We've Got Your Back

Back extension exercises feel great - stretching out desk-weary spines and loosening tense, tight muscles. But there are also some very significant gains to be had from these seemingly simple moves, enabling you to lengthen short muscles and build strength to support the spine. 

 

Excessive sitting or slouching over a desk can compress and weaken the spine and cause instability in the erector spinae. A stiff or tight mid-back and a pushed-forward head position (looking down at your phone) can be improved with prone back extensions which focus on sequentially extending the back, vertebra by vertebra, while maintaining abdominal support to protect the lower back. 

 

To try this yourself: 

o Lie on your stomach with legs extended and, palms up, arms reaching down towards the toes. 

o Engage the abdominals, exhale while lifting head and chest off the mat and raising the arms while sliding the shoulder blades down the back. 

o Inhale to release back down onto the mat. 

o Repeat up to 8 times. 

And if you would like to feel a little longer, stronger and leaner all over, do get in touch here.

Ease Your Knees

Knee pain often resolves with strengthening exercises.  But what kind of exercises can be done without causing further damage and discomfort?

Knee pain often resolves with strengthening exercises.  But what kind of exercises can be done without causing further damage and discomfort?

Many people suffer from knee pain at some point in their life. It can be very debilitating as the knee joint, ligaments and muscles play such a crucial role in the movement of the body – linking the upper and lower legs and enabling flexion and extension.

 

At Arran Knight Pilates, we will help you create stability in this area by building muscle around the knees. Exercises for both inner and outer quadriceps, can be done with or without weights to ensure anyone can safely perform knee exercises.  So if you have an injury or problem area, we will work with you to create safe activities to both challenge and strengthen.

 

Time spent working on the hips and the feet will also have a significant impact on knee stability. Strong hip adductor muscles help your knees sit in better alignment and working with equipment like the Magic Circle, resistance bands or on the Reformer can create greater strength here.  

 

Reformer footwork is essentially a squat movement executed on your back with resistance. This will actually help improve strength and alignment all the way from your hips through the knees to the feet.

A client’s footwork helps us to uncover any imbalances in the body enabling us to create a programme of exercises specific to your body’s needs. So, if you have disparities in foot/ankle/hip alignment that might be impacting your knee stability, we will identify this and work with you to correct it.

 

Reformer footwork is also a powerful tool for injury prevention and rehabilitation and exercises can be tailored to your needs with differing weights and resistance.  Any feet-in-straps work will strengthen and stretch adducters while a ‘bridge’ position will strengthen glutes and help support the back of the knee – a real problem area for some.

 

And of course, our equipment – the reformer in particular – allows knee problems to be corrected without gravity exacerbating any postural imbalance or misalignment.

 

So if you are interested building knee strength, flexibility and correcting alignment drop us a line here or head to our studio and we can discuss where we may be able to assist. 

Tips For The Hips

Our hips boast the inclusion of one of the largest muscles in the human body.  But what functions do the smaller muscles in the hip play?  And what impact can these have on other areas of the body?

The muscles of the hip comprise of:

  • Gluteal muscles (Minimus, Medius & Maximus) 
  • Deep hip rotators (Piriformis, Quadratus Femoris, Obturator Internus / Externus & Gamellaie)
  • Adductors (Psoas, Iliacus, Pectineus, Gracilis, Adductor Longus / Brevis / Magnus)
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae

These muscles operate to achieve three different pairs of principal directions of movement:

  • Flexion & Extension (moving the leg forward & backward)
  • Internal & external rotation (turning the legs in & out)
  • Abduction & adduction (moving the leg out to the side & back again)

In addition, these directions can combine to produce circumduction (cone-like circular movement of the hip).

 

The rounded head of the femur and the cup-like acetabulum of the pelvis forms the hip joint.  This ball and socket joint links the lower limb to the rest of the body.  The hip's primary function is to support the weight of the body, both whilst moving and standing still.  They also maintain one of the most important elements of posture and balance, the pelvic inclination angle (the angle the pelvis sits at in relation to the spine).

