Cheating Strength Part 1

My most recent trip to my dentist gave me the Rock eyebrow We always heard as kids the importance of regular brushing and flossing. And if you were in need of a reminder, here are some of the merits of clean teeth...
Helps prevent:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • Alzheimer's
  • lung infections
  • kidney problems
  • infertility
  • preterm birth
  • erectile dysfunction
  • and even cancer 

A little pat on the back and background of my own personal experiences with dentistry… I have literally had ONE cavity my entire life. But, of course, the one cavity lead to one super-awesome root canal surgery. So yeah, when I get one, I do it all the way baby!

As I sat in with my dentist for a cleaning I noticed after a few minutes my shoulder injury from the previous week was starting to crop up. The tendonitis in my right shoulder was acting up due to the position I was seated. It pitched my shoulders inward toward each other putting some stress on my chest. I am, admittedly, pretty good at dealing with pain. But this was an annoying dull pain that was radiating from my forearm to my shoulder and chest. Then it hit me. I noticed my neck and jaw starting to clench. For those who read my blogs, or better yet, have attended the “Cheating Strength and Everyday Life” workshop with myself and Dr. Vincent Brunelle, you will know where I am going with this one. I was “cheating.” Let me explain.

When an injury occurs, the body will do its best to compensate to maintain optimal high performance be it athletic movement, exercise, or completion of an everyday task like doing the dishes. Think of when you have done your dishes. Depending on the height of your sink or the duration of the task, some people will notice lower back pain. It is normally due to the weight shift to one side of your body by overloading weight into a stronger hip and glute. Or when you pitch forward slightly to do the dishes, the body’s erector spine muscles work to stabilize as the use of ab muscles fail to keep your spine upright and put an eventual overload to your erector muscles. Hence the muscle failure and back pain that is similar to a prone plank failure. Your abs and glutes cannot hold your hips up any longer and the erector spine muscles have to take over…and eventually fail.

So back to me. I noticed while sitting there with two people with large sharp electric tools in my mouth that my neck is cramping and flexing due to the pain in my shoulder and chest that is now radiating to my forearm and all the way up to my neck and jaw. I surmised that due to the position and angle of where my shoulders were pitched in towards one another I was feeling a bit crunched. Dentist chairs apparently were not made for me. My forearm started to clench and tighten up due to the pain my shoulder, and this was one of the places in my body from the previous week's injury during the poorly executed bench press incident that had compensated and was overtaxed by basically using all my effort to get the weight off my body.

Suffice to say that everyone has “something wrong with them” injury wise whether they know it or not. I was stuck in a chair for 20 minutes and almost writhing in pain that would have been avoided just simply based on the position I was seated in. Being the great dentist mine is, she noticed this after a few minutes asking if I needed a break. Trying to be a tough guy, I refused. Yet after the cleaning was done I totally did my new Ironman Pose stretch along with some other limbering up. Yeah, I can’t stay seated for too long apparently.

But this experience reminded me of the “small things” that we all forget to do and/or take for granted. Occupationally we all are either in a flexion (where the spine is flexed for long durations, example sitting down at a desk for 6-8 hours), or in extension (where the spine is erect and upright, example someone who is on their feet all day). Although one might think being in flexion would be the worse of the two to be stuck in, extension has its doosies for causing havoc on a body as well. As trainers, we do our best to combat all of these issues with you in addition to all of your exercise goals. It also behooves us to address any and all potential causes for injury. It is why we teach you the use of soft tissue tools, breathing techniques, and proper dynamic warm ups.

We all, at some degree, cheat. Optimal performance on all tasks and exercises is what we strive for and it should be the standard. Many times we will overdo it, push through another rep. And sometimes that extra rep or extra effort pays dividends towards our end goals. Unfortunately, it also can go the other way south of those goals. Mentor and good friend Dr. Brunelle once stated “shortcuts lead to injuries, or failure to truly progress” and I too have found this to be very true not just on a personal level (obviously lol), but from a trainer standpoint.

We will be hosting another Cheating Strength Workshop on Wednesday, 1/28/15 at 5pm in Studio B. We will be covering staple movements like the squat, deadlift, and Turkish Get Up and how you could be cheating in those movements and not even know it and how the consequences affect your daily life. Hope to see you there to learn some of these great tips to hack into your overall strength in and out of the gym!