By Jennifer Cornelius, ATC, BS, AS
Oftentimes those who are physically active live by “the more you do the better off you are” motto, but in reality, the goal should be quality movements over quantity. We don’t spend 24 hours a day in a gym because we have lives outside of fitness. For example, you could be a stay at home or full time working parent taking care of children, a business professional sitting in meetings all day, working an active labor job day in and day out, or even performing household chores that can involve a lot of lifting, twisting, and reaching. The list can go on forever. If you can’t perform your job duties or activities of daily living, you can’t truly live to your full potential in the gym. That is where I come in as an athletic trainer and fitness professional. I like to compare movement patterns that should be “honed in on” not only inside the gym, but in our daily lives as well. Below I will touch on movement patterns that work hand in hand that you may not think about while performing them, but hopefully after reading this you will move with more intention.
Performing a deadlift compared to lifting a basket full of laundry from the ground:
When you are performing a deadlift in the gym you are aware of what muscles you are utilizing and how to move throughout this exercise, but at home you are checking off the boxes of what you need to do and when it needs to be completed, so you may be moving at a faster pace. If you are more task oriented, this can turn out to be a quick lift and carry resulting in low back, cervical, shoulder, and sometimes hip pain or even worse, injury. The focus needs to be in the hamstring, glutes, and core to protect the spine from injury.
Performing a squat when compared to picking up a child:
Children have a way of forcing us into unintentional workouts when we aren’t typically prepared. Whether it’s your nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or even your own children, kiddos will always find a way to con you into picking them up and carrying them. Often underestimating the weight of a child, we do not prepare ourselves to lift through our legs with core and scapular engagement, we simply reach down and take the load into our spine leading to herniated discs, falls, sciatic symptoms, and more.
Performing a shoulder press compared to working overhead or lifting overhead in a factory:
Whether you work in a factory lifting and carrying boxes, work as a line installer on telephone poles, or haul heavy materials while working construction, shoulder strength and stabilization is crucial to maintain. Reaching overhead can become tricky if you overcompensate with incorrect muscle groups such as your upper trapezius, scalenes, and levator scapulae. These muscles stabilize the cervical spine and when used improperly, can lead to tension headaches, cervical spine injury, and overdominance.
Plank and scapular push ups in relation to bouts of prolonged sitting at a desk or meeting:
The difference between this correlation when compared to the ones above is that you are completely at a disadvantage because you are not moving! You tend to become “stuck” in the same spot sitting through one meeting after the next or have an extensive to-do list to conquer by 5:00pm the same day and you have no choice but to sit and stare at your screen and type. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can lead to kyphosis of the thoracic spine, increased forward head posture, tight pectoralis muscles, stretched latissimus dorsi, tight hamstrings, and weak abdominal muscles. Now I know that seems like a mouth full, but that is why it is crucial to be aware of your posture and take as many “breaks” from sitting throughout your work day as possible. When performing a plank you are isometrically contracting your abdominals muscles, which in the long term will create neural pathways from your brain to your abdominal to fire while in a seated position.
Now is where we come in. After 2+ years of a pandemic and a world full of uncertainty, we are here to turn your work from home job posture and not so good habits into full reassurance. Fitness professionals can equip you with the knowledge and foundational skills to live your life outside of the gym with intention so that you can see progress without being limited by injury.