3 Tips to Improving your Warm Up

Everyone has their own routines. Some walk into the gym, do a couple stretches and then hit the weights. Others hop on their favorite cardio machine and get a 20-30-minute session in before they stretch or go lift weights. There is no right or wrong way to warm up because it all depends on the person and their goals.  Well, we just wanted to give you 3 quick tips on how you can   shock the body to kick start your next workout at an even higher level than you’re currently at.

Before we go any further, the first thing you should do when you wake up is drink a big glass of water to start your day.

The reason why is because your body is made mostly of water and after multiple hours of sleeping and limited movement, your body shifts into a state of dehydration. In this state of dehydration, your muscles will lose their ability to contract and relax, as well as your body slows down the circulatory processing due to lack of water. Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel stiff? Yeah, that is one reason why, you do not have adequate water in your system to keep your system flowing a neutral frequency.

Alright, now for the good stuff.

Tip #1

Complete your cardio after your workout. Often times this can be the game changer in peoples exercise programs. Each time you walk into the gym the clock starts on energy expenditure. You only have some much energy in the tank to help you through your workout. Placing exercises like resistance training at the beginning of your workout allows you to maximize your muscular strength potential.

When you start with cardio first, your body starts to burn these sources of fuel to allow you to complete the task. 5-15 minutes on a treadmill at a low to medium intensity is fine, however when you start to increase the time on the cardio machine, you deplete your energy source. This increase in energy expenditure before you lift weights reduces your strength potential, making a particular weight harder than it actually would be if you had put your cardio on the back end of your workout. A big reason you want to switch it up is because your body needs to build strength in order to supply you with the adequate mechanical force to complete everything else you want to do such as cardio. The higher density of skeletal muscle you have, the higher caloric expenditure your body will need to maintain a balance within your daily life. Simply, if you get stronger your body will need to burn more calories throughout the day to fuel your body.

Tip 1: Put your cardio after your weight training.

 

Tip #2

Make your warm up multi-directional. Our body is built to move in lots of various ways. Our joints have the ability to glide, slide, and rotate as we move through our everyday life. The goal of our warm up is to increase our core temperature and get our body prepared for the task at hand. When we limit our warm up to a couple planes of motions, we are not truly warming up the body like it is built for.

For example, walk or running on a treadmill. Treadmill work is great in certain situations; however, it limits our body’s ability to move through all planes of motion.

It reduces the joints ability to move side to side and rotate. Even though we can get a good sweat going, we still do not allow our joints to prepare for side to side or rotation movements that we might pursue in the weight room a few minutes later.

Integrating exercises in the warm up that involve all planes of motions, forward, backwards, side to side, and rotation can help increase warm up potential.

Example:

Tip 2: Use multiple planes of motion to warm up.

 

Tip #3

Start with ground base and progress up to standing exercises. We were born to crawl, roll around, walk, run and just move up and down. As we grow older, we conform to our surroundings and our environment and lose our sense of grounding.

Ground base exercises enrich our sense of grounding and stability. They decrease the gravity around our joints, and allow us to move with less stress placed upon them while still getting high efficient stress. This can lead to a reduction in poor postural control and allow our brain and body to reconnect and sync back up before the workout. Re-connecting with the ground through ground based exercises can help improve the quality of your workout. An integration of ground to standing exercise gives fuller effect of your warm up and the quality at which the joints move over time.

Examples:

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                                Deadbugs

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                                   Side Plank

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                               Cross Knee March

 

Tip 3: Ground base to Standing.

When it’s all said and done, it’s your workout. Exercising and exercise programing is unique and cultivated based on what you desire and like to do. Now if you are in a rut or just want to change things up, mess around with multi-directional exercises, put your cardio on the back end of your workout, and incorporate exercises that make you get up and off the ground.

The better you move, the better you will feel. At the end of the day just go out there and have some fun.

 

For more exercises check out our YouTube Channel: Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute 

 

 

 

 

3 Tips to Improve Your Next Breathing Treatment

The goal of breathing treatments is to maintain and/or improve lung function, increase mucociliary clearance, improve quality of life and improve overall breathing. Breathing treatments often last 20-30 minutes per treatment and 1-3 times per day, depending on who the person is. This takes time out of an individual’s day and adds up over the week. Well, what if we could boost how much you get out of these treatments? What if we could help you improve your next treatment? We can’t guarantee anything, however; we have put together 3 strategies that we have given to our pulmonary clients that have helped them improve their approach to their treatments.

