How To Get Strong (Part 2)

Last month, I wrote about how to get strong and why we need it. I focused on the mechanics of how strength training works (this article can be found here). However, there was a gaping hole in my article as word count timed me out. The missing element was, well, what on earth do we do to get strong? 

Understanding the mechanisms by which we get strong is fine, but how do we go about it? The nutritional equivalent of this would be how understanding the physiology of digestion is one thing, but knowing what to put on your plate is another.

Today's article will teach you what to put on your plate.

With strength training for beginners, I like to keep it simple. In life, we push stuff, we pull stuff, we squat (bend mostly at the knee), we hinge (bend mostly at the hip), and we twist. All we need to do is target these five fundamental patterns, and we have most elements of strength covered. 

Push: The push motion involves driving weight away from your body. This simple action can be the foundation for developing strong shoulders, triceps, and chest muscles.

Beginner: Wall Push-Up

Stand facing a wall, place your hands flat against it, and push your body away. As you gain strength, increase the angle to make it more challenging.

Intermediate: Standard Push-Up

With hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and feet together, lower your body down and push yourself back up. Ensure your body forms a straight line. Start from your knees to begin with if it’s too difficult from the feet.

Advanced: Bench Press

For the bench press, you'll need a bench and a barbell. Lie back and press the weight upwards, engaging your chest.

Pull

Pulling actions engage the back, biceps, and shoulders. These movements involve bringing weight towards your body or pulling your body toward a weight.

Beginner: Band Pull-Apart

Hold a resistance band with both hands in front of you. Keep your arms straight and pull the band apart, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Focus on keeping your shoulder blades low, and not letting your shoulders hitch up towards your ears.

Intermediate: Inverted Body Row

Using a Smith machine or TRX bands in the gym, lie beneath the bar or handles. Pull yourself up, keeping your body in a straight line.

Advanced: Pull-Up or Chin-Up

Grab a pull-up bar with palms facing away (pull-up) or towards you (chin-up). Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. This is a tough movement to do, and gyms often have machines that can assist you to help build up to it.

Squat

Squats primarily target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They replicate the natural motion of sitting down and standing up.

Beginner: Chair Squat

Stand in front of a chair. Lower yourself down until your buttocks touch the chair, then stand back up.

Intermediate: Bodyweight Squat

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as if sitting in an invisible chair, then return to standing.

Advanced: Barbell Back Squat

With a barbell resting on your upper traps, descend into a squat, maintaining an upright chest and then drive back up.

Hip Hinge

The hip hinge focuses on the posterior chain, particularly the glutes and hamstrings. This motion is akin to bowing or bending forward at the hips.

Beginner: Glute Bridge

Lying on your back with knees bent, push through your heels to lift your hips off the ground.

Intermediate: Kettlebell Deadlift

Stand with a kettlebell between your feet. Push your hips back keeping your back straight, grasp the kettlebell, and stand up by extending your hips.

Advanced: Barbell Deadlift

With feet hip-width apart, bend and grasp a barbell, keeping it close to your shins. Push through your heels, engaging the glutes and hamstrings to stand.

Twist

Rotational movements or twists work the obliques and help in stabilising the spine. They're essential for movements in daily life.

Beginner: Cable Woodchop

Using a cable machine, set the handle high. Stand sideways, grasp the handle with both hands and pull it diagonally across your body to the opposite knee.

Intermediate: Standing Band Rotation

Anchor a resistance band at chest height. Stand perpendicular to the anchor point, grasp the band with both hands, and rotate your torso away.

Advanced: Seated Russian Twist

Sit on the ground, lean back slightly, and rotate your torso side to side, hold a lightweight to make it harder if you want to.

To build these movements into a workout, just pick one exercise from each pattern, and do three sets of each, with a 90-second rest in between each set. At least one of the sets should feel very hard, meaning that you push as much as you can; this is the thing that stimulates strength improvements in your body. Doing this once a week is enough, but two or three times a week is better.

