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  • 6 Ways to Improve T-Spine Mobility and Prevent Injury

    Who knew that "working from home" still meant slouching in front of a computer for hours? Extended periods in one position can leave you feeling super stiff and even in pain. Taking a break to work on your thoracic strength and mobility will make you feel good as new. Improve the flexibility and strength of your T-spine so you can better your posture, protect yourself from injury, and even enhance many of your workouts. What's in a spine? The spine is made up of 5 different sections. The vertebrae (spinal bones) in each section vary in shape/ size and serve slightly different functions. The 5 sections of the spine are cervical (7 vertebrae), thoracic (12 vertebrae), lumbar (5 vertebrae), sacrum (5 fused vertebrae), and the coccyx bone (4 fused vertebrae). How does T-spine mobility affect injury prevention? The human body is a giant chain, and each chain link must be intact and functional for the integrity of the structure to work efficiently. There are certain areas/joints whose main purpose is to provide stability, while others have the purpose to provide mobility. If we focus on the spine, we see that the cervical spine (making up the neck) is built to provide stability. Moving down the chain, the thoracic spine (middle back) is meant to be mobile, and the lumbar spine (lower back) also requires stability. If any of these sections aren’t doing their job, the surrounding structures in the chain will compensate. For example, if we lack mobility in the thoracic spine, the lumbar spine as well as the pelvis and shoulder musculature might compensate. Sounds like a problem solved right? ... Nope. Now we put ourselves at risk for issues including (but not limited to) low back or neck pain. Over time, stress builds in these areas from overcompensating to pick up the slack of the thoracic spine. Today we will dive into how to mobilize and strengthen the thoracic spine and surrounding musculature. The thoracic spine, as stated above, is built for mobility. It provides us with flexion, extension, and rotation. With that in mind, we will be moving through all of those planes of motion for both our mobility drills and strength exercises. Top 3 mobility drills you can do at home Mobility Drill 1 • Cat-Cow Start on all fours in the quadruped position. Be sure that your hands are directly below your shoulders, and your knees directly below the hips. Inhale and draw your chin to your chest while rounding out your middle back as much as possible. Take your time moving through this. Once you’ve achieved thoracic flexion, exhale as you bring your gaze forward, push through the ground with your arms/shoulders, and extend through your middle back as much as possible. Repeat 8-10 times. Mobility Drill 2 • Open book/ Open book with reach For this one, start side-lying with one leg supported by a foam roller or anything you can find around the house to use as a bolster. The idea is to get the hips stacked on top of one another and keep them there throughout the drill. Notice that the hip and the knee are both flexed at a 90-degree angle. Also, note that the hips stay lined up with the shoulders and the head and neck are relaxed. Open Book (first two reps) - Bring your hands together in front of you, with your palms facing in. Without letting your knee leave the roller/ bolster, open up allowing your head and neck to travel with the moving arm and rotate as much as you can to the opposite side. It’s okay if you can’t touch the ground on the other side! Focus on pushing into the foam roller with your knee, and keeping the hips stacked. Then open up as much as your t-spine will allow you. Repeat 5 times on each side. Open Book w/ Reach (second two reps) - The starting position for this one is the same. Instead of simply opening up and rotating from one side to the other, you will start by reaching the top hand past the bottom hand. Make sure your hips stay stacked and reach up and over your head doing the best you can to keep contact with the ground. Again, the priority is to keep your knee down so if you can’t touch the floor quite yet, that’s okay! Repeat 5 times on each side. Mobility Drill 3 • Thoracic extension on a foam roller Set up with the foam roller underneath the bottom of your shoulder blades, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Set your hips by rotating your pelvis posteriorly (backward). Be sure to keep your hips like this throughout the entirety of the exercise to ensure that your abdominals stay active and keep the low back from taking all of the stress. Cross your arms on your chest and pull your elbows in so that they point to the ceiling; this pulls the shoulder blades up and out of the way so that we can focus on a t-spine extension. Slowly extend back over the roller until you feel a stretch in your middle back. You may not have much movement here, and that’s okay. Repeat 5-6 times. Why is it important to strengthen after you mobilize? After completing your mobility drills, you may have gained some range of motion (ROM) and be feeling a bit looser. That's great, but it’s not enough. If you stop there, you have no chance of creating an effect that will last. What’s the point then? The reason we complete mobility drills is to open up a window of increased ROM. During this time, the best thing we can do is take advantage of this short window of mobility and strengthen the muscles supporting the thoracic spine. This goes for any type of mobility work: stretching, manual therapy (massage), foam rolling, etc. All of these things will leave you feeling better in the moment, but won’t last without putting in the extra work. If you stay consistent, then you will see improvements in posture as well as pain and of course, mobility. Top 3 strength exercises to do at home Strength Exercise 1 • Multiplanar chops Transverse - For this one, you will need a resistance band. If you don’t have one just practice going through the motions until you can get back to the gym. Tie the band around a post at shoulder height and stand to the side of the anchor point, far enough away so that there is no slack in the band. Clasp your hands together to hold onto the band and extend your arms straight out in front of you. The focus here is rotating through the t-spine, so we will be keeping our feet and hips anchored/ facing forward. Do your best to keep your elbows straight, and rotate your shoulders away from the anchor point until you can’t turn any further without turning your hips. Return to start position and repeat 8-10 times on each side. High-to-low - to add variety to this exercise change the anchor point to about eye-level, and rotate from high to low. Notice the grip is different for this one, the hands will be about shoulder-width apart and grabbing the band almost as if grabbing onto a bar. Remember to keep the hips facing forward, elbows straight, and rotate through the shoulders. Repeat 8-10 times on each side. Low-to-high - Now set your anchor point below the hips and follow the same steps, only from low-to-high this time. Repeat 8-10 times on each side. Strength Exercise 2 • Seated Wall Slides Sit on the floor against a wall with the knees slightly bent. Scoot close to the wall so that your low back/ tail bone is in contact with the wall. Next, make sure that your middle back and head are also in contact with the wall. Prioritize keeping these 3 points of contact throughout the exercise. Bring your arms to your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Try your best to keep elbows and hands in contact with the wall as you slide up and down. It is okay if you can’t touch the wall, it is more important to keep your 3 points of contact. Repeat 5-6 times. Strength Exercise 3 • Prone lift-offs/ overhead press Prone lift-offs (first 2 reps) - Grab a dowel or a broomstick and lay face down on the floor. Hold the dowel/broomstick overhead wider than shoulder-width. Raise off the ground by extending through the middle back. Note: we are focusing on t-spine, so you want the motion to originate from here, rather than just pulling your shoulders back as far as you can. Lower back down to the floor slow and controlled and repeat 5-6 times. If this feels challenging, stick to the lift-offs for now. If they felt easy try adding the overhead press! Prone overhead press (last two reps) - The starting position will be the same for these, except once you lift off you will hold that position and pull the dowel down behind the neck until it contacts your shoulders. Press back up into extension and lower down to the floor. Repeat 5-6 times. Go through these drills/ exercises a few times per week to bulletproof your back. Remember consistency is key, and follow up mobility with strength to maximize success!

