A Case For Crawling…In Your Workout!

When was the last time you crawled?

On your hands and knees or hands and toes?
Forward, backward, sideways, clockwise, counterclockwise?oksanakuzmina7

Many haven’t crawled since they learned to walk as babies.

Go crawl right now. On your hands and toes, down and back in the nearest hallway. I DARE YOU!

I bet it’s harder than you thought it’d be!

Crawling is called a primitive movement (along with rolling, pushup, and quadruped). It’s a basic, yet critical, pattern we learn during our physical and neurological maturation as it develops the strength, coordination, and stability that translate into higher level activities such as running and climbing.

Crawling is similar to many things in life; if you don’t use, it you lose it! Your body forgets how to crawl, how to recruit muscles in those fundamental patterns, how to stabilize your body in dynamic positions, and how to coordinate arm and leg movements. Your ability to move (pain and injury free) deteriorates from there because the foundation is gone!

I’ll show you how to start rebuilding your foundation. The most fundamental of the many styles of crawling is the bear crawl (or table top crawl).

_backwardsbearcrawl-the-21-exercises-from-the-get-ripped-anywhere-outdoor-series_0

In this crawl, the opposite arm and leg move together. The left leg and right arm “step” forward, then the right leg and left arm “step” forward. The challenge is keeping your back straight and hips level through the movement. With clients, I’ll place a foam roller or light, plate-like object on their lower backs while they crawl, forcing them to stay level during movement to prevent the object from falling.

From Eric Cressey’s High Performance Handbook I learned a variation of this crawl where you inhale as you take each “step” then hold the position in place as you exhale,”crunching” your ribs down toward your pelvis.

Once you master forward crawling, then comes backward crawling, sideways crawling, and circular crawling….next add resistance!

Resistance can be added as a weight plate on top of your hips, resistance bands around your hips or shoulders, towing a kettle bell behind you, etc. Just don’t venture there until mastering the basic technique!

I like this video of some other crawling variations:

Here’s your challenge: 

  • Add 3 sets of 20 steps of bear crawls into 2 of your workouts this week, in your warm up or as a superset to another exercise.
  • Post a video and tag or hashtag K8IrelandActive bear crawling!
  • Comment below with your thoughts on crawling after giving it a try.

For more reading about crawling check out:

Functional Movement

Marks Daily Apple

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Excuse #1: I don’t have a plan

“I don’t have a plan.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

You walk into the gym. What machines do you use? What exercises do you do? Reps? Sets? Weight? What about in your workout tomorrow?

I’m going to make it easy for you and outline exactly what you need to do in the gym. Your tasks:
1) Read this article
2) Print the workout PDF
3) Jot some notes on exercise form from my cues and included videos, or pull up this article on your phone at the gym
4) Get  your butt in the gym and work hard, for about an hour, at least 3 days a week or 4 days if you can include an extra credit cardio session.

I’ll walk you through it. 3 days of full body strength training. It’s a great start if your goal is to lose weight, get in shape, and build some muscle tone.  Here’s the plan:

Each day: 

Warm up: 5 minutes cardio, 5 minutes foam roll
Spend 10 minutes rotating through exercises A1, A2, and A3.
Spend 10 minutes rotating through exercises B1 and B2.
Spend 10 minutes rotating through exercises C1, C2, and C3.
Spend 5-10 minutes on exercise D.

Week 1-2: Choose weight for each exercise that’s “medium” difficulty.
Week 3-4: Choose weight for each exercise that’s challenging in the last 3 reps.
**Never choose heavier weight if you can’t perform the exercise with good form**

Do this routine for up to 8 weeks!

Warmup

Before you do anything in the gym, warm up! 5 minutes on a cardio machine of your choosing, going from light intensity to medium intensity. Some ideas:

  • Incline walk on a treadmill. Start at 3.0 mph with a 5.0 incline. Over the course of 5 minutes, increase speed to 3.5mph.
  • Stepmill (the one with a conveyor belt of steps). Start at an easy level (1 or 2). Over the course of 5 minutes increase up to a moderate level (3 to 5).

Then, foam roll your legs and upper back at a minimum. This should take less than 5 minutes.

