Archives for August 2012

Knee Pain: A Very Basic User’s Guide

I was struggling to find a topic for my latest article when my old friend and singer of the unbelievable band Marrow, Erin Fortes, suggested talking about knee pain and how to prevent it. Her suggestion specifically was to discuss weakness in some specific muscle groups and the tendancy of women to develop knee injuries because of that. I’ve decided to open it up a little, though, and talk about the things that I see in people all the time that can lead to knee pain and the things that you can do to prevent and improve it.

1. Get your backside stronger and moving better! The most common thing I see in relation to knee pain is simply that people simply aren’t strong enough through their backside (hips, glutes and hamstrings) and don’t move well through their hips. 

All over our body we have opposing muscle groups on our front and back side. Chest and back. Biceps and triceps, etc. Each muscle group pulls in a certain direction and, in a perfect world, the opposing side has about the same strength. This keeps our bodies balanced. In the case of our knees, we have our quadriceps (the muscles on the front of our upper legs) vs. our hamstrings (the muscles on the back of our upper legs). In today’s world many people have much stronger quadriceps then hamstrings and this creates a pull on the knee joint causing pain.

On top of that, most of us sit in front of our computers all day, which causes some major tightness through the hips. This creates problems with our movement that can also cause knee pain. How do you know if this applies to you? Here’s a quick test to give you an idea. Stand about a foot and half in front of a wall facing away from it with your feet in a nuetral stance. Now try to push your hips back and touch your butt to the wall. Go do it. I’ll wait.

OK. One question: Did your knees bend? If they did, your hip movement is probably not very good. That’s OK, though. Almost noone does it right the first time. If you had problems with it, get a little closer to the wall and work on it. And make sure you push back. No falling into the wall!

2. Women and knees. Yes, it’s true. Women have knees. It’s also true that knee injuries are a nearly epidemic problem for female athletes of all ages. There are a few reasons for this. The one that gets talked about most of the time is something called the “Q angle”. What this refers to is the angle of your thigh bone in relation to your kneecap. Since women tend to have wider hips, they also have a wider “Q angle” which can put additional strain on the knees. Go hereto find an easy way to measure your Q Angle. When you compound that with the issues that many women have with resistance training you can see the issue.

How can women combat that? Three words: proper resistance training. Please take note of the word “proper”.

Do exercises that focus on good movement through the hips and that use a large number of muscles. If you are sitting and/or using machines, you are more than likely not working on proper movement patterns.
Squats and deadlifts are two tremendous exercises and squats shouldn’t hurt your knees no matter what you’ve heard. If they do, it probably means you aren’t sitting back or opening your hips enough.

Also, if you or your daughter are playing sports, doing some basic work on landing mechanics can be a very good idea.

Please know that I’m not an orthopedist and there can be many more causes of knee pain other then what I’ve covered here. If what I’ve suggested doesn’t feel right to you go see a good sports medicine doctor.
Please let me know if you have any questions about what I’ve talked about or anything else. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach
Discover Your Strength!

Avoiding The Most Common Gym Mistakes

Hi! What I’d like to talk about today are the two biggest mistakes I usually see at the gym. In fact, I consider it a bit of mission of mine to talk about these things and to help people overcome two of the most old-fashioned and disproving habits that many people still believe and follow.

1. Steady state cardio for fat loss. (If you don’t know what this means, it’s when you go at one steady pace for a long period of time. Like 30 minutes on the treadmill, for example.) OK. Let me get this out the way. There are some health benefits to doing a limited amount of steady state cardio, it’s just that fat loss is not one of them.
Let me say that another way just to be clear:

If you are trying to lose weight, steady state cardio is an ineffective long term method.

Why? Let’s break it down logically. Let’s say you’ve never walked on the treadmill before. The first time you do, you go for 30 minutes which would burn approximately 150 calories if you are an average sized person walking at about 3 mph. (Yes, walking for that long only burns about that much and this is just an estimation.) Once you do this a few times your body starts to get better at it. In other words, it gets easier. Now your body body burns fewer calories for the same activity. Keep doing it and your body will continue to burn fewer and fewer calories. You see, you have to realize that your body doesn’t care that you want to lose weight. It just knows that you’re performing this activity on a regular basis and so it thinks it’s got to adapt and get better at it. Using less and less energy to walk on the treadmill is how it improves.

What’s even worse than that, however, is that as your body adapts to this activity, your metabolism away from the treadmill will also slow down. This makes it harder and harder to lose weight and, over time, can lead to injury and any number of metabolic conditions. What’s the solution? There are two, one of which I’ll talk about in a second and the other being interval training.

What is interval training? It’s a method of training where you alternate very high intensity levels with very low intensity levels. Like a 20 second full-out sprint followed by 40 seconds of rest. Do about 5-6 of those and you’ll see the difference. By the way, if you do six 20 second-sprints and you want to do more, then you probably didn’t go hard enough.

2. Women must lift weights. Let me be clear about this one, too. It’s the weights you usually lift are lighter then your backpack or purse, then that is not lifting weights. If you are trying to lose weight you must do something that increases your metabolism. Building lean body does that, lifting two or three-pound dumbbells doesn’t.

Now, I know that you don’t want to get bulky, but here’s the thing. The hormone that is most responsible for building muscle is testosterone. The average woman produces about 10 percent of the testosterone of the average man. It’s why you’re looking forward to Twilight 4 and we’re looking forward to The Expendables 2. Basically, it means that women, generally speaking, don’t have the ability to gain an overabundance of muscle. So what you should do in the weight room? You should do multi-joint movements using big muscle groups. Like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-downs or pull-ups. Do three to four sets of about eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. This would be the groundwork for a very nice resistance training program.

I’m sorry if I’ve busted your bubble a little today, but the thing I most hate to see is people wasting their time or worse, actually making it harder on themselves to reach their goals. All this leads to is people believing that they can’t do it and that exercise doesn’t work. That saddens me, but I know that with this new information, many more people out there can reach their goals.

Please let me know what you think or if you have any questions about what we’ve talked about today. Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach
Discover Your Strength!