Stressed? This is the easiest relaxation technique you will ever do

Gemma RelaxingI have used this technique for nearly a decade now…I recently did it in Chicago for someone while having dinner with Sandy Hilton (from Entropy Physio in Chicago) and she mentioned that she wished she had recorded it…so I did it today with Gemma O’Brien from CrossFit Rush Hour in Sydney’s West. It is really simply and you just have to listen to the words and instructions and get the idea for yourself – watch how Gemma nearly falls over a few times during this process because her legs become so relaxed!

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CrossFit Games Open 15.2 Tips and Advice.

 

Well, that was not too unexpected. A repeat of 14.2 is the workout for 15.2. it is good to compare events and see how you have gone over the year 🙂 The majority of this blogpost is from here…

One downside is that people might feel discouraged that they can’t do that movement (OHS or CTB pullups) – they shouldn’t feel that way – you can still do the workout and scale it…take each Open WOD as a challenge to get better. Each of the past 2 Opens saw me achieve a new PB at something…have a go! This year also has the Scaled option for those that can’t do CTB pullups…but if you did the workout last year, consider doing it again the same way so you can compare.

This blog will be broken into advice for those close to CTB pullups and for those who have CTB. If you are not even close to CTB pullups, that’s ok – get your 10 OHS and then scale and work on your pullups.

For my previous advice on OHS and CTB Pullups, read by clicking on the links below…

Overhead Squat Advice

CTB Pullups

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Pain Explained

 

IMG_8560These past 2 weeks, I had to sit down with an old patient of mine and explained why he had bad back pain for the past couple of years. It took 2 sessions to go over this material and prepare him for the rehab process.
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“Bulletproof” Your “Core” – Sydney – Feb 21-22, 2015

Sydney Core CourseApologies for this late organization – I had 1.5 weeks of medical issues to deal with.

So, here it is!! There are limited places so please click here to BOOK NOW! It will be held at CrossFit Creature in Marrickville – 1030-1730hrs Sat and Sun 21-22, 2015

I will be providing a 2 day course on “The Core” – I hope to be able to take what we know from research, what we know from practical experience and explain how to retrain each component of “The Core” so you can provide yourself and your clients the strongest base from which you can build strength, power and speed.

I will also be teaching a staged retraining model so you can help clients who have back pain all the way through to high level athletes.

The total cost of this course is usually $660 but for this one time only in Sydney, I am offering it at $50. I don’t want cost to be an issue and I want this information to be able to get out there.

We will be filming and photographing extensively during the course.

Over 2 days, we will cover the following:

1. Theory – Know what the research says
2. Myths – Find out if what you believe is actually true
3. Practice – Learn how to isolate, co-contract and integrate the “Core” into your every day training
4. Rehab – Be equipped to help others train their “Core” properly as well and develop better relationships with other health professionals due to your advanced knowledge

Flat Butt / Glutes? Start To Work It With Ideal Posture

IMG_8401Do you want a bit of “junk in the trunk”? A bit more booty? Are you quad dominant and struggle to “activate” your glutes and hamstrings? Have you tried “bridges”, “clams”, lunges, squats, step-ups and all other “butt building” exercises…all to no avail?

This video I made with Lisa Petersen from Key To Life Health and Fitness will show you how to get some shape into your glutes without tilting your pelvis or sticking your bottom out.
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17 Core Stability and Posture Myths That Annoy Me Greatly!

ab-workout1

Rant Warning!

The subject of “Core” and “Abs” and “Stability” comes up a lot in my day-to-day life. You hear it at training, my patients tell me about it all the time, and the internet is awash with all sorts of dodgy (but often well-meaning) information (or disinformation!).

Right now, I am fed up. All sorts of people think they know all about the “core”. I can tell you that unless they are well-trained physios, I haven’t met many that understand the “core” well – and that includes a lot of physios!

