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Flexibility

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014

Flexibility is essential to full range of motion. When muscles are shortened and tight, they do not allow movement to occur throughout the joint. This can lead to wear and tear on the portion that is being over used, and can develop faulty movement patterns as the body attempts to compensate for altered motion. 

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I am fortunate to have both studied and received the benefits of a unique method of assisted stretching called the Mattes Method. The Mattes Method employs a brief 2 second stretch and release that is generally repeated 10-15 times. This allows a release to occur without triggering a contraction response by the muscles, typical in longer stretches. It is easier to tolerate and extremely effective in improving flexibility, breaking down adhesions and scar tissue, and stimulating the lymph system to eliminate metabolic waste and inflammatory fluids. Many clients end their sessions with a series of assisted stretches.
 

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In the last year and a half, I have explored Yoga as a way to increase my own flexibility and gain a better understanding of its benefits and influence. It has proven invaluable in reducing pain and strain in my hips and knees. Shoulder and spinal rotation has increased by measurable degrees. Needless to say, I am happy with the results and eager to share the benefits with my clients. A word of caution, however: awareness of how far to push it, and what constitutes overstress is key. Individual modification of postures is often required in order to prevent injury or to accommodate the novice. Good instruction and a sensitivity to one’s own limitations is required!

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Posture

Posted by on Jul 6, 2014

Neutral posture refers to the correct alignment of our spine from head to tailbone, and the continuation of that alignment through the hips, knees, ankles and feet. In a nutshell, our ears shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all be in a vertical line. Our spines should have a balanced S-curve that positions those elements naturally.

Unfortunately, due to many factors such as lengthy time at the computer, in front of the TV, or at the desk, gravity takes over and our postural muscles lose their influence. Other factors may include prior injury, chronic pain, poor eyesight, and uneven weight distribution. 

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The good news is that posture can also be relearned. Perfect alignment is a very efficient way of keeping the body upright, so it is more comfortable in the long run. Good posture also eliminates neck pain due to strain, and allows muscles to work in proper sequence, avoiding overload of some at the expense of others.

You can count on postural retraining in your program, if it is needed.

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Balance

Posted by on Jul 6, 2014

Balance is an ability that can be trained and improved upon just as other aspects of fitness. As we increase the functionality of our core, the more stable we are, hence the easier it is to balance. As we have become a more urban and sedentary society, we seldom challenge ourselves on uneven surfaces or in unstable environments, unless we are involved in sports such as surfing or horseback riding. In our workouts, we can recreate these settings and decrease the risk of falling while improving athletic performance. By practicing, we teach our brains to develop muscle activation sequences that keep us balanced. This is vital as we age or if we spend our working hours at a desk.

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The Primal Patterns

Posted by on Jul 5, 2014

I was originally introduced to the Primal Pattern concept through Paul Chek when preparing for my Level 1 studies.

The idea is that all of our movement patterns in daily life can be broken down into some combination of one or more of six basic movements.

Primal Patterns are the key movements involved all our activities, from primitive times until today. Learning how to perform these basics correctly can make all our body mechanics more efficient, whether in the garden or on the soccer field. These movements are multi-joint, involving several muscle groups acting together in a synchronized manner.

They are:

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Push

 

 

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Pull

 

 

 

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Bend

 

 

 

 

 

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Squat

 

 

 

 

 

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Lunge

 

 

 

 

 

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Twist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercises involving these patterns can generally be included early in our training. If there is an overriding weakness or limitation in a given area, this will be addressed first. As you progress in your training, these exercises can be made more complex or more intense. If an athlete has already achieved a fairly high level of proficiency, that person may be progressed to a more challenging form of the exercise early on.

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The Core

Posted by on Jul 5, 2014

The core is the foundation of our stability and, when properly engaged, allows us to function at our most efficient. What is the core, you ask? It comprises the many muscle groups of the trunk and spine, the four layers of abdominal muscles, and several of the muscles involved with respiration.

One could also make a case for including the gluteal muscles that bridge the spine, pelvis and lower limbs. These deep trunk muscles, when properly activated, should stabilize the trunk to resist forces acting on the lumbar spine.

Think of a sprinter: in order to accelerate rapidly and conserve energy, the trunk must hold the torso still while the pumping action of the arms and legs propel the runner along the track.

When we balance, over one hundred small spinal muscles come into play to keep us oriented in space.

More about the spinal muscles, click here.

 

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Ever tried slacklining? This picture reminds me that as we age, we tend not to take as many risks, thus we get out of practice balancing. Then our core muscles “de-tune” and fall asleep on the job. Let’s wake them up! 

 

The core also stabilizes our pelvis and spine when loaded to prevent injury.  It is vital to recruit these muscles properly, so they  anticipate movement and protect the spine. Weakness or lack of activation can result in forces traveling through the spine to hips, knees, shoulders and neck leading to injury or needless wear and tear.

For example, as we bend forward to pick up a heavy object, we should draw in the Transversus Abdominus, or innermost abdominal muscles, to support the lower back. This very important muscle acts like a corset, pulling together around the midsection. In my practice, we strengthen this abdominal muscle first, especially if you are deconditioned when starting the program.

Having a strong, active core also allows us to maintain good postural alignment. The Primal Pattern movements all rely on the core.

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