TOPIC · HEALTH · STRENGTH & FLEXIBILITY · EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Every week I am posting about  everything you need to know about hormones. This weeks topic is about strenght & flexibility

Did you know – strength & flexibility

 

  • Just like healthy food and drinking plenty of water, stretching and strength training is crucial to our wellbeing.
  • As we age strength & flexibility becomes even more important
  • Flexibility refers to the range of motion / ROM in a specific joint.
  • Muscular strength refers to the strength of a specific muscle or muscle group
  • Functional strength is the goal as we age, ie. strong enough to climbing stairs, carrying shopping, getting ‘unassisted’ up from the floor, chair or sofa.
  • How many elderly people do you know that walk with a bit of a shuffle, have a hard time reaching up to the top shelf, carrying their groceries, getting up the stairs, even getting up from a chair.
  • A sign of muscle strength, flexibility and balance is how many movements you need to get up from the floor or even getting up from the sofa – how many do you need?
  • By the age of 80 years, sedentary people lose 50% of their muscle mass
  • Weight training can stop, prevent and reverse muscle loss
  • Everyone can improve their level of strength
  • You can never be too strong
  • 60% of people who weight train get an average of 7 hours or more of sleep per night
  • Weight training lowers bad cholesterol
  • Weight training lowers blood pressure
  • Adding just 2 weight training sessions a week can reduce body fat by 7%
  • Weight training boosts dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, making it a natural antidepressant
  • Muscles Increase longevity
  • Muscles increase balance
  • Muscles improve heart health
  • Muscles increase metabolism, so you burn more fat while you’re resting
  • A strong core gives you a better posture
  • Joint health is extremely important to strength
  • BUT when you become more flexible it’s very important to maintain muscle strength especially at the end of the ROM  
  • You can be too flexible – called Generalised Joint Hypermobility (GJH) or as we used to call it double jointed

Meet Sally and get to know all about strenght & flexibility

Intro to Strength & Flexibility

How You can look after your fascia with GuaSha - demo

Developing & maintaining muscle strength & endurance

All about flexibility

Lets talk Fascia

Muscle Strength 101

  • Any activity that makes your muscles work harder than usual can increase muscle strength, size, power and endurance.
  • Heavy weights + few repetitions gives increased mass and strength
  • Lighter weights + many repetitions gives endurance
  • Train minimum 2 sessions a week
  • Use it or lose it – you can only maintain your newly gained muscle strength or endurance with

Muscle-Strengthening Activities

  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • lifting body weight, such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats or simply climbing stairs
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • hill walking
  • cycling
  • dance
  • yoga
  • pilates

Developing & Maintaining Strong, Healthy Muscles

2 types

  • Muscular Endurance
  • Muscular Strength

Muscular Endurance

  • A particular muscle group’s ability to continuously contract against a given resistance.
  • Low-intensity weight-bearing or strength-training, many reps builds endurance.

Exercise Example
– Long-distance cyclists, holding a plank to develop core strength, but also greater endurance in hips, abdominals, and shoulder muscles.

Everyday Health Example
 climbing up several flights of stairs, lifting and carrying groceries from your car to your house.

Muscular Strength

The amount of force a particular muscle group can produce in one, all-out effort, known as one-rep max.

Heavier weights with fewer reps, taking muscles to fatigue with each set builds strength

Exercise Example
– Lifting heavy weights in the gym, Bodybuilding

Everyday Health Example
lifting a heavy box, unassisted standing up from a chair.

Combining the 2
Circuit-training routines.

 

Strength and Hormones

  • Testosterone is an anabolic hormone
  • Testosterone increases muscle bulk & strength
  • Testosterone increases bone density & strength and men with very low levels of Testosterone are more likely to suffer from bone fractures and breaks.
  • Testosterone increases the release of neurotransmitters, which encourage tissue growth.
  • Testosterone interacts with receptors in DNA, which trigger protein synthesis.
  • Testosterone increases levels of Growth Hormone, so you’re more likely to build muscle.
  • Estrogen increases muscle mass
  • Estrogen increases the response to the anabolic stimuli from Testosterone
  • Estrogen increases myofibrillar protein production (special parts of muscle cells that regulate muscle contraction)
  • Women taking ERT combined with exercise show an increase in the production of myofibrillar proteins
  • High levels of Progesterone may have a negative effect on muscle strength, especially Progestins
  • Estrogen increases bone density by increasing the production of new bone
  • Estrogen promotes the gradual, progressive closure of the epiphyseal growth plate in bones thereby halting height growth in both males and females.

