Stretching is Not Enough

If you feel like you've been stretching a tight muscle forever and not making progress, you're not alone.  Most people do static stretches and some myofascial release (foam rolling), either on their own or in stretching or yoga classes.  These are valuable techniques but they may not be enough to get the results you want and may not target you individualized needs.

Muscles become tight from extended periods of sitting and repetitive motion.  Remember isometric exercises?  Exercises where you hold a muscle in a contracted position to strengthen it?

Sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time and you're doing isometrics.  Literally strengthening and shortening the hip flexors, upper trapezius, chest lats, and anterior shoulder muscles.  At the same time, you're stretching and lengthening the glutes, middle trapezius and rhomboids and shoulder external rotators.

If a muscle is tight and short, the antagonist or opposite muscle is extended and relatively weaker.  That's why static stretching and myofascial release is not enough.  A flexibility programs needs to include active stretches and eccentric (negative phase) strengthening of the tight muscles and strengthening of the antagonist muscles .

The charts below show some examples of complete flexibility programs for common complaints.  Additional illustrated programs are available on my website at programs.caryraffle.com.

Unlike classes which take a one-size-fits-all approach, when we work together, we can personalize a program to your specific problem muscles, needs and goals.  We also will ensure proper form and exercise selection.

Contact me if you have any questions or want to set up some sessions to develop your personalized program.

Tight Calves - Plantar Fascitis - Achilles Tendinitis
Myofascial Release
  • Calf with foam roller, medicine ball, barbell, other implements
  • Bottom of foot with lacrosse ball or frozen water bottle
Static Stretch
  • Calf
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Reverse calf raises” or heel drops - emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Heel raises to strengthen the anterior tibialis (opposite or antagonist muscle to the calf)

Tight Hip Flexors - Often with Arched Back and Knee Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Quads and hip flexors foam roller and medicine ball especially at the inguinal crease (hip)
Static Stretch
  • Quadriceps and Psoas, kneel with raised arm to lengthen Psoas
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges

Rounded Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Chest/pectorals, anterior (front) of shoulders and lats with foam roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Chest stretches
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Unweighted reverse fly, weighted reverse fly -  emphasize  “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Scaption and Reverse fly - ensure shoulders are retracted, on reverse fly emphasize the negative phase when retracted
  • Shoulder external rotation
  • Close grip row, emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction when retracted
  • At least a 3:2 ratio of back to chest exercises

Elevated Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Upper Trapezius, Lats, Rhomboids with Roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Neck Stretch - Sternocleidomastoid, Levator Scapula
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Scapular Depression - “Reverse Shrugs” on a seated dip machine or dip bar.  Keep elbows straight, raise and slowly lower the shoulder carriage.  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction at the bottom
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening

Tight Low Back - Often with Arched Back
Myofascial Release
  • Hip flexors, quadriceps, lower back, lats, piriformis
Static Stretch
  • Lats, cobra for abdominals, piriformis
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges
  • Reduce “Crunches” instead incorporate planks, single leg exercises and other deep core strengthening exercises


Add Horsepower to Your Cardio: Increase Cardiac Output

QUESTION: True or false:  to improve your cardiovascular conditioning,  get your heart rate as high as possible in aerobic exercise?

ANSWER: False.  You improve your cardio condition by increasing cardiac output at lower heart rates.   Here's the mathematical equation used by doctors and exercise physiologists:

Q = HR x SV

Your cardiac output, Q,  is the product of your heart rate times your stroke volume - that's the amount of blood exiting the heart from the left ventricle every time it beats.   A strong heart pumps more blood with every beat.

Read more about how you can increase your cardiac output at caryraffle.com.


Personal Training Price/Value Face Off

When it comes to personal training, pricing is all over the map.  You can easily find people to train you for anywhere from $40 to $250 per hour, and if you look hard you might even pay less (or more).  But what are you really getting for your money?   If someone is a good trainer, why do they have to work for so much less?  And how much better or smarter is the trainer who charges $250 per hour?

Among the larger fitness chains, training prices vary considerably. A trainer like myself - with 10 years of experience and a masters degree in exercise science - would be at the top of the scale.  Here's the surprise about this:  At NYSC, the rate for training with me as a member is $99 per hour, and it is $121 per hour as a non-member.  At any of the top 3 competing gyms, you could pay $140-150 per hour for a trainer at my "level."  So even as a non-member it is less expensive to train with a top trainer at NYSC.