So, I am going to hopefully blow a lot of myths out of the water one at a time with a post dedicated to each one (hopefully with video) but I want to put the list out there right now…open your mind because these will rock some rusted-on beliefs! I have ‘busted’ each of these myths over the years and can do so at any time you wish…just ask me to show you 🙂

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Gout – my personal journey

This is not a typical blog post. This is about my personal suffering and pain (which is nothing in the big scheme of things). If you don’t want to read it, I don’t mind. I think part of me is writing this because I feel miserable right now.

It is 3am in the morning. I am in LA, here for the CrossFit games as a physiotherapist in support of Aussie athletes and to watch this awesome spectacle. I am also currently lying here awake because my foot feels like someone has a knife in it and it is sore just lying here doing nothing. I don’t even have to move and it is sore.

But let me start at the beginning.

Gout is simply an inflammatory arthritis – Uric acid crystals form because it precipitates from the blood into my tissues. When it gets into the joints, those crystals cause pain and inflammation due to the immune response to deal with them. Now, I might be technically wrong here but that is how the doctor explained it to me.

Genetically, I have high Uric acid levels. That is against me. Secondly, the breakdown of purines produces Uric acid. That is basically eating meat :/

Now none of this is usually too much of a problem because you can take allopurinol and control the Uric acid levels…to a degree.

You see, it is the flow of Uric acid in or out (the gradient) that can cause the immune reaction and subsequent pain.

So, diet-wise I have tried all sorts of things but I am fat/overweight/obese. It is what it is. I am not being dramatic. I should be about 105kg (about 93kg lean body mass which I currently am and 12-15% fat…I would look like a weapon! Hahaha. But I am not. I am 125kg at the moment. I eat poorly because of laziness but there has been A LOT of negative reinforcement.

You see, I can eat junk food every day and I might ache a bit from the gout here or there but I am like an addict – I really can’t find an in-between level of junk food. It is either clean or I start to slip back into bad eating.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming gout for my poor self discipline.

But since I was a kid, I have loved junk food. That is typical and normal. My parents fed me well and we had junk food for a treat. That is also normal. I was the stereotypical skinny Asian-looking kid. I didn’t become bigger and taller until later. Then, I started eating a lot of junk food. Too much. And I began to put on too much weight.

But here is the thing, I can lose weight. I know how to. I can eat well. I know how to. I have lost 30kg before by doing the old weight watchers point system on my own at home (never been to a meeting). I was as weak as piss and couldn’t do a bench press for 8reps at anything more than the 20kg bar. I was a cardio guy. I weighed 82kg and could 3 les mills classes back to back – body attack, body pump and body combat. No problem.

Even then, at my healthiest, I had Uric acid kidney stones. I had gout attacks.

Eventually, I put weight back on again because, remember, with me, it is all or nothing. I slowly put that weight back on just by starting with a can of drink here or a bit of chips there.

But my gout felt better.

And then the cycle continued. I would lose weight (I did vision PT) – I lost 15kg in 12 weeks but again, I would ache or get gout eating clean. And then I would fall off the wagon and I would feel better.

So then I started CrossFit. There was The Zone but lots of my friends were doing paleo. I lost 18kg in the first few months of CrossFit and maintained between 103-105 for over a year. But I would get gout attacks in my feet, toes, knees, hands. I was eating paleo but then wouldn’t but then get back on the wagon again. It got to a point where I was suffering gout in one joint or another for months on end with only a week or so relief from the pain. I swear I think my coach thought I was lazy or something. It really interrupted my training.

Eventually a doctor who I was observing operate sat me down and set me straight about taking the meds and pushing ahead with eating better. I did and I was pretty good for a while but I wasn’t eating clean. So I was still putting on weight. I was pretty proud of my 19:28mins in the CrossFit open wod 14.5 (thrusters and bar over bar-over-burpees). That was just below the average score of 19:30mins. I know fitter people than me who took longer than that! But do you know how hard it is to drag this rig up and down off the ground?

So those who saw me when I first started CrossFit will have seen me go from being pretty weak (80kg Deadlift was my first 1RM test) to being pretty strong for an average person but still slow…but getting stronger. I am currently 120kg and the strongest I have ever been but I have been eating poorly since a trip to the USA last sept/oct. Trying to come clean from that has been a nightmare.

