If you are just joining us, we are in the middle of a blog series about living longer through having a stronger butt. Though that may sound kind of weird, there really is science to back it up! In week one, we referenced a study that showed your ability to go from standing to sitting down on the floor and back up again with the least amount of touches or support could predict your likelihood of death. More importantly, it showed that improving your ability by just a small amount could pay big dividends on reducing your mortality risk. Last week, we started breaking down the process of strengthening your butt, back and hips by changing how you get out of a chair. You can read that post here.
If you have been getting out of the chair by:
- Sliding to the edge of the chair and pressing your heels into the floor,
- Standing straight up from the hips, keeping your back straight and pushing your behind forward and up,
- Tightening your glutes and squeezing your shoulder blades together when you get to the top,
- And sitting down the same way, weight through the heels, back straight...
There is an adage in sports training and rehabilitation: "Speed Hides Need." If you really want to see where someone is having trouble with movement, you slow them down! Our brains are very interesting things: once you have a target in mind - mental, emotional or physical - it will pretty much do anything it has to in order to achieve that goal. Sometimes that is good, like in cases of emergency or danger. However, if you are constantly "cheating" to achieve a movement multiple times in a day, not only are you reinforcing abnormal movement, but you are accumulating damage along the way! Slowly but surely, your brain figures out that you can't be trusted with the movement so it starts to take it away from you. Over time, you can no longer get up and down without moaning and groaning, let alone get off the floor!
So let's try the chair exercise again, only a little different:
- Slide to the edge of the chair and press your heels into the floor.
- Stand straight up from the hips, keeping your back straight, pushing your behind forward and up, while slowly counting to four, reaching the top at the four count.
- At the very end, tighten your glutes and squeeze your shoulder blades together, while slowly counting to four.
- Sit down the same way you came up, weight through the heels, back straight, while slowly counting to four hitting the bottom of the chair at the end of the count.
How did that feel? Was it harder? Did you find some places that were more difficult to control? Most of us never realize that we are not fully engaging our muscles through a given range of motion, we just get things done through momentum and work around! Slowing a movement down will bring out shortcomings quickly!
Let's use this information to add another layer of mobility and stability to your butt.
If you have been working this exercise from an average size kitchen chair and found it harder when you slowed down to initiate movement and travel the first six inches up, and at about six inches away from the seat on the return trip, you just sort of fell onto the chair, that is very common!
Review and pick one of the two options below:
- If you could complete the whole motion, but found it difficult (you didn't have to swing yourself out of the chair or just plop down at the end), do the following:
- Get out of the chair and travel up until you feel it get easier, then, rather than continue to the top, start to lower yourself down. Time this out taking four seconds to get up and four seconds to get down. Remember, you are not going to the top of the movement!
- Repeat five times and, on the last one, go all the way to the top and back down like normal. You don't need to do this every time you get up and down out of a chair, but try to do it at least two to three times per day.
- If you could not complete the whole motion without modification (you had to swing yourself of the chair, use arm supports or plop down at the end), try one of the following exercise modifications:
- Follow the instructions listed above, but use a chair that has arm rests.
- Gradually over time, rely less and less on the use of your arms until you can execute the movement without using your arms at all.
- Move to a higher surface: A bed is often times higher than most chairs, as is the arm of a couch (be careful not to fall backwards!). Do the four-second count portion, but start a little higher than a kitchen chair. Once you have mastered the higher surface, start over again on the lower surface and go through the steps listed under option one.
Start working on this and, before you know it, you are going to see a noticeable difference in both your flexibility and stability (strength).
Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about our ultimate goal of being able to get up off the floor with the least amount of touches, but sometimes you have to go backwards before you can progress!
Until next time,
Dr. Doug Williams Care Chiropractic Lafayette, Indiana