You’ll notice that some of these movements require a gym. It is entirely possible to build a strength routine at home with little or no equipment, but I do think gyms are a more efficient place to get strong. Gyms are very welcoming and ask your friends to see where they go.

Of all the elements of fitness, strength is the one that is most likely to reduce your risk of injury, and this is why I am so interested in it as an osteopath.

While there is a growing trend of strength and fitness in the modern world, many of my patients still don't practice strength training on a weekly basis. This article will be the place I send them when they don't know where to start. And as with all these habits of health, starting is the most important part. If pain or injury are holding you back, we can help in my clinic with our team of osteopaths and sports massage therapists. We all love to help people build their fitness routines to help their wellbeing.

And until next time, have a healthy and happy week! 😊🙏

How To Get Strong

If I were to write one article that would do me out of a job, this would be it.

As an osteopath, I treat people's aches and pains. If you want to know the number one thing that reduces your risk of injury, and helps you to overcome injury faster, it's this:

Get strong.

That's it. Get stronger. It really is that simple.

Having strength protects your joints and gives your tissues resilience to strain. It improves your balance and makes you less likely to fall. It also builds muscle, which helps a whole host of metabolic and hormonal functions around the body.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, there is one caveat.

I'm asking you to train for the rest of your life.

As long as you are alive, you need to do strength training. Sorry.

Think of it like showering. Did you take a shower in 2013 and call it a day? No. It's an on-going process of self-care.

You need to aim for at least one day a week (although three days would be best) ... for the rest of your life. But, it will be fun! I can promise that.

So, how do you get strong? 

When I'm taking a case history with my patients and ask them if they do any strength training, the most common answer I get is, 'yes, I walk every day'. Walking is like a superfood for the body. It's wonderful. It is fantastic low-intensity cardio that helps us live longer and clears the mind. It is not, however, strength training.

What about HIIT training, yoga or Pilates? Well, we're getting closer, but there are some very specific features that make a workout strength training. If we're not careful, our training can fall into the 'muscular endurance' bucket, or the 'anaerobic conditioning' bucket.

To optimise your training for strength, you need to think about three things:

  1. Time under tension
  2. Relative perceived exertion
  3. Rest

'Time under tension' is the time your muscle fibres are under tension in your training. This is where 'reps' and 'sets' come in. Each time you move a weight (or your body), this is a rep. Once you have done as many reps as you can, this is a set. 

We can go a little deeper than this and improve the quality of our time under tension by thinking about how we do our reps. We can label our reps with four numbers. The first number is how long it takes to lower the weight. The second number is how long we pause before changing direction. The third number is how long it takes to push the weight. And the fourth is the rest at the starting position. A good rep might be something like '4-1-1-1' where we take four seconds to lower the weight (this is known as the eccentric phase, and it's where we cause the most stress to the muscle), take a one-second pause in the deepest part of the rep (I like to take a breath and check my posture here), explode the weight for one-second with power and control, then take a one-second pause at the top (I do another mental check-in for posture here too). 

To begin with, three sets of about ten repetitions per movement would be perfect, but this leads us to the next point; relative perceived exertion.

Relative perceived exertion (RPE), is the fancy way of saying 'how hard do I think I am working?'. In order for something to get us stronger, we need to be working in the 9/10 to 10/10 range. As a complete beginner, you might want to start with 7/10 or 8/10, just while you are refining your technique.

Above, I said that three sets of ten reps is a good approach for your strength movements, so you need to adjust the weight to find your tenth rep a 9 or 10/10 on the RPE scale. If you can do more reps, then increase the weight, if you find it too hard, reduce the weight. More advanced strength trainers will use lower rep counts like 5 or 3 reps per set, or even 1-rep-max attempts, but to begin with, aiming to max out your RPE at 10 reps is a good goal.

Between each set, you need to rest. Once you hit your maximum RPE, all your fibres in a muscle have been recruited and they need a little rest before they can fire again. If you go too soon, your muscles won't be ready, and you won't be optimising for strength; you will be targeting muscular endurance. There are times when this might be what you want, but if you want to get strong, use at least a 90-second rest between sets (advanced athletes may even need up to five minutes).