Treatment goals are to help you improve your ability to breathe, right? Well, let’s look at how we can help you target that and possibly improve your quality of life and breathing mechanics.

Number 1: Posture

Your posture directly affects your breathing mechanics. The human body is a fascinating organism. Our bodies are built to do amazing things however, when our body does the same thing over and over again it adapts and can alter our posture. This isn’t a bad thing if you’re are training for a particular goal however, it can directly affect your breathing mechanics if you do not allow your brain to enrich its self with other postures. For example, when you sit at work all day your muscles will adapt to the seated position at which you maintain. That is why it has been recommended to stand up and walk around for a minute every hour when you have a job that is highly sedentary. In the seated position, your hip, neck, and lower back muscles will tighten. These muscles are highly utilized in respiration. When they live in a prolong state of shortening, the brain will tell other muscles to lengthen; hamstrings, glutes, pelvic floor and core muscles, to balance out the adapted seated posture.

This causes imbalances throughout the body and changes your breathing mechanics without you even realizing it. The sitting will cause your head to subtly shift forward, your ribcage to flare up and recruit your lower back, while your neck and chest muscles help low intensity breathing to keep occurring. These muscles are primarily used when we have a higher elevated breathing pattern, so when they are recruited for other jobs, they will become tired and overworked, which causes more tension and stress. Our body’s number one goal is to survive and if we limit its ability to breathe efficiently, it will compensate and use other muscles, such as the neck, chest and lower back muscles to drive your respiration. This can carry over to your breathing treatments and you may not even realize it.

Here is a posture strategy for your next treatment:

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 7.19.53 PM

Sit up right, with your ribcage subtly tucked down and your knees at a 90-degree angle under a 2-inch block.  Sit in this position for as long as you feel comfortable throughout your treatment.

 

 

 

 

If you have something to squeeze, Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 7.15.26 PMplace it between your knees and subtly squeeze to increase core activation.

 

 

 

 

 

Number 2: Hydration

The adult human body is made up of over 60% of water. The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are comprised of about 83% water, and our muscles are comprised of around 79% of water. Now if we are dehydrated, our brain isn’t going to be as efficient at operating and at sending signals to the lungs and muscles for respiration. This could then change our physiological chemistry, making it more difficult to breathe. When something becomes more difficult to accomplish, there is an added stress that is placed upon it to survive.

Glass of WaterThis could decrease our energy levels and make us have to work even harder to breathe, all just because we are dehydrated. We always recommend drinking water throughout the day, from the moment you get up, to 30 minutes before you go to bed. Try having a glass of water 30 minutes before your next treatment. It could help hydrate your brain, lungs, and muscles and keeping your organs hydrated allows them to function at a higher output.

Number 3: Warm Up

When we exercise, we have been taught to perform a 5-10 minute warm up before our workout of the day. The goal of these warm ups is intended to help improve blood flow to our muscles,increase our tissue extensibility, and get our respiration on par for what we are about to accomplish. This same idea and concept can be used for your next treatment. Think of your breathing treatment as if it was your exercise workout for the day. When you breathe in and out, some of your muscles have to contract and shorten, while others have to relax and lengthen.  Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 4.24.18 AMWhen these muscles haven’t been properly warmed up, they may not contract or relax like they would if they were warm. Now, if you perform a couple of your favorite upper and lower body exercises before your treatment, you could put your muscles in a better position to contract and relax to improve your breathing during your treatment. Picking exercises that focus on breathing and muscle tissue stretching are always the best bet. Your muscles connect to your bones and your ribcage is a big component in getting air into the lungs. If you focus on warming up the muscles around your upper body and ribcage, you can get higher quality of ribcage expansion, increasing oxygen consumption and utilization.

We have a great library of exercises and mini warm up routines you can use before your next treatment. Go to our YouTube channel, Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute, for more options.