  • What No One Tells You About Strength Loss: Detraining Pt. II

    What does detraining mean for me and what can I do about it? Gaining adequate muscle and strength is not an easy thing to do. It takes countless hours and energy in the pursuit of a stronger and healthier body. But what happens when life gets in the way? Sometimes days- even weeks- can pass without touching weights. In this article, we’ll talk about: what happens with your body during detraining what you can do about it and why it might not be so bad as you think Resistance training & your body Your body is extremely adaptable. Resistance exercise forces your body to adapt by increasing muscle size and increasing muscle force. (There are many other factors but we’ll stick to these for now.) These adaptations, however, are not very metabolically efficient in the long run; in other words, they force your body to work harder to sustain itself, now that it has to feed all this extra tissue and run at a higher “resting gear” (to bring it back to last post's car analogy). This can be a benefit for people in this day and age, as increased muscle mass also increases the calories you expend while at rest. However, since it isn’t efficient, your body wants to know that these adaptations are necessary. So when you stop giving your body the signal to grow and produce more force (i.e. by taking a break from the gym), you start to slowly lose the ability to do so. The bad news Going to shoot this to you straight. Without the gym, you are probably going to lose some form of muscle and strength during these few months. According to this 2013 meta-analysis (a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies), most people tend to start to lose a significant amount of gains in strength between 3-4 weeks of complete cessation of activity (this distinction is important), then continued to drop off for as long as inactivity dropped off. For hypertrophy (muscle mass), the highest rates are lost between 8-16 weeks for people under 65. Muscle and strength detraining can also vary depending on a few things. The good news and what you can do about it You are most likely not on bed rest and at least moving around. A study from 2006 found that subjects, after completing an 8-week resistance training program, managed to hold onto at least half the amount of muscle they had built after an 8-week layoff from training as long as they kept up with their daily activities and continued moving. For muscle hypertrophy, extremely low training volumes have been shown to preserve around most if not all of the gains for at least 32 weeks (that’s 7 months!) according to Bickel et al, 2011. This is awesome news and means that bodyweight training at home should be enough to keep a good amount of gains if your goal is preserving muscle mass. For muscular strength, unless you have a heavyweight on hand, unfortunately, there is not much you can do aside from staying as active as you can while away from the gym. The silver lining to this, however, is that regaining strength is MUCH easier than gaining it in the first place, thanks to muscle memory. Long story short, your glorious return to the gym will not be completely starting back at square one, and there is plenty you can do right now to streamline the regaining process. Keep doing all you can at home as bodyweight training will aid greatly in maintaining a solid amount of your strength. Stay active, and be patient when you return to training; everything you had before quarantine will be just as attainable. Talk to our personal trainers when you get back, we’re eager to help 😎