Now we can look back and answer the question about HIIT, yoga and Pilates. While these things can get us stronger compared to not doing any training, and they can improve our anaerobic fitness, balance and flexibility (all very good and important elements of health), unless they get you to an RPE of 10/10 and you take a rest of 90-seconds before moving again, they are not optimising for strength.

I think of health like a puzzle, and we need all the pieces of the puzzle. Walking is low-intensity cardio. Running and cycling etc, are higher intensity cardio. Yoga and Pilates are great for body control, flexibility, and balance. HIIT is anaerobic fitness. And strength is strength. And that's not even mentioning all the mental well-being and even spiritual benefits all these forms of exercise bring.

To be clear, all these forms of exercise are fantastic; no one thing is better than anything else, they all have a place in our life. But if you want to avoid trips to the osteopath, there is only one winner, and that's to get strong. In my clinic, it is our greatest joy to help get people back to living an active life, free of pain. If you are struggling and want to get back to a more active lifestyle, please get in touch 😊

Do You Even Need To Stretch?

Regular readers of mine will not be surprised to hear that I love to stretch. I find myself wriggling around every day, gently testing range of motion in my muscles and joints, exploring my body through movement. I find it helps my body feel energised and my mind calm. As an osteopath, I prescribe stretches on a daily basis, and my patients come back reporting that the stretches help their injuries and improve their movement patterns.

So you can imagine the mild sense of panic I felt this week as I was reading a New Scientist article that questioned whether we even need to be stretching at all!

The opening paragraphs noted that scientific research hasn’t definitively found that stretching prevents injury, and it doesn’t seem to be a factor in helping us live longer either.

So if stretching doesn’t prevent injury, nor does it contribute to longevity, what is the point of it, and why does it feel so good?

Well, for starters, it helps us undo the effects of our modern convenience tool, the chair. Sitting for more than 4 hours a day has been shown to significantly reduce hip flexibility. Sitting at a computer busy on a keyboard also impacts our upper backs and shoulders. Stretching regularly can undo these effects and bring us back to a good baseline level of flexibility.

Maintaining a half-decent baseline of movement is important for day-to-day tasks, but what if you enjoy fitness training or sport? Do you need to stretch more?

Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to stretch for longer periods of time, but you may need to think about how you stretch.

My favourite line of the New Scientist article was a quote from exercise scientist James Nuzzo. He says, “we need to get it out of our minds this notion that stretching holds a monopoly on the lengthening of tendons and muscles”. Ah, now this is right up my street. There are plenty of ways to get more flexible, and it turns out the traditional way of holding stretches (like trying to touch your toes) is a pretty inefficient way to get there. A much better way, particularly when it comes to sport, is to use movements that mimic the thing you are about to do. Use lots of variations and gradually increase the range of motion. You can even add load to the stretch to enhance it.

So if you are a footballer, you need to use running, agility drills and kicking-type movements. If you are a weightlifter, use squat variations for your hips and hang from a bar for your shoulders.

It turns out stretching has other benefits too. Interestingly, the act of taking our body through full range of motion doesn’t just help our musculoskeletal system; it also helps our arteries. The mechanism isn’t fully understood yet, but it seems that stretching also improves the elasticity of our blood vessels, and this can help prevent heart disease.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that stretching does speed up recovery from injury too. While traditional stretching doesn’t necessarily prevent injury, it can speed up recovery when one is injured because it helps turn off the inflammatory response in the tissues. So my patients haven’t been lying to me; it really does help!

Thankfully, to get these benefits of improved flexibility, a healthier cardiovascular system and speedier recovery from injury, you don’t need the Instagramable forward bend where you can rest your head on your shins; you just need a consistent, gentle movement practice that tests your boundaries a little. You don’t need to be top of your yoga class, but it would help everyone to have a practice two or three times a week that keeps them mobile.

And lastly, I don’t need any scientific research to tell me that connecting with my body through movement just feels good! Not only for my body, but also for my mind. I feel calm, grounded, connected. These abstract words that don’t neatly fit into a scientific paper. No matter what the science says, I know I will have a mobility practice for the rest of my life, and I hope you do too.

