Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Free Workouts, Posture, Wellness

Knee pain: It’s not complicated (usually)

After seeing an older woman in the clinic the other day a few weeks into her post-knee replacement rehabilitation- her daughter approached me stating she knew she was headed in the same direction as here mom (aka, was already having knee and hip pain in her life) and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to prevent the process.. or if it was just inherent that she too would eventually have to replace a joint or two.

If there is one thing I want to get across to people it’s that nothing to do with our health is guaranteed.

What I mean by that is.. just because you have a family history of something does not mean it can’t be prevented or course corrected. ESPECIALLY when it comes to our movement health!

When it comes to the knees.. generally the actual problem is coming from the hips and/or feet. I refer to the knee as a bridge joint. It is designed to improve efficiency of transit, absorb and transfer force. If the lines of force get messed with (aka you lack stability in the joints above and below), then the efficiency of that joint and it’s movement go right out the window. Stress builds up and that leads to warning signs (pain), inflammation, stiffening, and of course eventually degeneration of the structures within the joint. This can present via tendonopathies, osteoarthritis, runner’s knee/jumper’s knee (both tendonopathies), patellofemoral syndrome or patellar chondromalacia, and even increase your risk of ACL/MCL and meniscal injuries.

Barring external trauma (but yes postural dysfunction can even contribute to the risk of this), pain and issues in the knee generally are coming from above or below.

This is why I always recommend those passionate about running or other repetitive movement based activities get their gait screened by a professional. Catching dysfunction early and prescribing appropriate corrective movements is key in preventing problems down the chain.

Here are 4 “simple” exercises I prescribe routinely to clients experiencing knee/hip/back pain or rehabbing a joint replacement.

1. Clamshells.

You’ve probably seen these before. Designed to activate the lateral stabilizers in the hip, you should feel the burn on the top side of your hip as that is where the activation should come from. Laying on your side with knees bent to approx. 90deg, hips and ankles stacked- clamshell the knee open lifting from the hip. Do not let your hips fall backwards, they should remain stacked and level throughout the movement. Hold the clam at the top range of motion (wherever you can raise to without your hip sliding back!) for 10seconds, slowly return back to the start position.

Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 routinely in your day. The more you activate the muscles properly, the more the brain makes it automatic.

2. Gait Activation

Laying on your stomach, tuck your chin to lift your head (nose should remain pointed down to the ground!), and squeeze your butt cheeks together. Holding and maintaining this position, press opposite arm and leg to the ground while lifting the other opposite limbs off the floor. Hold for 4seconds, switch and repeat process.

This activates Deep postural muscles and connects the brain to a proper gait transfer pattern. It also cues butt activation and neck stabilizers.

Repeat 3-5round of 20 a day.

3. Single Leg Bridging

If you struggle with regular bridging, this is a advanced progression- so work towards it with holds before movements. Glute activation is key here!

Finding your bridge, lift one leg off the ground maintaining your glute activation. Lower the pelvis down half way and then push back up to full bridge on the one leg. Your hips should be the pivot point, not your low back! Core should remain strong, and glutes should be the main push to full hip extension. Drive up through the supporting heel to help engage the back half of the body/butt.

Repeat 6-10/leg for 3 – 5 rounds.

4. Side Bridges

Classic hip hinging activation exercise. All these movements also double as releases for the front of the hip (tight hip flexors anyone??).

On your side, supported by your elbow, shoulder, and core activation, pivoting from the knees- use glutes to actively push hips up and forward through a hinge motion. Hold at the top for 5-10seconds, then sit back and down through the hip hinge.

Common mistakes here: slouching into the shoulder (push UP through the ground/elbow and squeeze shoulder blades together), lack of core activation/bracing allowing for the spine to hinge instead of the hips (think of a squat motion at the hips!), lifting up THEN forwards.. try and make this simultaneous, as if your hips are moving up and down a ramp.

Repeat 6-12x for rounds of 3-5. Great used as a warm-up to other activities.

You would also do well to add in some foot exercises! @thefootcollective on instagram is one of my fav resources- but you can also refer to our existing post about old person feet here!

Struggling to figure these out? We offer complimentary movement assessments and consults to new clients. Prevention and rehab programs for all sorts of clients are available. Have questions? Leave a comment or find us directly at katmahtraining@gmail.com. We’re always happy to help you get your movement right!

Have fun kids!