  • Too Many Rest Days? How to Stop Aerobic Detraining

    Gyms of all shapes and sizes have been shut-down for the past few months due to a government-imposed quarantine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the regular gym-goers, this has made it much harder to maintain adequate levels of activity to keep all those hard-earned gains. (Not talking to you, Bob, with your full home set-up... but please can we borrow one squat rack?) Because we work so hard to make improvements in our physical fitness whether it be weightlifting, running, cycling, Crossfit, bodybuilding- or even goat yoga- we’re going to take a look at how and why we lose our gains from inactivity, also called detraining or deconditioning, as well as what we can do to stop or at least minimize this phenomenon. What is aerobic exercise and why is it different from other kinds of workouts? This article is going to focus primarily on aerobic exercise deconditioning, and Friday's part 2 will touch on declines in strength and muscle. While there is some overlap between them, there are important distinctions in underlying physiology. Generally speaking, and regardless of what kind of physical activity one partakes in, maintaining even a slightly elevated fitness level is energy costly; this increases in a linear fashion. Another way to think about it is to compare a Ferrari and a Camry: our body would rather be the energy-efficient Camry than the gas-guzzling Ferrari. Maintaining an increased aerobic capacity is typically less energy demanding than maintaining the necessary muscle mass and physiological adaptations required for strength. This leads to a slightly slower detraining effect for aerobic fitness. (Don't go back to your Netflix binges just yet, though!) In combination with the decrease in energy demand, our daily lives tend to lend to a greater degree of carryover from normal everyday tasks. Activities such as walking or cycling to and from work, doing yard work, and any other activity which elevates our heart rate above baseline for a prolonged period which results in a slower rate of aerobic detraining. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), as little as two weeks can lead to significant declines in aerobic fitness. The rate of detraining is dependent upon many factors including but not limited to: level of fitness at the time of cessation age underlying medical issues genetics nutrition Fitness level and genetics are two of the greatest determining factors here. Stopping exercise for anywhere from 2-8 months will likely lead to a loss in most or even all fitness gains. Those who are more highly trained will decondition at a much slower rate. As the adage goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. (And don’t worry, we’ll talk more about the underlying physiology behind this process in future posts for those of you who like to jump down the rabbit hole. #science) Give me back those gains: how to stop deconditioning Now that we’ve established how quickly and easily we can lose those hard-earned gains, let's talk about how to slow this process down... and potentially even stop it. First and foremost, a baseline needs to be established to continue to provide an adequate stimulus to maintain current levels of fitness. Which is just one more reason to track your exercise and nutrition (not that we needed any more). Because we’re only trying to slow/stop the detraining process, not make more gains, we don’t need what’s called an overload stimulus. OK FREEZE. What is an overload stimulus? As defined by the International Sports Science Association, you must increase the intensity, duration, type, or time of a workout progressively to see further adaptations. So what does that mean? You have to work harder consistently for a long time. As you get better at any particular physical activity and it becomes easier, you have to keep making it harder. For instance: you start curling 50 pounds 5 times. After 3 months, you’re still doing that; but now that it’s easier, you should be adding another rep or two. Now that we’ve all just strained our brain a little bit, it’s time to get back on track. That overload stimulus we just learned about isn’t needed to maintain our gains, just to make more gains. If you want to keep all of those sexy beach muscles (for when we’re finally able to go to the beach) or run in the Boston Marathon next year, establish a baseline. Pro Tip: Establish a baseline. Write down everything you’ve been doing, and continue to try your very best to keep it up. Right now, this most likely means improvising. Time to flex those creative muscles. 😉 Here are some easy ideas: Instead of bench press, try push-ups. If you’re already a push-up pro, try having your kid sit on your back. Do so many reps your arms fall off. (Or maybe try some safer Challenges.) If you like to run intervals on the treadmill but don’t have access to one, try using telephone poles as a guide to dictate your intervals. (They’re typically spaced apart pretty evenly, so they work well for a subjective measure of distance.) You can also talk to one of CAC’s phenomenal trainers, who are all exceptionally qualified and more than happy to help. We’re here for you. Don’t forget to stop by Friday, 6/5, for Detraining Part 2 so you can learn more about the effects of detraining on strength, muscle, and other primarily anaerobic physical activities.