Just remember that everyone is different and will need to approach these strategies differently. These are tips that we have seen help our clients fighting a pulmonary disease. You do not have to use them all to be successful. The biggest thing is keeping it consistent. It is better to focus on one tip for a few weeks and see how it goes for you before you move on to the next one. We cannot guarantee instant improvements after your next treatment, but if you apply at least one of these strategies with consistency, we believe it could help you improve your treatments and quality of life overtime.

 

There Are No Absolutes In Life

In the fitness industry, numbers matter. In some strength coaches’ cases, if they do not help their client’s hit their numbers, then they could be fired. Numbers are correlated with results. If you bench press 225lb for 10 reps and in two weeks that goes up to 235 or 245lb, you are getting stronger. That makes sense, however it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Dan John, my mentor and a renowned scholar and strength coach, believes that these numbers should help improve our health, longevity, fitness and performance. If the numbers increase but your health and longevity doesn’t, then that’s where the dilemma starts to arise. Health, longevity, fitness and performance are broad terms in their own right, and every circumstance is different. The values change based on the individual and their situation, but their moral compasses shouldn’t.

9M2A3587-X3As an exercise physiologist, my job description is based around helping individuals attain their best self. Well, what is “best self”? Who knows? No one knows, and it is very biased and subjective based on the individual who is trying to find their worth. What this means is that my job is to help individuals find whatever they are looking for using exercise and its application to their life. This is very key, and I don’t want people to miss it. Using exercise and its application to their life, not my life, not other clients’ lives and not the objective numbers that are written on a 1-rep max board on the wall. Now, I can use variables, such as numbers, to help someone build his/her confidence, but numbers shouldn’t be the main driver. Numbers by themselves do not have value, nor do they determine someone’s self-worth. Emotional ties must be created at some point for numbers to truly mean something. Searching for meaning and value behind numbers, is often how we end up losing our way. We end up pushing ourselves to reach a number and forget why we even started in the first place.

I believe this was one of the biggest things I have learned over my career in the exercise industry. Numbers can get us to lose sight of what really matters; the quality of life. There is no absolute in life. I have seen habitual smokers live through their 90’s, as well as listen to a doctor tell a 13-year-old girl that she is going to die within the next two years.

There are no absolutes in life and as an exercise physiologist my job is not only to improve a client’s overall performance, but to also improve one’s overall quality of life.  Quality of life often times gets paired up with performance goals, health and longevity as separate units. However, I believe that due to its subjective nature, it should be the sum of health, longevity, fitness and performance.

We exercise to improve our health with the hopes of improving our longevity. When was the last time we heard someone say, “I exercise so I can improve my quality of life?” It doesn’t happen often because we are always searching for or trying to validate our self-worth based on the actions and reactions of others. Competition is phenomenal, and at what cost are we willing to compete? Some are willing to do whatever it takes to win. If that means cheating or changing your moral compass, would it be worth it? I believe that when we are willing to change our values to seek out what is deemed as an “improved quality of life” by using objective values as our end goals, we often lose sight of what truly matters to us, which will ultimately interfere with our daily living, relationships with our friends, family, and ourselves. If we were to compare how many true friends and family member’s that have our backs when the time gets tough, it is very minuet compared to how many people there are in the world. Therefore, our quality of life is measured not only by our health, performance, longevity, and fitness but also by how we approach and go about our everyday activities and our attitudes towards the process in obtaining our goals and the relationships we have formed with others.

Quality is a staple mark in how I progress my client’s training program. These programs are not linear because people are not linear. The sets and reps are always changing, but the relative quality always stays the same. I focus on getting them to be aware of the smaller goals that they have already accomplished like showing up for workouts, getting the workout in, and pushing themselves. Getting ourselves to enjoy the small victories enriches our environment with prosperity and optimism. Often times we forget that getting out of bed in the morning is powerful and we lose the site of its value. If you do not wake up and get out of bed you literally can’t do anything else, so you lose. I work with patients with pulmonary diseases that fight every day to take another breath. They value every breathe they take because it could be their last. When was the last time you smiled and enjoyed taking in a long deep breath? I won’t lie, the only time that has crossed my mind is when I felt like I was drowning or suffocating.  Our values are different and that changes our quality of life. We leave behind the small victories in search of bigger victories, losing site of the bigger picture in our life. Our genuine happiness.