Free Workouts, health, nutrition, Self-Development, Weight Loss, Wellness

5 Simple Health Hacks for 2018

Resolutions are overrated. Building habits and setting smart goals are what its really all about.

Sorry if I’m killing your #newyearnewme vibes. The truth is that resolutions made this time of year are generally not accomplished by 80% of us lowly humans.

The problem with habits is that they take time and effort, and that is something us humans don’t naturally drift to. Setting a fiery resolution as of Jan 1, 2018 does not come close to guarantee that you wont’ be saying the same thing next year at this time. Health is an ongoing series of habits and decisions you make EVERY SINGLE DAY. And every day is a new adventure, so the decisions will change DAILY. The best solution is forming a solid line up of habits to help you along the decision making trail.

One of the biggest barriers clients tell me about is not having enough time to include new healthy habits into their life, or being too busy to commit to a coaching schedule, complete daily tasks to support their long term health, or to take time for themselves. A lot of this involves choosing to remove the inconvenience of health from our lives (and ironically thereby making health more convenient– making it the obvious choice).

We’ll talk more about sustainable habit practices soon. In this post I am going to outline 5 SIMPLE things you can add to your day to day routine that don’t require more then 5min.

1. Get Down (on the ground)

The simple act of spending time on the ground, and getting back up again is an amazingly simple way to get the whole body moving. Most of us spend the majority of our days in a seated position. It’s well known by now that our conventional chair based positions are absolute crap for our bodies. Evolutionarily we were designed to spend majority of our time in transit (walking, crouching, etc), or in ground based positions (deep squats, kneeling positions, cross legged or other variations of sitting on the ground.).

We have seen a slow creep of convenient ways to bring different positions back into our lives- from ball chairs to standing desks, however, the majority of us still plunk down and stay for way too long.

So here’s the deal. Take a minute, get off your duff, and get on the ground. Sit however is comfortable, kneel, or even lay down and do some rolling around. Then… get up!

That’s it.

Do that 20-50times a day for the best results. Start with what you can handle, and build from there.

If you have joint pain or other health conditions preventing you from doing this simple movement, you need to get yourself to a practitioner who knows what’s up and deal with that. Or, comment/email us with questions and we can send you some personalized advice.

Consults are always free at IM, and having someone chat with you about where you’re at and how to get you where you want to go is never a poor investment.

One of the best tests of longevity is this simple (and yes, it should be SIMPLE), act of moving your body weight from the ground level to a up right position unassisted. No matter what your age or ability, I am confident you can get there with the right tools- and that you’ll feel much healthier for this addition to your day.

2. Hydrate

Okay, seriously, let’s talk about this.

Majority of people are not drinking nearly enough water. Especially those of us who live in the sub zero temperatures on this planet.

I can tell the minute I look at someone, and work on their tissues, what their hydration is like.

Why is hydrating so important? Well why is gas and oil necessary for your car?

Water does many things for our body. Our brain function relies on proper hydration and will use majority of what we get into ourselves immediately just for baseline functioning. All our tissues all the way down to a cell level require water to be healthy. If our cells aren’t healthy, our tissues don’t function at their full levels, and we pay the toll. Joint stiffness, muscle soreness, fatigue, headaches, bloating, water retention, arthritis, sleep issues, low mood quality, you name it I can probably relate it back to your poor hydration habits.

For those of you with existing health conditions or looking to lose weight. This should be of extra importance for you!

How much do you need to drink? You should have a water bottle with you throughout your day, and be taking sips routinely. Generally, I would say 2-3L/day for a healthy adult is adequate. Bet thats a lot more then you’re currently drinking!

For those of you raising protest about more frequent trips to the bathroom, your kidneys thank you in advance. This won’t be a long term inconvenience, but like anything allow for an adjustment period. Try adding herb or fruit (lemon is popular!) infusions! Tea counts as intake as well, but coffee and other sugary drinks not so much.

Want to make this easy? Get yourself a water bottle you’ll love to carry around with you, and keep it full! Just the simple act of having it near you through your day will remind you to take sips from it.

3. The 80% Rule

Coming off of the holiday season and rolling into our new diet plans is always easy when we start… but forming the right habits now will make that February crash and burn easier to prevent.

When it comes to nutrition, there are a lot of things I could throw at you in terms of the latest trends in dieting and why they are probably bulls*** and why you should stick to whole foods and a variable diet full of the things we all know that are good for us… but instead I’m going to leave you with the simplest guideline.