Flexibility 101

  • Refers to the range of motion / ROM of a given joint.
  • Differs from join to joint ie. you may have very flexible shoulders, but tight and inflexible hamstrings or hips.
  • Flexibility is important at any age.
  • Can affect your balance, coordination, and agility.
  • Can reduce the likelihood of injury
  • Can enhance athletic performance
  • Makes ‘independent’ aging more possible

Flexibility Activities

  • stretching
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • Pilates

Developing & Maintaining Flexibility

4 General Stretching Methods

  • Static
  • Passive
  • Isometric
  • Dynamic stretching.

The Goal

  • To increase a joints range of motion / ROM.

Increasing ROM

  • Active ROM is produced by the person contracting their muscles, ie. lifting leg, bending the elbow. Active ROM affects performance
  • Passive ROM is the range produced using an external force ie. another person helping the movement. Passive ROM stretches can be used to increase active ROM.
  • The greater the ROM the less the risk of injury.

Static Stretching

  • A muscle and fascia is stretched to a length that is uncomfortable, NOT painful, and held for a given length of time.
  • Optimal time to hold the stretch is between 60 and 90 secs.
  • This is the most common form of stretching
  • Such as – touching your toes, which stretches the back of legs, thighs, back even shoulders and neck

Passive Stretching

  • Also called relaxed stretching
  • Assume a stretch position and hold it with assistance of another part of your body, a partner, or an aid, such as a strap.

Isometric Stretching

  • Stretch the muscle and hold 30 secs, then tighten the muscle without making the movement (isometric) until the ‘stretch’ is no longer felt, then stretch the muscle a little bit more and hold for 30 secs.
  • This allows greater lengthening of the muscle by switching off the stretch reflex in the muscle.
  • Careful the second stretch is not taken too far,
  • Such as – putting your leg up on a chair, stretching your hamstring for 30 sec, perform an isometric contraction by pushing your heel down against the chair until the uncomfortable nature of the stretch is diminished, then further lengthen your hamstring and hold the stretch for another 30 sec.

Dynamic Stretching

  • A person performs movements that take their joints through their ROM which naturally produce stretches of selected muscles.
  • Movements are continuous and the stretch is not held.
  • Often used during a warm up
  • Such as – a walking lunge.

Benefits of Regular Stretching

  • Improved physical performance, sport and life activities
  • Fewer injuries
  • Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
  • Increased quantity of synovial joint fluid
  • Increased neuromuscular coordination
  • Reduced muscular tightness
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased joint ROM
  • Improved flexibility
  • Less pain
  • Improved posture and balance
  • A positive state of mind

There’s Flexible and there’s TOO Flexible

Too flexible called Generalised Joint Hypermobility (GJH) or simply hypermobile or double jointed

  • Can be the cause of joint pain such as knees, fingers, hips, and elbows
  • Too flexible increases your risk for wear and tear on joint cartilage which can lead to arthritis.
  • Some stabilization can be obtained by strengthening the muscles surrounding the joints

Identifying Hypermobility

  • Can you now or could you ever place your hands flat on the floor without bending your knees?
  • Can you now or could you ever bend your thumb to touch your forearm?
  • As a child could you twist your body into strange shapes?
  • Can you now or could you ever do the splits?
  • Did your or do your shoulder or kneecap dislocate easily?
  • Do you consider yourself double-jointed?

What Causes Hypermobility?

  • There is a genetic connection and hypermobility is typically inherited from parent to child.
  • Studies show that many genes contribute to the development of hypermobile joints.
  • It is common for the trait to run in families.
  • Genes that are linked with the production of collagen, a vital protein found in all types of fascia, ay play a central role.

What to Do

Focus on isometric and concentric strengthening exercises:

  • Isometric exercises
    – the joint doesn’t move even though the muscles are working such as – the plank
  • Concentric exercises
    – a muscle contracts and shortens the muscles while generating force, overcoming a resistance, such as lifting a heavy weight such as a concentric contraction of the biceps would cause the arm to bend at the elbow, lifting the weight towards the shoulder.

Yoga Poses for Flexibility inspired by Pamela Whyatt

Yoga Poses for Flexibility inspired by Pamela Whyatt

  • Practice these poses as often as possible to increase flexibility.
  • They can be done as part of a workout routine or separately at any time throughout the day.
  • Make sure your body is properly warmed up before doing the exercises.
  • Do these exercises at least 4 times per week.

Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana

Muscles worked:

  • hamstrings
  • buttocks
  • shoulders
  • upper arms
  • quadriceps

Actions

  • Come onto all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Press into your hands as you tuck your toes under and lift your knees, keeping your heels lifted.
  • Extend through your spine and lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling.
  • Bend your knees slightly and press into all of the parts of your hands.
  • Bring your head in line with your upper arms or relax your neck and tuck your chin into your chest.
  • Focus on stretching and strengthening your body.
  • Hold this pose for 30 – 90 seconds.
  • Triangle Pose  – Trikonasana

Muscles worked:

  • latissimus dorsi
  • oblique stomach muscles
  • buttocks
  • hamstrings
  • quadriceps

Actions

  • Bring your feet apart so they’re wider than your hips with your right toes turned to the right and your left toes slightly turned to the right.
  • Lift your arms so they’re parallel to the floor with your palms facing down.
  • Hinge at the right hip to extend forward, reaching out through your right fingertips.
  • Then, lower your right hand to your leg, a block, or the floor.
  • Extend your left arm up toward the ceiling with your palm facing away from your body.
  • Turn your gaze to look in any direction.
  • Hold this pose for 30 – 90 seconds.
  • Do the opposite side.

Gate Pose – Parighasana

Muscles worked:

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Spine
  • Chest
  • Shoulders

Actions

  • Kneel down and stretch your left leg out to the side and externally rotate the leg so that your heel is on the mat with your knee and toes pointing up.
  • For more stability you can place the ball of the foot against the wall.
  • Gently press your right hip forward and open your arms out to the side parallel to the floor, palms facing up.
  • Lower the left side body to the left leg, placing the hand down on the leg or on a block.
  • Ground through the right knee.
  • Lift your right arm up and over to the left, still pressing your right hip forward, knitting your ribs in and rotating your ribcage towards the ceiling.
  • Look up, under the right arm or in front of you.
  • Stay for 30 – 90 secs.
  • Repeat to the other side.
  • Two-knee spinal twist

Muscles worked:

  • spine
  • rectus stomach muscles
  • shoulders
  • upper back
  • chest

Actions

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest.
  • Extend your arms to the side with your palms facing down
  • Slowly drop your legs down to the left side, keeping your knees together
  • You can use a cushion under your knees or in between your knees
  • Your gaze may be in any direction
  • Breathe deeply and focus on letting go of tension
  • Hold this pose for 30 – 90 seconds
  • Do the opposite side.

Extended Puppy Pose

Muscles worked:

  • shoulders
  • upper back
  • spine
  • upper arm

Actions

  • Come onto all fours in a tabletop position
  • Bring your hands forward slightly and come onto your toes with your heels lifted
  • Sink your buttocks toward your heels
  • Keep your arms extended, elbows slightly lifted
  • Place your forehead on the floor or a blanket or a block
  • Hold this pose for 30 – 90 seconds.

About Pamela Whyatt

  • Is Chartered Society Physiotherapist and Acupuncturist who now works in a private practise in North London
  • Has a degree in Chinese Medicine
  • Ia qualified yoga teacher and APPI Pilates teacher
  • Pamela creates classes fusing Pilates and yoga postures focusing on balanced muscle work, breath and alignment
  • For more information about her online classes contact Pamela on pamela.whyatt@hotmail.co.uk 

Fascia 101

  • Your second skin
  • A band or sheet of fibrous connective tissue, literally connecting every part of us together like a spiders web
  • Varies in thickness from place to place in the body
  • Made primarily of collagen fibres forming wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull.
  • Fascia contains10 times more proprioceptors than in muscle. These receptors that communicate movement, action, and location
  • Fascia also functions as a pain regulator through its pain receptors
  • Fascia is considered to be the biggest sensory organ in the body
  • Fascia can play a big part in how we regulate our feelings
  • Fascia also contains extracellular matrix / ECM (the stuff that is in between the cells)
  • ECM also contains the fibroblasts cells responsible for creating the extracellular matrix, collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin
  • It attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscle fibres and internal organs
  • Nerves and blood vessels travel through the fascia
  • It is flexible
  • Able to resist great forces which pull the wavy pattern of fibres straight
  • Fascia can become stiff and dry even shorter and difficult to change, causing pain and reduced mobility
  • Fixing it often takes serious intervention and many months
  • Treatments like deep tissue massage, Rolfing, or the sustained mindfulness and intention like Alexander Technique
  • Hormones Estrogen and Relaxin have a positive effect on fascia
  • Cannabinoids can alter the biosynthesis of the extracellular matrix, such as increase the production of hyaluronic acid and thereby remodelling the tissue such as in wound healing, inflammation and immune defence
  • Fibroblasts can modulate the production of the various components of the extracellular matrix, according to type of stimuli: physical, mechanical, hormonal, and or pharmacological, enabling fascia to change from stiff to fluid

3 Main Types

Superficial fascia

  • lowermost layer of the skin blending with the dermis layer of the skin on top and the subcutaneous fat below
  • surrounds organs and glands, neurovascular bundles
  • many locations it ‘fills’ otherwise unoccupied space
  • serves as a storage medium of fat and water
  • serves as a passageway for lymph, nerve and blood vessels
  • is a protective padding to cushion and insulate.