  • Hamstrings (back of thighs)
    hamstrings_foam-roller
  • Quadriceps (front of thighs)
    bordon_quadriceps
  • IT Bands (Outside of thighs)
    itb-foam-roller
  • Adductors (Inside of thighs)
    stuartkari072314_3449_lowres
  • Calves (Back of lower legs)
  • Glutes (Booty)
    images
  • Upper Back
    woman-foam-rolling

Workout A

A1. Chest Supported DB (dumbbell) Row (10 reps)

  • Set an incline bench to a 30- to 45-degree angle from horizontal
  • Rest your chest on the bench with DBs in your hands.
  • Use a neutral grip, palms facing toward your body

A2. Incline DB Press (10 reps)

  • Done on same incline bench set up.
  • Shoulder blades are pulled back behind the body the entire movement.
  • Arms should be at a 45-degree angle to your body, so not flush at sides or straight out from shoulders.

A3. Hip Thrust (10-20 reps)

  • Position your back against a flat bench, with the bench hitting your back just below your shoulder blades
  • Feet are a little wider than your hips
  • Knees are in a line between your ankles and hips
  • Push through your heels and raise your hips up, squeeze booty at the top
  • Start with two legs, no weight, doing 10 rep sets. Increase reps up to 20. Once you can do 20 reps on two legs, try 10 reps using a single leg.
  • This is a long video, but it’s worth the watch.

B1. Leg Press (Machine) (10 reps)

  • Position your feet hip width apart, high enough on the pad so that when knees bend they don’t go past your toes.
  • As your knees bend, keep them in line with your middle toes. Don’t let knees cave in as they bend.
  • Push through your heels as you extend your legs.
  • Don’t lock out your knees

seated-leg-press

B2. Walking Lunges (20 steps total)

  • Hold dumbbells at your sides, starting with light weight(5lbs).
  • Take a big step forward, bend back knee and drive it toward the ground without touching the ground
  • Don’t let front knee go past front toes
  • Keep torso straight up
  • Keep heel of front foot down through lunge movement

C1. Plank (30 seconds to 1 minute)

  • Take deep breaths while holding
  • Don’t let hips dip (with lower back arched) or hips rise into the air
  • Contract the front abs, bringing the pelvis toward the lower ribs

C2. Dead bug twist (20 total or 10 each side)

  • Lower back stays flat to the ground the entire time with abs engaged (draw belly button toward spine)
  • Feet in air, knees bent at a 90-degree angle
  • Arms are straight up in air
  • Rotate torso slightly to one side and then the other
  • Once this gets easier, hold a weight in your hands

     

C3. Scaption (10 reps)

  • Only raise arms to same height as your shoulders (not above as shown in video).

D. Sprints (30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds rest)

  • Set treadmill speed at your sprint pace.
  • Sprint for 30 seconds, then jump off and rest for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Always start your sprints with a more conservative speed and increase speed on 2nd and 3rd sprints.

Workout B

A1. Seated Cable Row (10 reps)

  • Only arms and shoulders move, not torso.
  • Use an underhand grip with hands shoulder-width apart.

A2. Bench Pushups (6 to 12 reps)

  • This is a progression to pushups on the ground
  • Arms at a 45 degree angle to the body
  • Work up to 12 rep sets on the bench. Once those are easy, work up to 10 rep sets on the ground (flat), then 10 rep sets with your feet on the bench and hands on the ground.

A3. Sumo Squats (10 reps)

  • Wide stance, booty back, knees out
  • Push through heels coming up
  • Keep back straight

weighted-sumo-squat

B1. Kettlebell (KB) Deadlift (10 reps)

  • Keep heels in contact with ground and back straight

B2. Step Up (with DBs) (10R/L)

  • Start with no weight
  • Push through heel
  • Back straight, chest up
  • Do all the reps on one side, then all the reps on the other side

C1. Deadbug Progression (10R/L)

  • Low back flat against ground
  • Alternate right and left side reps

C2. Diagonal Curl Up (10R/L)

  • 10 reps on the left side then 10 reps on the right side

C3. DB Bicep Curl (10R/L)

  • Alternate arms: right arm curls, left arm curls, right arm curls, left arm curls….
  • Standing
  • Palm up
  • Move slow and controlled through entire rep

Alternating-bicep-curl-female

 

D. Jump Rope: alternate 1 minute jumping, 30 seconds rest

  • Keep your shoulders back, chest up
  • First minute: singles (one double-leg jump per rope turn)
  • Second minute: “+” shape. Hop forward-back, left-back, right-back, back-forward while jumping rope
  • Third minute: alternating single leg jump, one jump per rope turn.
  • 1-3 rounds of this!

