270217 Checking your posture

270217 Checking your posture

While viewing an individual from the side, imagine a plumb line dropping from the middle of the ear downward to the floor. From the ear, the line will continue through the middle of the shoulder, down through the hips, mid knee and onto the ankles. Viewed from the rear this same line will be seen dropping from the middle of the head, middle of the back through the Gluteal cleft and between the knees and ankles to the floor.

This line divides the body into the front and rear sections with equal weight on both sides. This dividing line makes no effort to be symmetrical nor is it passing through any obvious anatomical structures equally.

Poor posture can contribute to low back pain, shoulder joint pain, and can even affect how you walk (your gait). If left unattended this pain could become chronic in nature and in a worse case situation could cause long-term damage to the body. This column will include suggestions to improve standing, sitting and lying-down posture.

But first off do you have proper posture? A quick check may offer a revealing glance at how you carry yourself day in and day out.

Begin by standing in front of a full-length mirror. Do you look even from side to side, are your shoulder’s straight across with both sides on the same level as the other side, i.e. one is not higher or drooping when compared to the other side. Imagine a straight-line beginning from the middle of your head through your nose, through the middle of your breastbone, down between your knees and feet. The spaces between your arms and sides are equal, your hips are level, your kneecaps face straight ahead, and your ankles and feet are straight.

Now stand sideways to the mirror and check that an imaginary line beginning at your ear lobe continues down your body. As it drops down it should be hitting the middle of your shoulder. It should pass just behind the hip joint and finally end up in front of the knee and the ankle joint.

Basically, that is how you should look. Do you?

250217 Introduction to posture

250217 Introduction to posture

Posture is an important part of our lives. Posture counts. It can make us feel good or bad, not only mentally but also physically. Imagine walking around slumped over all the time, how do you think you feel? When you notice someone walking like this what is the first thing that pops into your mind? It’s probably something along these lines-they look like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Compare that posture to the posture you have when you really feel great. You can see it in how you walk down the street can’t you?
Carry yourself high and proud. Remember the old saying behavior changes attitude and vice versa. If you are slumping, do yourself a favor and perk up!

200217 Energy control-Psyching up

200217 Energy control-Psyching up

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Suppose you are about to enter a contest or take a big test at school. Are you feeling lethargic or are you ready?

Sometimes a boost of energy gets the mind and body revved up to do better. Here are a few of the techniques used by elite athletes to do just that.

Energizing music

We all have our favorite music, the kind that just makes us want to get up and do something. Turning it up loud and listening to it simply makes us ready to go.

Cue words as a reminder of how we want to feel

I Can do it
I am ready
I am pumped up and ready to go

Picture a high-energy image such as a tiger about to pounce on its prey, or a Corvette smoking its tires taking off, or fighter kicking in the after burners. All of these images can increase your levels of energy. Be vivid seeing them in your mind. The more vivid and real life you can make them the better.

Remember successful performances of the past.

Very precisely and in every small detail

The smell
The taste
The feel

Every time.

180217 Bend like the willow

180217 Bend like the willow

Being faithful to your exercise and health programs is an admirable trait. But what happens when it starts interfering with your life and more importantly to the lives of those who love you? I’ll tell you. It’s time to reappraise the situation and make some necessary changes.

Most hardcore fitness enthusiasts exercise come hell or high water, no matter what they will find a way to get their exercise session in every day. I know a person who has not missed one single day in over twenty years.

Every day this person did something positive for their health and fitness; even while recovering from major joint surgery. They have pushed to get better by regaining their range of motion and doing isometrics to build the muscle strength back to its pre-surgery status.

Has this dedication caused conflicts in their life? I suspect so. Let’s look at how you can avoid these same issues.

Putting the check on the calendar

I call minimally doing something positive for yourself putting a check on the calendar for that day. The check on the calendar simply means you did something on this particular day to help improve your health in some small way. It doesn’t mean you went all out on the exercises; just that you did a little bit.

Suppose you were scheduled to max out on one of your lifts or run a faster than normal mile but your wife or child became ill and had to be cared for. No one in their right mind would consider taking time off to exercise as planned if a loved one needed their help. You are no different.

