Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Dumbbell Row

The Dumbbell Row has got to be one of the few good exercises bodybuilding has given us. At my gym it still carries a certain amount of stigma; however, as a tool for developing balanced strength across the shoulder girdle, it is invaluable. Most people are much stronger at 'pushing' or 'pressing' than they are at 'pulling'. Coupled with poor posture throughout the day, this leads to tight, strong pectorals and other large internal rotators of the shoulder, coupled with long, weak scapular retractors such as the middle and low fibres of trapezius.

Correctly performed Rows involve retraction and some depression of the scapula, followed immediately by humeral extension to bring the dumbbell (or kettlebell, 3 litre bottle of milk, etc) toward the lower chest and abdomen. It's important to emphasise the shoulder blade should be pulled back and down; if you are shrugging the scapula up and hyperextending the humerus, you won't recruit the lower fibres of trapezius. The elbow will not travel far behind the torso if done right. In fact, the degree the arm moves doesn't actually matter. It just allows people to get a bit of momentum going, allowing training of scapular retraction with heavier weights.

Do this exercise right and load it up. Sets of 10-20 with 40kg or more will build excellent strength in the lower traps and correct imbalances across the shoulder girdle. If it's good enough for the ridiculously successful Chinese weightlifting team, it's good enough for you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Exercises for Scapula Movement

Here's a few more exercises that you can add to your warm-up, after training or even load them up and use them in your workout. They all have in common the aim of developing your ability to control the movement of the scapulae in isolation, in the process strengthening the muscles responsible and hopefully as a by-product preventing shoulder pain and injury. As with the other exercises I described in the last post, it helps to try and 'feel' these as much as possible. What I mean by this is concentrating on which muscles are working, how your scapulae move and how you can alter the movement by moving the scapulae into different places.

Scap Dips

Scap Pullups

Scap Protraction

Scap Retraction 

Band Protractions 

See how with each of these exercises, scapula movement occurs with minimal movement at other joints. The exception is the band protraction. I included this one because it combines protraction of the scapulae, strengthening serratus anterior, with a nice stretch of pectoralis major and other humeral flexors when the arms are behind the body. Efforts should to emphasise scapular protraction over humeral transverse flexion in this exercise to minimise the contribution of pec major; the stretch should assist this.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cooking with Jamie

In a slight diversion from normal posts, I felt I had to post this recipe online as it is just so damn good. This Low-Carb Lasagna is the creation of my fiancee Fay.

For the Bolognaise:
500g Mince
1 can Tomatoes
Glass Red Wine
2 tbsp Tomato Puree
Pint Beef Stock
Fresh Basil, torn into bits
1 Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped

Fry off the onion and garlic, then brown the mince. Add the tomatoes, stock, wine, puree, basil and seasoning and cook on a low hob or oven at about 150 degrees celsius for about 3 hours.

The Lasagna
1 pot Ricotta Cheese
1 Courgette, peeled and the cut into strips using a peeler
2 Carrots, same as courgettes
3 Eggs, boiled
The Bolognaise sauce

Put half the bolognaise in a deep baking dish. Make a layer of 'pasta' with the courgettes and carrots. Aubergine works well for this also. Layer half the ricotta on top of this, then chop or break up the eggs and spread them over this. Layer the rest of the bolognaise on top, then top with the rest of the ricotta. Cover liberally with parmesan. Bung in the oven at 200 degrees or so and bake for 20 mins, or until golden on top. Devour.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Shoulder injury

I commonly see shoulder complaints in the clinic and more often than not these are non-traumatic injuries.
The shoulder joint is complex as previously described on this website however it is worth noting that it is still a relatively under evolved joint in the human body; on one side it provides excellent mobility key for many sports but on the flip side has poor stability leaving it prone to injury.
So often in our lives we find ourselves deskbound or more broadly using our arm in front of us in an elevated position (washing up, cooking). This over a prolonged period predisposes the shoulder to poor biomechanical stability.
The main sight of most non-traumatic shoulder injuries I believe to be the thoracic spine. In many people extension (arching back) of this region is limited due to our ever increasing kyphotic (stooped) posture. As a consequence the scapulo-thoracic joint comes under increasing tension as the scapula are forced laterally (out) and superiorly (up) over the rib cage. This subsequently puts increasing stress on the associated musculature, commonly the Rhomboids major and minor leading to strain. The scapula is forced away from rib cage posteriorly (backward) on the medial (middle) boarder; this subsequently causes the same to happen to the Serratus anterior muscle; giving characteristic scapula dyskenesis (winging).
If we pause here to give thought to referral of pain; as muscles are chronically stretched they develop trigger points, these put simply are taught bands of muscle and irritation at the neuromuscular junction. Not only do these reduce the efficiency of the muscle but they too cause referral of pain to a distal site, this is to say that an irritation in one part of the body can be perceived by the brain as pain from another region, commonly we see this with myocardial infarction (heart attack) where pain is usually referred to the left shoulder and arm. With the shoulder Teres major and minor and Rhomboids major and minor usually refer there pain to the shoulder tip and therefore may be mistaken for acromioclavicular sprain.
With this mentioned about the shoulder, injured patients are all too often prescribed rotator cuff muscle internal and external strengthening exercises. (holding a theraband with elbow at 90degrees and turning the arm in and out). These exercises although good; if not done correctly and without addressing thoracic extension will have little or no benefit, they may even exacerbate this problem for if performed with a kyphotic posture and without setting the scapula the patient will engage the Pectoralis major and minor and Upper Trapezius muscles. This can increase the kyphotic posture by rounding the shoulders and it may also cause superior migration of the humerus (commonly seen in degeneration). This will reduce the space where the rotator cuff muscles pass through the joint to attachment sights leading to impingement syndrome and thus a direct shoulder problem.
I therefore conclude by stating that shoulder problems in my experience often occur not as a result of direct trauma or over training but as a consequence of poor postural imbalances mainly stemming from the thoracic spine. If this is addressed then not only will non-traumatic injury reduce but strength gains should also be observed.
Dr Tom Waller MChiro BSc. (Hons)
Doctor of Chiropractic

Hello from the Chiropractor

Hello and thank you to Jamie for inviting me to post on this blog site. About me; I am a chiropractor currently working in Lincoln, UK. I have a special interest in sports performance. I have worked closely with National 3 rugby side Bournemouth RFC and now treat Division 2 football team Lincoln City FC. I have treated ex-international rugby players and amateur bodybuilders. Personally I am a keen weight lifter therefore I think of myself as the practitioner who not only preaches but practises. Any feedback is welcome and I would be happy to answer any of your questions.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lack of updates and new blog poster

Firstly a quick apology for the lack of updates on this site. I have been a bit busy until fairly recently with exams and things so haven't got round to making a new post. I hope very soon to post a new one with some more exercises for scapula control and shoulder health.

However, a good friend of mine, Tom, has kindly agreed to start writing for Jamie's Blog. Tom is a Chiropractor and also a hell of a strong guy, so has a unique perspective on training for optimal performance and health. He brings both breadth and depth of knowledge of musculoskeletal function to the table and I'm very excited to be able to post his insights and recommendations for training and rehabilitation.

Look forward to some great new articles!