planted next to each others. Begin with one person holding the medicine ball, then both sit up by engaging the core, and pass the ball to the other person. Repeat back-and-forth passes by performing simultaneous sit-ups for 20 to 30 repetitions. 
                                                                                                                                  credit: Kami Price

2) Squat Seesaw:

Grab a resistance band with a handle on each end and stand face to face. Begin with one person performing a squat to bring the resistance band downwards, while the other person stands tall and brings the resistance band overhead by extending their arms. Remember to keep an upright body position through out the movement and engage the core. Repeat for 20 repetitions. 
                                                                                                                              credit: Travis McCoy

3) Push-up to Bent-over Row:

Partner #1 will begin in a push-up position by placing both hands on the floor shoulder-width apart while the partner #2 holds the ankles. Partner #1 will perform a push-up by engaging the core and glutes to lower their body towards the floor as Partner #2 holds their ankles by keeping their arms extended and back neutral. After Partner #1 has brought their body back up by pushing up, Partner #2 will then pull their partner’s ankles upwards to chest level to perform a row. Repeat 10 times before switching roles. 

                                                                                             credit: Kami Price

4) Single-Leg Core Rotation:

Stand tall side to side with your partner and hold a medicine ball. Raising the outer leg to a 90 degree angle for each person, engage the core, and rotate to pass the ball back and forth between your partner and yourself. Complete 10-15 passes before switching positions to raise the other leg and complete another set. 
                                                                                                                              credit: Travis McCoy

5) Plank High-Fives

Begin in a plank position facing each other by placing hands directly below your shoulders and body positioned in a straight line. Engage the core and keep the spine neutral, raise one hand while the other partner raises the opposite hand to high-five in the space between you and your partner. 

                                                                                                                            credit: Stephanie Smith
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7 Easy Exercises with a Towel

Home exercising can be just as effective as going to the gym by using household items such as a medium-sized towel. Check out the exercises below for a full body work-out:

1) Plank Walks: 

In a plank position with a towel under both feet and maintaining a neutral spine, walk forwards by placing one hand in front of the other for 10 to 20 steps.

2) Neck Rotation: 

Find where the hairline ends to locate a noticeable “bump” on the back of your neck. This is the spinous process for your 2nd cervical vertebrae. Place the edge of an unrolled towel on this spot, then cross your hands over, making sure the top hand is on the same side as the direction of rotation (e.g. right arm will pull towel downwards towards the middle of the chest if you are turning LEFT). Complete a pain-free rotation 3 times in each direction per day.

3) Knee Tucks: 

Start in a plank position with a towel under both feet and keep a neutral spine, then engage the lower abs below the belly button to pull the knees in toward the chest. Extend the legs back to starting position and repeat for 10 reps. 

4) Reverse Lunge: 

Place one foot in front and a towel underneath the other foot that is slightly behind. Slide the rear foot backwards until the knee of the front leg is at a 90 degree angle. Press the rear leg back into standing position by engaging the glutes and hamstrings. Repeat 10 times on each leg. 

5) Rotator Cuff Holds: 

Step into a door with the left foot and throw a towel over to the back of the neck with the left hand and reach with the right arm to grab the other end of the towel. Prop the right shoulder on the edge of a doorway and hold this position for 20-30 seconds while maintaining a neutral spine. 

6) Single-Leg Hamstring Curls: 

Get into a bridge position by lying flat on your back, hands to the either side of your body and knees bent. Place a towel under one foot, then slide this leg forward while keeping the other leg in the bent position. Slide the extended leg back into starting position. Remember to engage the core and glutes. Repeat 10 times on each side.

7) Back Extensions: 

Lie flat on your stomach and place a towel under each hand, then extend both arms forward so that your chest and chin are near the floor. With the core engaged, slide both hands towards your body and lift your upper body off the floor. Repeat 10 times. 
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5 Strengthening Exercises for Dancers

Overuse injuries are commonly found in dancers due to their intense training regimes. Nearly 60 to 90% of dancers experience an injury or multiple injuries during their careers (Steinberg, Siev-Ner, Peleg, et al., 2013). These injuries include chrondromalacia patella (“runner’s knee”), Achilles tendinopathy, and metatarsal (foot) fractures. Some major causes of injury may be due to anatomic structure, genetics, training regime, improper technique, floor surfaces, age, body mass index, muscle imbalance, nutrition, and menstrual function (Steinberg et al., 2013).

Dance typically includes being on the toes and forefoot in a extreme plantar flexion position, known as “en pointe.” Individuals with poor balance and landing techniques will experience higher ground reaction forces which may subsequently strain the back, knees, and ankles. Incorrect form in many non-professional dancers entail a valgus knee position (knees caved inwards) and hip adduction. Conversely, mature, experienced dancers are able to rely on stronger hip and knee joint muscles to stabilize themselves during landing from jumps. Young dancers also experience lower back pain. Causative factors include high preseason training intensity, history of low back pain, low body weight, scoliosis, and stress fracture in the pars articularis of the spine (Steinberg et al., 2013).

Studies have recommended minimal exposure for young dancers to overload exercises, especially those involving the spine and caution with extensive stretching exercises (Steinberg et al., 2013).

