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Flexibility: Volume 2 Ankles

Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
“You can’t build a strong building on a weak foundation.” –Gordon B. Hinckley

 

 

The Foundation
The ankles are the first mobile joint between you and the ground. They are not only the foundation but also are responsible for shifting weight quickly and assessing any kind of weight bearing stimulus. This joint is also overlooked when observing a weakness in the kinetic chain. Do you have a hard time with exercises like squats or maybe deadlifts? The ankle may be the culprit. Don’t worry! There is a way to improve performance! The answer is flexibility!


Flexibility improves range of motion (ROM). If we can achieve optimal ROM then we can improve multiple aspects of fitness without plateauing as easily and also prevent injuries from occurring.

 

 

Anatomy
For a better understanding of how to assess your ankle mobility, knowing the anatomy can benefit you in where to start.

 

Compartments of the Ankle and Lower Leg
First, there are essentially four different compartments that make up the muscles of the lower leg and ankle. Within each of these groups is between two- four muscles. It can get tedious explaining every single one. Below is a description of each compartment.

  1. The anterior (front) compartment is responsible for dorsiflexion (bringing the foot toward the shin).                                             Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  2. The lateral (side) compartment is responsible for plantar (pointing) flexion and eversion of the foot.                                                                                                              Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  3.  The superficial (surface) posterior (back) compartment is responsible for plantar flexion and flexing the leg.                          Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles
  4. The deep posterior compartment is responsible for plantar flexion, inversion and rotating the leg medially (to the middle).               Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Ankles

 

Where do I start?
A good place to start is a flexibility test of the ankle.

 

Flex Test
Lay on your back with your feet against the wall from heels to toes. Begin by flexing your foot or pulling toes toward the front of your leg. If there is more than an inch between your toes and the wall you have optimal ROM of your ankle, anything below that is moderate or acceptable.

 

 

Extension Test
When looking for extension of the ankle, lay on the ground away from the wall. Point your toes as far as you can until your ROM is at its max. Ideally there will be a straight line from your leg to the tip of your toes. Speaking in degrees, 20-30 degrees is acceptable.

 

What exercises will improve ankle flexibility?

Static stretches (held 20-30 seconds)

Stretch muscles on the posterior side of the leg:

    1. Gastrocnemius: Place both hands in front of you on a wall. Place the leg you are stretching 3 feet from the wall (this should be behind you) and extend your knee and keep your heel on the ground. As you lean forward you should feel the calf muscle stretch.
    2. Soleus: This is the muscle underneath the gastrocnemius. Instead of keeping the knee straight, bend it. The weight will shift and the inner calf muscle will be stretched.

 

Active Stretches

The active stretches are great for this mobility joint because it is practical for everyday movement.
    1. Circle movement: rotate your foot in a circle with curled toes. Be sure to do this on a slow fashion and really reach for the furthest point that your toes can reach. Also, this might create a cramp if done too fast in either the arch of your foot or the calf. Go in both directions. You should feel your ankle loosen up. 
    2. Dorsiflexion and Plantar flexion: This is simply pointing your foot (extension) and pulling it back toward your shin. Point with curled toes and you should feel the stretch in your ankle.

 

Dynamic Stretch
Remember: Dynamic stretches should not be the initial type of stretch.
    1. Ankle Stretch: Take a knee. One leg should be in a 90-degree angle in front of you and the other leg should supporting most of your weight with the knee on the ground. The leg in front should have the heel in the ground. You can use your hands to stabilize your upper body and control the ROM. Push the hips forward and that will create a change of angle at the ankle joint. Push until it is uncomfortable but not painful. Repeat 10-15 times.

 

 

References:

Old Bay Seasoned Shrimp

Crush-Fitness-Recipe-Shrimp-Adrienne

 

A High Protein, Low Carb Meal Prep or Dinner Option – recipe by Adrienne Callandrello of www.JerseyGirlTalk.com

 

Did you know that shrimp is one of the world's healthiest foods? It is super low in calories, high in protein and perfect for low carb diets. You can eat shrimp cooked raw as a shrimp cocktail appetizer or you can bake, fry or boil it. Tonight's dinner was delicious and I wanted to share how I like to cook and prepare shrimp so that you can try it out. A few summer's ago my husband, brother in law, cousin and I went on our very first vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. It has some of the best seafood in the USA and one thing they are known for is their crabs made in Old Bay Seasoning. We loved the food there and ever since we just love this seasoning on crab and shrimp. I purchased this in the seafood section of my local grocery store and use it any time I make shrimp.