Workout C

A1. Lat Pulldown (10)

  • Keep shoulders back and down the entire time
  • Overhand, shoulder-width grip or a little wider

lat-pulldown

A2. Cable Chest Press (10)

  • Don’t let elbows go behind your body

A3. Birddog (10 R/L)

  • Opposite arm and leg
  • Keep trunk, shoulders, hips stable
  • Hold each rep 5 seconds

B1. Goblet Squat (10)

  • Booty back
  • Back straight
  • Hold weight at your chest
  • Keep heels down and push through heels to come up

B2. Single Leg (SL) Deadlift (10 R/L)

  • Hold one weight (kettle bell or dumbbell) with two hands
  • Keep back straight
  • Slight bend in the knee
  • You should feel a nice stretch in your hamstring
  • Actively extend through back leg to counterbalance

Single-Leg-Deadlift-Kettlebell.jpg

C1. Cable Wood Chop Low to High (10R/L)

C2. Med Ball Crunch (10)

  • Hold ball overhead
  • Actively press lower back into ground
  • Raise ball to ceiling until shoulder blades come off the ground
  • Hold for one second before lowering

mb53_medicine_ball_workouts_crunch_medicine_ball2

C3. Cable Tricep Extension (10 R/L)

tricep-rope-extensions.jpg

D. Plyo Circuit:

20 Lateral Hops (pause and balance for a moment on each rep, start with narrow jumps, get wider)


10 Box Jumps (jump up, step down one foot at a time)
Unknown-1.jpeg
20 Up and Overs (start slow, get faster!)
lateral-jump-over
20 Skips (moving or in place)


 

Here’s a PDF you can print with all three workouts:

Full Body Beginner Workouts ABC


 

Extra credit cardio session:

Cardio Option A: 30 minutes of steady-state exercise

  • First 5 minutes: slowly warmup from light intensity to moderate intensity
  • 20 minutes at moderate intensity (an intensity where you are working but not working at an all-out or “sprint” level)
  • Last 5 minutes: cool down by decreasing your pace or resistance over 5 minutes

Cardio Option B: 30 minutes of Intervals

  • First 5 minutes: slowly warmup from light intensity to moderate intensity
  • 7 Intervals (21 minutes) of:
    • 1 minute at high intensity (sprint, max, push yourself, as hard as you can go for the minute)
    • 2 minute at low intensity (keep moving but let your body and breathing recover)
  • Last 4 minutes: cool down by decreasing your pace or resistance over 4 minutes

Ways to increase cardio intensity: 

  • Increase resistance
  • Increase incline on treadmill
  • Increase pace

**use hands to hold onto cardio equipment as little as possible

Easy Peasy!

Now print the PDF and get to the gym!

Let me know how it goes!

 

All About That Bass!

Everyone loves a nice, strong booty but getting one takes work!

Activation Drills

The first challenge many face on the road to booty gains is muscle activation. A great percentage of our days are spent, not generating power through our bums but sitting on them! For many, getting those gluteus muscles firing properly takes some persistence with activation drills. Try one or all of these at the beginning of your workout:

  1. Prone Scorpions (8 reps on each side)
    Lie facedown with legs together and arms out to a “T.” Squeeze one glute to initiate the movement, then swing it over toward the opposite hand. Touch toes to the ground and return to the starting position. Focus on keeping the opposite shoulder and hip on the ground.
  2. Birddog (6 reps on each side)
    Start on all 4’s, keeping the core tight by drawing the belly button toward the spine. Extend opposite arm and leg while keeping torso still and straight. This exercise has a bonus of also being a great core activation drill!
  3. Supine Bridge (10 reps)
    Position feet slightly wider than hip-width, push through the heels, and raise hips up. Squeeze your booty at the top position and hold for a second or two. Then lower to just above the ground before repeating.
  4. Bowler Squat (5 reps on each side)
    Balance on one leg, keeping that knee soft (slightly bent, not locked out). Push your booty back and use the opposite leg for a counterbalance as you reach down and across the body with your opposite arm. Keep your back straight! This exercise has an added benefit of reinforcing proper hip-hinge technique.
  5. Wall Marching: Glute Isometric Hold  (2 reps on each side, holding each rep for 5 seconds)

