The Myth of Recovery Posture – Your Coach Taught You Wrong

If you ever played a sport growing up, chances are you heard a coach yell, “Get your hands off your knees!” while you and your teammates were gasping for air.

Said coach would then insist you put your hands on your hips or on top of your head, instead. Their reasoning was that one, standing tall allowed their team to open their lungs and take in more oxygen, and two, bending over is a sign of weakness to be avoided at all costs.

The funny thing about this is that a recent study found bending over to be the superior recovery posture compared to the classic “hands on the head” pose.

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The study (Michaelson et. al, 2019) compared two postures (“hands on knees” vs. “hands on head”) to see how they impacted athletes’ recovery from high-intensity interval training.

The study found that the “hand on knees” posture resulted in superior heart rate recovery and greater tidal volume (the amount of air inhaled into the lungs with each breath) compared to the “hands on head” posture.

How could this possibly be? After all, doesn’t having your hands on your head “open up your lungs” while bending over close them off?

Not quite. The problem with the hands on the head posture is that it flares your ribcage upwards, extends your back, and closes off your posterior ribcage so it cannot effectively expand during inhalation. The posterior ribcage actually contains a large volume of your lung tissue, so closing it off is far from ideal. This inhibits the diaphragm, the primary muscle of inhalation, from working effectively. To overcome this, many of your back and neck muscles will try to make up for the lack of diaphragm function during inhalation.

This is a textbook example of inefficient breathing.

A more optimal position would be to place your hands on your knees and look slightly upwards. Unfortunately, the athlete in the above photo from the study is looking down instead of up, but is she were looking up, she’d be in a more efficient position for her airway, as the cervical extension would allow proper airflow into her lungs.

There’s a reason your body naturally gravitates to the “hands on your knees” position when you’re absolutely gassed during a workout. When you’re really tired, your body will want to bend over and put your hands on your knees. The body knows best when it comes to these things, so why fight it? With your hand on your knees, your lungs are allowed to fill with a greater volume of air. This in turn supplies more oxygen to the working tissue so you can more quickly clear the oxygen debt you’ve accumulated through exercise. Your oxygen debt is essentially the specific amount of oxygen you need to recover when fatigued post-activity.

Why You Must Reach During Exercise

Why You Must Reach During Exercise

Reaching is one of the most important activities to have in any exercise program.

There, I said it. Let me tell you why.

Plenty of programs have bench press, often times at high volumes. They’re constantly doing upper body pressing and pulling exercises to stimulate hypertrophy and/or strength adaptations.

A common idea is that if you balance out the amount of pressing and pulling exercises you do, your shoulders will be healthy.

But does that actually work? How many people still get nagging shoulders despite thinking they exercise properly?

A lot.

The answer is not more pulling. The answer is not “shoulder stabilization” exercises.

The answer is maintaining a scapula that moves freely on a ribcage in a healthy and productive manner.

Image result for scapula on rib cage

Notice that there is a normal degree of thoracic flexion in a normal human spinal curve.

A scapula is a concave (rounded) bone that needs to sit on a convex (pushing out) thoracic ribcage. Pulling the shoulder blades back & down, extending the lumbar spine, and elevating the anterior ribcage does not allow for optimal shoulder-scapula mechanics.

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But this is often how individuals perform upper body pulling exercises.

THE BENEFITS OF REACHING

Reaching is immensely important for shoulder health. Proper reaching involves the following:

  • Retraction of the posterior ribcage + Forwardly reaching arms – Activation of the serratus anterior
  • Depressed and internally rotated anterior ribcage – Activation of the obliques
  • Dorsiflexion of the ankles – Facilitation of flexion and ribcage retraction
  • Proper respiration to maintain all of the above

The serratus and oblique muscles are often weak and under-utilized in nearly all trainees that don’t actively train them properly. The result is a scapula that cannot move properly on a ribcage. It’s a ticking time bomb.

You can do all the “rotator cuff” stabilization exercises you want. They won’t do anything significant if your ribcage isn’t working well with your scapula in the first place.

If we can achieve a good reaching position, we can restore a healthy and necessary Zone of Apposition:

SO HOW CAN I ADD REACHING IN MY TRAINING?

There are many ways to add reaching. You can have individual exercises that target reaching specifically (a good place to start), and once you understand the above principles of good reaching, you can add it to many exercises.

It’s essential that breathing is the top priority of these exercises. Ensure that you are inhaling through your nose (feeling the ribcage expand 360 degrees) and exhaling through your mouth fully to ensure activation of the obliques.

Once you feel your obliques turn on, keep that abdominal compression and keep breathing slowly. Air will follow the path of least resistance. Obliques that are “on” causes air to go backwards into the posterior ribcage, facilitating good thoracic flexion and a Zone of Apposition.

