It’s almost here – those indulgent holiday parties with sugary fried goodies, finger foods galore and bubbly cocktails where you rationalize just one more. It’s ok, I mean, we all know what immediately follows the annual December gluttony with Pavlovian-like certainty, right? The New Years Resolutions. What will it be this year? Crossfit? Jogga? (that one is fun to say) How about Soul Cycle? Perhaps a boot camp? Whatever your 2019 workout may be, the key is to train smart to avoid getting hurt.
Posture, posture, posture…
Unfortunately the highly demanding and commonly sedentary office jobs most people have during the day can set them up for injury during their workouts. Why is that? Something your parents and teachers preached to you at a young age. You know you should sit up and stand up straight, but do you? At the end of your work day, do you feel like you look like Mr. Burns? Your shoulders are rounded, your neck is poking forward, and your upper back is stiff as a board. Exercising is the right thing to do but starting your workout feeling like this can cause a variety of neck and shoulder issues.
Lets talk about the aforementioned Mr. Burns posture and what causes you to feel that way. The rounded shoulders are due to tension in the chest, more specifically, in the pectorals minor and major muscles. The tightness in the neck is due to tension in the upper trapezius which is the muscle connecting your neck and your shoulders. The stiffness in the upper back is because of tension in the muscles and joints between the vertebrae in the thoracic spine.
The latest research shows that the best warm up is an active one. Start on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, or any cardio machine for 5-10 minutes. This gives you some time to clear your mind of the day’s stress, visually plan your workout, and it serves to fire up your body for the training ahead.
This is a simple and effective way at improving flexibility in the shoulders and upper back. After an active warm up, stand with your back, arms, and forearms against the wall as if you are ready to lift something over your head. Begin reaching over your head keeping your back and arms flush against the wall. Keeping your body against the wall, reach as high as you can and then lower your arms (like a snow angel) – repeating for 10 reps and 3 sets. This exercise stretches the tight chest muscles and promotes neck and upper back extension, as well as straightening of the spine. This exercise is excellent at releasing forward rounded shoulders and correcting upper back posture.
Don’t forget to train your back
Although most people like focusing on training their beach muscles – chest and arms for gents, while the ladies tend to focus on hips and thighs – training your back is the key to preventing upper body injuries. Keeping your back muscles strong also helps combat the rounded shoulder posture that most seated workers fall victim to. Remember to sit up tall and pinch your shoulder blades together when doing exercises such as the lat pull down or rowing machine to engage those back muscles. Concentrate on the form – inhale during the beginning of the rep, visualize those muscles contracting and exhale as you work through that rep.
Finish the workout with another great upper body stretch. Lay on the foam roller length wise against your spine and relax your head on the foam roller. Position your arms and legs outwards like a starfish. Bring your arms up above shoulder height and hold that stretch for a minute and then then lower the arms down below shoulder height to stretch out a different part of the chest. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you cool down and finish this last phase of your workout.