Saturday, September 29, 2012

Training Opposing Positions for the Seated Client

There are certain small things in my training that I believe make me different from many other trainers that I meet within my geographical area of competition. I stand by many certain methods that I believe are tried and true and do not compromise them if I don't have to. For instance...

No client ever performs seated exercises in my facility.

This is important to me. Why? I understand that a majority of my clients (that means close to 98%) sit all day--either in front of a desk, computer, TV or car--and develop poor postural patterns that cause pain and discomfort. Although they use "blanket" statements like 'low back pain' or 'shoulder thing'; some of these symptoms are generated by inactivity and poor posture. I realize that I need to train their bodies in the opposite fashion that they keep it for the majority of the day. To take an overweight client who sits all day and have them perform seated shoulder presses, chest presses, or anything that places their body in a static hip/thorasic flexed position is detrimental to making them feel better and get stronger. 

Anyone that sits for long periods follows the same criteria at differing levels:
  • Forward head
  • Upper-cross syndome - abducted scapula
  • Kyphotic posture
  • IT band tightness/irritation
  • Tight hip flexors
  • Weak/atrophied glutes
I know this seems like its nothing ground-breaking, but I do catch some trainers having their clients perform exercises in a seated fashion when the client does exhibit one or more of those physical attributes. The last thing I want to do with a receptionist who sits all day is get her in a spinning class or on a recumbent bike. Stay in any position long enough and they are molded into that shape permanently. 


The key is to practice extension repeatedly during training. If the body is repeatedly placed in a flexed position for 8-10 hours, then the training program calls for training the muscles in the opposite pattern.
  • Seated > Standing
  • Prone > Supine
  • 2 Leg > Single Leg
  • Parallel stance > Staggered Stance
  • Standing > Locomotive

So what are some exercises that I include in training my clients?

Front Loaded Standing Cable Press



I like this exercise because the most important aspect is to maintain scapula control (retraction). Due to the line of pull being located in the front,  scapular retraction really needs to be maintained. This is a control function that is lost when individuals are seated all day in a slump. The most important coaching cue for this movement is [for the trainer] to position yourself to the side of the client and make sure the path of concentric motion stays vertically linear [as close as possible]. If the arms fall forward excessively, the load may be too much and it defeats the purpose of the exercise. 

Walking Lunge with Overhead Loading


I already know what you are thinking...walking lunges are difficult for anyone. That is true. However, I did write a cool blog post on how to improve your lounge form in 4 easy steps HERE. The walking lunge is a great locomotive-style movement that works the lower body in a contra-lateral fashion. While the lead leg is generating force;  the back thigh is lengthened to stretch the hip flexor. Why the overhead loading? Whether it is a barbell, dumbbell, sandbag, kettlebells or bag filled with water, locking out the elbows and performing  lunges with a load locked above challenges the core and puts the thorasic spine (rib cage) in extension. Although it is in a position of flexion for most of the day, the rib cage must extend during lock-out by order of engaging the scapular stabilizers. Hence,  the load overhead.

Deep Breath Rib Cage Drill


Diaphragmatic breathing is becoming very popular in the fitness circles. However, the reality is you are not going to change the breathing patterns of a 53-year old postal worker or a 47-year old female hairdresser. Breathing is an autonomous action governed by the nervous system. You are not going to change how one breathes simply by coaching them to use their diaphragm instead of their chest. The most effective coaching will not alter how one breathes during the day--especially under duress, stress,or excitement. So how can you improve their breathing patterns by eliciting the diaphragm and inhibiting the rib-cage? Lock it up. I love this Deep Breath Rib Cage drill as a recovery set in between strength exercises or as a cool-down finisher  The position with arms crossed atop a bench in a pseudo-quadruped position "locks up" the chest and opens it. The arms in this position pull the rib cage into extension and allows the client to forcefully breath  using the belly.

Add these exercises into your client programming where you see fit. Not everyone should be able to complete them easily, so use precautions.


1 comment:

  1. Breathing - I don´t understand why you PT´s always argue that it is improper to breath through the thorax. Think the opposite - not stimulate high breathing will paralyze the thorax with time. During "fight or flight" situations a high breathing pattern is fundamental to maximize the air volume and to brace the thoracic spine. When not in adrenalin mode we should use a more diaphragm oriented breathing. Breathing should be adjustable just as life.

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