Monday, February 11, 2013

New Twist to a old exercise

In the past squats have gotten a bad rap. Some claim that is bad for the knees. Others state that it is too difficult for the older population. I say it is one of the most functional activities known to man. In cultures where people don't spend hours of their day in a desk or in front of a TV, squatting is their sitting. 

Before their were toilets there was squatting and current research is demonstrating that it is the most idea position to be in when you have to go. 

We are born with the ability to squat, look at any child play before the age of 4 or 5 and their mode to play on the floor or pick something up is squatting. 

Why do we stop squatting? We loose the ability simply because we do not continue to use it after the age of 4 or 5 when essentially we are put in chairs for at last 7 hours a day for the next 13 or more years. 

Most of the exercises that I prescribe and teach, including the squat incorporate core muscle contraction with movements that are functional to life and protective of our joints and other soft tissues.

Core muscles are located in every joint, not just the abs. They are small, 1 joint muscles, that are oriented in a diagonal fashion, sometimes they are a part of a larger muscle and example of this is the Vastus Medius Oblique which is a subsection of the Vastus Medius Muscle and it is a core muscle of the knee. The function of Core muscles is to provide stability to the joint and allow our moving muscles to work properly. Joint disease and degeneration is usually caused by core muscles not working properly and the inflammatory process causes core muscles to become dysfunctional. 

As I previously mentioned, all core muscles are oriented in a diagonal fashion and therefore their action is rotation. Many health and fitness professionals will falsely train these muscles by performing rotational exercises. This contradicts the fitness principle of specificity of training which states that in order to improve a muscle's function or a particular activity one should train by performing that muscle's function or activity.  The job of the core muscle however, is stability so these muscles are best trained to perform their job by using an isometric contraction with or without motion. 

Here is a link to view the exercise. I have combined it with a dynamic hamstring stretch during the 30 second rest period.  Depending on the patient,  I may skip the Dynamic Hamstring stretch and either rest or incorporate another exercise.  For myself, I do this exercise for a total of 5 minutes. I prescribe varying intervals of time for my patients depending on their fitness level and goals. With patients who I am concerned about losing their balance, I have them do this with a chair or ottoman both in front and behind them.