Every time I try to go clean, BOOM! Gout attack. People have tried to help. But the bottom line is that every time I go clean, I get an attack.

Imagine every time you walk through a certain door, you get knifed in the body somewhere. That is basically what happens. I then use THAT as an excuse to continue to eat poorly because when I eat clean, I get headaches, I get gout, I feel lousy. If I keep eating the chemical shitstorm that is junk food, I actually feel RELATIVELY better.

I know that if I can just weather the storm, I can train better and continue to eat better. I can lose the fat and improve the fitness. But it seriously takes over a month or more of pain and I am not sure I had the will or the self discipline to do that.

It is embarrassing to be this weight.

I love my CrossFit. I love workouts. I want to run and do burpees and lift weights fast and quick and many times and I want more pull-ups and my first muscle up. I don’t want took at photos and think that I should be fitter than I am. I have never been stronger than I am now. Ever. But they are “dirty gainz”. I don’t talk too much about it. I laugh about the fact I am built to lift and not run but secretly, I want to run and be that cardio guy again but with muscles and strength.

So, in the land of California, I thought I would come over and because I have a different routine, I will eat cleaner. And I have. Compared to what I normally eat, I am doing pretty well.

And now I lie here with what feels like a knife through my foot. It is now 4am and I resorted to taking prednisone before I wrote this blog because I am here to work and help people. And I am. But prednisone comes with side effects – insomnia (brilliant! Perfect with the jet lag I was just getting over :/), increased appetite and weight gain through bloating and too much food.

So I am going to try to stay clean. I know what will help…eating dirty again will help. It will tip those scales back to slowly increasing my blood concentration of Uric acid and the gradient between my blood levels and in the joints won’t be so bad and I won’t have such a bad reaction.

If I can’t walk, I can’t get around. I know what this week involves and it involves a lot of running around and stairs and walking to and from car parks and working on my athletes – all of which is fine, except when every step is painful.

So if you see me eating dirty, please understand that my life in the short term is just simpler that way. I know that if I have junk food for the next 3 days, I will be right. If I keep eating clean, I will be in pain and it won’t let up. But junk food and prednisone is up to a 5kg gain almost in a week! Eating carbs and fried food helps my neck pain and headaches. I am a better Physio when I eat carbs, fat and meat but carbs and fat together, especially the junk food that works best, is not good for you…it seems the pro-inflammatory things I like to consume such as sugar and grains, are the very things that make me feel better.

So there you have it. Why do fat, overweight people who have gout keep doing the things that make them fat and overweight? I suspect for some, it is just like my story. Because I don’t feel as bad as when I eat clean.

I am going to try weather the storm. I am going to see if I can put up with the pain. This is the better way, just a REALLY PAINFUL way.

If you have read this far, thank you. I hope one day I can write a story about how I am 12-15% fat, no gout symptoms and still strong.

The meds are kicking in…the pain is easing. It is 4.30am. It still hurts. So what? I will push on.

Why 99% of people misunderstand “Stability” – are you one of them?

Stability. It could be that you lack it. I am sure you have been told you don’t have it at some stage of your life. Maybe you don’t have a good “core”. Or maybe you need better “midline stabilization”.

I began my Physiotherapy career right when Paul Hodges et al were writing about this thin muscle called transverse abdominis. I hadn’t heard of this stability mechanism before then but there it was. Then “core stability” took off, Swiss ball training became all the rage, Pilates became popular and modified by physios and the rest is history.

I also witnessed a lot of the pelvic floor changes to exercise and have been able to watch the development of pelvic floor training and different approaches…

…and then the integration of the pelvic floor into the “core”…

…and then watching the slow train wreck that became “core stability” as different professions got a hold of the idea and basically bastardize it…along with some researchers who didn’t help.

For the past 20 years, I have been training all sorts of patients, from Olympians and Paralympians, all the way through to beginners and children. I have treated world champions in different types sports and been able to improve their performance and pain. I have trained people using gym based exercises, weights, body weight programs, Pilates, Swiss balls and all sorts of devices and gadgets. I have been around the block a few times now.