 Crush-Fitness-Recipes-Shrimp

 

At only 7 calories per shrimp, we can eat a relatively large amount of this shellfish without using up too many of our daily calories. Tonight's dinner was a complete meal of a hearty salad, snap peas (green vegetable) and baked shrimp. This is a low carb dinner option and ketogenic friendly. If you also don't like to eat carbs in the evening but rather for breakfast and lunch then this is a good idea to make next time you need a dinner idea.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large bag of large sized shelled and deveined shrimp
  • Coconut oil spray
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt
  • Old Bay Seasoning

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put shrimp in a large bowl and rinse with luke warm water
  2. Make sure to let them thaw for a few hours if they are frozen
  3. Take off the tails (and legs if they are still on)
  4. Spray a large cookie baking sheet with Trader Joe's coconut oil spray
  5. Spray the shrimp with a bit of coconut oil as well
  6. Dust with Pink Himalayan sea salt
  7. Use a generous amount of Old Bay Seasoning on both sides of the shrimp
  8. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes at 385 degreesCrush-Fitness-Recipes-Shrimp

 

Health Benefits

We don't usually think about seafood as a source of antioxidants, but shrimp features at least three unique antioxidants in its nutrient composition: the xanthophyll carotenoid called astaxanthin and the minerals selenium and copper. At nearly 26 grams per 4-ounce serving, shrimp ranks as a very good source of protein.

 

 Crush-Fitness-Recipes-Shrimp

 

You can choose to eat the shrimp hot or cold, over salad or over vegetables - both are amazing options! For salad I add so many ingredients and colors that it is a pretty picture isn't it?! I love black olives (any olives actually and they are a good fat too for keto dieters), roma tomatoes (because I can't eat soft ones and these are usually really hard), artichoke hearts, cucumbers and I love Greek dressing because it is high in fat and has no sugar (unlike most low cal or low fat dressings!)

 

Crush-Fitness-Recipes-Shrimp

 

I hope you enjoy adding more shrimp to your diets with recipes like this one.

 

Crush-Fitness-Recipes-Shrimp

The Power of Now: Managing Stress and Anxiety

Crush-Fitness-Power-Of-Now-Stress-Anxiety
“The mind is a wonderful tool, but a terrible master.”

What if I told you that you have the power to overcome stress? Situational stress and anxiety* seem to be ever present in our lives. In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle refers to most people as “unconscious.” This means most people are not awake in the moment and instead are ruled by past occurrences and possible future outcomes.  Here are five simple things you can do to access your power of now in your daily life….

 

 “Watch the thinker.” I’m guilty of overthinking to the point of mental breakdown, even though I’m just sitting with my cat on the couch. When we let our thoughts run wild, it can cause turbulence in our lives. This affects how we treat others, what we are able to accomplish in a day, and the outcome of our reality. Often the hardest thing is to realize that most of our thoughts are overthinking a past situation that is, well, past or a future life that won’t ever exist. Next time you feel your inner energy start to leave a peaceful place, whether it’s first thing in the morning, or in the midst of a “crisis”, try this exercise.  Don’t repress your thoughts. Don’t psychoanalyze them. Don’t feed into them. Just let them exist, but don’t identify with them, and then ask yourself are these things actually in my present moment? If they are not, you will notice them pass like clouds in the blue sky of your mind, and it won’t seem so scary anymore.  It’s just you and your cat after all.

 

“Accept, Change, Leave, or Suffer.” When you find yourself in a present moment where there IS a reality you are not ok with, there are four options you have:

    • You can accept it. By accepting, you have chosen to surrender to the present moment. Resistance to what is, will only bring suffering.
    • You can change it. If your present reality is absolutely unacceptable, make the change after you have accepted what happened, and apply those changes so it does not happen again.
    • You can leave it. If there is nothing you can do to change the situation, and you cannot accept it, then the only logical option is to leave, everything else is insanity.
    • Or you can suffer. People chose to suffer only because we have convinced ourselves that it is normal. So next time you find your present moment unacceptable remember: “Accept, Change, Leave, or Suffer.”

     

    Complaining ≠ Therapy. People often feel that getting in a good vent session with their friend or mom often helps them blow off steam. But it is important to be mindful that excessive complaining about a situation can often make us identify with that part of our “life situation” and give it power over us. When we complain about something we solidify its place in our mind, and may create more stress than before. Often situations can be handled much more easily if just taken care of by using the four steps we talked about before. Once handled, we can move on without creating a story or drama around it.  It may feel unnatural at first, but you’ll find the power in just taking the moments in as they happen and not holding onto them.

