Negate the Effects of Aging (even if you’re in your 20’s)

13 Dec 2011 by jmaxfitness, No Comments »

Ever wonder why old people walk around all hunched over?  Well, there’s a reason, and it can be all explained using Janda’s theory.

The late Dr. Vladimir Janda was a pioneer of muscle imbalances.  In his research, he determined that our muscles can be classified functionally into two different groups: tonic and phasic.  The tonic muscles are the ones that often tighten as we age, while the phasic muscles become weak, or inhibited.

Tonic (tighten as we age) Phasic (weaken as we age)
  • Psoas (hip flexors)
  • Pecs
  • Upper Traps
  • Sternocleidomastoid (SCM; Longest muscle name; Neck muscles)
  • Glutes
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Rhomboids
  • Lower Traps
  • Deep neck flexors

Now, the above list is much larger, but I only included the ones relevant with today’s discussion.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s work from the ground up.

Help The Hips

The tonic muscle of the hips (listed above) is the Psoas.  It is no secret that your hip flexors will tighten with age.  Add in the amount of sitting we do each day, and this problem worsens with every new generation.

The phasic muscles of the hips are the glutes (your bum).  I want you to consciously try to flex your glutes.  Don’t be afraid to touch your butt to see if the muscle is firing.  Having some trouble?  This is very common.  Whether you want to call it gluteal amnesia, weak assed, or half assed (only one glute fires, but the other doesn’t) the problem’s still there.

The Hip Fix

Stretch the psoas:

Activate your glutes (focus on squeezing your butt cheeks together; pretend you’re squeezing a Loonie; If you don’t have a band, tie a necktie around your knees):

Help the Shoulder

What gets tight in the shoulders?  The pecs and the upper traps.  Take a walk down the street and look at almost any elderly person.  They’ll have their shoulders hunched over, and be partially shrugging.  This is bad-news-bears when it comes to shoulder health.

To make things worse, the serratus anterior, lower traps, and rhomboids are the phasic muscles of the shoulders.  (If you don’t know what these muscles are, stick with me).  The rhomboids help you pull your shoulders back (counteracting the tightness of the pecs), while the serratus anterior and lower traps help you keep your shoulders aligned properly (so they don’t rub against other bones, causing pain) when you are putting your arms overheard, or pushing or pulling something.

The Shoulder Savers

Follow any of the advice in my article, Get Rid of Your (head)Aches by Fixing Your Posture as well as:

(DO NOT LET YOURSELF SHRUG!)

Help the Neck

Ever notice that some people have their chin poked forward kind of like this?:

That’s your tight SCM, weak deep neck flexors, and most likely some other bad stuff going on in your back.

A Guide to Necking

Learn to pack your neck.  Practice it every minute of every day.  Here’s a good way to learn:

Notice in this video how Eric Cressey gives himself a double chin?  That’s the deep neck flexors!  Another cool trick is to push your tongue against the roof of your mouth while doing this exercise.

The Key Ingredient:  Massage (Self Myofascial Release)

Before you do any of the above, you’ve got to start foam rolling, and getting a tennis ball in those hard to reach areas.  It helps to take away the knots in the muscles before you stretch them.  Want to stretch without foam rolling?  This is the equivalent of taking the knot in your shoelace, and tightening it.  Foam rolling unties the knot.  Stretching lengthens the muscle once you have eliminated the knots.

How Often Should I Do These?

Every day is most beneficial, but it’s not realistic.  Here’s my recommendation:  do it as your warm-up before you workout, or do it during your rest periods of your workout, or both.  It’s a small time investment that will decrease your pain in the future.  In my mind, it’s worth it.  Go get ‘em, Tiger.

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