How Poor Posture Creates Tight Calves

By Gavin Buehler, RMT

Disclaimer:  Please consult your healthcare provider before engaging in any of the activities or suggestions that are highlighted in this article/video.

An issue that’s becoming more prevalent in my practice is lack of ankle mobility, particularly with dorsi flexion (foot flexes up toward shin).  I’ll hear comments about how calves always feel tight even though the individual is always stretching them out.  While the calves feel like they have an issue, the problem might stem from somewhere else.   In a case where I hear comments such as above, looking at the body globally and assessing postural alignment can help find the source.

Two fairly common postural patterns that are just about guaranteed to produce limited ankle mobility as well as many other problems that I won’t dig into in this article are “sway back” and “hyper lordosis.”  In both cases a dysfunction through the core triggers compensatory patterns in order for the body to keep balanced.

Sway Back Posture

Sway Back – In the case of the sway back posture the pelvis shifts forward off the plumb line usually presenting with a posterior pelvic tilt and flattening of the lower back.  There are many possible reasons for this that may include weakness in the transversus abdominis (TVA), imbalanced internal and external obliques, glute weakness, poor sequencing etc.  But it’s the lack of support through the core that displaces the weight creating an “S” like posture when viewed from the side.  With the pelvis shifting forward, the upper torso needs to shift back making the head shift forward.  In the lower body knees will usually lock out in hyper extension and due to the angle that the weight is being driven through the tibia, a constant posterior glide at the talocrural joint (ankle) stresses the Achilles tendon.

Hyper Lordosis Posture

Hyper Lordosis – With hyper lordosis a slightly different “S” like pattern forms as the pelvis dumps forward in an anterior tilt which tends to create a flatter upper back and exaggerates the arch in the low back shifting the torso forward off the plumb line.  The weight displacement of the upper body causes the lower body to compensate by pushing the pelvis backward as well as the knees in a lockout position.  As with the “Sway Back” posture, this places the tibia at an unfavorable angle to bear load through the ankle joint.

There are a number of other issues that are also formed with these postures, but since this article is about tight calves, I’m just going to highlight how they are affected.  In both the sway back and hyper lordosis cases, these postures produce a constant stress on the calves through both the knee joint as well as the ankle joint.  The calves are in a lengthened state crossing the knee and working hard to fight hyper extension and stabilize the joint.  Through the ankle, because of the way the weight is being distributed through the tibia (lower leg) and the angle that it is forced to meet the talus (foot bone), they’re again stretched and working hard to combat the posterior glide and stabilize.  The body’s nervous system will perceive these areas as being unstable causing the calf muscles to brace for stability making them tight.  No amount of stretching will remedy this type of tension.  In order for mobility to take place in any joint, there needs to be stability for your nervous system to allow the movement.  

To address the constant tension through the calves, postural improvement is needed first to place the load of the body in an optimal position where the joints are stable.  Improving the function of your core will generate the greatest success in these situations.

In this video I explain the compensatory patterns and offer a simple tool to help improve your posture.

Own Your Movement With These Simple Techniques!

Mobility is a buzz word that is often used interchangeably with flexibility, however mobility is not just being flexible, but the ability to control your full range of motion and flexibility with proper muscle coordination patterns and awareness.

If you want to maximize performance and movement efficiency, mobility is a must!  So, it’s not just about being flexible, but also being in control throughout your entire motion.  You need to be able to own it.  Here’s where implementing things like slow reps and isometrics come into play.  Before you start to just move weight through a movement, you should be able to go through that movement in slow motion and be able to pause it at any point throughout it without deviation.  If you can do this, you will reduce your risk of injury and overload and create a more fluid and efficient movement pattern.

Here are a few techniques and examples you can try:

Isometrics – I’m a huge fan of these!  In gymnastics just about everything we did included being able to hold the movement position isometrically before being allowed to progress to the sexy stuff.

Example:  The Back Extension – this is a movement I always see performed poorly in the gym.  Most of the time I see a swing up with momentum.  Try just holding your body at the top position for 5-10 seconds and see how it goes.  You can try pausing this movement at any point in the arc and holding to see where you may have weakness.  It’s a humbling experience and will really make you see what muscles you’re working, and what ones you aren’t.

10 Second Negatives – One of the greatest power lifters of all time, Ed Coan talked about these at a SWIS conference one year.  He explained how you should be able to control every aspect of your squat throughout its entire motion.

Example:  The Squat – a lot of people like to rush through this movement letting gravity push them through the negative.  Try counting out a full 10 second negative with your squat keeping the motion constant and smooth.  This will allow you to feel every little deviation and instability you may have.  Guess what?  The more stability you have, the more force you will be able to generate and the bigger your real lift will be.

Think of the Opposite – I encourage this with every movement in order to stimulate the full use of your stabilizers as well as help maximize the agonist contraction.

Example:  The Bench Press – instead of just letting gravity push the bar down to your chest, think of pulling it down instead.  Envision squeezing or rowing it through the negative.  You’ll find a much smoother and solid movement, and actually get a nice explosive pop into your positive out of the bottom!

This video gives a contrast between the typical momentum rep, and isometric rep and a slow controlled rep.

Enjoy!

Maximize The Effectiveness of Your Glute Stretching

The glute complex is exactly that!  Complex.  In order to improve your flexibility in this area, there’s a lot to consider.  You’ve got layers of tissue fanning out through the area consisting of numerous muscles.  There’s your more superficial gluteus maximus and gluteus medius that layer over the gluteus minimus, and then there’s the deeper intrinsic muscles of the piriformis, superior gemellus, obturator internus, inferior gemellus and quadratus femoris.  You also have to consider some of the other important tissues such as the sacrotuberous ligament that plays a very crucial role in stabilizing the sacral area, and we’re really just scratching the surface here.