     

    Letting Go of Time & Your Problems. I’m not implying miss your 2 o’clock business meeting, or any “clock time”, but rather let go of “psychological time”. Psychological time is that which does not exist: regrets of the past and fears of the future. The only time that really ever exists is right now. Often we live our lives as if we are on an adventure trying to “make it” or arrive somewhere or attain something. In doing this we miss out on the miracle of life unfolding right before our eyes. We may experience the now in fleeting moments with nature or big events, but then we spend days or years in-between holding onto moments long past or reaching for things yet to come. Ask yourself if you feel like you’re waiting for something. Are you waiting for a man or woman to give you validity? Money? A Job? An event? Do you think these things will bring you worth or fulfillment? “Salvation only exists in the Now, it does not ever exist in the future. Presence is the key to freedom.” When situations do surface in your now, you will be able to handle them with clarity.

     

    Forgiveness & Laughter. Awakening from being “unconscious” or breaking an obsession with psychological time is not serious business or perfect business. When you catch yourself falling into old patterns of negative thought and life patterns, it is important that you do two things. You must first forgive yourself and then you must laugh. If you find yourself being serious about all this, it’s just your mind trying to make another problem out of the situation. Once we remove ourselves from our drama, it is easy to see how funny it all is. Applying these two concepts to other people will create much more ease in your life as well. We are all humans dealing with the same human conditions.

    You may have noticed these tips echo the same point: Your power is in your now.

     

    *DISCLAIMER: In this article I am in no way implying these tactics are a way to cure MEDICALLY diagnosed anxiety or other mental illnesses. I am talking about situational anxiety, stress, sadness, anger, etc. that we all deal with. If you feel like your situation is out of your control or ability, please talk to someone who has the legal credentials to diagnose and help you. <3

    Flexibility: Volume 1

    Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Series
    “Blessed are those who are flexible, for they will never be bent out of shape." -Unknown

    What is flexibility?
    Flexibility is just as important as the strength we acquire from lifting weights.  During this “Flexibility Focus” series I will explain why flexibility should be a crucial part of your exercise routine and how to improve the range of motion (ROM), starting from the ground up. This will simply be an overview of the kinetic chain in relation to flexibility. To sum up flexibility in a nutshell, it is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion.

     

    What is the kinetic chain?
    The kinetic chain is made up of multiple parts that all function together as a unit. I always start from the ground when looking at a problem, so naturally the foot/ankle region would be the first thing to observe. Next, we have the knee joints, followed by the hip joints and then the sacroiliac joints. The back portion following the sacroiliac joint would be the thoraco-lumbar spine region and then the cervical spine (neck) region.

     

    Why is it important?
    When one of these parts does not function properly it can cause pain in other places. I can use myself as an example. I have poor flexibility in my ankles and that affects my back squats and my traditional deadlifts just to name a few. Because I don’t have the flexibility I need in my ankles, it causes my chest to fall forward when my body hits that point where it can no longer descend through my legs. If my chest falls forward it places unnecessary pressure on other points of the kinetic chain. Getting the picture? Maybe your hips are not level when you walk, that may cause tension in your back and possibly even up to your neck region!

     

    How does the kinetic chain function?
    Another way to look at it is from a mobility/stability view. Each point in this kinetic chain has a specific design to help our body move as efficiently as it can. Every other joint is mobile while the next will be a stable joint. The ankles are designed to be a mobile type of joint, the knee joints provide stability, the hip joints are mobility, S-I joint is stability, the thoraco-lumbar spine is mobility and last in the chain is the cervical spine as a stability joint. The pattern of these joints creates an environment that allows our body to be structured but ‘flexible’ at the same time.

    Crush-Fitness-Flexibility-Series

     

    How does a person become more flexible?
    Stretching! Over the next few weeks I will go in depth on each part of the kinetic chain to help you improve your flexibility. There are different styles and progressions, from static (stationary) stretches to dynamic (moving) types of stretches.

     

    What are the benefits of stretching?
    By increasing your joint range of motion you can improve other areas of fitness such as strength, power, and endurance. Increasing ROM can help prevent injuries as well! Improving flexibility can every help with every day tasks.

     

    TYPES OF STRETCHES

    Ballistic Stretching
    Once thought to be a superior type of stretching has lost its edge. This style of stretching requires a bouncing movement, such as touching your toes over and over while getting a nice stretch in the hamstrings. Unfortunately, this stretching style is not used as often due to an increase in injury. The muscle may not be ready to stretch as far and this stretch is not as controllable as any of the others.