Eat SLOWLY and MINDFULLY, and stop putting things in your mouth when you feel 80% full.

Get the DISTRACTIONS (aka, your phone) away from your eating area, and enjoy what you’re eating. Finding 80% full for most of us is pretty difficult at first, but having minimal distractions and eating slower will help the process. 80% full to me feels.. satisfied. Not hungry, not stuffed. Not empty, but not bloated or brimming. Pay attention to what your literal gut is telling you, and then LISTEN TO IT.

Doing this now while you’re high on resolution plans will make the habit before you hit the Valentine’s day chocolate sales . Trust me.

Feel like you need a little more help building your nutrition habits? Check out our membership page or book a consult to learn more about our coaching programs. (The consult is free 😉 )

4. Learn How to Breathe

We posted on our instagram a few days ago about the Alligator Breathing exercise. If you missed it, find it here and the video here!

We’ve talked about breathing before. The mechanics of it are something a lot of us get wrong a lot of the time, and switching back to diaphragm breathing or alligator style breathing not only benefits the rest of our movement, but also our nervous system and therefore our entire being.

No matter where you’re at, a high performance athlete, runner, weekend warrior with aches and pains, office worker, retiree, everyday human with average health, working on getting yourself to a healthier place, or still stuck where you are, changing your breathing can literally change your life. From mood improvement, sleep enhancement, pain reliever, stress reliever, and focus enhancer- this could be your first step towards something better.

Was that cheesy? #sorrynotsorry

As an added bonus it ties into our next step…

5. Take Five

I don’t care who you are you have time to take 5minutes for yourself.

This isn’t about making sure you hit the gym everyday, or only eat the perfect meals, or even about adding a dedicated meditation practice to your day.

I want you to take 5 minutes to do whatever the heck you want to do.

Some suggestions I could make would be:

  • spending 5 minutes practicing your breathing
  • going for a stroll outside your office (even better, in the actual outdoors)
  • taking 5minutes to get up and down off the floor, or do any other combination of movements that you want to do– check our instagram for ideas here!!!
  • 5min letting your mind clear while sipping your favourite drink (OR THAT WATER YOU SHOULD BE DRINKING ANYWAY)
  • Writing out your intentions for the day, week, month and the goals that will help those intentions come to fruition.
  • 5 technology free moments to meditate on all the things your grateful for today (write these down for added benefit!)

You get the point. The minutes are yours, use them wisely and in a forward thinking way with your health goals in mind.

Those are all simple things right? How many of you will actually add them in? I’m curious!

As I mentioned above, consults with IM coaches and therapists are always free. Our drive is to help you with your drive towards health. Whatever level you are at. Click here to book your consult with us. We’ll even include some goal setting tricks to get you started!

Let’s make 2018 all it can be!

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, strength training, Weight Loss, Wellness

At your age…

Here’s a fun tidbit I hear OFTEN second hand from clients after their friends/family/peers find out what their training and therapy plans consist of…

“At your age, should you really be lifting weights?”

“Isn’t weight training dangerous for your joints? Does that really help you feel better?”

“Aren’t you worried about getting injured again?”

“I heard that weight training is bad for you- doesn’t it cause arthritis”

First off.. I’m honestly not sure where people are finding that last bit of information from, at this point in our history. Secondly I’m also endlessly grateful that I’ve stopped frequently hearing that weight training will make women bulky- at last that myth has been put out of it’s misery. Third off- weight training is highly effective for arthritis rehabilitation and management- WHEN IT IS DONE CORRECTLY. The only time it’s going to cause arthritis is if you don’t do it in good form. This is why having the guidance of a trained professional is imperative when starting any new program. At the very least get a movement assessment and see where you need to work!

Would I tell someone of ANY age to just go and start lifting weights (no matter how much)? NOPE.

Do I prescribe and coach programs for ALL ages (yes, all the way up to 90-somethings- seriously) that involve various amounts of loaded movements, functional movements, dynamic movements, and stability training? You bet I do!

Here’s the neat things about the body.. it works on an adaptation based system. Which means- invariably- to IMPROVE our systems we have to STRESS our systems.

Here’s the feedback I get from my dedicated clients:

“I don’t wake up at 3am anymore with back pain”

“I sleep through the night and don’t wake up stiff in the mornings anymore”

“I don’t get tired during the day”

“My joints aren’t bugging me as much since I started training”

“I’m making healthier choices elsewhere in my life since starting this training routine.”