  • How to Find and Actually Activate your Core Muscles

    "Suck in your abs!" "Pull your belly button in toward your spine." "Use your trunk!""Engage your core." If you’ve been to a fitness facility in the last twenty years (and if you’re reading this, there’s a very high likelihood you have) you’ve heard at least one of these common cues used by a fellow gym go-er or the trainer beside you, trying to help someone use their abdominal muscles. But what does any of it mean? Sucking in your belly button by itself doesn’t “require” you to properly engage that muscle group to prepare for movement. To help you better understand what everyone means by these phrases and the response they’re looking for, we’ll be discussing: What muscles are involved The importance of learning to “brace” your core/trunk Reviewing a common exercise and some of its variations to help you understand it And HOW to properly activate your core muscles What is my core? To most professionals, the core is the lumbar-pelvic (trunk) and hip complex. The Core is composed of as many as 35 different muscle groups connecting into the pelvis from the spine and hip area. Many of these muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature people typically train. Major muscles include the pelvic floor muscles, psoas, transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and diaphragm. Some minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius. Why is it important & how do I brace it? The core is the center of gravity and where all movement begins. It is also the center of stability for the lower limbs and creates the necessary rotational forces for movements like throwing. For muscles to move bones, other muscles need to hold on to bones creating a solid base or anchor. Therefore, the muscles in the core function as stabilizers and/or mobilize bone to allow movement. How do the muscles know which to do: stabilize or mobilize? The brain bosses around the muscles. All we have to do is think it… and the brain sends a message to the muscles that are needed for whatever activity we need to perform, e.g. sprint, slide to the right, or jump. Sometimes the muscles are injured, fatigued, or out of shape and then, automatically, other muscles take over to help out. This is how we create imbalances that lead to injuries. The core is an important part of any sport that involves running, jumping, and sprinting (so, most of them). Good muscle activation and strength within the core is critical for all athletes to continue to build muscle size, endurance, and power. Since we have the time, (with the unemployment rate in April at 14.7% and growing) proper bracing, or activating of the core area will be a simple way to help you maintain the results you had achieved before COVID. Or maybe help you regain anything that may have started slipping during this seemingly never-ending pandemic. One of the most basic ways to activate the core is to lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. (This is also the basic starting position for a common exercise we will go over in a second.) Taking a light-to-moderate weight (if you don’t have a dumbbell because they were sold out 1 hour into the stay-at-home order, you can use a household item such as a jug of water) place it on your belly button and “don’t let the weight push through you to your spine.” Now, “engage your core” so that the weight is held in place by your abdominals. Another way of describing the sensation can also be referred to as “bearing down” as if you had to go to the bathroom, but without the end result. You should still be able to breathe during this, so if you can’t take a breath without the weight sinking in, you still have some more work to do. An example exercise & its variations Many exercises can help not only activate your core muscles, but also increase your core strength, endurance, and power. Today we will review one of the basics- a classic- the dead bug. If you take the time to do it right, it should still provide you with plenty of challenge. To perform the dead bug, get back into our position laying on the ground, with knees bent and hands raised so that your fingertips point at the ceiling. With your knees bent, raise your feet off the ground and position your knees so they are directly over your hips. Using the bracing technique we discussed earlier to engage your core, begin to move one arm and one leg in an alternating and opposite fashion (your right arm and left leg move at the same time while your left arm and right leg stay steady and immobile). Bring your heel and thumb to hover for a split second just before it touches the ground, and then return to the starting position. Come to a complete stop before switching the active arm and leg... congratulations, you’ve just done a dead bug! Pro tip: Remember, your lumbar/lower back should stay slightly arched, but should not “POP” off the ground; if your low back comes off the ground, you will more than likely experience discomfort/pain in the lumbar region. You can modify the dead bug to adjust its challenge, depending on how well you can perform the basic version. To make it easier: place your feet flat on the ground and perform the activity in the same way, but instead of your feet coming off the ground, slide them away from your body so that your knee extends and your leg ends flat on the ground. To make it harder: (assuming you can do a minimum of 2 sets of 10 per side without experiencing low back pain) you can use several different methods. Hold a weight in your hands and keep the weight above your chest while alternating your legs. Tie a resistance band to an anchor and hold it so that the band is at a 90-degree angle perpendicular to your torso. Resist the urge to actively rotate and continue to alternate your legs, to make sure you stay balanced, perform the same number of sets and reps on each side. (If this word salad doesn’t make sense, stay tuned to our Instagram page for posts on how to activate and train your core. If I were a betting man, I’d bet you’ll see this on there soon!) The whole of our parts Lastly, as important as a strong core is, it is but another section of the body, and your workout should reflect this. Nothing truly works by itself, as everything in the body is connected in some way. A recently published study in the Journal of Sports Rehabilitation looked at how exercise intervention might improve scores in the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) of collegiate athletes. The synopsis of the study showed that, although training for core and functional movements are important to include in a fitness program (especially for injury prevention), they should not be the only/primary emphasis of any training program. In other words: get a full-body strength workout to get them #gainz. If you’re only doing cardio and core, you’re missing out on your body's full potential. If you have any questions on this, feel free to reach out to us through our website or you can always ask us on our Instagram, where we host Ask A Trainer Tuesdays in our Story.

