2015: New Year, New You

I love January 1st! As I said in my last post, it’s a chance for a new beginning, a clean slate.

For a lot of you, you’re planning HUGE things for 2015. I know I am! Some of you might be looking for a new job, others might be welcoming a child into the world, some of you might be getting married this year! But, one thing that most of us have on our list is to be healthier. Some are resolving to eat better, others want to get more sleep (I’m looking at you, couples who are expecting a child!), and others want to get to the gym more to either lose weight, to gain more muscle, or perhaps both.

It’s that last subject that I want to write about today. I think it’s incredibly important to remember that when you workout, your body is constantly giving you signals and feedback. For some of you, that feedback is in the form of pain. Obviously, pain is a warning signal that something isn’t quite right. That doesn’t meant that that particular activity is necessarily bad for you. It just means that you’re out of alignment, out of balance, and your body is alerting you to that fact.


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For others, the feedback is a little less subtle. While you might not be in pain when working out, there are still signals that the body is giving you, and THAT is what I want you to be aware of. Just because you don’t hurt now, doesn’t mean that you aren’t putting yourself at risk for injury.

Today, I want to discuss a few of the things I notice when I’m at the gym. Most of them present as “form faults,” but I see them as body dysfunctions. Again, like I said before, the body is always giving you feedback. If you see any of these faults when you’re working out, they are simply the body’s way of letting you know you are out of alignment!

Here are some things I pay attention to when I am:

1. Squatting

I see a LOT of folks who rotate their body/hips when squatting. Check out my post about Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III, to see what I mean. Watch his hips starting at the 0:15-mark of this video. Then notice how, as he fatigues, the hip dysfunction gets more prominent:

As I stated in RG3 article, he (and you, if you’re doing a similar motion) is setting himself up for injury. He has already had two right knee operations, yet he is overloading his right side. He’s going to the surgically repaired knee, rep after rep. In addition, with hips that are out of balance, combined with the amount of weight he’s squatting, he could be headed for a back injury. This is a “perfect storm” for a bulging or herniated disc.


2. Bench Pressing

I notice that a lot of gym-goers aren’t pushing the bar evenly with their left and right sides. Take a look at the picture below, and notice that the bar starts to tilt to one side:

Lifting unevenNotice how the bar is leaning to one side? (Honestly, it’s hard NOT to see it in this picture.) When you’re lifting, it probably won’t be this obvious if your bar is tilted unevenly. But, if you have someone watching you, chances are, they’ll notice it.

This is an indicator of an unbalanced shoulder position, and one shoulder is doing work much differently than the other. This man is not only setting himself up for a shoulder injury but also a low back injury due to the compensatory movement that is happening in his low back and hips. Aside from injury, he is certainly developing one side much differently than the other.

Before we move on, let’s take a look at the bigger picture and see what’s really happening in that photo above. Check this out:


What. In. The. World?!?

I mean…


I saw that and was all:


If you see that guy lifting at your gym, PLEASE stop him and give him our office number! (It’s 615.771.8556, by the way!)


3. Cycling/In Spin Class

My wife loves spin class. Actually, she has a love-hate relationship with spin class. Actually, her experience in spin class is what inspired this blog post, because she sees a LOT of dysfunctional knee positions during class. She has noticed that many folks in the class either have their knees crashing in toward each other like the lady in red on the front row here:

Cycle Knees InOr, she sees knees that point out like this woman:

Cycle Knees OutBoth of those knee positions are indicative of dysfunctional hips. The muscles of the hips, specifically the hip flexor muscles, are designed to stabilize the femur and knee, driving the knee straight ahead when cycling, or running, or walking, etc. Anytime I see a variation in the knee position, similar to the pictures above, my job becomes a LOT easier. The knees are simply making up for a lack of hip function. When we get the hips to fire properly, the knees will follow. Unfortunately, lack of proper hip flexor function can lead to numerous issues, including back pain, knee pain, neck pain, and headaches, just to name a few.


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4. Doing Abdominal Work

It never fails, whenever I see folks working their abs, I always see this:

Ab-CrunchesDoes that position look familiar? The upper back is rounded, the elbows are curled forward, and the head is forward of the shoulders. While this might seem like a normal position for ab work, think about the position in which most of us spend the majority of our day.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.59.57 AMNotice any similarities?:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 2.57.24 PM

Why on earth would you want to get stronger in a compromised position? To me, it just doesn’t make sense. What I’d like to see instead is this shoulder/arm position when doing ab work:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.25.12 AMNext time you do abdominal work, bring your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers all the way, pull your elbows down to the floor, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Maintain that position throughout your ab work, and you’ll not only help to change the position that you’re in throughout your day, but you’ll also get much more benefit from the ab work that you’re doing.


5. Observing Others

When I am walking around the gym, or transitioning from one exercise to the next, I always have my head on a swivel. I’m always looking around, observing the postures that surround me. Not surprisingly, I see postures like in the “before” picture here:

Kenny before afterI’d LOVE to see more postures like the “after” pictures. The guy on the right is getting MUCH more out of his workout, he’s at a decreased risk for injury, and he’ll develop both sides much more evenly, compared to the guy on the left.

While the pictures on the left are an extreme example, I still see compromised bodies walking around the gym each time I’m there. The Egoscue-guy in me wants to grab hold of their shoulders and shake them and tell them how compromised their posture is.

My hope is that they’ll get their body balanced, and then go to the gym. Ideally, we should straighten, and then strengthen. This year, don’t build a Ferrari on a bent frame!

In this NEW YEAR, let’s start with a NEW YOU!


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QUESTION: What do YOU see at the gym?