“I FEEL GOOD”

When we apply GOOD, healthy stress to our system- things change for the better. We also develop a higher tolerance for negative stressors, which means we function just overall more kick ass.

It no longer new information that the mind and the body are one coordinating unit.

Exercise, movement- of any kind- is the BEST and most EFFECTIVE medicine. The stats support it. Check these out.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, if we were to decrease the number of inactive Canadians by even 10%, we’d see a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality and major savings in health care. It is in fact estimated that more than $2.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of all healthcare costs, were attributed to the direct cost of treating illness and disease due to physical inactivity1. The financial impact of poor health amounts to a loss of more than $4.3 billion to the Canadian economy, and the negative repercussions of inactivity cost the healthcare system $89 billion per year in Canada2. According to several studies, properly structured and supported exercise program, designed and delivered by a kinesiologist can, among other benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 40%;
  • Reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% and be twice as effective as standard insulin in treating the condition;
  • Help the function of muscles for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis;
  • Decrease depression as effectively as pharmacological or behavioural therapy;5
  • Reduce the risk of stroke by 27%;
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer by 60%;
  • Reduce mortality and risk of recurrent cancer by 50%;

(Based on year 2009. Jansen et al., 2012 2 Based on year 2013. 3 Cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of hypertension incidence among initially normotensive healthy women.
Barlow CE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 163:142-50. 4 Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. DPP Research Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393-403. 5 Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response.
Dunn A et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005. 6 Physical activity and colon cancer: confounding or interaction? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
June 2002 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – pp 913-919)

Weight training- when done intelligently for each individual- is just as effective as other types of exercise in improving health. It has it’s own set of extra benefits and of course risk factors. Just like that Tylenol you like to pop for your back pain.

There is no one way to utilize the benefits of movement. Some people to pick things up and put them down.. others like to yoga.. some like to do step classes, and others just like to go for regular walks and stretch. IT’S ALL GOOD.

The biggest emphasis I am trying to make is that adding weight to your routine when you’re doing it correctly for YOUR SYSTEM (this is where the help of a trained professional often comes in), you’re looking at more resilience throughout your body and mind.

Don’t knock it til you try it 😉

(With the correct prescription and educated advice, of course!)

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Posture

Twisting for Health

Here in Canada we’ve started the food and holiday marathon that is October (Thanksgiving) to January. In the next few months we’ll be bombarded with gatherings, food, drinks, and cold weather. A amazing combination for socializing- a brutal combination for our bodies.

Luckily, there are certain movements that can help with the usual bloating, digestion, and general feelings of fullness and lethargy that come along with the season.

Spinal twists are amazing moves for both our spine health, digestive health, and breathing mechanisms. They are definitely a favourite pattern of mine to teach.

There’s three in particular that I quite like and suggest you give a try this fall and winter!

First up: The supine twist. Laying on your back, bring your knee up to your chest and guide it across your body towards the floor. Look the opposite way to allow a twist through your entire torso. Stay here and breathe deeply for 20-30seconds/side.


Next, thread the needle!

On all fours, reach one had to the sky and then underneath your supporting arm. Either hold this position or rotate through the movement 10-15times, breathing deeply throughout.


Lastly: The lunge twist.

Either from a half lunge (back knee on the ground) or full lunge, place your opposite hand to your front leg on the ground, and reach towards the sky with the other hand, twisting through the torso. Careful here not to twist the hips, but only from the pelvis up. Hold and breathe for 10-30sec/side.


If you have a back injury or undiagnosed pain in your spine- please consult your health care professional before trying these. Always pay attention to how you feel progressing into the movements- if you have pain, consult a professional before proceeding!

 

Athletic Therapy, Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning

Find Your Balance

As humans, we use balance almost constantly. From the time we tack up, get on, hack, all the way to mucking out and feeding- our body is constantly regulating and balancing us through movement. One of the first things I look at in riders is how they can stabilize themselves through movement, and from side to side. Surprisingly, I see many riders who have trouble even balancing on one leg standing still- and then wonder why they have certain issues in the saddle.

 

Issues that can stem from lack of balance in the saddle include pain in the lower body- specifically the ankles and knees, trouble staying stable landing jumps, trouble asking for certain cues such as lateral work and lead changes, and the list could go on. Our base of support at our feet create so much of our movement potential. Balance of course is also important if we take a tumble. While we can’t always control how we land, those of use who fine tune our balance and proprioceptive skills (our ability to know where our joints are in space..without using our eyes) have a much better chance at landing in a better position.