All of this introduction is to say that I have a fair idea how to improve stability in my patients…and I believe that so many people have the WRONG idea about stability – even physios, doctors, chiros, osteos etc etc.

The common belief is that “the core” is all important but really, you have local stabilization muscles at every joint. They all work to prevent shearing and excessive motion in the joints.

The local muscle system provides the firm foundation for the big force/torque producing muscles to generate their force (torque is simply force x radius).

Let’s take 3 common examples – the “core”, the shoulder and the hip.

The core is defined as the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis and lumbar multifidus. It is promosies that they work together to maintain lumbopelvic stability. But now every other muscle is being included – abs (obliques and rectus abdominis), lats, glutes, erector spinae etc etc. But these other muscles don’t stabilize. They may hold position but the control of shear and segmental stabilization is the work of the 4 core muscles.

In the shoulder, we have all heard of the rotator cuff but why don’t people claim the lats, teres major, pecs and deltoids as stability muscles? We seem to understand how the shoulder stability at the glenohumeral joints work…maybe not the scapulothoracic stability though 😕

In the hips, we go back to being bipolar again. The hip “cuff muscles” get augmented with glutes but the TFL is a problem muscle even though it is similar to glute medius. We claim glute Maximus as a stabiliser but not the quads or even just rectus femoris. We claim psoas as a back AND hip stabilizer but piriformis is a problem muscle.

It is all so confusing isn’t it?

And here is why…

…stability is NOT a rating of 0-10 where 0 is no stability and 10 is the most stable it can be. This is WRONG! If you can understand how this works, you will realise how screwed up the subliminal education, the beliefs of your teachers and coaches and the whole fitness industry in general is screwed up. I call this strategy “Harder-er is better-er!” (…I deliberately want to make it sound stupid!)

You see, people (probably you), think that stability is like this. You think that if activating the glutes a bit makes me stable, then activating the glutes MORE will make me MORE stable! And I can understand this. We are used to working hard for our gains. We believe that in life, you get what you put into it. We want a good meritocracy where hard work is rewarded. We ridicule those who don’t work as hard in the hope they will work “harder”.

All of your cues that have been taught to you have been like “knees out”, “shoulders down and back”, “back straight and chest up” etc etc. The problem with these cues are that if you haven’t been coached about them, you can end up “overcooking” the cues and end up with your knees too wide out past your feet and ankles (this Diane Fu photo of squats).

Stability is much more like a target. A range to hit. It requires the Goldilocks principle – not too little and not too much…just the right amount of stability at just the right time and with just the right amount of force.

Rather than stability being a scale of 0-10, think of it as being a scale from -5 to +5. You are trying to get the right amount of force happening. Too little and it won’t stabilize you. Too much and you will be overly compressed and unable to adapt to changes in loading requirements at all your joints.

Touch your nose. Your brain sorted it all out. You don’t have to think about contracting ANYTHING because your brain has got all that figured out for you! You don’t think of every muscle, every joint, how many degrees each joint has to move nor the ability to change the angles and adapt to load differences…you just think “touch your nose” and it happens!

Try this one. Get a dumbbell that is 5-10kg. Front raise it (straight arm forward flexion to 90deg). Now context your glutes as hard as you can, or tense your core, or put your shoulders down and back, or turn on your pelvic floor, or do whatever thing you want to test as a stability cue and front raise that dumbbell. If the cue is helpful, it will feel lighter. If it feels heavier, your AUTOMATIC strategy is BETTER than contracting the muscles. If it feels the same, it isn’t helping…you don’t necessarily need to do it!

I genuinely feel that this misconception about stability is rife. I know you are sitting there reading this going “duh, that’s pretty bloody obvious”…but then why do I have to retrain coaches, elite athletes, amateur athletes and basically everyone every day about this? Why is it that people tell me they understand stability the way I talk about it and want it but then when I watch them do the exercises, I have to sort out all the erroneous stability strategies they have.