Here is one exercise I like to start people with to teach them how to reach:

neck pain and headache relief

1. Stand facing away from a door, and place your heels 7-10 inches from the wall.

2. Stand up straight with a ball between your knees and feet shoulder width apart.

3. Bring your arms out in front of you as you round out your back, performing a pelvic tilt so your lower back (mid-back and down) is flat on the wall.

4. Squat down slightly as you squeeze the ball.

5. Keeping your lower back flat on the wall, inhale through your nose.

6. As you exhale through your mouth, reach your arms forward and down so your upper back comes off the wall (your lower back should stay flat on the wall).

7. Hold your arms steadily in this position (reach), as you inhale through your nose again and expand your upper back. You should feel a stretch in your upper back.

8. Exhale and reach further forward. You should feel the muscles on the front of your thighs and outer abdominals engage.

9. Repeat this breathing sequence for a total of 4-5 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.

10. Slowly stand up by pushing through your heels, keeping your lower back flat on the wall.

11. Relax and repeat 4 more times.

And here is an example of how you can add a reach to just a basic side plank. It’s so easy and beneficial that  it doesn’t make sense NOT to add it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_QZ2jxN5JA

WHY WE CHARGE THE PRICE WE DO

We have received the question on several occasions: “Why do you charge that much for fitness classes and personal training? Isn’t $200 a month a lot?”

Our services are not cheap.​

“Cheap” has a negative connotation to it that gives an impression of poor quality and short-term.

That is quite the opposite of how we operate at Sandhills Sports Performance.

We are so much different than what everyone else is offering.

Nobody else is talking about how the body is asymmetrical, why your shoulder can be hurting because your pelvis is out of position, or how to exercise with exactly the correct technique that goes against the grain of how everyone else is teaching exercise.

You can sign up for a big-box gym membership or group exercise classes.

Those instructors are busy worrying about managing 20+ people through a workout. They simply don’t have the time to thoroughly assess and correct movement.

No wonder so many of our physical therapy patients are doing that exact same thing!

Small group sizes, intentful exercises, long-term health, continual improvement, all with an approach that no one else in the area is implementing.

We offer long-term solutions as opposed to band-aids for short-term satisfaction.​​

Think of it this way: What’s your car payment? $300+ a month?

Why would you invest more into your car than you do your own body?

It’s hard to enjoy a nice car when your back hurts every time you drive for more than 10 minutes.

My goal for every participant in my programs is the following: Exercise in an environment you enjoy with people who motivate you while leaving feeling better than you did when you walked in.

What 99% Of People Are Missing In Their Exercise Programs

Think about walking into a commercial gym- what are you going to see a lot of?

I would bet you would see a lot of squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with those exercises, but there is a key element of training that most people and personal trainers overlook. That is the element is alternation.

What is alternation? It is opposing movement of the arm and legs. This is something you do every time you take a step. As your right leg comes forward, your left arm goes forward. This happens while your left leg goes back with your right arm. That is alternation.

Image result for correct gait pattern\

However, when most individuals exercise, they don’t consider this quality of movement. They perform exercises in a neutral stance with a ribcage that doesn’t move. If this is all you do at a gym, you can expect to stiffen your ribcage over time, leading to an inability to alternate when you move. This can lead to all sorts of aliments such as back pain and shoulder pain, as different areas of the body will try to make up for movement that should be available through your ribcage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-S8Pk63YRE

This is an individual who cannot move through their ribcage. Notice the lack of arm swing and overall stiffness to their movement.

So we must train alternation in our exercise programs. Why would we not train qualities that are essential for living a pain-free life? Here are a few examples of exercises that train alternation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrDa-cWQbyg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDmd-t6A7-8

Why NASAL BREATHING is so beneficial

We all know the term “mouth-breather”. It has a pretty negative connotation to it, doesn’t it? Well, it should. And here’s why:

In order for us to gain a full understanding to why nasal breathing is so important, we must take a journey into childhood facial development. Just bear with me.

