Is there such thing as perfect technique?

Is there such thing as perfect technique?

As someone who gets the opportunity to coach people on a daily basis, I work hard to get my clients moving with the best technique possible.

Why is technique important in resistance training?

Moving with poor or inefficient technique can lead to altered load distribution, and subsequently increased stress placed on the passive structures of our body. This can lead to an increased risk of injury (both acutely and chronically), which is obviously not ideal. Furthermore, training with poor technique can lead to muscular imbalances. This in turn leads to postural deviations, movement impairment, and again, an increased risk of injury.

Fortunately for us as coaches, technique is one of the few things we have a huge amount of control over. We have the opportunity to educate individuals on the importance of proper technique, and develop quality movement patterns through the use of appropriates exercise progressions and regressions. With this in mind, we can also improve poor or limited movement through a variety of corrective exercise strategies. In short, we have the necessary knowledge and ability to ensure that each and every one of our clients are performing a given movement well.

But, it is important to note that movement technique is entirely individual!

Is there such thing as a perfect technique?

Despite what some internet warriors might like you to believe, there is no such thing as perfect technique. Everyone has different anatomy (this includes not only limb lengths, but also things like joint depth and stiffness). All of which can significantly change their range of motion at specific joints. It is for this reason that some people can squat to a full depth with their feet barely  apart, while others need a wider stance just to squat to parallel. It may mean that a conventional deadlift is out of the question for you, and a narrow sumo stance is your best option. For others, it may mean that a conventional deadlift is ideal.

Everyone is different. And it is important to reiterate that none of these techniques are wrong. In actual fact, in both cases they may actually provide the ideal position for that individual to complete a given movement. But in the same light, each technique is different – and none of them are perfect.

 

Ideal Technique

As coaches it is our job to find the best position possible for you as an individual to perform a given movement safely and effectively. While this position may be slightly different, there are number key things we can look for to ensure that this position is found and trained correctly.

Firstly, you need to be able to maintain a neutral spinal position for the movement’s duration. While this is true for almost any exercise, it holds significant importance for lower body dominant exercises. Think squats, deadlifts, and their single leg variations. This is becuase these movements place significant compressive and shearing forces on the spine. These forces are actually a good thing when a neutral spine is maintained, as they teach the muscles of the trunk to resist these forces. This is essential to building a strong and healthy spine.

BUT! When this position is lost, and the trunk moves (flexes or extends) under these heavy loads we can become susceptible to injury and dysfunction. As a result, we need to play around and find the best position for the individual. This tends to be where an individual has maximum joint range of motion, while also being able to maintain a neutral spine throughout that range of motion.

How do we determine ideal technique for an individual?

This can be done by assessing passive and active joint ranges in different positions. We can also reduce the range of movement to ensure that you can maintain a neutral spine. For example, we could use boxes or blocks to reduce a movements range.

Secondly, we need to sure that the joints remain ‘stacked’ on top of each other throughout the full movement. This essentially means that the knees and the hips are kept aligned throughout the movement’s duration. Thus limiting any potential shearing or rotational forces placed on your knees (think the knee collapsing inwards during squatting movements). Once again, suitable exercise regressions OR utilising principals of reactive neuromuscular control are utilised to ensure safe positions are maintained. Think bands pulling the knee into different positions during a split squat to teach the body to resist these forces.

Closing thoughts

Everyone is different, and as such there really is no such thing as perfect technique.

Despite this, we need ensure that each movement can be performed with the best technique possible given your individual anatomy. We try to focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement. This guarantees that the joints remained stacked on top of one another. We can regress our exercises if needed to encourage proper positioning. This can also be extremely beneficial to keeping a movements within a safe range of motion.

Remember, there is no right way to perform a given exercise. However, we can find an ideal way for a given individual at a specific point in time.

Cancer related fatigue: Does exercise help or hinder?

Cancer related fatigue: Does exercise help or hinder?

Have you ever been too tired to walk up your stairs, eat, or even go to the toilet? Welcome to the life of individuals with cancer related fatigue.

Fatigue is one of the most common and debilitating side effects of cancer treatments that presents itself before, during, and after treatment. A 2007 study found that 80-90% of people undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy reported experiencing incapacitating fatigue. Of those, approximately 91% felt they could not lead a normal life, participate in social activities or perform simple intellectual tasks. 75% had to change employment status and 65% needed their caregivers to take at least one day off per month. Worse still, many of these people can suffer similar symptoms long after the treatment has ceased.

What is cancer related fatigue?