Prevention

Here are a few essential tips to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Wear proper footwear and clothing
  • Drink fluids regularly
  • Do not dance through pain as it will exacerbate the damage
  • Practice correct dance technique 
  • Take adequate breaks during and between dance sessions
  • Ensure proper warm-up and cool-down (approximately 5-10 minutes)
  • Use preventative taping and/or braces if necessary

Strengthening

1) Woodchops – hold a light dumbbell or single cable in the highest pulley position with both hands and bring the weight downwards diagonally to the side of the leg opposite to the starting position. Remember to keep a flat back and tight core through out the motion. Repeat 8 to 12 reps on each side.
2) Lateral Step Downs – stand beside a step or a box, then place one foot on the step. Lift the other leg upwards by bending the knee to 90 degrees. Then bring the foot back down to the ground. Repeat 8 to 12 reps before switching sides. 
3) Core Stability – place your stomach onto a ball and keep the spine in a neutral position. Keep the inner core muscles engaged and reach one arm up in front with the opposite leg extended back. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds before switching sides. Repeat 10 times on each side.
4) Superman Deadlifts – hold a light dumbbell to the same side as the leg that will be extended back on. With a nice tall posture, engage the core and bend forward at the hips while you extend the leg back and reach forward with the opposite arm. Repeat 10 times on each side.
5) Squat Jumps – start with a tall posture, engage the core muscles by drawing the lower ab muscles inward toward the spine. Avoid arching the low back, with arms in a ready position, do a one-legged squat with the body weight equally distributed over the foot. Lower the body downwards by bending at the knees, then jump straight back upwards by engaging your glute and thigh muscles. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 3 sets.

Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2013). Injuries in Female Dancers Aged 8 to 16 Years. Journal of Athletic Training48(1), 118–123. http://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-48.1.06
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3 Key Exercises to Improve Balance

Why is it important to include balance training in your regular exercise program?


Balance is needed for just about everything you do on a daily basis from carrying groceries to putting on your shoes. Balance training involves strengthening exercises that target your entire body, especially the core. This not only reduces the risk of injury, but may improve motor coordination (Oliveira et al., 2017). At least 3 days of balance training per week is recommended for inactive and active older adults (> 65 yr). Activities such as pilates, yoga, tai chi, dance, or brisk walking are suitable for improving one’s balance. Implements such as bosu balls, balance boards, or foam pads can be used to add variety to your exercises. 

Try the Following Exercises Below:

1) Step-ups

a.     Stand in front of a box with a tall posture
b.     Step up with one leg, then bring the other leg up so that both feet are on the box
c.      Step down one leg at a time and repeat 10 times for each leg
d.     Increase the difficulty by using a taller box or increase your step up pace

2)  One Legged Squat

a.     Stand with a tall posture
b.     Bend your right knee and lift your right foot off the floor
c.      Keep your chest upright and arms extended to the front, slowly lower your body to the floor by pushing your hips back and down
d.     Slowly push up to the starting position and switch feet
e.     Remember to keep your knee in line with your second toe as you squat
f.      Repeat 10 times on each leg
3)  Single Leg Dead Lift

a.     Stand on your right foot, enagage the core, and slowly bend forward at the hips
b.     Reach towards the floor with the left hand and lift the left leg straight behind you
c.       Hold for 1-2 seconds and squeeze your butt muscles as your return to the starting position
d.     Switch sides and repeat 10 times on each leg
e.     Optionally: hold a light dumbbell in one hand as you reach toward the floor

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How to Squat Properly

Squats are an excellent way to target the full body and to build significant strength. It heavily relies on your thighs, calves, lower back, arms, and abs. Some key benefits include building muscle, burning fat, increasing endurance, and improving proprioception. However, proper form is needed to avoid back or knee pain.  
HOW TO SQUAT WITH A BARBELL:
Starting Position
1.      Stand with feet approximately shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead, and knees aligned over second and third toes.
         As much as 5-8° of external foot rotation is allowed in the starting position, some consider this normal anatomical position.
2.      To perform the high-bar back squat, rest the barbell on the shoulders, behind the neck, with hands grasping the bar wider than shoulder-width apart.

3.      To perform the low-bar back squat, rest the barbell on the middle trapezius region with hands grasping the bar wider than shoulder-width apart.
         It is important to note adequate shoulder mobility (external rotation) is required to hold the bar securely.
Movement Pattern
1.      Slowly begin to squat down by hinging at the hips and then flexing at the knees.  
2.      Allow glutes to “stick” out behind the body as if sitting into a chair.
3.      Keep the chest up and the cervical spine in a neutral position. Avoid excessive cervical flexion, extension, or anterior translation (jutting the head forward).
4.      Squat to a depth that can be safely controlled with no movement compensations.
         Common movement compensations include knee valgus (knock knees), rounding or arching of the low-back, an excessive forward lean of the torso, and overly externally rotating or pronating the feet.
5.      To rise back up, contract the gluteals and place pressure through the heels as the knees and hips are extended.
6.      Stand up straight until hips and legs are fully extended. Fully contract the gluteals in the standing position for maximal muscle recruitment.

FOR BEGINNERS:

1. Place the big ball up against the wall and have your lower back against the ball
2. Roll up a towel, place it between your knees and shimmy your feet out slightly in front of you.
3. Make sure your knee is in line with your second toe, squeeze the towel and keep your core engaged.
4. Squat down until your knees are at 90 degrees and hold that for 10 seconds.
5. Do 3 sets of 10. Rest for 5 seconds between each rep.

For reference:
http://www.ptonthenet.com/articles/biomechanics-of-the-squat-4016

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