ATP Picture (Amnon, Loren, Taylor)

We lose site that simply “showing up” is an accomplishment in the big scheme of things. We get caught up in the numbers and the diets that we lose site of the little things that help shape who we are, such as simply showing up, working hard, learning from the failure, and pushing through the sweat and tears. When we enrich our training style with the notion that life is a journey and exercising is simply a part of that journey that can improve quality of life, we will be able to truly help ourselves reach our goals. It can’t be forgotten that the little things are what matters, being nice and polite matters, giving a helping hand, trying your best, putting your best foot forward, and giving to others without asking in return matters, not the numbers.

Exercise is an indirect effect on health, performance, fitness and longevity and most of all how people view themselves and others. As a coach I have learned over the years that it is important to coach in the present and not in the future or past. I forget too much to remember the past, I can’t predict the future, and the present is the only thing we have any control over. Personal achievements will come in the gym, if one is consistent and hard work is there. But that isn’t all that matters, and it is not what determines self-worth. Hitting certain numbers make you a better person. Interactions with friends, families and strangers through these personal achievements will dictate that.

As our life carries its new mark, our goals should too. We must learn to understand that exercise is simply a contributor in our journey to improving our quality of life. There are no guarantees in life, so why not strive to life the life we have with humility and appreciation. In the end, benching 400lbs and fasting all day while doing doubles days, have no value when they are not shared with another variable.

True value comes with understanding that strength is relative and life is reality. 

The Key to Increasing Quality of Life Through Respiration Part 3 The Missing Link: Rib Mechanics

Before we get into the actual exercises, we need to go over the breathing sequence throughout this process. Breaths are going to help you lock in what you’re looking for when you’re doing these exercises. Everyone’s breathe is different, so when you’re doing these exercises remember to do it to the best of your ability.

The Breath:

The goal of breathing in this exercise is to breathe in as much air as you can through your nose and then exhale as much air out of your mouth, as if your blowing out 42 candles through a straw. When you breathe in through your nose it stimulates nitric oxide receptors within your nasal cavity. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that helps open up passage ways to increase blood and pulmonary circulation. You are trying to give yourself the best advantage when consuming oxygen so stimulating these receptors will help when it is difficult breathing. If you have a nasal blockage and it is difficult breathing in through your nose, breathe through your mouth but overtime practicing on get some of your breaths through the nose.

When you exhale you want to get as much air out as you can. Full exhalations clear carbon dioxide and enhance musculoskeletal strength and control from the pelvic floor through the ribcage. Your pelvis and ribcage work in unitize to stabilize and synchronize the concentric, eccentric, and isometric contractions of the respiration system. The obliques, costals, transverse abdominus and pelvic floor muscles are some of the highly active muscles in this process. Your breath gives you, insight into the quality of your core.

The Exercises:

To really feel what I am talking about, I recommend you start by laying on your back. Place your feet on the wall and bend your knees to 90 degrees’.  In this position point the tip of your chin towards your sternum and press the tilt of your ribcage down. IMG_9003Place your hands below your shoulders and with your palms facing up. This keeps you from pressing your hands into the ground and turning on those secondary muscles that help you breathe when your stressed out. Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth. When you exhale all the air out, pause for a second before inhaling again, and then repeat this for 3-5 breaths per round.  Once you have completed a round of 3-5 breaths take 15 to 30 seconds off and repeat 2-4 rounds.

After you create familiarity with the breath, you will start to add in some focus to where your ribcage is placed, and what your ribs are doing when you breathe. Your ribs have the ability to internal rotate (move towards the anterior pelvis) or externally rotate (rotate up towards the chin) as well as multi-directional translation. During inspiration your ribs should externally rotate and during exhalation your ribs should internally rotate.  Overtime we develop patterns that decrease the fluidity of these movements.

The ribs and ribcage are the hidden gem in training that we often times over look. The ribs have a lot of similarities to the pelvis. If your hips are tight is it hard to move? The same thing goes for the ribs. If they don’t move well respiration increases when the demand for oxygen increases. This changes the rib kinematics and creates an imbalance. When you exhale and tuck the ribcage down and back to get a better starting position you increase musculoskeletal control and strength position.