 

The month I bring to you some balance exercises, ranging from simple to more intense. These exercises are meant to challenge your stability on your feet, improve strength and proprioception/awareness in the lower body, and help you to find your balance.

 

Let’s start with the basics.

Tree Pose: If you’ve done yoga, you’ll have seen this one. Standing on one leg, raise the other leg and place the sole of the foot on either the calf or above the knee. If these too options are still causing you to sway a little too much, try resting just your tippy toes on the ground to start. Hold here for 30seconds, repeat on both sides x5!

IMG_6205

Now we move to Flamingo Walks: This doubles as an excellent warm up/mobility/strength tool for the hips pre-ride! Use the aisle of your barn or some space outside to move through this sequence. Taking a step forwards, hinge from the hips and bring the back leg backwards and the torso forwards (If you remember single leg deadlifts from previous articles- this is the same movement!), slowly move back to an upright position but before you put that foot down, swing the leg forwards and bring the knee up high to 90degrees and hold for 3seconds. Now, straighten out that leg and slowly take a step forwards. Now you repeat the whole cycle on the opposite foot! Continue walking forwards for 10-16steps total (alternating lead legs each step) and do at least three rounds of this!

Here’s a intense one to try. Reverse Lunges with a High Knee.

Taking a step backwards and lowering into a lunge, now step that back leg up and forwards to a high knee position. Keep this entire movement slow and controlled. Do 10/side, finishing all on one side before moving to the other side. You will feel this in both legs, but definitely in the standing leg’s hip and calf. Repeat 3 rounds on each leg.

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, Posture

Roll on, Sunday

I don’t know about you- but the end of the week leaves me exhausted. Sunday’s are generally my Wednesday’s- so I have to find ways to keep myself energized and ready to confront Monday’s no matter what (they still feel like Mondays, even if their mid week for me!). 

I’ve been working through some of my own aches and pains lately- and part of my rehab includes my trusty foam roller to loosen the muscles around my shoulders and thoracic spine- to help my lower spine and hips work a little better. Such a common thing to see among my clients as well, a poorly functioning upper spine causing issues up and down the chain. 

Here’s a couple of the moves I used tonight to loosen up my shoulders. Get your roller and try them out! 


Make sure your spine is aligned with the roller, with your chin tucked and pelvis tilted. First up is straight arm flexions- you’ll feel this between the shoulders as the muscles contract against the roller for a nice active massage effect. Repeat this movement 10-20times. 

Next is Angels. If you’ve done wall slides before this is the same movement. An excellent opener for the chest and the front of the shoulders, it doubles as an active massage for the upper back. Repeat 10-20 times. 

Both these make an fabulous warm up as well pre-workout, ride, or as an office break. 

Let me know how it goes! 

Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts

Monday Work Break 

It’s Monday! Time to get that butt moving. Here’s a quick set for you to throw into your day! It’ll only take you five minutes, which makes it an excellent desk break or work break. 
1. Elbows Back Squats x15 

2. Reverse Lunge with high knee x10/side

3. Down-Dog to Plank x10 (*add a push-up to the plank for extra arms!) Repeat the whole group anywhere from 1-10 times, either all at once or any time you have a few minted to spare in your day. Integrate movement into your daily life however you can and you’ll be amazed at what happens! Get to it! 

Be sure to keep knees over toes with no inward collapsing in both the squats and the lunged. Work towards getting that triangle shape by pushing hips up in the down dog, and keep a straight line through the entire body in the plank. Work at a pace that suits you, but I recommend a quicker pace for the squats with a more focused pace for the other two exercises! 

  

Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts

Plank Power

We all know planks are wonderful, wonderful things (you know that right?).. They work multiple, important parts of our body all at once and there are endless varieties to try! 

So here’s a quick plank circuit for you. Add it to the beginning, middle, and end of your workout.. Or use it as a quick high intensity circuit all on its own (perfect for 5 min desk breaks or as an extra burn after cleaning th barn!). Whatever you do, just do it!  

5 of each: seasaw plank, plank March, plank step outs, dolphin plank, plank jacks. 

Repeat as many times as you’d like! 

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, Posture, Wellness

Wake Up!

It’s Monday morning, and if any of you are like me… you’re wishing you could stay under the covers just a bit longer.

However, once you hop out of bed- there’s lots to be done! Nobody can deny the busyness of a new week- except your body and your energy levels, of course.