Booty-Building Exercises

The next step is building strength and size in the glute muscles. Here are a few of my favorite exercises.

  • Barbell Hip Thrust (3 sets of 8 reps)
    1.-barbell-hip-thrust-420x420_0.jpg
    For everything you need to know about hip thrusts, Bret Contreras is your guy! Check out this article.
    As a side note, this may not seem like the kind of movement you want to do in gym…in public, but trust me! The benefits far outweigh the potential awkwardness, and when in doubt, just avoid eye contact!
    7bi68
  • Banded Squats + Side Steps (2 sets of the following sequence)
    Step 1: Place mini band above or below the knees (I prefer below)
    Step 2: Take 10 steps sideways to your left, maintaining tension in the band at all times.
    Step 3: With legs a little wider than hip-width, perform 10 squats.
    Step 4: Take 10 steps sideways to your right, maintaining tension in the band at all times.
    Step 4: With legs a little wider than hip-width, perform 10 squats.
    d02a04a382375eea86ccb6d5d78f944c
  • Bulgarian Split Stance Squat (3 sets of 8 on each leg)
    Start with this exercise unloaded- Good luck!
    posterior-power-5-moves-to-wake-up-your-glutes_c
  • Kettlebell Deadlifts (3 X 10 Reps)
    Sit back, keep your heels down, and back straight. Push through your heels while coming up and squeeze your booty at the top.
    4853669_how-the-kettlebell-can-improve-your-deadlift_tc3053edc

Also, check out Bret Contreras’s (Known as the Glute Guy) 30 Day Ultimate Better But Challenge!

Give these a shot! Take a video/picture of yourself! #k8irelandactive

A Warm Up and A Workout

I write a lot about the pieces of the workout puzzle. For a change, here is a workout to try!

Dynamic Warm Up

  1. Start with some foam rolling. Get 4 positions on your thighs:  front (quads), outside (IT Band), inside (adductor), back (hamstrings). Then, roll calves, glutes, upper back, lats and pecs. Only spend 10-20 seconds on each body part.

2. Perform some mobility drills

Rocking Ankle Mobility, 5 times each side

Side Lying Windmill, 5 times each side

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion, 8 times

High Knee Walk to Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach, 5 times each side

Workout

The last 2-3 reps of a set should be difficult, but you should be able to perform all sets with good form. Challenge yourself!

Exercises A1, A2, and A3 are performed in order, one set of each, then repeated for 3 total cycles.

A1. Inverted Row (8-12 reps)

3743CB32D2C136941715AF47C54F6EA.standard.jpg

I like to use a secured smith machine for this. Keep your core engaged, glutes squeezed. To make this harder, make your body more horizontal (lower the bar or raise your heels onto a box. To make it easier, position your body more vertically (raise the bar).

A2. Incline Pushup (or regular pushup if you can do it with good form) (8-15 reps)

incline-push-ups

You can use the smith machine bar for this exercise as well, or a bench as pictured. The keys are good form and full range of motion. You should position your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your sides, and you should descend until your elbows make 90-degree angles. Similar to the rows, keep your core engaged and glutes squeezed the entire movement.

A3. Deadbug (10 reps each side, 20 total)

The picture above with the arrows depicts the starting position for this exercise. The key to this movement is to keep the abdominals engaged the entire time by actively trying to press your belly button toward your spine and your lower back into the ground.

images

The next picture is the most basic progression of this exercise. One leg at a time lowers to the ground, then comes back up to the starting position. Keep the lower back in contact with the ground the entire time.14499256(400x400).jpg Once you master that movement, begin to straighten the legs as you lower them to the ground. After mastering that, add the arm movement, lowering the opposite arm while straightening the leg, keeping the lower back in contact with the ground.