Abandon your schedule and help them out. There will be breaks in the day when you can get out the skip rope and hit it hard. Do as many pushups and sit ups as you can in one or more minutes. Do something for yourself, but not at their expense, during the time you’ve got before they need you again.

If you aren’t in good mental and physical shape it’s going to be much harder caring for someone else.

Sometimes it really is better to stop the head long pursuit of strength and high level physical fitness and smell the roses for a brief minute or two before hitting it again. Just don’t take to long…

Prescriptions for strength training

130217 Balance

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Balance is critical to our daily living activities. Without balance, we would be constantly reaching and grasping for stable objects to prevent falling, stumbling or injuring ourselves.

Here are several variations of a basic exercise to help develop and maintain your sense of balance. Once you are able to do one exercise example for up to one minute without movement, then progress to the next example.

Make certain you are standing near a sturdy chair, or wall, to help catch your balance, if need be, in the following sequences of movement.

Basic example:

• Stand with your feet touching one another in a side by side, or heel to toe.
• Hold your hands at your side and close your eyes.
• Maintain this position, without swaying side to side or backward to front, for several seconds up to one minute.

Novice example:

• Assume the same position with your feet as the basic example above.
• Move your arms to the sides in a random fashion, still maintaining your balance.
• Tip your head back and continue to move your arms.
• Now close your eyes and continue the arm movements.

Intermediate example:

• Maintain the feet in the same pattern, side to side or heel to toe.
• Reach down to the front, side and the rear with one arm then the other.
• See how far you can reach down before losing your balance.
• Remember to keep your feet together and don’t sway as you reach, just reach, keep your balance and then reach in another direction.

Advanced example:

• Keep the feet in the same position as the rest of the examples.
• Tip your head back and now close your eyes.
• Move your arms in a random fashion, one arm at a time.

More advanced example:

• Feet are still in the side-by-side position or heel to toe.
• Head tipped back and eyes closed.
• Lift one leg off the floor and maintain your balance for 10-15 seconds, gradually build up your ability to remain in one position without moving about to stay upright.

Super advanced example:

• Set up is the same as the more advanced example with the simple change now of adding the reaches as mentioned in the intermediate example.

Have fun practicing these few sample exercises, they will keep your life more balanced!

110217 The process of learning a skilled movement

110217 The process of learning a skilled movement


Before getting into some basic information about learning a skilled movement, let’s dispense with two training myths.

Myths abound in the world of sports and this is especially so in the strength game. Two major ones have caused no end of problems for trainees and coaches alike for years and years now. These two myths will, if followed, set your training back. This is a steadfast guarantee.

Myth #1 Practice makes perfect

  • Everyone has heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” and sad to say, many still believe this to be true. Well, it’s not, for as Dr. Stuart McGill says, “practice makes permanent,” therefore, if your practice technique is poor, it continues to make these poor patterns even more difficult to change into correct ones later on.

Myth #2 “No pain, no gain”

  • Following this outdated advice will eventually lead to an injury. An injury is a signal from your body that something is wrong…continuing with what is wrong, only increases the potential for greater damage. This sets your progress back while you recuperate.

Now that these two erroneous myths have been somewhat debunked, we’ll move onto the main topic of learning a new skill.

Learning a new skill takes time, expert guidance, patience, and a willingness to practice the skill correctly each time…repeatedly correct over and over. In the early stages of learning a skilled movement, reliance falls mostly on the voluntary nervous system (VNS) and its ability to make the movement somewhat reasonably correct. However, continuing to rely on the VNS will eventually leave you behind if speed and quickness are involved. The same is true when depending on the VNS when during a heavy lift will.

There cannot be any extraneous thought going on when doing these types of movements. It simply takes too long for the body to recognize the thought cues while responding when developing the speed, quickness, and coordination to move the body or heavy weight. Thus, the automatic, reflexive processes come into play, or let us say should come into play if the training has been appropriate.