  • 7 Tricks to Add Challenge to your At-Home Workouts

    Recently, most of us have had to convert to working out in our home gyms. For many, that includes a small open space on the floor and maybe a couple of weights- if you were able to get them before all gym equipment went out of stock. This might lead to feeling limited in your workouts, and craving more challenge. Today, we will use the split squat as an example to talk about how modifications can take your workouts up a notch. Form Check! First, let’s break down the split squat. This exercise primarily works the quadriceps, glutes, and adductors (groin) of the front leg. From the standing position, step forward as if you are doing a lunge. The front foot should be flat on the floor, and back foot up on the toes. If you are struggling to find your ideal stride length, try starting from a half-kneeling position on the floor with one knee down and one foot forward, both knees at 90 degrees. Stand up from this position and this will be the top of your split squat. From here, slowly lower yourself down by shifting your weight to your front leg, until your back knee almost touches the floor. Next push off that front foot to return to standing in the split stance. Keep your feet where they are and complete all reps on one side before switching to the next. Once You've Got the Form Down... Now let’s spice it up! Here are a few ways to switch it up if your split squats start to feel easy. 1. Add a Pause/ Isometric Hold An easy way to add a challenge (if you don’t have access to weights to add resistance) is by adding a pause somewhere in the range of motion. For example, slowly descend to the bottom of your split squat, pause for 3-5 seconds, then push off the front leg to come up. Repeat this and adjust pauses length as needed. If 3-5 second pauses aren’t doing the trick, another way to approach the exercise is by using an isometric hold. Isometric is a type of muscle contraction where the muscle fires with no visible movement taking place at the joint. This type of muscle contraction can be utilized by holding your position at the bottom or mid-range (or anywhere in between) of the split squat for a duration of time. A good place to start with these is 20-30s then work up from there. Pro tip: If you have to hold any longer than a minute for this to be challenging, then it might be time to try one of the other modifications below! 2. Change Tempo Something as simple as changing your tempo can change the way an exercise feels. Add a count to the exercise for example 5 (Mississippi) on the way down and 1 second (fast) on the way up. This will challenge you to demonstrate control on the way down and produce power on the way up. 3. Cluster Sets/ Myo Reps Cluster sets (or Myo reps as they are sometimes called) are one set broken into chunks. Typically they are used with a longer set with a heavy relative weight, allowing for more work to be done at a higher intensity. Most people don’t have the luxury of heavy weights at the moment, so luckily they can apply to home training as well. Pick a leg and do as many split squats as you can until you get very near or to failure. Rest 20 seconds and repeat the process until you’ve reached failure a total of 5 times. Congratulations, you’ve just completed a cluster set. Now repeat the same process on the opposite leg. 4. Elevate the Back Foot A great way to make any exercise more difficult is by taking away stability. Try elevating your back leg on your couch or a chair to force that front leg to work a little harder to balance. This is called a Bulgarian split squat, or rear foot elevated split squat... but Bulgarian split squat sounds way cooler. 5. Mechanical Drop Set First I’ll start by describing a drop set. Similar to cluster sets, when performing drop sets you will be working to failure. Instead of splitting up sets to complete at a higher resistance, the weight is dropped down consecutively after each set to allow for more work to be done in a shorter amount of time. A mechanical drop set follows the same framework but instead of changing out weights, you’re manipulating body position or leverage to make the exercise less intensive, allowing for more work to be done. An example of a mechanical drop set using the split squat is starting with Bulgarian split squats to or near failure, then immediately switching to regular standing split squats until or near failure as well. 6. Use Sliders On a hardwood or kitchen floor, small dish towels can be used as sliders. When added to our sample exercise, we’re technically exiting the realm of the split squat and doing more of a lunge, but this is an excellent way to add challenge to an exercise/ make it a little more fun. To perform a reverse lunge using a slider, place the towel under one foot and start in a standing position. Slide the foot with the towel under it back to lower yourself down. The bottom of your reverse lunge should look exactly like the bottom of a split squat. To come back up, push off your front leg and push your back leg into the towel to slide back up to the top. 7. Make it Plyometric Plyometrics, or plyos, are exercises involving movements like jumps, jump lunges, or med ball throws that utilize the stretch reflex, which is a quick muscle contraction in response to stretching of the muscle, aka the “bounce” you feel at the bottom of a squat or pushup. Generally, plyos are used when the goal is to increase muscular power, but in some circumstances are a great way to add cardio to your workout routine. See personal trainer Sara getting her jump on to the left. Get Creative These modifications are not limited to the split squat. Most of these can be used with a whole variety of exercises. Try swapping in some of these techniques into your home routine to make things more interesting!