Perform one set of each exercise, B1 and B2, then repeat for 3 total cycles.

B1. Stiff Leg Deadlift (10-12 reps)

Stiff-Leg-Deadlift

This is basic hip hinge movement. Start light–just a barbell. Position hands just outside of the hips. Keeping the back straight and knees soft (not locked out, but not bent much), bend at the hips and slide the bar down your legs. Think about trying to touch the wall behind you with your booty as you bend over. Lower the bar until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings (the back of your legs). The, push through your heels as you raise to standing. Squeeze your booty at the top position.

B2. Walking DB Lunges (20 steps, 10 on each leg)

Walking-Lunges-with-Dumbbells

Grab a pair of light dumbbells (or heavier if you’re feeling ambitious!). Hold them at your sides like suitcases. Take a large step forward, drive your back knee into the ground and bend your front knee (don’t let it go forward past your toes). Also be sure not to lean too far forward with your torso-keep it upright!

Perform 3 cycles of exercises C1, C2, and C3:

C1. Bench Dips (10-15 reps)

To make these easier, keep your knees bent and use your legs to assist. To make these harder, straighten your legs, elevate your legs, or place a weight plate on your lap.

C2. Glute Bridge (15-20 reps)

bridge.png.jpeg

Keep your hips, knees, and ankles in a line. Push through your heels and squeeze your booty at the top. To increase difficulty, hold the top position, squeezing your glutes for 2-5 seconds on each rep.

C3. Prone T’s on Stability Ball (10-15 reps)

ITYW.jpg

Position chest against stability ball. I like to keep the knees on the ground in this exercise (contrary to what’s pictured). Raise arms straight out to the sides and rotate thumb-side of hands toward the ceiling.

This workout should take about an hour.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

If you are interested in training with me, contact info is on my About page.

#k8irelandactive

Be More Sensitive…To Insulin!

13207592-Human-Insulin-Stylized-chemical-structure--Stock-Vector-insulin-amino-acid

What is insulin?

  • Hormone: a signaling molecule produced by the body or synthetically to control or regulate the activity of certain cells or organs
  • Peptide: a small protein, a chain of amino acids (110 to be specific).
    • Peptide hormones cannot pass easily through cell membranes (like steroid hormones can) and must bind to receptors on the surface of cell membranes to create the desired action.
  • Anabolic: responsible for building (synthesizing) in the body, not breaking things down (which would be catabolic).
    166059-004-40ACDC27.jpg

Where does insulin come from?

  • The Pancreas

    In an area of the pancreas called the Islet of Langerhans (I didn’t name it).
    DAD2.pngFrom Beta Cells in this area.
    pancreas.jpg

What causes insulin to be released from β-cells?

During digestion, nutrients from food, including fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and micronutrients, are broken down to their most basic forms and absorbed into the blood.
2.jpg

Ingestion of carbohydrates causes blood glucose levels to rise, and this is the primary trigger for insulin to be secreted from the pancreas into the blood stream.

Ingestion of certain amino acids can also trigger insulin release, but this is to a much smaller degree.

What does insulin do?

  • Without insulin, glucose cannot get from the bloodstream into cells of the body. Insulin attaches to receptors on cell membranes and enables the transport of glucose into cells. Glucose gets transported mainly into skeletal muscle cells and fat tissue.
    8b83f3fd2c0927348c0a3b79e2cd5ca8.jpg
  • Prioritizes the body’s use of carbohydrates as energy instead of fat or muscle.
  • Insulin also causes cells to be more permeable to amino acids, creatine, and some minerals. In muscles, this helps with growth, repair, and energy.
    1-Diabetes-Blood-Stream_Final-02.png
  • When insulin attaches to skeletal muscle it increases muscle protein synthesis (i.e. the building of muscle tissue from entering amino acids).
  • Insulin causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing the amount of nutrients (glucose/amino acids) delivered to muscle cells.

What does the glycemic index have to do with insulin?