     

    Static Stretching
    This involves reaching the furthest point possible in relation to a    joint and holding that position for a short period of time. Example: Sit in the butterfly position with the bottom of your feet together and push knees toward the floor. This will stretch your groin.

     

    Active Stretching
    This type of stretching involves assuming a position and holding it with only the help of your agonistic (opposite) muscle. This causes the muscle to relax. Example: stretching quad by holding foot, the hamstring is flexed and the quad is extended and relaxed.

     

    Dynamic Stretching
    Moving parts of your body to warm up. Such movements are increased with speed of movement. Example: prisoner squats

     

    PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
    Yes, this is a mouthful but most people just use PNF for short. This type of stretching can involve another person aiding the stretch. Lying on your back. The person helping will begin by pushing your [leg] to the furthest point possible (uncomfortable but not painful) and then having you actively push against them for 10 seconds. After pushing for 10 seconds this should allow the hamstring to relax and the person helping you with the stretch will further push your leg and decrease the hip angle, creating an increased stretch to the hamstring.

     

    We are only as strong as the foundation beneath us…

     

     

    Bibliography

    Edwards, K. M. (n.d.). Weak Glutes: You Can Do Sidebends or Situps but Please Don't Lose That Butt!. [Kinetic Chain Image]. Retrieved from http://back2motionpt.com/atl/category/kinetic-chain

    Hashtag YOLO

    Crush-Fitness-YOLO

     

    If you’ve spent any time around the Crush community, you’ve probably heard it more than once. My first introduction to Ben when I came across one of his “LET’S DO THIS” Tumblr posts that ended with a very unironic #YOLO. It seems to have become the Crush battle cry. We rally at the call of YOLO. I’m not sure where or why it started, but we certainly do love it. We talk about eating an extra large cheeseburger with a pint of ice cream for dessert and call it a YOLO meal. We decide to try to increase our deadlift weight because YOLO, then celebrate our success with our fellow Crushers. Whatever we do, we throw in a YOLO for good measure. But is it just a funny calling card? What exactly does YOLO mean to Crush?

     

    YOLO. You Only Live Once. In most circles, it’s used to justify doing something that’s arguably not a good idea. But when you break it down, it’s really surprising that YOLO isn’t the motto of everyone interested in health and wellness. So I’m going to challenge you to rethink what YOLO should stand for. It can be so much more than just a funny hashtag.

     

    You only live once…
    … So you should enjoy the pizza & beer at your friends watch party without any guilt.
     
    … So it’s okay to skip the gym to hang out with your mom while she’s visiting for the week.
     
    … So you shouldn’t waste precious hours of your days meticulously tracking, weighing and counting every bit of food you eat.
     
    … So keep yourself hydrated & adequately fed.
     
    … So don’t waste your life punishing yourself when you fall short of your goals.
     
    … So make sure you are fueling yourself with nutrition that helps your body run on all cylinders every day.
     
    … So take every opportunity to grow and become stronger.
     
    … So let your body rest and recover when it needs down time.
     
    … So take advantage of your workouts to improve the quality of your overall health.
     
    … So establish habits that will keep your body and mind strong for as long as possible.

     

    Crush-Fitness-YOLO

     

    You only live once…
    So lift heavy.

     

    BUT You only live once…
    So don’t lift too heavy.

     

    Crush-Fitness-YOLO

     

    You only live once…
    … So don’t settle for “good enough”.
     
    … So don’t spend it hating yourself.
     
    … So don’t deprive yourself
     
    … So don’t underestimate what you’re capable of.

     

    YOLO is what you make of it. For me, it’s more than just a funny hashtag. It’s not an excuse to do whatever I want whenever I want. It’s not a whip driving me forward when I’d rather just take some down time. It’s a reminder that a healthy life is achieved when everything is in balance. Every meal is a YOLO meal. Every day is a YOLO day. It is a reminder that I want to live as long and as well as possible, so I’ll put a priority on my nutrition and my fitness. But I also want to live a full life, so I’ll sometimes choose things solely because I want to - because they make me happy.

     

    You only live once…
    So make it a good life.