To improve respiration mechanics, you’re going to get on all fours in quadruped position. A quadruped position is when you have your hands stacked under your shoulders, your knees stacked under your hips, looking at the ground. You are going to breathe in through your nose and then exhale all the air out through your mouth, tuck your ribcage down and back. This will start to round your back. As your tucking your ribcage limit how much you press your hands into the ground when you round.

Once you have exhaled all the air out, stay in your new rounded position and repeat for 3-5 breaths. The goal is to round further and further with each breath. On the 5th breath you will relax and repeat the series. In between sets take 15 to 30 seconds off. However, if you need more time, take it. Rib Tuck PictureThe goal is to get as much air in as you can and then exhaling all the air out as you can while you subtly tuck the ribcage down and back on exhalation. If over time this gets hard your body is telling that is needs a little more time between sets. Breathing has a physiological effect that changes the chemical imbalances within our body. These changes can elevate our heart rate and challenge us physically and mentally. Taking time between sets increases the quality of the sets, so rest accordingly to how you feel.

Respiration is vital in our survival. When our respiration mechanics are off it changes our resting potential. Working on simple breathing like I discussed here as well as incorporating exercises that improve rib mechanics can help decrease stress and improve your quality of life.

Simple exercises that improve what your ribs are doing when you move, will help improve breathing mechanics and could ultimately help improve quality of life.

Checkout our YouTube channel Cystic Fibrosis Fitness Institute for more exercise on improving ribcage mechanics.

 

 

The Key to Increasing Quality of Life Through Respiration Part 2: Breathing Patterns

Diaphragmatic breathing has shown to decrease heart rate, put us in a better state of mind, and help down regulate our system when we are overwhelmed. However, diaphragmatic breathing can also help us improve core control and overall strength. Just like skeletal muscle, our respiratory muscles are made up of slow and fast twitch fibers that concentrically contract and eccentrically lengthen with emuscle-fibersvery breath we take. On the foundation of their functional properties, slow twitch fibers and fast twitch fibers are present in equal quantities within the diaphragm. The diaphragm however, features an abundance of slow twitch, higher aerobic oxidation enzymes that have a greater number of capillaries. These physiological properties allow our respiratory muscles to work involuntary, or without our conscious thought.

The diaphragm is composed of skeletal muscle and dense collagenous connective tissue. It originates at the sternal part of the xiphoid process, costal cartilage of the 7-12th ribs, down to the 1st-3rd lumbar vertebrate and finishes at the central tendon. When you breathe in air through the thorax, volume increases pushing the domed shaped diaphragm down and expanding the ribcage transversely and vertically. As the thoracic volume increases, the ribs flare up (externally rotate) to allow for even more volume and pressure to occur. Once the lungs are filled with potential air, the exhalation process occurs where the diaphragm ascends back up, rotating the ribs down to expel all the carbon dioxide. Through exhalation the abdominal muscles and deep core muscles concentrically contract, pulling the ribs down and tilting the pelvis back to close the distance between the anterior ribcage and pelvis.Diaphragm, Intercostals, Lungs

When there is an increase in higher intensity exercise and decreased movement, our posture changes leaving the ribs flared out and the pelvis tipped forward. This decreases core strength and increases stress on the joints.

Our secondary response (fight or flight), heighten its activity and stimulus allowing us to get from point A to B through compensatory patterns or through poor movement.  This changes our breathing patterns because we have to work harder to move because our muscles and joints are not in the optimal position to do what they do best. workaholic (Sitting) This eventually becomes a subconscious pattern and becomes integrating into our intrinsic involuntary respiration patterns. Over time these patterns spill over into our daily activities and take on roles, such as contributing to tight muscles (neck, lower back, hips), anxiety, loss of sleep and neuromuscular fatigue.