Foods are digested at various speeds, meaning their nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream at different rates. The glycemic index (GI) is a reflection of digestion rate for carbohydrate sources. Higher GI numbers reflect faster digestion than lower GI numbers. High GI carbs arrive in the bloodstream quickly, driving blood glucose levels up high. Insulin spikes to make use of that glucose, but afterward blood glucose may crash to low levels causing fatigue (i.e. food coma). Low GI carbs gradually enter the blood stream, so insulin levels are more consistent.
gi_graph.gif
main-qimg-64c4f9f86183c300149ceb8a870e5a50.jpeg

 

Things that raise a carbohydrate’s digestion rate (higher GI): sugar

Things that lower a carbohydrate’s digestion rate (lower GI): fiber, protein

gi_index

 

It’s generally suggested that at most times, one should consume lower GI carbohydrates. However, there are other times, such as after a strength training workout, where eating high-GI carbs with a whey protein shake (also quickly digested by the body) is optimal for increasing nutrient uptake into muscle tissue.

Why is insulin necessary?

acd8d6f13f05e9bf7fcabd745e1fbeb1.jpg

There are a couple reasons insulin is important:

  1. Too much sugar (glucose) in the blood is toxic to the body. Blood glucose must remain within normal levels of 75-120ml/dl.
    ->As a side note: too little blood glucose is also problematic, but that’s an issue for another pancreatic hormone called glucagon.
  2. Glucose is an important energy source for our bodies’ daily processes. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into the cells to be used as energy. The body will deplete it’s glycogen stores and then break down muscle tissue for energy.
  3. Let’s not forget the brain. In the brain, insulin receptors are present in areas that control nutrient homeostasis (keeping nutrient levels constant), reproduction, cognition, memory, neural development, executive functioning, learning, and memory.
    brain_insulin_alzheimers_type_3

    • I recall discussing the importance of glucose in the functioning of the hippocampus (a memory center in the brain) in my Psychology of Learning class at UCLA. My professor’s hypothesis (which he was testing on military members at Camp Pendleton) was that some symptoms of PTSD (inappropriate memory flashes) arise when, due to extreme emotional stress, the hippocampus depletes it’s glucose stores and cannot properly store memories.

Insulin Sensitivity vs. Resistance

These terms describe how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin. When one is insulin sensitive, his or her cells respond properly to the presence of insulin. In cases of insulin resistance, cells fail to respond to the presence of insulin, blood glucose remains elevated, the pancreas releases more insulin, so blood insulin levels are also abnormally high.

bloodsugar.gif

 

Insulin resistance can be developed from diets that are chronically high in High-GI carbohydrates, and it can lead to the body’s inability to regulate blood glucose (Type 2 Diabetes).

SP_S2691NormalCellsC_Webimages 12.52.52 PM

 

Insulin sensitivity is considered a desired trait for good health, and it can be increased by both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Maintaining insulin sensitivity can help with workout goals in a couple ways:

  1. More carbohydrates can get into the muscles during exercise allowing for better workout performance (because more energy!).
  2. Elevated insulin from eating or drinking carbohydrates post-workout increases amino acid uptake (building blocks for new muscle or muscle repair). It also enables faster recovery from workouts since muscle can quickly absorb glucose from the blood instead of the slow process of getting it from fat stores.

Further Reading

Sugar the Sweet Truth by Bret Contreras

Insulin by Rehan Jalali

The Muscle Building Messenger Complete Guide to Insulin by Jim Stoppani

Insulin in the Brain: Its Pathophysiological Implications for States Related with Central Insulin Resistance, Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease

References

[1] Goulet, E.D., Melancon, M.O., Aubertin-Leheudre, M., Dionne, I.J. (2005). Aerobic training improves insulin sensitivity 72-120h after the last exercise session in younger but not in older women. Eur J Appl Physiol., 95(2-3):146-52.

[2] Van Der Heijden, G.J., Wang, Z.J., Chu, Z., Toffolo, G., Manesso, E., Sauer, P.J., Sunehag, A.L. (2010). Strength exercise improves muscle mass and hepatic insulin sensitivity in obese youth. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 42(11):1973-80.


 

What are your thoughts on this article?