     

    Crush-Fitness-YOLO

     

    The Biomechanics of Resistance Apparatus

    Crush-Fitness-University-BioMechanics-Resistance-Spenser

     

    Gyms these days are packed with countless types of resistance machines and it is very important to understand the differences among them. The majority of them use gravitational forces, however, there are some that incorporate elastic, hydraulic, or pneumatic resistance. Each type of machine has its own biomechanical properties. It is crucial to understand that some of them are poorly designed resulting in a higher risk of injury. Proper selection of the type of resistance will make your workouts more effective as well as safer. Each of the aforementioned resistances will be discussed.

     

    FREE WEIGHTS vs MACHINES

    Using dumbbells in your workout is a good choice and this is why. Their resistance is caused by earth’s gravitational forces and it is always in a downward direction. They allow for full range of motion and there is an increased transfer to real world movements (Wilkins, 2010). Free weights allow you to work in a more functional environment and when done properly you are able to create the proper balance throughout your musculoskeletal system. You are able to recruit more stabilizing muscles since you are required to control the weight through multiple plans of motions. If you compare the electromyographic activity of a free weight squat to a smith machine squat the differences are noticeable. Studies have shown that there is a significantly higher electromyographic activity in the gastrocnemius, biceps femoris, and vastus medialis during a free weight squat versus a Smith machine squat (Schwanbeck, Chilibeck, & Binsted, 2009).  This indicates that free weights are more effective and translate better to daily activities such as getting out of a seated position, grabbing something off the ground, and countless others movements you do throughout the day.

     

    Now don’t get me wrong not all machines are bad. Seated pulldowns, seated cable rows, and other hammer strength type exercises are still viable choices. The machines that have separate arms allow you to have an equal amount of resistance on each side. This results in a balance of muscular adaptations as you are not able to favor one side over the other. It is not unusual to have one side of your body being stronger than the other. If this is the case for you, focus on using equipment that will allow you to equalize both sides of your body. However, if you are new to the gym and consider yourself a beginner don’t think that you are forced to jump right into free weights unless you are confident in your form and technique. Machines can effectively ease you into free weights as long you are recruiting the right muscles. Ask for help from a friend or a trainer and don’t feel the need to go at someone else’s pace. You want to progress in a safe and effective manner.

     

    HYDRAULIC RESISTANCE

    Like any hydraulic system, there is a hydraulic ram that forces fluid through a small aperture and therefore creates resistance. Resistance machines that have this type of system provide only a concentric phase. This is quite popular in special populations due to the reduced amount of soreness by having no eccentric phase (Brown, 2008). Hydraulic machines are safe and easy to use but it is necessary to have an eccentric phase in your exercise. The eccentric phase causes muscle break down while your muscle lengthens under a load. During your squats for example, really focus on your glutes and hamstrings as you lower your body. If you are feeling a balance between the muscles on the front of your legs and those on the back of your legs then you are reinforcing good neuromuscular control.

     

    ELASTIC RESISTANCE

    The use of elastic bands is quite popular in the fitness world. They are very easy to use and are not intimidating at all. You can add resistance to your exercises in a simple and effective way. However, when using an elastic band, the resistance during the extension phase is lower than during the flexion phase (Wilkins, 2010). The resistance is greater the more you stretch the band. They are a great option to add while performing squats as you can functionally work your abductors. Elastic bands are a great for beginners but they are limited to their max resistance. You can get more resistance from using free weights or other resistance machines.

     

    PNEUMATIC RESISTANCE

    Pneumatic systems use air pressure to create resistance. Such machines provide both a concentric and eccentric phase (Brown, 2008). The higher the pressure is in the system the more resistance is supplied for the exercise. They are similar to the hydraulic system but the pneumatic system is advantageous since there is an eccentric phase. These types of machines are more geared towards physical therapy and older populations.

     

    It is necessary to understand that the ideal weight training programs consists of a variety of resistance machines. You want to challenge your system in a safe and effective way without creating imbalances throughout your muscles. Perform exercises that are within your capabilities and focus on which muscles should do the moving. If you are not going to perform each repetition correctly, your brain will remember those imbalanced muscle patterns which can increase your chances of having complications down the road. Developing a balanced system takes time as you may be correcting a muscle pattern that you have reinforced for years. If needed seek guidance from a certified professional if you think you are doing something wrong.

     

     

    Bibliography

    Brown, T. J. (2008). Conditioning for Strength and Human Performance. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

    Schwanbeck, S., Chilibeck, P. D., & Binsted, G. (2009). A Comparison of Free Weight Squat to Smith Machine Squat Using Electromyography. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research , 2588-2591.

    Wilkins, L. W. (2010). ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer 3rd Ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.