Improving breathing patterns and posture will decrease stress and improve overall quality of life. However, it takes time and consistency. Remember, you take around 16,000 to 24,000 breaths a day, times that by 365 days and you have some work to do. It is a process that won’t change overnight but with a little bit of work a few days a week you can make great gains in how you feel overall. Work on standing up more often, walking to the water cooler or around the office once every few hours can keep your core muscles stronger after a long day of limited movement. Sitting upright and taking in a few breaths in through the nose and then exhaling through the mouth, tucking the ribcage down ever so subtly, can easily change your posture and allow your body the opportunity to down regulate and enjoy the present moment.

These are simple approaches to improving breathing patterns in a world of controlled chaos. During your workouts you want to get away from the world and let off some steam. It is a time to push all your troubles a side and get after it. That is how it should be but don’t forget that if you work on your breathing before and after your workouts, you have the opportunity to push the limits even further than what you have before.

We thrive off the ability to breathe in oxygen, transfer it, then exchange it for waste so we can expose of it through exhalation. Your posture effects this process, check out part 3 as I go through some simple exercises you can do before and after to add to your tool box of exercises.

 

 

 

 

The Key to Increasing Quality of Life Through Respiration Part 1: Posture and Diaphragmatic Breathing

This past weekend I had the opportunity to present at the Cystic Fibrosis Family Con on posture and its implications on respiration. I had a great time talking with some very passionate people in the CF community. One thing we tend not to realize is how much breathing we actually do a day. Our respiration is an involuntary response that is developed and morphed by many different variables and then put away into our unconscious and subconscious patterns to allow us to move, and survive through our daily routine. Our respiration thrives on the ability to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide along with other waste at a frequency and duration fits our human system. Over the course of a day this can accumulate anywhere from 16,000 to 24,000 breaths a day.

If we conscious think about all the breaths we take, we wouldn’t have any time to think about anything else. Adults (18 +) average anywhere from 12 to 16 breaths per minute and infants to 18 average anywhere from 18 to 60 breaths per minute. Trying to stay on top of how many breaths you take per minute/per day would be impossible if you would like to have life outside of breath counting. The volume of breaths per minute is one reason why our respiration is involuntary and acts based on many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. One particular variable is our posture and how we move throughout the day to sustain multiple postures.

During my presentation I talked about how powerful the orientation and position of our bodies at rest are during respiration. Our skeletal structure is held up by connective tissue, that is intertwined through skeletal muscle that connects muscles to bone and that connects bone to bone.  Our body is one unit and when we move, sleep or sit for long periods of times “everything” from proximal to distal adapts.

When our tissue alters its properties, angle of position and pull to allow movement to be present, our neurological system will increase stimulation, amplitude, duration and frequency that is needed to complete the goal. This pertains to everything not just exercises. Sitting, standing and laying down all recruit sensory and motorneurons to establish a sense of a controlled state. We just have so much going on in our lives to think about body mechanics after a long day of getting pulled in many directions by family and friends.

CA LungsWhen there is a reoccurrence and you increase the duration at which you are in a particular posture like sitting, your musculoskeletal system will change its approach to allow you to maintain what you’re doing. In relation to respiration, a muscle that changes its properties and can alter its performance output is your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is dome shaped and looks very similar to an umbrella. On top of your diaphragm rest your lungs. When you inhale air, your diaphragm descends down towards your pelvic floor allowing your lungs to fill up with oxygen. When you exhale your diaphragm ascends back up pushing the air out that is filled with carbon dioxide. Now if you sit all day or even stand all day your posture is going to adapt and change the line of pull of your musculoskeletal system altering where your diaphragm starts its descent down. This will then how affectively air is inhaled in as well as exhaled, leaving you with potential loss in oxygen consumption intrinsically. This then changes your respiration rate, with indirect change of stiffness in and tightness in areas like your lower back, neck and the anterior part of your hips. From a conscious thought process, you could think you need to stretch your lower back or hip flexors but deep down your breathing muscle (diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, etc…) have altered their state of performance and just not working as efficiently as they could. This can also lead to anxiety, sleep apnea and decrease performance output.

90:90 Diaphragmatic Breathing.JPG

Now this all depends on who you are, what your goals are and the environment you live in however everyone at some point in their life has disruptions in their respiration and can benefit from working on diaphragmatic breathing exercises.  Over the course of this three-part series I am going to give insight into options on how you can improve your diaphragmatic breathing and your overall respiration mechanics. There is no guarantee that this will improve lung function but I do believe it will help you move better and improve your quality of life.