So what about qualifications?  Here is another surprise.  Only one of the gyms requires all trainers to have at least 3 nationally accredited and recognized certifications or college degrees (no dubious "in house" certifications).  Again, NYSC.

So if you're thinking about training, why not stop by and check out the program here or contact me for more information.


What NOT to Do: The Six DO NOTS for Losing Weight

Happy New Year to all, it is good to be back.

We've all got the same thing on our minds after the holidays: getting back into shape and getting the most out of our fitness programs. In this issue, six simple tips about the things that don't work and alternative that do to help you get the most out of your efforts.  

1.  Don't Starve - Watching your calories is good, starving yourself and skipping meals actually works against you. When you skip meals or reduce your calorie intake too low, your body thinks you're starving and goes into "survival mode." It actually lowers your metabolism so that you burn less calories. Instead, plan on increasing exercise and reducing caloric intake so that you have a daily "calorie deficit" of 500-1000 calories. At this rate, you should lose 1-2 pounds of fat per week. The American Dietetic Association and American College of Sports Medicine consider this level optimal for long term weight loss.

2.  Don't Do Just Cardio - Aerobic exercise is great for burning calories while you're doing them and for a short time later. Strength training has the added advantage of building lean muscle - which means your metabolism increases and you burn more calories ALL DAY LONG! Ideally, do a combination of both for best results.

3.  Skip the Small Muscle Exercises - The larger the muscle, the more calories it will burn when you exercise. Legs, Back and Chest exercises give you the most bang for the buck, while small muscles like shoulders, arms and calves burn very few calories. Multi-joint exercises like those shown on the chart below give you the biggest bang for the buck, and can hit smaller muscles in the process. 

Skip These Small Muscle Exercises
Emphasize Big Muscles/Multi-Joint Exercises
 Biceps, Triceps, Shoulder Press, Lateral Raises, Front Raises,   Calf Raises
 Squats, Lunges, Pushups, Pullups, Chest Press, Rows,  Lat Pulldowns

.  Cut the Down Time- Organize your strength workout into circuits so that you get more training volume and keep your heart rate up by reducing idle time between sets. Examples of circuits include lunge/pushup/pullup with no rest in between and chest press/row/squat. I've got some circuit training programs on my website at programs.caryraffle.com.  

5.  Don't Go in Without a Plan - It is proven that having a plan and schedule lead to better results. Where, when, how often will you exercise and what will you do in every exercise session? Base your plan on goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

6.  Don't Get Hurt - Overtraining, inappropriate exercise selection, and poor setup technique can lead to an injury that derails your program - or worse. Give each muscle group a day off between strength training sessions. Identify problem exercises for you with the mini-self assessment on my website assessment.caryraffle.com. Be careful with technique in getting in setting up weights or getting in and out of machines. It is easy to get hurt grabbing for a weight in the wrong way or squirming in and out of a machine without adjusting it properly.  If you've had a long break or are new to exercise, check with your doctor first.

If you need help getting a safe, appropriate, efficient and effective program off the ground, I can usually get someone on routine in as few as five sessions.  


Reduce Risk of Injury. Speed Recovery. Prevent Reinjury.

Help prevent the kinds of injuries that cost lost time and increase medical claims with exercise programs and Workplace Wellness Solutions from Prehab Academy. Prehab Academy offers you variety of turnkey exercise and educational programs and can work with you to develop, promote and evaluate cost-effective custom workplace wellness solutions.


The Top 10 Exercises and Stretches for the Office Worker

Whether you've been lifting weights for years, playing sports, competing in marathons and triathlons, playing basketballs or soccer, or just starting out, most of you face the same challenge: transitioning from sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day to physical activity. (The same goes for many other occupations---cops, cab drivers, pilots, and judges are a few examples of people who tend to sit a lot face similar issues.

Proper conditioning can help avoid injuries, improve performance, and deliver better results. How? By correcting the postural distortions and muscle imbalances that office work creates. Click to visit my blog caryraffle.com for the recommended exercises and stretches and links to an illustrated program.


Recently in my Blog

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL More Results with Less Time PRE-HAB/POST REHAB Prevent Injuries Before they Happen, Transition from Therapy to Workout, Avoid Recurring Injuries DEEP CORE TRAINING Fewer Back Problems. More Funtional Strength. Better Balance. ULTIMATE FLEXIBILITY Are You Happy with Your Current Flexibility? What are you doing about it? BODY FAT Define It. Measure it. Lose It. Read these stories and more at http://www.caryraffle.com/.