Should You Train Through An Injury?

A question I often get asked is, ‘can I keep training with this injury?’. Many of my patients are passionate about their fitness pursuits, and the thought of missing a week or more of training is upsetting to them.

I can sympathise with this because I love to train too. I am currently training for an ultramarathon, and during my plan, I have had three niggles that I was convinced would stick with me until the race.

Well, thankfully, the short answer is, ‘yes’, you can train through injury. In my case, I made a few adjustments to my plan, and I was able to keep up with my weekly mileage whilst the injuries recovered. I am now back to running injury-free and I didn’t take any rest.

Before we get into it, I want to make a little caveat to this article; the advice here should be taken carefully. Some injuries should be rested, and I do advise this from time to time. I will try my best to explain how to train through pain, but if you are ever in doubt, seek advice from a professional.

With that said, yes, you can train through (most) injuries. The reason for this is that science is starting to realise that recovery from injury largely happens in the brain. There are cellular changes that need to happen locally in a damaged tissue, which is facilitated by the nervous and immune systems, but the way the brain processes what has happened and how it coordinates the body in response to the injury is perhaps a more important factor in one’s recovery.

When you are training, you are sending information up to the brain that helps it reconfigure your movement patterns, and this also helps coordinate the response from the immune system.

The other important benefit of continuing to exercise is that you are staying strong. Strength (or lack of it) is the number one predictor of one’s risk of injury. It’s important to note that strength is task-specific, so if you are a runner, it is important to stay ‘running strong’, and the best way to do that is to run!

The way I think about problems in the body is that if we are taking two steps forward and only one step back, we’re winning. So the goal when training is to not aggravate the system so much that you’re taking two steps forwards and two steps back.

If you are injured, I have a few rules to follow which should help you win the battle:

  1. Try to find a way to adapt your training to not aggravate the injury. With gym work, this is easy because you can always take out the movement patterns that aggravate the pain. For example, if you have a shoulder injury that doesn’t like overhead press but can cope with bench press and pull-downs, you can keep training your shoulders by avoiding the overhead press movement. Often, strengthening the joint with planes of motion that don’t cause pain will help the plane that is struggling.You can play with other variables too. Reducing the load, the speed and the range of motion can activate the muscles and joints in a way that is safer. Over time, you can increase these variables back to their original levels.With running, this can be a bit trickier. One of my injuries was a foot problem which caused stabbing pain in the ball of my foot each time it hit the ground. This isn’t ideal as a runner because my feet often need to hit the floor! I found a way to manage it, though, by changing my gait to more of a ‘waddle’, running on trails instead of roads and reducing my speed. Although this was a much slower run, I was getting the miles in, which helped me stay on track for the ultra.
  1. Pay attention to the first few minutes of your session, and things should get easier. If they progressively get worse, that is probably your body’s way of asking you to stop. Most problems get a bit easier when you are warmed up, and this is a sign that you can continue, but listen to the language of your body and stop if you need to.
  1. Get treatment and do the rehab. Getting a good diagnosis, hands-on treatment, and personalised exercises from a professional can help accelerate the recovery process. The body is a healing machine, and anything we can do to enhance the body’s natural power will increase the likelihood that an injury will recover even if you are training on it.

Are there any times that you shouldn’t exercise through injury? Yes, of course! Everything I have spoken about above involves adapting your training in a way where you manage the pain to prevent it from getting worse. This often involves reducing the intensity significantly to find a level of training that works for you.

Sometimes, however, this isn’t possible. This is why I often advise my patients to avoid matches, races and team events where the intensity is out of their control. It’s one thing to train on your own in an intelligent, controlled way, but another to ramp up the intensity and put your body at risk.

If pain and injury are holding you back, we can help in this clinic. We also like to discuss lifestyle factors, not just to get you out of pain but to live a healthy life with well-being as a priority.