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So You Have a Case of the Kneesles

Kneesles, pronounced like measles with a “Kn,” is my way of referring to knee pain.

knee-pain1

Many suffer from achey knees and daily knee pains, especially women. It can be attributed to females’ larger Q angles, habitual leg crossing while seated, improper movement patterns, mobility deficits, and/or lack of muscular stability.

Knee Anatomy

Check out this awesome interactive knee image.

Bones:

  • Femur
  • Patella
  • Tiba
  • Fibula

Femur (1)patella-anatomy.jpg

Ligaments (Connect bone to bone):

  • Collateral Ligaments:
    • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL): Runs top to bottom on outside of knee joint
    • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL): Runs top to bottom on inside of knee joint
      Front view of knee joint showing patellar ligament.
  • Cruciate Ligaments:
    • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Runs from the outside (lateral side) of the femur to the tibia.
    • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): Runs from the femur to the back of the tibia
      acl_pcl

Joint Structures: 

  • Medial Meniscus
  • Lateral Meniscus
    meniscus-injuries-and-tears

Tendons (Connect Muscles to Bones):

  • Quadriceps Tendon
    GIANT-THIGHS-ins3.jpg
  • Patella Tendon/Ligament
    Quadriceps_VMO
  • IT Band (Iliotibial Band)
    ITBand-copy.png

Causes of and Remedies for Knee Pain

  • The Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO)

quadmuscles

This tricky little muscle, also known as the “tear drop,” is often under-recruited in lower body exercises (or over powered by the vastus lateralis). The VMO contributes to end-range (terminal) knee extension (from a slightly bent-knee position to a straight-knee position).

Some exercises to wake up the VMO:

  1. Terminal Knee Extensions with a Resistance Band
  2. Reverse Step-Ups
    Imagine you are going up a stair backwards. I’d suggest using a smaller step than shown in this video to begin, possibly 4 inches high or so.
  • The Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is responsible for abducting (bringing the leg out to the side), externally rotating (turning the leg outward), and supporting the body when on one leg.

Some exercises to strengthen the gluteus medius (Side Note: autocorrect and latin-based muscle names are not my friend right now):

  1. Banded Squats
    Squat with mini band below knees. For those of you with leg hair, I suggest a layer of clothing between your skin and the band.
    Band-Squat
  2. Banded Bridging
    maxresdefault
  3. Single Leg Deadlift (Romanian Deadlift)
    dumbbell-rdl-one-leg-one-arm
  • The IT Band

The IT Band is a notoriously tight tissue. When this gets tense, it can cause the knee cap (patella) to not track (move) properly when the knee bends. The best remedy for this is regular foam rolling of this area. I suggest starting with a softer foam roller and increasing firmness of the foam roller as needed. Be sure to roll the entire IT Band including the area to the outside of the knee.

Foam-roller-IT-band

  • Limited Dorsiflexion

What is dorsiflexion? It’s the movement of the foot in the direction of the shin.
foot-dorsiflexion-6Many have limited range. We compensate for this limitation through raising the heels or pronating the feet. You may have noticed people who raise their heels or over pronate their feet (collapsed inward) in the bottom points of squats and deadlifts.

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A couple exercises to work on this:

  1. Stretch and foam roll the Gastrocnemius and Soleus (Calf Muscles)

     

  2.  Rocking Ankle Mobility Drill
  3. Knee Break Ankle Mobilization

Regardless of if you have a case of the kneesles, give these exercises a shot!

How do you keep your knees healthy?


Further Reading:

Knee Valgus (Valgus Collapse), Glute Medius Strengthening, Band Hip Abduction Exercises, and Ankle Dorsiflexion Drills By Bret Contreras

18 Tips for Bulletproof Knees by Mike Robertson

 

Strength Training for Fat Loss

So, you want to lose weight?

To start out, let’s make an important clarification:

  • Weight Loss: Doesn’t specify where weight is coming from. Weight can be lost from all sources including muscle, fat, water, limb amputation, organ removal, etc.
  • Fat Loss: Specifically, losing body fat, preferably while maintaining muscle mass and all limbs.

You want to lose fat, but how?