  • Easy Tips for Putting Together the Perfect Push-up

    Push-ups are one of the most common exercises in the entire fitness realm. Thanks to COVID-19, you are probably doing a whole lot more of them. Want to make sure you’re making the most of your time away from the gym? We're here to help. Here is our guide on putting together the perfect push-up. Getting set up for the push-up First key to a successful push-up: hand and elbow positioning. The position of your arms in a classic push-up will determine which muscles are favored over others. This is manipulated in exercises such as a close grip, military-style push-up, which largely favors the triceps brachii muscles. We're starting with Classic Push-ups, so let’s talk about how we can favor the chest: • 45-degree angle with elbows If someone were looking at you from above, we want them to see an “arrow” shape and not a “T.” This will ensure your chest is put into a position to work effectively. Making a T with your elbows is going to favor your Shoulders and Triceps in an inefficient way, making the movement harder and taking away emphasis from the goal of the exercise, your chest. • Elbows stacked over wrists In the bottom position of your push-up, you want your elbows directly over your wrists, not angled forward or back. This will give you the most support and structural integrity in this position which will help other parts of the movement to work better as a whole. Shoulder position is something that often gets compromised, unbeknownst to the average push-upper. The problem of "sunken shoulders" refers to prominent shoulder blades during a push-up. When your shoulders are stable, it makes your chest muscles better able to work by decreasing “energy leaks” in the system. (Similar to how you are better able to jump higher off of concrete versus off of a foam pad.) A drill that works well for practicing how to do this is a “Scap Punch” exercise. Scap Punch: Start by lying on your back and reach your arms straight up perpendicular to the ground. While keeping your arms straight, punch your shoulders forward so your whole arm moves higher towards the sky; this is called shoulder protraction. Elbows should stay completely straight, not bending at any moment. Once you become comfortable with this you can then add load by flipping over and trying this in a push-up position. Try it on your knees first, and then in a full push-up/ high plank position. The hips do not lie With any exercise, it is important to maintain core stability throughout the entire range of motion, and the push-up is no different. A big indicator of an unstable core is your hip positioning. In the photo set below, the first image shows the hips dropping; CAC Instructor Jen is demonstrating what it looks like when the push-upper is not utilizing her abdominal muscles well. Without assistance from your core musculature, all the lower body tension goes to your low back muscles, which are not in a good position to help you through the exercise. The second picture shows another common hip positioning error, which can also come from attempting to overcorrect the former hip positioning. Her glutes are lifted above her hips, and sometimes the head might hang down. (Almost a downward dog.) In the last picture marked with a check, Jen's hips are in line with her shoulders and her pelvis is “tucked in” (think tucking your tail between your legs). This is called a posterior tilt of your hips, which ensures that tension is directed towards the front of your core muscles and away from the back. To achieve posterior tilt, your abdominal and glute muscles contract to rotate the hips backwards, resulting in the appearance of a flat back. Think of your push-up as a moving plank. Abs are never lax, hips and shoulders stay in a straight line with one not moving before the other. Extra tip from the pros If you’re not able to do a complete push-up following these cues, then try elevating yourself onto a counter-top or a coffee table. That way you can get all the core benefits of a full push-up that knee-push-ups don’t provide. You can slowly scale the elevation, according to your current level of strength. There are many ways to modify this exercise to make it easier or more difficult- but it’s important to keep these foundations in mind no matter your fitness level. Stay tuned for more posts, and feel free to let us know anything you’d like to see. In the meantime, drop and give me 50…or 10 😁

  • Welcome to CAC University

    Hey CAC fam, How’s everybody doing? What’s going on? Just kidding, we know you’re all stuck at home just like us and missing your favorite second home, the gym! We miss it too and, even more, we miss all of you. That’s why we’re completely revamping the CAC blog, which now will be updated regularly with both written posts and videos covering a variety of topics including: training tips and techniques, nutritional info, behavior/habit forming strategies, coping methods, and much more. Our goal is to continue providing all of you, our amazing CAC family, with evidence-based information to keep you motivated, engaged, and most importantly, ACTIVE. Our primary focus, for now, will be most applicable to those of you with minimal equipment access. But it will absolutely not be limited to that. Although we do not know with certainty when we’ll be able to reopen CAC or get back to some degree of “normalcy”, we are going to continue dropping knowledge bombs here long after the pandemic has subsided. With that being said, we would also appreciate your requests and feedback in order to continue providing you all with relevant, up-to-date info that will keep you coming back for more, week after week. We miss every single one of you and hope everyone is staying healthy and safe during these trying times. Don’t be afraid to reach out with questions or comments, even if just to say hi. Last, but not least, don’t forget to check back in here Friday, 5/22, for our next post on putting together the perfect push-up. Welcome to CAC University. With lots of love and gains, Your favorite jacked training staff💪