3 Mental Models That Keep Me Sane

Although I normally fill this page with advice about how to look after your physical wellbeing and reduce pain, in recent weeks my most notable struggles with health have been in the mind.

I like to think of health like a circle. The circle consists of our diet, exercise, sleep, social life, relationships and mental wellbeing. There are experts out there to help you with each one of these facets, and although I am not a mental health expert, I can’t ignore it either because it is intrinsically linked to your physical health, and that’s where I can help.

I am very interested in philosophy and ideas that make our lives better. During these tough times recently, I’ve found myself falling to a few specific mental models that have made things a little more bearable.

Interestingly, as I start to feel better mentally, I find myself choosing to exercise and stretch more which makes me feel better physically, which in turn makes me feel even better mentally. There’s that health circle in action, you see!

Here are my three favourite mental models to help during the tougher days:

  1. What if we lived to be 1000 years old?

Many of life’s hardships feel hard because they happen so infrequently in our lifetimes. This lockdown and the global response to a pandemic is unprecedented in living memory. But what if we lived to be 1000 years old? This pandemic would just be another one to deal with, and if we were living in the latter half of our long life, we would have seen quite a few of these!

I like this as an idea because it helps me remember that we are not unique and that humanity has survived things just like this time and time again.

  1. Imagine things to be much, much worse.

A branch of philosophy I have been gaining many life lessons from recently is Stoicism. One of the threads of Stoicism is something they call ‘negative visualisation’.

The idea behind it is simple, but it goes against much of the ‘positive thinking’ movement that has been popular for the last couple of decades. All you do with negative visualisation, is take the situation you are in right now and imagine it to be much, much worse. Once you are there in your mind’s eye, ask yourself, how much would you want to be back right where you are in this moment, just dealing with these meagre problems?

When you realise that life could be much worse than it is right now, even if it feels tough, it brings a sense of gratitude for the present moment.

  1. The present moment is enough, make sure you notice it.

I have found myself on many occasions during this whole COVID fiasco wishing it to be over. There has been a sense that life is ‘on hold’ until we can get back to normal. But actually, life is happening right here in this moment, all you have to do is notice.

Paying close attention to the present moment, whether it’s good or bad, helps you realise that right now, you are coping. Right now, can be beautiful. This moment is enough.

Being mindful helps me stop wishing time away. I’m not hoping to get to the other side as quickly as possible, I’m just paying attention to the tapestry of life with all the good and all the bad.

Applying these three models (and a few others I have tucked up my sleeve) helps me to stay sane. As I said above, this helps me feel motivated to exercise and it keeps me calm as a husband and father.

Working on this strategically helps keep my ‘circle of health’ balanced, and I hope it helps you too.

Runner’s Knee Rehab Tips

Runner’s Knee can affect runners of all abilities and can be one of the more frustrating injuries. Confusingly, Runner’s Knee is a term that refers to one of two problems; iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS), or patellofemoral syndrome.

ITBFS is where the lower part of the iliotibial band, a connective tissue that runs down the side of the thigh, can become irritated by the repetitive nature of running. Patellofemoral syndrome is an irritation to the joint between the kneecap (the patella) and the thigh bone (the femur).

You can easily tell the difference because ITBFS is found on the outside of the knee and patellofemoral syndrome occurs at the front of the knee. Both problems typically build up gradually and occur the more you run, they don’t normally come on suddenly. They also don’t click or lock, so if you have knee pain that came on traumatically, or if it clicks or locks, the advice in this article is probably not for you.

If you have one of the runner’s knee problems though, there are a few things you can do to help it.

What Are The Causes Of Runner’s Knee?

Both problems are most commonly caused by having too much movement in something we call the ‘frontal plane’. This is the side-to-side motion of our body. When our foot hits the floor in walking and running, our knee bends a bit and it drops inwards a bit. This dropping inwards is known as ‘frontal plane motion’. It’s entirely normal to have frontal plane motion in walking and running, but it can be excessive on one side, and this is what causes problems.