 

The large muscles in the hips impact on the spine depending on what state they are in.  The Psoas, a muscle in the front of the hip, attaches into the spine and, if tight, can cause lower back pain and postural issues.  The Gluteal muscles at the back of this hip, and the Tensor Fasciae Latte on the outside of the hip, can also tighten and cause similar symptoms for different reasons.  Alongside strengthening, Pilates works with stretch and release techniques in order to keep the hips functioning correctly without impeding other areas.

 

In addition, there are also smaller muscles deep in the hip, which need to be considered when setting a balanced exercise program.  Pilates exercises these areas extensively by incorporating internal and external rotation in a neutral position, and when working with extension, flexion adduction and abduction of the hip.  This, combined with strengthening the deeper muscles of the core, helps to stabilise the lower back and pelvis, assisting us in keeping the hips exercised and healthy whilst considering the impact elsewhere.

 

In 2013, the NHS performed just over 66,000 hip procedures in England and Wales.  To quote Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe's 1996 comedy-sports drama Jerry McGuire "Help me...to help you".  Being proactive with an exercise program that works to maintain range of motion, stability and flexibility is a great use of time and effort that will pay dividends as we age.  And we can feel good about reducing the strain and dependence on our flailing National Health Service.

The Complexity Of The Shoulders

The Shoulder requires range, mobility and stability like no other joint in the Human body.  But, with all these demands, how can we keep it functioning correctly?

The Human shoulder is made up of three bones: 

  • The Clavicle (Collar bone)
  • The Scapula (Shoulder Blade)
  • The Humerus (Upper Arm Bone)

There are many muscles that surround the shoulder comprising of:

  • Deltoids
  • Pectoral muscles
  • Trapezius
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Rotator cuff muscles.

For this article I shall focus on these five areas, which may or may not have different components to them (i.e. Deltoids have anterior, middle and posterior fibres), but for this purpose I shall group them and keep things simple.

The shoulder joint has a wide range of mobility in most directions and is stable enough for actions such as lifting, pushing and pulling.  These multiple demands made of the joint make it prone to a number of potential injuries and complaints.  

Some of the more complex issues may need the techniques of a physiotherapist, the diagnosis of a doctor or in worst-case scenarios the expertise of a surgeon.  

However, a good Pilates studio is extremely well equipped to deal with:

  • Continued shoulder health
  • Correct alignment whilst exercising
  • Learning how to stabilize correctly
  • Improving posture for good shoulder function
  • Reducing shoulder tensions 
  • Improving range, stability, mobility & flexibility

I like to think of the shoulders as a shelf with supportive brackets underneath it, to help it stay up with ease and stability, whilst being secured to something larger and stronger.  That something larger and stronger is the back and the brackets are the Latissimus Dorsi and the Serratus Anterior. 

In opening up the chest, engaging the rotator cuff muscles and connecting into the back more, Pilates works to balance the shoulder muscles.  So, in effect, we strengthen the stabilisers underneath the shoulders to support what is commonly overworking above the shoulders.  This means those overworking muscles, which are creating the tension, get to relax.

Pilates equipment works with a spring system, which far reduces the weight used and gradually increases the resistance.  This allows the activation of the correct muscles to occur whilst exploring the various potential movements of the shoulder.  

If approached with too much weight the dominant muscles at the top of the shoulders will continue to overwork.  So, correct weight setting is crucial.  

If left alone and the imbalances remain unaddressed, when returning to activity, the complaint can often persist.  

Pilates offers a unique way to ‘build from basics’ in order to get back to a well functioning shoulder.  

So, go ahead and get rebalanced.  Mobilize your shoulders, relax and re-align yourself.  Make use of your local Pilates studio’s dynamic equipment and expertise.  Your shoulders will thank you!