𝙳𝚊𝚍𝚜: 𝙳𝚘𝚗’𝚝 𝙶𝚎𝚝 𝚂𝚊𝚐𝚐𝚢
While I was attending the University of Delaware for my undergrad degree back in the early 2000’s, I remember learning about this guy named Dr. Janda.
Now, I’ll be the first to scream from the rooftops that almost all of what I learned in college was most certainly not learned in the classroom environment. However, there were one or two useful tidbits of information that I took off and ran with when it came to fitness.
Okay, maybe I didn’t run with this idea that I am about to present but for some reason it stuck with me. And I do believe it stuck with me because it was the future me speaking to me that it would one day help both myself and a lot of future clients of mine.
What old Vlad (Dr. Janda) began discussing years ago was the idea of ‘muscles of posture’. Vlad separated muscles into two groups: tonic, which will tend to shorten when tired (or old) and phasic, which tend to weaken under stress (or age).
If you notice, both muscle groups will either shorten or weaken as we get older, are overly stressed or fatigued, three circumstances that no one on the planet can escape.
Here is a simple chart of the two groups:
I realize that looking at this chart may be a little bit like looking at an eye chart in a foreign language, but worry not, I am going to break this down so you can put it to use. In keeping with the theme of the ULYIS newsletter, I will also present to you how I am using this in my life and in my training.
Most of us sit, A LOT! Interestingly, that only worsens the issue of these two muscle groups. When we sit, unless we are uber conscious of our posture, we tend to have a forward head lean, rounded shoulders, legs tucked under the chair, arms in tight (like alligator arms) especially when typing and our lower belly is probably leaning forward enough to touch our upper thighs.
(picture of person sitting)
All those muscles that are shortened in the sitting position are the ones that are the same tonic muscles listed above. And the muscles on the opposing side of those muscles are in a lengthened position, which will lead to weakness (muscles have an optimal resting length for optimal performance, too short or too long will inhibit that performance).
For example, as I am sitting here writing this, I have those very same alligator arms that I spoke of above, which means my biceps are in a shortened (contracted) position and my triceps in are in a stretched position because of my ‘arm bend’. If I allow this to go on day after day, year after year, I will be tight on the front of my arms and weak on the back of my arms.
By the way, the muscles on the posterior side of our body, the ones we don’t see in the mirror every day, are the real muscles of youth, yet people tend to neglect them like a red-headed step child because they can’t see them, are never taught how to train them properly and because of that, they do not know how to ‘feel them’. Another case of out of sight, out of mind.
Wo-Man, my brain is going crazy with ideas as I am typing this, lucky for you. Let’s back track a second and talk about those tonic muscles. We know that they get tighter with age but what about stress? Allow me to reverse engineer that sitting position again.
We have two parts of what is known as the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is responsible for freeze, flight or flight and the parasympathetic is for rest, recovery and digestion (I told you that you’d be getting a lot of this same lesson again and againJ). When our levels of anxiety and overwhelm become too much to handle, we become overly sympathetic as well as when we don’t get enough rest (there’s that tired part).
But what people don’t realize is that by sending in external cues to the nervous system and the brain, we can create states of stress, both good and bad kinds (most of the time it’s the bad kind because the general populous isn’t armed with the knowledge you now have). And we do this through our posture and body language.
If a big, bad, dude was going to come in and rough you up, which position would you take? Never mind, it’s not a trick question, I’ll tell you that the natural response position would be the fetal position (hmmm, the fetal position looks a lot like how people tend to sit). Why would you take that position?
Well, that is the freeze response in action and you would take that position so you that could protect your vital organs and orifices. Everything the brain does is centered around ‘survival’. So if you are essentially sitting in the fetal position day after dag-on day, you are sending the message to your brain that you are in survival mode or a stressful situation. Pretty neat, huh?
While I am on the topic, I will cover some fascinating ways next month on how to reverse engineer our state through body language as well as how to read what other people are actually saying in each situation despite what is coming out of their mouth.
So, what are we to do?
I have been making a point of stretching and rolling out the tonic muscles every single day and all it takes is but a few minutes. You can do this at home, by the way.
Find a door way, bend your elbows at 90 degrees, brace a forearm on each frame and lean forward. This will stretch your pectoralis muscles. I do this at the gym when I am there with a TRX strap, which is really effective at also allowing me to stretch my biceps and calves (picture).
Next, I stretch my hip flexors. Up until about a week ago, I used to teach everyone to stretch their hip flexors through a kneeling position. However, many people could not ‘feel the stretch’, at least not at first. So, while reading an old book, I rediscovered a better, more effective way to stretch the hip flexors (learning lesson: you should always read a book more than once because you definitely can’t absorb everything through one reading, hence, read each issue of the ULYIS newsletter more than once too!).
Stand in a split position with your back toe pointed towards your front heel. Put the same side arm up in the air as the leg that is behind you. Drive that back hip forwards and lean back with your upper body, to create a prying effect, and over with your arm that is raised (picture).
The hip flexor attaches to your lower spine. If it is chronically tight (and trust me, it will be), then it will yank you your spine into a flexed position which is going to lead to lower back issues.
I then roll out my piriformis muscles, my hamstrings and my calves. These muscles seem to respond to better to rolling than regular, old static stretching. I go for about 15-20 rolls in each area.
Now onto the training without getting too far into what I believe a workout should look like, I do believe that everyone, man or woman, should add in these extra exercises every single workout so we can keep these phasic muscles young and propped-up, otherwise gravity will make sure that we have a droopy butt along with triceps that flap in the wind.
I perform 5 sets of goblet squats, making sure that I go all the way down so my elbows touch the insides of my knees. The rep range will vary for me depending on what else I am doing in that day’s workout but for now, keep it at an even 11 (wink, wink) and yes there is a reason I prefer odd numbers in my workouts, but that’ll have to wait until next month.
Next, I make sure to put 5 sets of 10 seconds of bat-wings into my workout. This will hit the rhomboids and mid-back like you wouldn’t believe. To perform these, lie face down on the bench, feet on the ground and pull some dumbbells up to your rib cage and hold. Pretty simple, huh?
Lastly, I perform 100 reps of tricep work every single day. I do this for two reasons currently: the first reason is to keep these muscles from getting weak on me as I climb up in age and the second is that triceps are the main muscle in pressing movements and one of my main physical goals for 2017 is to bench press 405 pounds, so extra tricep work goes rather nicely for me.
For you, I would recommend either doing 100 pushups each day (no matter if I am a the gym or not), let’s keep it simple and doable no matter your environment.
And that’s that. Doing these extra things each and every workout will only take you an extra 15 minutes, tops. I prefer blending in the extra exercises. And if your workout is already taking you upwards of an hour, you more than likely are not training with the intensity you should be training with to get the all-important peripheral heart action effect.
Here are your assignments for this month:
· Do the 2 stretches and 3 rolling movements every single day. If you do not have a foam roller, you can either buy one or go to Lowe’s and buy a 24-inch PVC pipe. They are usually pre-cut and there are beautifully inexpensive.
· Each weight room workout, you are to perform 5 sets of goblet squats, 5 sets of bat wings and each day, weight room or not, you are to complete 100 reps of push-ups.
We will build upon this next month, at which point, you should be well on your way to fighting the effects of stress and age on your body.
P.S-If you’d like to get a FREE copy of our Ripped Dad’s Fasting Manual as well as a 10-minute video guide to help you put together your own home workout, go to: www.newellstrength.com/ripped