Scientists have long known that the unskilled athlete, during the early learning phases:

  • produces and relies on inefficient neuromuscular patterns of force development,
  • varying degrees of intensity which may or may not contribute to the ultimate goal, and
  • timing during the movement that is oft times inefficient and ineffective
  • muscle recruitment that serves no useful purpose when trying to control the movement

It is commonplace to see a new lifter flop around, strain, twist, and contort their body in an effort to use brute force to complete the lift. Had they learned the correct way in the beginning, their exertions would have been less strenuous and more productive.

Additionally, these nonproductive extra actions cause unwanted tension between varying muscle groups, which in and of themselves may be a contributing factor to an injury.

Neglecting the basic rule of doing the movement correctly predisposes the athlete to an unnecessary injury.


060217 Pain and exercise

060217 Pain and exercise


During the initial stages of an exercise program, a new trainee may not recognize what is a true and dangerous life altering pain and what is perceived but non-dangerous, pain. Certainly lifting weights can be quite the experience to uninitiated. However, there is dissimilarity between these different types of pain. One, the most dangerous, is from an injury and the other from the pain of fatigue, referred to as the pain of effort.

The pain of injury is the one to avoid and having a good coach is the key. Avoid this pain by lifting correctly, preventing contortions to move the weight,  not increasing the load beyond what the body can presently tolerate, following the correct rest periods, avoiding momentum, and preventing rapid shock load stresses on the joints.

As an example, a shock load stress to the knee results from an extremely fast drop to the bottom. The trainee does this in an effort to move more weight by letting the knee joint mechanically stop the downward movement of the bar in the hopes of creating an upward rebound effect.

Another example is when the bench press lifter lets the bar drop uncontrollably down, expecting the chest to first absorb the weight and then bounce it back up. Both of these examples, if continued, will generate an injury.

The result from this type of injury is the pain of injury. You will not soon forget this type of pain. It is immediate, painfully so, it will literally take your breath away; you may feel faint and have to lay down with your feet above your head. It feels like something has been broken, which it has.

If this injury is really serious, you will be unable to continue and probably will be seeking medical attention in a very short order to get it fixed.

In some cases, depending on the degree of injury, these take up to six months to recover from. This is a long time away from heavy lifting.

The other pain comes from fatigue. This is common with new lifters, those unaccustomed to the rigors of lifting and to the byproducts that show up in the blood stream during a moderate to strenuous lifting session.

An able coach modifies the workouts for these new trainees. These changes to their workout helps mitigate the after effects of the session and makes them less intense afterwards.


Pain of injury

Pain, from an injury, sets serious limitations on the ability to produce maximum effort or continue to lift heavy. This is a natural response from the body telling us that something is seriously wrong and whatever caused it must immediately cease. It is a strong signal that something is being damaged or soon will be damaged if the activity continues further.

Do not ignore this warning from your body because by doing so you risk potentially serious repercussions. No pain, no gain has no place in today’s lifting environment. Stop doing whatever is causing this pain from occurring or you will pay the price.

Pain of effort

Now I am not belittling anyone who is suffering from the pain of effort, as it can be real to them at the time. However, experience tells us that soon the body becomes accustomed to this type of pain and it begins to use it as a guide to the amount of effort going into the session.

This type of pain refers to each individual’s ability to tolerate exercise and the discomforts arising from doing the exercise or exercises. It is used consistently in monitoring the intensity of cardiovascular exercise. A prime example is working out in the target heart rate zone for X amount of minute’s per day.

This same type of rating scale can also be applied to endurance or strength training efforts.

020417 Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Sports scientists and strength coaches are well aware of the importance of a strong back. One of the exercises that will contribute to strengthening this often times injured area is simple to do and can be done nearly anywhere.

Position yourself up against a wall so that your head, shoulders, upper back, buttocks and heels are all touching at the same time. Now while maintaining this contact, try to push the lumbar area of your spine against the wall. Keep the pressure evenly distributed throughout the lumbar area and hold it for four or five seconds at a time for five to six good repetitions.

If this seems too difficult then do it supine on the floor. Once you’ve figured this out on the floor then move back to the standing version.