  • COVID-19 Update

    Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and under the guidance of public health officials and the requirements set forth by the State of Massachusetts, CAC shut down all clubs effective Tuesday, March 17th. All locations will remain closed until further notice. We will be monitoring the situation closely to await a time where congregating in groups is no longer a threat to public health. We will reopen as soon as possible! It is an uncertain time in all aspects of life. We are all feeling it but we are in this together. We have frozen all membership dues during this time, no member will be charged their membership dues. When we reopen each membership will be reactivated and everyone will have access the day we reopen. Closing and suspending membership dues was not an easy choice. Each gym, health club, and wellness organization are taking different steps at this time, but we felt as a business and community we needed to do what was morally right in these uncertain times. We're doing what we can to keep healthy and helpful during this time. Check out our Virtual Club page to see the variety of options we're offering to stay active at home. Please be well, and take all precautions for yourself and your families. We will get through this together. CAC, and all of our staff, look forward to a return to normalcy as we do our part flattening the curve. If you have further questions please contact More updates will be posted via email, our website, and social media. Stay active, healthy, and safe, CAC Management

  • How Exercise Can Help You Through The Sad Months

    By Isabella Lovett for Fit Planet Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD – is not the same as the winter blues. So if you think you may be suffering, it’s important to treat it seriously. Read on and you’ll discover: · How to identify the difference between the winter blues and the depressive illness known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) · The types of exercise that best combat SAD · Facts about how light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy affect SAD · Other activities that can alleviate the stress associated with SAD, including free access to mindfulness meditation sessions. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a form of depressive illness related to the seasons, generally beginning in the fall and continuing throughout the winter – affects around 10 million people in the US and many more worldwide. But it’s important not to confuse SAD with the plain old winter blues, which everyone experiences at some time or other during the coldest, darkest months. To have genuine SAD, you’ll have experienced symptoms for two years running, including feeling constantly tired, spending longer in bed, increased appetite, lack of motivation and disturbed sleep. SAD tends to affect adults (especially those aged 18 to 30) more than children or teenagers (although this tends to decline after the age of 50). Women are significantly more likely than men to have SAD, possibly due to evolutionary influences on seasonal reproductive cycles. And it is most prevalent in northern latitudes where daylight hours are fewer. Exercise is a valuable tool in combating any form of stress, anxiety or depression; especially if you balance your intense cardio and strength classes with mindfulness-based exercises and activities like yoga and meditation. (Tweet this.) Common wisdom has it that simple exposure to more sunlight is the answer, as this will provide more vitamin D, but this may not be the total answer. Yes, as this study found, vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate SAD. Vitamin D may be involved in the production of feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, and people who are depressed commonly have low vitamin D levels. However, it has not been established that low vitamin D levels are the main cause of SAD. Another study found that supplementation of vitamin D did not directly improve symptoms. And in places where winters are particularly long and dark, simply getting outside for some healing rays is not really an option. What is not in doubt is the value of exercise in combating any form of stress, anxiety or depression – including SAD. This is especially true if you balance your intense cardio and strength classes with mindfulness-based exercises and activities such as yoga and meditation. According to this research, for example, just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation can significantly alleviate stress. If you’re new to this, there are now simple-to-use apps containing useful breathing and meditation sessions, some as short as five minutes. You can check out these sessions on Calm, Headspace or for free on LES MILLS On Demand. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere you can get outdoors in winter, we now know that spending as little as 20 minutes in nature can lower stress hormone levels and boost mood. You can burn more calories jogging outdoors than on a treadmill (owing to the differences in the terrain and wind resistance). Unfortunately, some modern urban dwellers are spending up to 90 percent of their time indoors – so if all that’s keeping you from getting out more is a busy schedule, it’s probably time to rebalance this in favor of the mental and physical benefitsof being in nature. For those living in genuinely inhospitable places, or who find exercise and a healthy diet aren’t lifting them out of a SAD slump, there are various forms of therapy. Light therapy – which involves sitting or working near a “light therapy box” that emits bright light to mimics natural outdoor light – has been shown to work, as has cognitive therapy. One study of people being treated for SAD with cognitive behavioral therapy found only seven percent of participants experienced a recurrence of depression, compared to 36.7 percent of people treated with light therapy. The relapse rate was lowest when light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy were combined (5.5 percent), suggesting a multifaceted approach may be the key to making a noticeable improvement when severe depression strikes. Anyone who feels they are suffering severely from SAD should, in the first instance, consult their health professional to determine the best treatment options. For the rest of us, getting out in nature and staying active will go a long way to letting a little sunshine into our lives. Isabella Lovett worked in healthcare before becoming a full-time health and wellness blogger and writer. This piece originally appeared on

