Common Exercise Flaws and the Fixes: The Row

 

By: Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Upper body rowing variations have become a staple in many strength and conditioning programs, and for good reason.

As human beings, many of us spend much of our time in an anteriorly dominated world (most of the activity we do happens in front of us). Whether we are sitting down for a meal, working at the computer, getting our learn on in the classroom or checking the latest Facebook post on our mobile device, our posture becomes one that is defined by protracted and anteriorly tilted scapulae (our shoulder blades are rounded and tipped forward) and a flexed thoracic spine (upper back is rounded).

While there are some of us that do not fall into these patterns (athletes stuck in extension or those of us sporting the “superhero look”), for most of us, this Quasimodoesque posture defines us.

And unless you are incredibly conscious of your daily posture and are willing to stop stalking people on Facebook and filling your free time playing Angry Birds, it is going to be hard to combat these postural flaws. But as always, there are certain movements we can prioritize in our strength and conditioning programs that can help.

This is where PROPER upper body rowing exercises can help. While proper rowing mechanics can benefit our performance and aesthetic outcomes, improper upper body rowing can further exacerbate issues.

In order to make sure you are maximizing upper body rowing, and keeping yourself from working your way into banged up shoulders and a cranky lower back, check out this video. I have also provided a list summarizes the main points.

 

 

1)      Try starting the exercise in the “finished position” with the scapula(e) tipped up and back and the elbow in line with the body or slightly extended.

2)      Keep the core engaged (spine neutral) and do not allow the ribs to flare up as you go through the exercise.

3)      Lower your body / the weight under control and do not allow your scapula(e) to “fly” of the side of your ribcage, although you should feel the scapula(e) moving away from the spine.

4)      Think about pulling / leading the motion with the scapula(e) and not by pulling with the elbow or arms. Think as if your arms were cut off at the shoulder and the system / handle was attached to your scapula(e), and lead the motion with the scapula(e).

5)      The row is finished when your scapula(e) can no longer move towards the spine. Your elbow(s) should be in line with the body or slightly behind, but not excessively behind the body as this promotes an anterior (forward) tilt of the scapula(e) and anterior translation of the humeral head (head of the upper arm bone)…both are no good when it comes to healthy shoulders and maximal strength and power output.

6)      Hold the end position to really feel the scapula(e) being tipped up and back. The muscles on the inside of your shoulder blades should be doing most of the work.

PROPERLY row your way to a stronger, leaner and healthier upper body and share these tips! Any other cues or comments?…Share them below.

A Big Thank You and Some Gifts

 

Wednesday night Momentum PT put on a nutrition seminar for our athletes, clients and community. We wanted to thank everyone who attended and give you a big shout out as you helped us raise over $200 for the Live 4 Evan Organization!

As promised, below are the handouts from the seminar. Enjoy and we will be announcing the next seminar soon!

 

7 Day Meal Plan

Better Options for Common Foods

Protein Shake Construction Guide

Print – Best and Worst Cereals _ Environmental Working Group

The Most Effective “Diet” to Achieve a Lean and Healthy Body…And Enjoy Food!

 

***First, we wanted to let you know that Momentum is hosting a nutritional seminar on Wednesday August 14th at 6:30pm that will cover the top 5 principles and strategies to help you achieve your health and fitness goals and support your training program! Please let us know if you would like to attend by emailing Kyle at kyle@momentumpt.com…there are a limited number of seats so secure your spot ASAP.

And now, on to the infotainment (information and entertainment!)…

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

What is the best diet to gain muscle?

How about the best to lose fat?

Or better yet, how about the best diet to do both at the same time?!

Some would have you believe this is impossible, as gaining muscle requires you to intake more calories that you expend, while losing fat requires you to take in less calories than you burn…and you can only do one thing at a time!

While this caloric balancing act is true, it doesn’t mean that you must always be in a caloric surplus to gain muscle, or mustalways be in a caloric deficit to lose fat.

In fact, you don’t have to shovel in loads of chicken breast, beef jerkey, tuna fish and peanut butter 6x/day every day per week to gain muscle (you will quickly find that you gain more than just muscle). And you don’t have to starve yourself or never again eat rice, pasta, or bread for fear that a severe case of the Michelin Man Disease will be the final result.

You can have days with higher calorie intake, days with moderate calorie intake and days with lower calorie intake.

By manipulating overall calories in this way you can promote an anabolic state (growth…for muscle) on the days you train hard, a maintenance state on the days you train at a moderate intensity and a catabolic state (breakdown…for fat) on the days you are not training or just doing light physical activity.

And there is one key method to making this the most effective nutritional strategy.

Your Macronutrient Needs

On a daily basis you should be consuming meals rich in high quality macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, water).

Out of these macronutrients there is one that you can manipulate to best achieve your goals of a healthy, lean and strong body…carbohydrates.

Your protein and fat intake should stay relatively the same every day (portions such as 1-3 fists of protein, 1-2 thumbs fats, etc.…check THIS out for a full description), but you can, and should, be manipulating the amount of carbohydrate you ingest according to your daily physical exertion and goals. And here is why.

Good Old Insulin

I wrote about insulin HERE and HERE, so you can check that out for more detail. But fort the quick version, when you eat carbohydrates (which breaks down into sugar) your body responds by increasing insulin. Insulin is responsible for numerous adaptations, but is most well-known for its impact on anabolism. Insulin promotes the cells to uptake sugar from the blood, which is good when you are trying to build quality muscle. But when your insulin levels are constantly elevated (when you constantly eat carbohydrates), you are more likely to store the excess sugar as adipose tissue (FAT). Not only are you more likely to accumulate fat mass, but you are at a greater risk for insulin sensitivity issues (your body doesn’t respond to insulin well), diabetes and other metabolic syndromes.