Option A: Spend countless hours of your week on a cardio machine

A 2011 study found that, on average, it takes 86 hours of  (steady state) aerobic exercise to lose 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). If your goal is to lose 8 pounds (about 3.5 kilograms) that is 301 hours of cardio, or 3 hours and 20 minutes of cardio every day for the next 90 days. No thanks!

Option B: Embark on a strength training program. This is my choice. I’ll tell you why!

Reason 1: You’ll burn more calories doing nothing

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of Calories the body burns at rest on a daily basis, and it is directly dependent on the amount of lean body mass (i.e. muscle mass) one has.

Lean body mass: mass of the body not including fat.

The more muscle one has, the higher his or her lean body mass, the higher his or her BMR. Research estimates that each pound of muscle burns an extra 30-35 daily Calories. If a person gains 5 pounds of muscle, he or she will be burning an additional 150 Calories every day and losing an additional pound of fat every 3 weeks or so.

Reason 2: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

After periods of intense exercise, one’s metabolism can remain elevated for several hours after training. Oxygen is the currency of the body during exercise. During periods of intense, anaerobic exercise, the body depletes its oxygen reserve and goes into oxygen debt. After finishing the training session, the body must continue working to pay back this debt and does so by taking  in more oxygen over a period of time. The more oxygen debt, the longer the body takes to repay it.

Lifting weight can have a much greater effect on EPOC than other types of exercise. With enough intensity, this EPOC can last more than 38 hours after a workout.

For those of you who doubt the intensity of weight lifting, I suggest wearing a heart rate monitor during your heavy deadlift or squat sets. My heart rate gets as high as 170 beats per minute on those.

Reason 3: Strength Training Decreases Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin is called the “hunger hormone” because as its level rises, one feels hungrier and as its levels decrease in the body, one feels full and satiated. A recent study found ghrelin levels fell 13 to 21 percent after an intense strength training workout.

Reason 4: Muscle is required to look “toned”

Many desiring fat loss envision having a “toned” physique. A healthy diet and a lot of cardio can get you fat loss but not the “toned” look you desire. Muscle is required for this, and it doesn’t just show up- it takes months of work!

Not only is strength training important for building muscle, but it’s also crucial for maintaining muscle. Many fat loss strategies (cardio, eating less, exercising more) put the body into a catabolic state where it is breaking down tissue for energy. Unfortunately, these tissues include muscle tissue that the body doesn’t think it needs (because it isn’t being used on a regular basis). Strength training promotes anabolic processes in the body where muscle is built (or repaired), which helps in maintaining the muscle one already has.

Too often (especially with drastic weight loss strategies) a person will lose a lot of muscle in addition to fat from his or her fat loss efforts. The result is a skinny-fat appearance and lowered resting metabolism (remember Reason 1? Your BMR is dependent on lean body mass) making it more difficult to A) continue losing weight (because of slowed metabolism) and B) keep the weight off (because the body’s Caloric maintenance level is so low).

How to lift weights to lose weight:

  1. Prioritize exercises that use many muscle groups or large muscle groups
    For example: 
    Row Variations (Working the upper back, shoulders, and biceps)

    Chest Press Variations (Working the chest, shoulders, and triceps)

    Squat Variations (Working glutes, hamstrings, quads, core)

    Deadlift Variations (Working the legs, glutes, core, back)

  2. Lift Heavy Weight
    If you are a new to weight lifting, I suggest sticking in with “easy to medium” realm as far as weights go, for the first 2-3 weeks as you learn technique and your body adapts.
    Anyone else should lift weights that are in the “medium to hard” difficulty (as long as you can maintain good lifting technique). For example, if you are performing 3 sets of 10 reps of an exercise, your last 1 or 2 reps of sets 2 and 3 should be challenging. If you get to rep 10 and feel like you could have done 5 more reps, increase the weight on the next set.
  3. Vary your repetition ranges
    If you are new to weight lifting, stay in the 8-12 rep range to learn proper form.
    More experienced lifters can play with other rep ranges. I find myself starting workouts performing 4-rep sets of an exercise and finishing a workout with a couple sets of 12-20 reps.

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

Training Guidelines for Beginners by Sohee Lee

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle by Bret Contreras


 

  1.  Friedenreich CM, et al. Adiposity changes after a 1-year aerobic exercise intervention among postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011;35:427-435