Mouth breathing affects the shape of the face in two ways. Firstly, there is a tendency for the face to grow long and narrow. Secondly, the jaws do not fully develop and are set back from their ideal position, thus reducing airway size. If the jaws are not positioned forward enough on the face, they will encroach on the airways. See for yourself: close your mouth, jut out your chin and take a breath in and out through your nose, noting the way air travels down behind the jaws. Now do the same but pull your chin inward as far as you can. You will probably feel as if your throat is closed up as you try to breathe. This is exactly the effect poorly developed facial structure has on your airway size. It is no wonder that those with restricted airways tend to favor mouth breathing.​

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The second way facial structure is affected by the way we breathe during childhood is the position of the jaws. The way the jaws develop has a direct influence on the width of the upper airways. Our upper airways comprise the nose, nasal cavity, sinuses and the throat. High athletic performance requires large upper airways which will enable air to flow freely to and from the lungs. While effective breathing is crucial for high performance, having airways that function with little resistance is also very advantageous. For example, a marathon runner who has efficient breathing but airways the width of a narrow straw is not going to get too far.​

The features of figure 2 above are identifiable in thousands of children and adults who have fallen between the cracks of our health-care system and were not encouraged to breathe through their noses. These same individuals often suffer from poor health, low energy and reduced concentration. In the words of dentist Dr. Josh Jefferson: “These children do not sleep well at night due to obstructed airways; this lack of sleep can adversely affect their growth and academic performance. Many of these children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity.”​

Fun fact: Why do some people snore so loudly? Well, it’s because their tongue falls back into their throat (not on the roof of their mouth) and their airway is already restricted as-is. No wonder they’re gasping for air with all that going on! We can’t expect those people to breathe well when they sleep.

Pretty crazy, right? Well, not all hope is lost if you relate to this. Try this out:

Nose Unblocking Exercise

  • Take a small, silent breath in and a small, silent breath out through your nose.
  • Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath.
  • Walk as many paces as possible with your breath held. Try to build up a large air storage without overdoing it.
  • When you resume breathing, do so only through your nose. Try to calm your breathing immediately.
  • After resuming your breathing, your first breath will probably be bigger than normal. Make sure that you calm your breathing as soon as possible by suppressing your second and third breaths.
  • You should be able to recover normal breathing within two to three breaths. If your breathing is erratic or heavier than usual, you have held your breath for too long.
  • Wait for a minute or two before repeating the breath hold.
  • Repeat this exercise five or six times until the nose is decongested.

Generally, this exercise will unblock the nose, even if you have a head cold. However, as soon as the effects of the breath hold wear off, the nose will likely feel blocked again. By gradually increasing the number of steps you can take with your breath held, you will find the results continue to improve. When you are able to walk a total of 80 paces with the breath held, your nose will be free permanently. Eighty paces is actually a very achievable goal, and you can expect to progress by an additional 10 paces per week.

Additionally, here is a video that goes into further detail if you are interested in learning more!

Why golfers BENEFIT so much from finding their heels

If you aren’t already, stand up, and notice where your weight is on your feet. I bet you that you are on your mid-foot and/or toes. Don’t worry, this is normal, but not ideal if you want to be a better golfer or stay out of pain.​

Now, try to lean forward completely on your toes. Ouch! That’s kicking in your quads and back. Then try to find 100% on your heels. That feels…weird. Off balance, but your quads and back is likely to relax.

What you’ve discovered is how weight distribution affects posture and muscle activation. As humans we tend to default to having our weight forward, which kicks in our back and quads (see the image below. Anterior tilt = weight on toes).

Anterior-Pelvic-Tilt.jpg

If we are stuck in this extended state, we are going to struggle to rotate. Our days out golfing are going to hurt instead of be enjoyable. Our ribs MUST be back in order for us to rotate (see THIS article for more info).

Our heels are a secret to unlocking our golf game. Heels will kick in hamstrings, glutes, and abs, which we all need in an effective swing. It will allow you to rotate freely while keeping you out of pain. This doesn’t mean you keep 100% of your weight in your heels as you swing so that you fall backwards. What I am describing is an even weight distribution, about 50% on your heels and 50% on your mid-foot.

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Next time you hit the range or play a round, try this out! You can benefit enormously from just a simple change like this. At Sandhills Sports Performance, we specialize in helping clients find their heels and turn on the right muscles. If you would like to learn more, click HERE to sign up for a FREE complementary consultation with us!

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Get Stronger Immediately With Your…Tongue?

​It has been shown in studies (Vico et al, 2014; Alghadir et al, 2015) that tongue position contributes significantly to postural stability and potential muscular strength. Why is this? It’s because the tongue is part of a myofascial chain called the Deep Front Line. Myofascial chains are lines of pull throughout the body which distribute strain, transmit force and affect the structure and function of the body. The theory of the myofascial chains help manual and movement practitioners explore how one structure affects other distal (further away) structures in the body.​The line we are discussing, the Deep Front Line, runs from your head to your feet and is one of the main stabilizing chains of the body. ​

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In a proper position pressing up against the hard palate, it provides stabilization down the chain and the surrounding muscles will have less of a stabilization role and are able to contribute more to lifting the weight.
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The time you go to the gym or lift something heavy, try this out. Compare your strength with your tongue on the bottom of your mouth versus pressed up against the roof. Try to firmly (but not overly so) maximize the surface area the tongue covers.