Cancer related fatigue is unlike anything the apparently healthy individual has usually ever felt. The sense of utter exhaustion that you feel is disproportionate to the amount of effort produced. For a once fit individual, that can mean that a walk to the letter box produces the fatigue levels that are only imagined after completing an Ironman event (1 x 3km swim, 1 x 180km bike ride topped off with a marathon). The most disconcerting thing about cancer related fatigue is that rest or sleep does not always help alleviate symptoms.   On top of that, because the causes are not well understood, treatment is not always straight forward.

If that is that case, shouldn’t I rest rather than exercise?

Well this is where it gets interesting! Research has now shown that exercise should be used as part of a patient’s oncology treatment schedule. Not surprisingly, results show an increase in strength and capacity, especially in cases of breast, prostate, haematological, and colorectal cancer. However, one of the unexpected outcomes of these studies has been the effect of exercise on fatigue levels. It was first measured due to concern that exercise would exacerbate cancer related fatigue levels, BUT the results proved very interesting… It in fact showed the opposite!

A systematic review from South Australia showed that out of the 47 studies identified relating to exercise and cancer related fatigue, 32 found exercise to significantly reduce cancer related fatigue! In fact, there were no significant studies that didn’t favour an exercise intervention for improving cancer related fatigue.

So… exercise reduces your levels of cancer related fatigue!!

How exactly can exercise help?

As there is still no single definitive cause of cancer related fatigue, determining the physiological reasons as to why exercise is so effective is pretty difficult. When you begin treatment, just the thought of exercise would probably make you feel exhausted. However, if we look at the flip side, we know that without a doubt inactivity leads to increased fatigue. Exercise reduces the distance you can walk without puffing and also the amount you can lift. So therefore, movement allows you to complete all those activities quicker and for a longer period of time.

There are also theories around surmising that resistance training can prevent the dysregulation of our immune system and helps maintain our energy currency (ADP). All of which can be disrupted when we begin muscle wastage. Big words I know! The main take away message is that moderate exercise can increase your capacity to function, improve your quality of life, decrease risk of depression and anxiety, and decrease cancer related fatigue!

What exercise should I do to reduce fatigue levels?

Before we answer this question, I would like to make a caveat… The definition of exercise (and its intensities) is very broad. What a healthy individual calls exercise can be different to what someone undergoing treatment or who is now a survivor does. Also, no two cancers are the same and so no two exercise prescriptions are the same. It should be based on factors such as your cancer diagnosis, side effects, and treatment type, timing and trajectory. Plus your age, current activity levels prior to diagnosis and previous injuries and illnesses.

With all that in mind, research has shown that a combination of both types of training is recommended for you during and post treatment. So far the evidence says that best case scenario is twice a week progressive (60-80% 1RM) resistance training (lifting/moving heavy objects).  Adding to two-four times of moderate aerobic (huff and puff) exercise (40-60% max). If you have just undergone a chemo cycle that may be 2 x 5 minutes of a home-based program. This may include sit to stands, wall push ups and a single leg dead lift. If you are feeling strong that maybe 2 x 45 minutes of supervised gym using weights.

Do I need to train throughout my whole treatment?

Interestingly, timing and duration of the activity may be important since one of the biggest effects on fatigue was observed when the exercise intervention lasted until the end of the treatment. So, ensuring you move throughout the entire treatment period/s can decrease your cancer related fatigue by up to 50%. That could mean the difference between getting to the toilet, being capable to watch your children play sport, or even feeding yourself.

If you are unsure about how to begin or keep exercising as you undergo treatment, please feel free to give us a call or an email and we are happy to chat!

REFERENCES:

Brown 2010, Efficacy of Exercise Interventions in Modulating Cancer-Related Fatigue among Adult Cancer Survivors: A Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Cancer Epidemiology and Biomarkers

Curta et al 2000, Impact of Cancer-Related Fatigue on the Lives of Patients: New Findings From the Fatigue Coalition. The Oncologist vol. 5 no. 5 353-360

Maloney, L 2016, A summary of meta-analytic evidence on the impact of exercise on cancer related fatigue: An umbrella review.

NCCN 2016, Cancer-Related Fatigue, https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/fatigue.pdf

Exercise and cancer: Move it or lose it!

Exercise and cancer: Move it or lose it!