Deep fascia

  • surrounds individual muscles
  • divides groups of muscles into fascial compartments
  • has a high density of elastin fibre that determines its extensibility / flexibility
  • has a rich presence of thin blood vessels
  • rich with sensory receptor
  • Examples of deep fascia are fascia lata, fascia cruris, brachial fascia, plantar fascia, thoracolumbar fascia

Visceral fascia

  • Suspends the organs within their cavities
  • Wraps the organs in a double layer of fascia separated by a membrane
  • less extensible than superficial fascia
  • needs to maintain its tone
  • too lax, it contributes to organ prolapse
  • too tight it restricts organ motility
  • Examples of visceral fascia are the pleura of the lungs, the pericardium of the heart, the meninges of the brain.

Fascia & Hormones

  • Fascia contains sex hormone receptors, especially for Estrogen
  • Pain and injury thresholds differ in female athletes during the menstrual cycle
  • Low Estrogen after menopause affects the type of collagen in the fascia
  • A decrease in Estrogen increases Collagen I which provides the fascial tissue with strength and resistance of tensile stressors, ie more stiff
  • The hormones Estrogen and Relaxin are involved in extracellular matrix and collagen remodeling and thus contribute to functions of myofascial tissue
  • Estrogen stimulates and regulates the production of Collagen and Hyaluronic acid
  • Relaxin regulates inflammation and fibrosis, which affects fascia stiffness and nocireceptor (pain receptor) sensitivity.
  • Relaxin also acts as antifibrotic agent in muscles favouring muscle regeneration against muscle fibrosis
  • Cannabonoid receptors are also found in fascia
  • Cannabinoids appear to alter the biosynthesis of the extracellular matrix, such as increase the production of hyaluronic acid and thereby remodelling the tissue such as in wound healing and immune defence.

How YOU can Improve Your Fascia Health

Stretch for 10 minutes every day

  • Stretching elongates your muscles and the surrounding fascia
  • For best results hold the stretch for 30 – 90 secs.
  • Don’t force use your breath work to deepen into the stretch – see my article on the different types of stretching in the is blog

Roll out your tight spots

  • Foam rolling is a great way to pinpoint where the fascia tight spots are, ie. where you’re holding on to tension.
  • Let your body guide you. When you hit a tender point or tight spot, work with that spot for 30 – 90 secs.

Heat it up

  • Studies suggest that infrared saunas may penetrate the neuromuscular system and promote recovery.
  • Other studies found that sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes increases women’s levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which helps our bodies break down fats and build muscle.
  • Even a warm Epsom salt bath can coax tight fascia to loosen up, releasing your muscles from their stranglehold.
  • Follow up with GuaSha massage – see the video at the top of the blog

Cool it down

  • Cold therapy or cryotherapy, even applying an ice pack after working out reduces inflammation and thereby fascia adhesions

Get Moving

  • Invite more movement into your life
  • Contracting your muscles and moving your joints pulls and moves the surrounding fascia, keeping it supple, even more lubricated
  • Use a 10 minute mobility, stretching program moving as many joints as possible.
  • Yoga is perfect for stretching – see the article Yoga Poses for Flexibilty in this blog

Strong, Hydrated Fascia with GuaSha Massage

  • Fascia contains fibroblast cells that produce collagen and hyaluronic acid
  • Stem cells for the fibroblast cells are found in the Dermal layer of the skin
  • In this study Shiseido discovered that pressure to the dermal layer, ie. massage, promoted stem cell proliferation, which means more fibroblasts, more collagen and more hyaluronic acid, so stronger, hydrated fascia and skin.
  • A powerful tool to massage with is a GuaSha tool – see my video demonstration at the top of this blog of GuaSha massage for tight neck and scalp fascia. Buy your tool – see link below. Use SALLY10 and get 10% off your beautiful tool.
  • Remember to hydrate every cell with 4 -6 mouthfuls of fresh water every hour.

Questions? Please don't hesitate to contact me

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