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Back pain – Why it doesn’t have to be that complicated

Back pain has been a difficult area to manage long-term for many people. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Many physical therapists and trainers look at the back when that’s where the pain is, but that isn’t the most comprehensive approach. The thing is, the human body needs every joint to do its job, or else a change within one joint can cause a cascade of compensations down the chain.

Your major joints alternate between mobility and stability purposes so that the stable joints provide stability for the body to move through the more mobile joints. Low back pain will occur because it is trying to be more mobile to make up for lack of mobility through the hips. In the naturally asymmetrical body, our left pelvis is forwardly rotated and the right pelvis is backwardly rotated. As a result, our femurs (thigh bones) compensate and cannot express full, healthy ranges of motion. If they cannot do that, then the back begins to be more mobile than it should be, causing you pain.

This picture illustrates the position we are stuck in with the aforementioned natural pelvic orientation. So what should we do? A significant amount of back pain cases I see are resolved through training the hamstrings and obliques through proper breathing, particularly on the left side to pull our left pelvis back. If we can get a more neutral pelvis AND breathe well, then we are addressing the root of the problem. Proper breathing is essential because it will help facilitate activation of the obliques and reinforce good ribcage mechanics. In addition, our body will understand that if it can breathe through a new position, the position isn’t a threat and we can maintain that position long-term.

​And that is EXACTLY what we do at Sandhills Sports Performance. We treat the body as an entire functioning unit, not as separate parts. This is our approach in both our physical therapy practice and wellness program.

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Why you SHOULDN’T stretch your hamstrings

How many times have you spoken, thought, or heard the following sentence?

“Man, my hamstrings are so tight!”​

The next logical idea would be to stretch them out. You might bend over and reach for those toes, or maybe prop your leg up one at a time on a desk and feel that sweet relief.

The problem is, you just made you problem worse. That’s right, worse.

For too long the fitness industry has been a proponent of hamstring stretching to relieve tightness in your back and legs. However, what they didn’t consider is that the body naturally gravitates to a state of anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension. In layman’s terms, we live our lives with our backs arched and our ribs flared up. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar.

Anterior-Pelvic-Tilt.jpg

Take a look at the image above. If you have any back pain, hamstring tightness, or dysfunction in general, changes are you are stuck in this anteriorly tilted position. Look at the hamstrings – they attach on the back of your pelvis and knees.

So here’s the question: If we live in a state of constant anterior tilt and our hamstrings are lengthened, WHY are we stretching them?!

Imagine a rope that has two people on each end. If both people are pulling on each end, of course that rope is going to be very tight. Your hamstrings are that rope and they aren’t tight because they’re short and overactive, they’re tight because they over-lengthened and being pulled on all the time from both directions!

Here’s an even more interesting thought: The way to fix your hamstring tightness is to turn on your hamstrings. We need to restore them to a more optimal resting length so they can relax and your pelvis can get out of an overly-rotated state.

We are very fortunate to be able to implement Postural Restoration Institute methodology at our clinic, where we specialize in recognizing the patterns the human body falls into, just like this one. Every day we get to work with individuals who have this anterior tilt and we help them get out of it!

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Why all golfers must have reaching in their training

Why All Golfers Must REACH

Do you feel that your backswing or follow through isn’t what it used to be? Are you unable to dissociate your pelvis from your hips? Does your swing feel stuck even after hours of practice? Those are just a few examples of symptoms of a stiff ribcage. A lot of humans, golfers included, have stiff ribcages that limit proper breathing mechanics. If you cannot breathe into your posterior mediastinum (your back ribs), your diaphragm cannot function optimally. To compensate, you will likely kick in your neck to assist you in pulling in air, further stiffening the muscles around your ribcage.

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The secret is this: The posterior mediastinum can unlock your golf game. If you can breathe into it, you have the ability to rotate your thorax and thoracic spine freely. A good golf swing involves a posteriorly-rotated pelvis with the ribs back, which allows for optimal rotation. A free thorax will equal a smooth, controlled swing without mobility limitations. A stiff thorax will force you to compensate and use improper muscles such as your back to make up for a lack of mobility where it should be (in your thorax).

Reaching is absolutely one of the most necessary movements a golfer can have in their exercise program. Reaching activities bring down your ribcage to force air into your posterior mediastinum. A great example of this would be a Wall Supported Reach. Notice how her ribs are down and just her low back is on that wall, opening up her upper back to take in air.

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Correct breathing is the key to everything. Good respiration during activity will involve a inhalation through the nose and full exhalation through the mouth. Every day at Sandhills Sports Performance, I have every client do at least one reaching activity. It keeps them healthy, feeling good, and fires up all the right muscles.

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