Trying to put cancer into words is beyond difficult. It is more than just a series of statistics; it is a ruthless disease is something that has devastated us all in one-way or another, whether we have personally been affected or we have seen loved ones go through the battle.
In stark contrast, the aim of exercise is to build up the human body and make it more resilient to what life throws at it. It can increase our aerobic capacity, strength, endurance, immunity, mental health, metabolism, and the list goes on.
So, why is there is a still a longstanding misconception that once diagnosed with cancer that individuals should generally rest and recover?
Research and clinical practice have both proven unequivocally that appropriately prescribed exercise is safe during and after treatment. Much more than that, appropriately prescribed exercise can be used to make treatment more effective, decrease adverse acute side effects, and minimize the long-standing consequences of the brutal regimes it is put through.
In fact, 62% of people with cancer are sedentary. 75-90% of those with cancer don’t perform any strength based exercise. It is important to caveat this blog with the understanding that side effects of treatment can leave the body unable to do what it used to. But! And here is the big BUT! As Robert Newton (a leading exercise oncology professor) states “some activity is better than none, more is better than less.” Patients may not be able to go for that 6 km long hike or run like they used to, but what ever stimulates change and growth within the body will be effective.  More importantly, it gives people the chance to do something positive with their bodies rather than just constantly be broken down!
This blog begins a series of cancer specific articles taking an in depth look at the how’s and the why’s exercise oncology, so keep a look out! If you ever have any questions or queries, please feel free to have a chat with me.
My final thought is this… Exercise has now been proven to be a drug, which should be prescribed appropriately and individually in those undergoing cancer treatments… so why are we not using it!

 

Hypermobility: Are you a one trick wonder?

Hypermobility: Are you a one trick wonder?

The fringe festival is now in full swing, bringing the weird, wonderful and sometimes unimaginable acts. Perhaps you have seen the ‘Cowboy’ who now holds the world record for sword swallowing after having magnets implanted in his chest, behind the sternum… The human body is sometimes altered according to our desires but sometimes it just presents itself structurally different to the ‘norm’.

You may have heard the phrase ‘it’s as impossible as licking your elbow’… Well for some of us that is not true…

Karla licking elbow

Perhaps you or someone you know has a similar trick up their sleeve. Hypermobility is common in the general population and may be present in one or more joints. It is the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement. It’s necessarily not as cool as it may look… In many people joint hypermobility may not cause any symptoms, however, for others it is associated with joint and ligament injuries, pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

A hypermobile joint is lax as a result of a gene mutation affecting the body’s connective tissue proteins. The looser connective tissue, particularly ligaments and tendons, gives rise to an increased risk of soft tissue injuries and dislocations as the joint can over extend or twist easily.

It has been found that individuals with hypermobile joints have impaired proprioception compared with that of matched control groups. Although you can’t change the structure of the lax tissues, research has shown that appropriate exercise can increase the control and stability of the muscles around the joints.

So how do you prevent an injury?
The key is to strengthen the stabilising muscles around the joint through guided resistance training. Knowing your limits and how to control movement patterns is essential. Try to avoid loading the joint past its normal range. The idea is to develop protective reflex actions when a joint is being pushed past it’s normal range.

For example, if you are known to have knees which hyperextend and play a sport which involves jumping, knowing how to control your landing without allowing the knee to move into hyperextension is essential in preventing knee injuries or muscle tears. In addition, it is important to strengthen the muscles around the knee, hip and ankle to better stabilise the joint.

If you have any concerns or questions regarding your joints, feel free to ask any one of our qualified staff members.

Enjoy the fringe festivities!

Getting the black dog moving: The effects of physical activity on mental health

dogDid you know over 3 million Australian’s reported having a mental health or behavioral condition. That’s nearly 14% of the country! That’s absolutely staggering considering that figure only includes those currently diagnosed. In reality, if you personally haven’t experienced a mental health disorder such as depression, there is no doubt that someone in your circle of friends has.

Spending time with a close friend, it is easy to see that depression doesn’t just affect your mood. It involves decreased feelings of self-worth and motivation levels for extended periods. My friend explained that the really debilitating factor is it sucks your ability to find even the simplest of pleasures in the world and everyday tasks become so much harder to finish. Add to that, depression physically affects how your body functions.  Changes in brain function, hormone levels and neurotransmitter actions can have serious implications on internal stress levels, appetite and sleep patterns. It really does affect your whole world and like the dark metaphor, the black dog lurks in the shadows, waiting to rear its ugly head.

At the moment commonly prescribed treatments for depression involve medications and behavioral therapies, but could we add physical activity to this list?

Current evidence has shown that getting the muscles moving and blood pumping has a moderate to large antidepressant effect (and don’t forget the other health benefits). Importantly, it plays a holistic role in preventing, treating and minimising risk of reoccurring episodes both acutely and long term. Interestingly, both aerobic and resistance training lead to natural neurochemical alterations. By acutely regulating hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol, exercise can decrease the stress levels. It also stimulates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which positively changes mood, pain levels and appetite perception. I could go into a raft of other structural changes within the brain, but let’s leave that for another day.

But what I think exercise is fantastic for is promoting feelings of well-being and self-efficacy. Learning to move your body, becoming stronger and fitter can give an individual the confidence in their own ability to exert control over their motivation and behaviours. This is something that depression can take away from you. So start moving your limbs in an effort to get the black dog off your back and running out of your life.

 

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