There are two main reasons why this might be happening; firstly, if the foot is overpronating as it hits the floor, it drives the tibia (the shin bone) inwards, thus driving the knee in. Secondly, if there is weakness in the lateral glute muscles behind the hip, that causes instability of the femur, which also allows the knee to drop too far inwards.

Diagnosing Runner’s Knee

As with all pains in the body, it is best to see a professional to help you understand what is causing your problem because sometimes it is tricky to see yourself! If however, you have quite asymmetrical feet and one rolls in much more than the other, it may be likely that the foot is the culprit. Or if you feel unbalanced or weak in certain leg exercises, maybe it’s the hips that are at fault. Sometimes, the problem may only show up when running. In the clinic, we film people running outside with a special app on an iPad, and this is the way we can diagnose where the problem is coming from.

Exercises To Help Runner’s Knee

With all that being said, the exercises I’ll outline below will help most runners, whether you have pain or not. The only group of people that may not want to do them are those I mentioned earlier who have clicking, locking or a traumatic onset of knee pain.

Movement is hard to put into words, or at least it’s hard to put into a few words, so I will let the picture do most of the talking. I have also made a video with more explanation, which you can view here on our YouTube Channel.

If you are suffering from Runner’s Knee, it is helpful to keep the quadriceps (the muscles at the front of the thigh) stretched and the ITB treated with a roller. You may also find strengthening the glutes to be helpful. There are many ways to do this, but using a resistance band can be a useful tool because it leaves no hiding places for the glutes – they can’t ‘cheat’! Here I show a basic hip extension exercise and a standing ‘fire hydrant’ exercise (imagine a dog peeing on a fire hydrant!).

By keeping the tissues supple and the hips strong, this can help to mitigate the problem.

Why Did I Get Runner’s Knee?

In many cases, stretching the area and keeping it strong is enough to reduce symptoms, but an osteopath’s favourite question is ‘why?’. Why did it start in the first place? Why were the tissues tight? Why was the knee dropping in? Why were the glutes weak? Why does the foot overpronate?

If you try these exercises and the pain persists, it may help you to see an expert where we can help to answer the ‘why’ question and give you a personalised plan for recovery. Read more about knee pain here or book an appointment online.

And in the meantime, keep on running!

What Pillow Should You Use? And Other Questions To An Osteopath…

With so much information at our fingertips these days, looking after our health can be confusing.

As an osteopath, part of my job is to help people navigate this landscape (or ‘minefield’, depending on your level of confusion!) of information and help them on their health journey.

Today I’m going to run through some of the most common questions I get asked related to back health.

  1. What mattress should I use?

The answer to this question is so simple, you’ll kick yourself for ever having questioned it. Here goes…

Whichever mattress feels the most comfortable!

It doesn’t have to be memory foam, but it could be. It could have springs, or have a topper on it. Try them out, and the one that is the most comfortable is the one for you. Comfort is your brain’s way of saying, ‘that works for me, pick that one!’.

My only piece of advice when it comes to buying a new mattress is to choose one that has a trial. Many come with a 30, 40 or even 100-day trial now, so choose a brand that offers this before you invest.

We must also remember that many neck and back problems ache more during the night and first thing in the morning, it’s just the nature of them. If you are experiencing this, I always say, ‘fix your back before you blame your mattress’. A healthy spine can sleep anywhere.

  1. How many pillows should I use?

Much like the answer above, it comes down to whatever’s the most comfortable. Don’t buy into the idea of needing to keep your spine perfectly straight. Adverts keep popping up on my Facebook feed selling the ‘perfect’ pillow that keeps your spine precisely aligned. It’s a myth! You don’t need it.

Even when you are asleep, your brain has enough awareness to move you when things become uncomfortable. We move anywhere between 40 and 70 times a night, so even if you start with a perfectly straight spine, you’re not going to stay there!

Most people just need one pillow that feels comfortable to them. Some people with flexed upper backs or really broad shoulders may want two, but let comfort be your guide. Don’t worry about the fancy adverts that tell you about spine alignment, just do what works for you.

  1. Should I exercise through pain?

In the clinic, we treat many people who are passionate about their sport and exercise. When they come in with injury, their first question is often, ‘when can I get back to training?’.