  • Gift Guide for the Fitness Fan in Your Life

    You’ve already completed the holiday body wash, lotion, and candle shopping spree. Maybe you even got wild and grabbed some boxes of assorted chocolates and gift cards to everyone’s favourite big-name retailer. These are the typical “I don’t know you that well, but I at least understand the human experience” presents. Do you want to move beyond the basics and be known as the ultimate gifter? Put down that novelty mug— please— and read on for the perfect assortment of presents for that health-conscious boss, your yogi cousin, and more. CLOTHES 1 • Yoga Pants… With POCKETS Sure, it’s possible to shove your phone into your bra or the waistband of your pants… but is it comfortable? (Go ahead. Ask this in the middle of a gym. The answer will be a resounding NO.) Give the gift of storage space. You’ll never see more excitement than a woman’s eyes lighting up as she says “ohmygod it has pockets.” Mila High-waisted Pocket Leggings | Fabletics | XXS-3X, Inseam Options | 2 for $24 ($54 regular) GD Fashion Women Yoga Leggings | Amazon | XS-XL | 24+ Colour Options | $25 Contrast Mesh Leggings w/ Phone Pocket | SHEIN | S-XL | $10 2 • Workout Sets Why does wearing a matching top + bottoms set feel so luxurious? Why do we suddenly feel like our life is together just because our leggings are the same color as our sports bra? We can't give you the psychology behind the feeling, just some recommendations. Fit Basic Mesh Panel Set | boohoo | 6-12 | $15 bbmee Yoga Outfits for Women 2 Piece Set | Amazon | S-L | $24.99 Vital Seamless Leggings and Top | Gymshark | XS-XL | $50 + $30 GEAR 3 • Glute Bands Somehow simultaneously the best and worst addition to your lower body workouts, resistance bands add... well, resistance to body-weight exercises. Great for that person always obsessing over Instagram influencers' booty workouts. ("I mean, have you seen Jen Selter?") GLUTE LOOP™ | Bret Contreras (The Glute Guy) | $20 Bala Booty Bands Set of 5 | Etsy | $19 Recredo Booty Bands, 3-pack | Amazon | $18.99 4 • Water Bottles Okay, to be fair, everyone drinks water. But going to the gym without a water bottle is almost sacrilege. You either end up with the driest mouth in the world, or you have to buy a plastic water bottle that 1. tastes weird and 2. is bad for Mother Earth. So save your friend some cash and the Earth some plastic, and check these reusable, BPA-free water bottles out. Embrava Sports Water Bottle w/ 1-click Open | Amazon | 32oz | $21.95 Vmini Water Bottle, New Straw Lid | Amazon | 32oz | $22.99 Takeya Actives Insulated Bottle w/ Insulated Spout Lid | Target | 18oz | $23.99 Brita Premium Filtering Water Bottle | Amazon | 26oz | $19.94 5 • And more... Some miscellaneous treats for the active loved one/acquaintance/secret snowflake who you absolutely need to shop for within the week because oh no Chanukah starts next Sunday and Christmas next Wednesday where'd the month go — A MEMBERSHIP Finally, if you know them well enough, treat them to a membership, a package of classes or personal training, or a gift certificate to the fitness center they frequent. We even have customizable holiday-themed cards for all you last-minute gifters. Shh.. we won't date it 😉 Gift Cards @ CAC The countdown begins! But now you have all the knowledge you need to grab the perfect present for your fitness-fanatic neighbor. Don't sweat it. (Until you get to the gym, of course.)

  • Goals Are Great. Intentions Are Immense.

    As we approach the holidays and the New Year, there tends to be a focus on goals: Should we have goals that span the holidays, or just enjoy being in the present? Have we met the resolutions we had set for ourselves for 2019? What goals are we looking towards for the upcoming New Year? Goals are great to have, both in and out of the club; BUT, they can also be overwhelming at times. They tend to be focused more on the future and on our hypothetical selves (who we will be after we meet those goals.) How do we balance goal-setting with consideration of our present selves and situations? This is where intentions come in handy! If goals are the desired outcomes to an actionable plan, intentions can be thought of as the starting point for that plan. For example, if your goal is to lose 1 pound of body fat, you might start with the intention to fuel your body with foods that make you feel good. This intention focuses on the positive. Without this mindset, though, you may instead decide to deprive yourself of all your favorite foods and count calories... only to find yourself binge-eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's at midnight. This leads to a spiral of guilt and self-deprecation, when your original goal was formed in order to feel better, not worse! If goals are something you want to accomplish and do, intentions are the way you want to feel and to be. We are human beings, and not human doers, after all. I often start or end my yoga classes at CAC asking everyone to think about or reflect on their intentions. Taking some time to get clear with what you want out of a session- whether yoga or lifting- can ultimately help you reach your goals. More importantly perhaps, intentions can allow you to live in the present moment with more joy, despite and not because of the variable outcomes of your goals. As you think about your goals this holiday season don't forget those daily intentions. It will bring more peace to your present, and your future self will thank you!

  • Join our Workout for Water tribe...

    ... and help us change the world for thousands of children. The funds we raise will help UNICEF to complete the Lega and Yelam Gej multi-village solar-powered water systems in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia. You can fundraise with us, donate now and join our movement to create a fitter planet. Every $450USD we raise will provide 12 children a lifetime of clean water. Click HERE to be directed to our fundraising page.

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