So here, a special treat for your monday (or any day, really) to help you wake up and get rid of any stiffness. Do this right as you crawl out of bed to really get your day off to a good start.. Or, integrate it into your day at work. On a break, or after your lunch to stave off those afternoon nap cravings.

CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO! 

We’re starting with a wide knee child’s pose. Get those hips loosened and ready to move. Wake up your breathing. Centre your mind. Stay here for minimum for 10 deep breaths.

Next comes a wide twist from all fours. Reach up and stretch that top arm towards the ceiling, before swinging it under and reaching to the opposite side. Feel the opening in your shoulders, upper back and breath. This feels great first thing- but also amazing after a big meal or a long morning in the office, or barn. I only do 3 to each side in the video, but definitely try to do 8-10 on each side!

Lastly in this short sequence, comes pigeon pose. A great stretch for the glutes and hips. Amazing after a long drive, or meeting, or ride. Stay here for as long as you want, in the top position or letting your body come towards the ground. I recommend at least 10 breaths per side.

Finish the sequence with another 10 breaths in wide- knee child’s pose!

We can’t stop Mondays from coming, but we can prepare ourselves!

Follow me on instagram (katmah1) and youtube for more sequences like this!

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, Posture

Pre-Ride Sequence #1: Stable Shoulders, Mobile Hips

If you have me on instagram (katmah1) or facebook, you’ll have seen these. If you don’t have me on either.. you should probably get on that!

I have recently started riding again, after a on and off two year break, and of course am practicing what I preach. As most riders, when I’m at the barn I mostly just want to get on the horse and go- but I do appreciate the value of a proper routine to get my body ready to go before I do so. I also know that the horse’s I ride appreciate it as well.

So, with time in mind, I’ve begun putting together short and sweet functional warm-up sequences that I’ll share with you as I get around to filming them. The first two, which cover all the basics of two or three movements that are key for us in the tack, will be featured in this post.

There are a few things that are important for a warm-up. We riders don’t necessarily need to go for your typical 5-10 min cardio warm-up, as often the routine tasks of grooming, tacking up, and other barn things get the blood flowing. Something that is great for us, though, is warming up the movement patterns we’re going to use in the saddle. Especially if you’re in the process of revamping your equitation, practicing the habits before you add in external factors like a moving, thinking animal will really go a long way in preventing injury, and enhancing performance.

Today we’re going to talk stable shoulders and mobile hips.

We’ll start with the hips, as the exercise itself gets the whole body involved. I talk about hip hinging a lot. It’s a big issue for a large population. We as riders use it in our posting trot, two points, and in various other tasks. Around the barn you SHOULD be using it whenever you bend over, lift, etc. This first warm-up movement is a variation of a squat. We’ve all done, or at least heard of, a squat. It’s a movement we as humans should be very proficient in, although most of us aren’t. This variation of a squat is designed to really cue the hip hinging back and down (with proper knee mechanics) and then up and forward- while keeping a strong core and stable shoulders, of course.

You’re going to start off with your feet facing the wall, a few inches away, hip width apart, standing up in a nice posture, and putting your arms behind your head- making sure the elbows stay back (**watch here that you don’t arch in the mid-spine).  From this start position, you’re sitting down and back into a squat (as deep as 90deg, or as deep as you can maintain form). Knees should remain straight and track over the ankles, without collapsing in. Weight should transfer through the heels. Knees shouldn’t cross the toes- or touch the wall. Torso should stay upright enough that you don’t knock your head on the wall. Back remains neutral and core remains active.

Click here for video! 

Do 10-15 of these, then get read for the second part of the sequence! Standing in a similar position facing the wall, place your forarms on the wall, with the elbows at 90deg. You should be standing close enough to the wall to do this movement without arching your back.

From here, activate your core and the muscles between your shoulder blades, and then slowly slide arms up the wall (only as far as you can maintain a neutral spine), followed by slowly lowering them down. Do this 10-15 times, you should feel the muscles in your upper back working. The video shows first the incorrect way, and then the correct way to perform the movement!

Click here for video! 

Repeat that sequence 2-3 times before you get on. The squatting exercise translates easily to the same motion we SHOULD be doing when we post the trot or hold a two point. The Forward Wall Slide teaches us how to use the shoulder girdle properly, and stabilize, so our arms and core can work independently.

Record your horse’s reaction to you doing this, for added hilarity.

Enjoy!