Just remember Understanding that all postures are good but living and moving within one all the time creates poor overall movement patterns. Breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth is one of the best ways to down regulate your system and allow the proper respiratory muscles to work.

 

*Pictures from Complete Anatomy* 

Neuromuscular Activation: The key to improved quality of life

Our bodies are designed to allow us to do amazing things, and we often forget that the results we see in a mirror, are only the icing on the cake to what is happening internally. Intrinsically our brain is communicating with our muscles and joints through our central and peripheral nervous systems. These communication outlets allow our body to walk, run and lift stuff off the ground without having to sit down and map out a strategy to accomplish it. What we often do not realize is that when we stand up, sit down, take a breath of fresh air, etc., our neurological system is sending signals throughout the body to allow us to accomplish this without us even thinking twice. When is the last time you stood up and actually thought about where you were disbursing your weight and what muscles you were going to use to get up? It does not always happen, but your neurological system does not always need conscious communication to perform a task. You could literally sit back and relax and end up on the other side of the room without knowing how you go there. I know that has happened to me before.

These situations and scenarios come from your nervous systems ability to understand, recruit and adapt through a 3-dimensional world. Improving our nervous system throughout space intrinsically and extrinsically, allows the body to adapt and learn at the bodies highest level.  Often times, exercises that demand more from us, such as a heavy deadlift, are difficult to do because it looks like we lack the strength to pick it up. However, often times it is a neurological desynchronization and lack of proper communication between our central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS) that is keeping us from completing the task.

This is why performing a proper warm up, or what I like to call, “movement preparation series,” before you work out is vital. Research has shown that resistance and cardiovascular training increases adaptive changes in skeletal muscle, leading to adaptive changes in neurological function and motor unit recruitment. These motor unit recruitments, as well as sensory recruitments, allow our bodies to lift heavier, move faster, decrease body fat and reduce our mile times.

The bigger question often arises on when should someone work on more specific neurological recruitment. It always goes back to it all depends, such as what your goal is and where your gaps might be in your program. What I have seen over the years of training many different subgroups are that by performing a static exercise that locks in your pelvis and ribcage (some may call this your core) before a lift has shown great results.

IMG_9015Completing a 5-breath plank before you deadlift can help increase motor unit recruitment at the muscles that need the extra reinforcement of stabilization. I like breaths instead of using time for isometric core exercises because your core muscles are breathing muscles, and it also limits you to hold your breath and use secondary muscles to help hold yourself up. You can even get creative and do a unilateral core exercise, like a side plank and a bilateral strength exercise like the deadlift, to work multiple planes of motions. I have programmed unilateral core with bilateral strength circuits and bilateral core (plank) with unilateral strength (single leg deadlifts) to give variety and enrich the neuromuscular systems awareness during training.

Time and our environments are constantly causing you to adapt your posture, which can further start to diminish your movement quality. These adaptive changes cause your neurological recruitment and feedback to change based on what you subconsciously and consciously tell and allow your body to do. So, when we think we are warmed up and ready to go, we often may not be fully engaged. Adding a set or two of some form of bracing exercise, such as planks or side planks, before a heavy lift, such as a deadlift, can help increase recruitment so the whole system is on the same page. The goal isn’t to crush the neurological system, but to wake it up and guide it to the right destination so it can do what it does best, thrive and survive.Heavy Deadlift Pic

Increasing the body’s ability to move is beyond getting the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles stronger. You need to get the neurological system to understand and synchronize with what you want the body to do. Research has shown that resistance and cardiovascular training increases adaptive changes in skeletal muscle, leading to adaptive changes in neurological function and motor unit recruitment. These adaptive changes in neuromuscular function have been linked to increased maximal contractile forces power output and increased postural control.

With the increased motor unit recruitment and mechanical skeletal muscle function, our body increases its proprioceptive awareness (where our body is in space) and comfortability, decreasing intrinsic and extrinsic stress during daily activities. This can lead to increased energy levels and improved quality of life.

Why not add a 5-breath plank in before a heavy lift?

It may fill that gap you have been looking for.