Thankfully, in the vast majority of cases, the answer is straight away.

There are a few caveats though, and it’s important to follow them. It’s well documented that movement helps us heal (regular readers of mine can parrot my mantra, ‘movement is medicine, motion is the lotion!’), but you must be a bit careful when injured.

My rule is, if it doesn’t cause pain at the time, or cause more ache after training, you’re good to go. If, however, you feel acute, ‘catching’ pain with exercise, or it makes you ache a lot after training, you know you’ve crossed the line.

Depending on how severe your injury, or what stage of recovery you’re in, will dictate how much you have to adapt your normal training routine. I treat some people who are in acute pain but still manage to do some gentle exercise, it just has to be regressed a lot from what they normally do. People who have more mild niggles can almost do their normal workouts with only a few small adjustments.

Seeing an osteopath not only gets you better faster with our hands-on treatment, but we also offer advice so that you can feel safe that you can get back to training quickly and safely.

  1. Does clicking in my joints cause arthritis?

Thankfully, no. As one piece of information taken on its own, clicking is really nothing to worry about. Some people are just clicky! It’s most likely little pockets of gas being created within a joint, or sliding surfaces of connective tissue unsticking from each other. It can sound weird, but it’s nothing to worry about.

If you have clicking and pain however, that’s worth getting checked out, but this doesn’t happen very often.

  1. What’s the best sitting and desk posture?

The research is very clear on this; there is no such thing as a perfect sitting or desk posture, you just have to vary your position as much as you can.

Getting up from a chair regularly is by far the most helpful thing you can do to look after your joints if you have a desk job or find yourself sitting at home a lot. Our bodies crave movement. Weight-bearing movement squishes fluid in and out of joints which brings nutrients and clears waste. It helps unstick our connective tissues and it sends neurological information up to our brains.

Often, when I explain this, people say, ‘yeah, but slouching is bad though, right?’. And my answer is, ‘not necessarily’. I tell my patients to implement something I call ‘systemised fidgeting’. It’s okay to slouch for a little while, as long as you counter it by sitting up nice and straight. You can sit twisted slightly to the left, as long as you then spin so you are twisted to the right. You can have your legs stretched out, but then spend some time with them tucked right underneath you.

The worst thing is to have a ‘habit’. If you sit in the same position day in day out, that’s what can turn into a problem over time, so embrace the fidget!

The list of questions could go on and on, but that’s enough for one day. If you have a specific question about physical health that you would like answered in these pages, always feel free to email [email protected].

Why Forté Physical Health Is The Best Answer For You

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Pigeon Pose Tips And Tricks

Benefits Of The Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is one of my favourite stretches!

I call it a ‘keystone stretch’ because the pigeon pose helps to unlock so many things. The stretch primarily targets the glutes and the piriformis, but it will also be helping some of the deep rotators of the hip. Some of these muscles have connective tissue attachments to the lower lumbar ligaments and to something called the ‘thoracolumbar fascia’ which spans from the pelvis to the thorax.

So you can see why I call it a keystone stretch! Loosening the back of the hip and pelvis really can have a huge impact on the rest of the body. (For the anatomy geeks among you, check out the muscles of the hip here.)

How To Do The Pigeon Pose

We call it a ‘pose’, but really I don’t think of it that way. I prefer to think of it as a framework to help explore my body through movement.

Here are some of the little nuances and tricks I use to engage with the tissues a bit more and to find the bits that need the stretch the most.

I often recommend the pigeon pose to help unlock a stiff lower back, tight hips, or if someone is either very active with exercise, or very sedentary with lots of sitting.

The stretch can be fairly intense, so it is not always recommended if you are in acute pain and it is best to check with your osteopath to see if it is right for you. Always follow the principle that a stretch should feel ‘nice’. If it becomes sore, stop until you get to see your health professional.

You can find out more about how we treat back pain here and hip pain here.

If you want to see how the pigeon pose might fit into a complete hip stretching routine, have a look at this video.