This is part of the reason why I have been talking about matching the tension to the task (#tensiontotask) and relaxing before movement…I test to see if the brain can sort this out BEFORE I give you a cue to do!

If you disagree with me, let discuss it. I am keen to learn more and love a good debate!

Summary: Harder-er is NOT better-er!” Stability is a target to achieve with the Goldilocks principle – not too little and not too much…it has to be JUST RIGHT!

Why the love affair with resistance bands?

I am going to do something serious and disrespectful to resistance bands in the mobility world… I am going to call them out!

Resistance bands are a distraction at best and counterproductive and dangerous at worst. Don’t get me wrong, they are useful…for resistance! When used properly, they are very useful. They provide graded resistance and have been used in the powerlifting world to good effect.

What have resistance bands been used for in mobility and flexibility? To distract joints? To pull on muscles? To provide resistance? Just to stretch?

But why? Is it all bad? Is it all good?

Of course not. But at least know why you are doing something. It is fine to have a good reason given to you by someone of authority but does that reason apply to you? Know that reason!

Test/retest is used to show whether things have improved. This is good. But if it is only good for a short time, the resistance bands can become a ball and chain, tying you down to a long and frustrating routine of stretching and pulling and distracting joints and muscles. I have heard the stories and seen people spend a long time with all sorts of mobility aids…it is painful to watch!

So what do I recommend instead?

I have always maintained that you need to learn why your body doesn’t want to let that tension go. Your brain is actually quite smart and will unconsciously try to protect you from whatever it perceives as danger. So if your shoulders are tight, sometimes it isn’t just because the muscles or joint capsule are shortened. Sometimes it is because the joint feels “unstable” and the muscles are trying to protect the joint. I see this especially often in the hips and shoulders with tightened posterior capsules and overactive muscles. But I see this as being true all over the body.

When you take a joint that feels threatened with muscular imbalance and possibly feeling “unstable”, then add in a resistance band while trying to distract the joint…also known as pulling on a joint or making it *feel* unstable…and then wonder why it doesn’t get better!

That’s right, I believe resistance bands don’t solve a lot of problems because you don’t actually achieve what you set out to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, resistance bands and joint distractions are great and I actually use these techniques…but I choose who I do this to carefully. I go through a process of assessment and testing before making a diagnosis which may or may not result in using joint distractions as a treatment option. It would seem that a lot of people think that solving movement problems is easy…I have spent far too much money on my education and too much time studying and thinking about what I do to devalue what we do as diagnosticians.

If you want a good diagnosis, ask a good diagnostician. If you want solutions to your problems, ask a good therapist (I am a physiotherapist – find a good one!). There are good and bad in every profession. I fear the bad experience you may have had may taint your beliefs about us that are trying to do out best to help you…every time! So keep seeking good help.

But about those resistance bands…try instead to develop the stability in your joints. It is counter-intuitive but it works.

Here is just one simple thing to try…test something that is tight, restricted, “heavy” or painful. Now press on something like a rib in your underarms. Then retest and keep trying different places. This won’t work for everyone so don’t fret – if it was easy to diagnose things from a blog, you would pay to read this! If you find the movement feels better, looser, freer, lighter or less painful, then I will bet my bottom dollar that you need more stability training.

Do I think you need to give up resistance bands for stretching? If you have been doing it for ages and you STILL have restriction, then yes! If you like the feeling of temporary release, then go for it – carefully! Otherwise SOLVE the problem and work out what needs stability and release and enjoy the benefits.

Please feel free to ask questions below – tell me about your situation and what isn’t improving..

5 Tips On How To Improve Your Overhead Squats

IMG_9311Overhead squats (OHS) are a difficult movement. They seem so simple – simply keep your arms and weight above your head while you squat…but they challenge the motor control systems of the body in the best possible way…which is why I love them as an assessment and as a movement.

They may or may not appear in the CrossFit Open as they haven’t been in since 2011 – they are a challenging movement for people to complete…they usually show up at Regionals and The Games.

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