So what does this all mean for you?

Increase insulin (eat carbohydrates) when your body is looking to build muscle / needs energy (when you train intensely) and reduce insulin when your body does not have a high demand on it (moderate training days / off days).

And this folks, is the easiest and most productive way to gain the weight you want (again, quality muscle) and shed the unwanted flab.

Lets Put It All Together

 

To put this into a practical example, let’s say you lift 3 days per week and do some movement work (sprints/agilities) on a 4th day. On your 3 days of lifting you do a lower body, upper body and full body day.

We will assume that the lower and full body days are your more intense lifts and thus require the greatest demand for calories and carbohydrates. On these days you would have your high calorie and carb day. During your upper body and sprint/agility day you would consume a moderate level of calories and carbs, and for the 3 off days you would focus on reducing your overall calories and carbs. During your “off” days you should still try to move around with a blood flow circuit, playing sports, going for a bike/hike/long walk, working on corrective exercises or other physical activities.

Here is how this may look for each day:

Lower and Full Body Lift Days (Higher calorie and carbs)

Breakfast: (Protein, Fats and Carbs) Big bowl of oatmeal (serving depends on goals and hand size) with protein powder, chopped fruit, chopped nuts, cinnamon/nutmeg to taste

Training: (Protein and Carbs) Immediately post training protein shake and carb (fruit, potato, rice, etc.)

Lunch: (Protein, Fats, Veggies and Carbs) Baked/Grilled meat (chicken, pork, steak, fish, etc.), sweet potato / wild rice / whole wheat pasta / beans, broccoli, fruit and nuts for desert

Dinner: (Protein, Fats, Veggies and Carbs) Same as lunch without either the potato / rice or fruit for desert

Nighttime Snack: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Protein shake, small handful nuts / tablespoon peanut butter, celery sticks

 

Upper Body and Movement Day

Sticking with the same basic meals with a couple exceptions so you can see the difference…

Breakfast: (Protein, Fats, Veggies and Carbs) Veggie and egg omelet, avocado, plain greek yogurt w/ chopped fruit, salsa for omelet

Training: (Protein and Carbs) Immediately post training protein shake and carb (fruit, potato, rice, etc.)

Lunch: (Protein, Fats, Veggies and Carbs) Baked/Grilled meat (chicken, pork, steak, fish, etc.), sweet potato / wild rice / whole wheat pasta / beans, broccoli, fruit and nuts for desert

Dinner: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Baked/Grilled meat (chicken, pork, steak, fish, etc.), broccoli, side salad, sweet potato / wild rice / whole wheat pasta / beans

Nighttime Snack: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Protein shake, small handful nuts / tablespoon peanut butter, celery sticks

 

Off Days

Again, the same basic meals but notice the small changes in carbohydrates…

Breakfast: (Protein, Fats, Veggies and Carbs) Veggie and egg omelet, avocado, plain greek yogurt w/ chopped fruit, salsa for omelet

Physical Activity (hiking, biking, bloodflow circuit, etc.): (Protein) Immediately post protein shake and carb (fruit, potato, rice, etc.)

Lunch: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Baked/Grilled meat (chicken, pork, steak, fish, etc.), broccoli, green beans, sweet potato / wild rice / whole wheat pasta / beans, fruit and nuts for desert

Dinner: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Baked meat (chicken, pork, steak, fish, etc.), broccoli, side salad, sweet potato / wild rice / whole wheat pasta / beans

Nighttime Snack: (Protein, Fats and Veggies) Protein shake, small handful nuts / tablespoon peanut butter, celery sticks

**So as you can see, according to the intensity of training/physical demand you can and should manipulate your levels of carbohydrates (and therefore overall calories) to meet the demand. On your off days, you can have a slightly higher portion of meat during lunch and dinner if you feel hungry still, as you want to make sure not to cut calories too excessively.

–          Depending on your goals (muscle gain, maintenance or fat loss) you can even further manipulate carbohydrate intake. If you are looking to gain mass as a primary goal you can eat a few more carbs, compared to a goal of fat loss where you can focus on keeping carbohydrates a little lower…you will have to experiment a bit with portion size but utilize the guide from the link above.

–          If you are going to have a cheat meal (and you should if you know you can jump back on the nutrition bandwagon), plan the cheat meal during your more intense training days as your body will require more nutrients and calories on those days. This allows you to have foods that you enjoy and not have them go straight to fat storage…no more completely banning foods as many diets would have you do (unless you negatively react to them such as gluten or dairy).

–          Notice that on the Off Days the meals are mainly based on lean meats and green veggies. These are the base forevery meal of every day, and the only difference is that during the higher calorie and carbohydrate days you are adding a carb to certain meals…not all though!

An easy way to think about calorie and carbohydrate cycling is that you have to “earn your extra calories and carbohydrates.” If you haven’t trained intensely don’t eat intensely as you don’t need it.

And don’t think this means that you should train 3 hours per day just so you can eat that blueberry muffin in the morning and pasta extravaganza at night…you will quickly begin to hate training and life!

So try cycling your carbohydrates (and subsequently calories) accordingly. This will allow you to gain muscle, burn fat, achieve a lean and athletic body, and enjoy foods you like, and not hate eating healthy (and life) along the way!

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