The good news is that you don’t actually need to know all of the fancy terminology.  You know your hip joint moves forward, backward, side to side and rotates.  When approaching stretching and mobility for a more complex joint such as the hip, keep in mind the multiple angles the joint should be capable of. Linear stretches alone just aren’t going to cut it.  You need to move the joint through all of its capable ranges in order to gain the most benefits.

The small nuances can make all the difference in feeling a stretch properly and maximizing its effectiveness as well.  In the videos below I demonstrate one of my favorite glute complex stretches and explain some of those small nuances that will give you the most return on your stretch session.

Enjoy!

The Hangover Cure: My new class at Active Life Conditioning

Saturday nights can be a lot of fun!  Socializing, perhaps a drink or two, the wine and cheese… Who doesn’t love wine and cheese?!  But then Sunday morning rolls around and you wake up feeling it.  The nausea and achiness that reminds you that you’re not 20 anymore…  But wouldn’t it be nice if you could feel a little more like you did in those years?  What if you could grease up the joints and shake not just last night’s hangover, but the hangover that’s been acquired from life?  Well, Active Life has just the thing for your Sunday mornings beginning July 8th at 9:30am with coach Gavin Buehler.

The Hangover Cure

What is it?

A class focused on injury prevention and performance enhancement through the integration of mobility and structural balance training.

Let’s clarify “Mobility”

Mobility is a buzz word that is often used interchangeably with flexibility, however mobility is not just being flexible, but the ability to control your full range of motion and flexibility with proper muscle coordination patterns and awareness.

Structural Balance?

Living life creates imbalances in the body that result in the dominance of stronger muscle groups that can increase the risk of injury and generate energy leaks in movement patterns decreasing performance.  Awareness of these imbalances and taking the steps to correct them to the best of your ability will both reduce the chance of injury and improve performance levels.

What can I expect in a typical class?

The tempo of the class will start off slowly, stimulating the joints and fascia gradually building into muscle activation movements and progressing into a strong finish that will leave you with a feeling of accomplishment.  This class is about awareness and quality before quantity and load.  It’s everything that you know you should probably do, but currently don’t.

For inquiries or to sign-up please contact us:

Email: info@activelifeconditioning.com

Phone: 705-888-6337

Movement Tip: Adductor & Hip Preparation

A greater awareness of the importance of lateral hip stabilizers and the glute complex has brought these areas into the mainstream in the last little while.  It’s fantastic to see people embracing these exercises and implementing them regularly.  But, I’ve been finding that with all the focus on these areas, the adductor complex and its importance is being a little neglected.  There still needs to be a balance between these muscle groups and coordinated firing patterns for everything to function well.

This isometric large O-Band exercise is an excellent movement prep/rehab/prehab movement that requires the stability of lateral hip stabilizers, activation of the adductors as well as the foot intrinsics and core all firing in coordination.  Watch the video below for the demonstration and explanation.

Key points to be aware of when performing this movement:

  • Maintain core brace throughout, and don’t forget to breathe
  • Eagle claw supporting foot into ground and keep supporting leg knee slightly bent
  • Make sure supporting leg knee and foot are pointed forward and maintain alignment throughout
  • Keep weight centered over supporting ankle with hips and shoulders square throughout movement
  • With band around mid-foot of opposite leg, squeeze feet together in a slow controlled manner
  • Hold contraction for specified time without letting banded foot touch the ground
  • Slowly return to start position and repeat
  • Watch out for excessive lateral hip shift or rolling of the hip
  •  Don’t let supporting leg knee collapse or roll inward
  • Perform without shoes for the greatest challenge and benifit

Recommended variables to start:

2-3 sets with 60 seconds rest in between, 3-6 reps per side, 5-10 second isometric holds each rep.

Movement Tip: Rings Strength Development #3

Continuing with another regression of the rings work from the last few posts (1st post link, 2nd post link,) this pairing is a decent place to start for most.

A1: Rings Wide Row – you’re thinking of tearing apart the rings as you pull so that your hands finish inline with your elbows.  Be sure to NOT shrug your shoulders during the pull forcing internal rotation of the shoulder joint.  This movement begins to build the necessary mid back and rear delt strength and development needed to progress safely to the next level.
A2: Rings Front Support – basically as straight arm plank.  Emphasize the rings turn out to maximize the biceps engagement and drive down through the rings.  This also keeps the scaps in their optimal position with some protraction.  This movement starts to build the initial shoulder stability in coordination with core stability needed to advance.  You should be proficient with a regular floor plank before attempting this.
Why start posting with more advanced movements first?  It’s easier to accept the journey ahead and to perform the required small steps when you can see where they lead to.  Nobody wants to start with a plank, but without it, you’ll never make it to the Bulgarian Dip or Planche, at least not without an injury.

Movement Tip: Rings Strength Development #2

The first Rings Development post I did a week ago introduced some fairly advanced rings strength work.  Prior to advancing to that level you should be preparing your foundation.  So, here’s a regression to those movements.

A1: Rings Hinge Row – This movement deloads the pull-up version enabling the introduction of the dynamic shoulder external rotation with an isometric load on the lats.  But before you do this, you still need a good stable base.
A2: Rings Push-Up – This reduces the load on the dip and puts the shoulder at a more favourable angle from a mobility standpoint.  It’s important to turn out the rings at the top to effectively work your “straight arm” strength and fully engage the biceps. (This is the key to getting those coveted peaks!)  Again, this first requires good scapular stability and decent shoulder mobility.
Stay tuned for the next regression.

Perspectives/Movement Tip: Animal Walks

There’s a saying that goes, “We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.”  I truly believe this.  Most of us slowly begin to shift priorities as we age, losing the fundamental spark and passion that drove us in the first place.  As a result, we stop moving in the patterns that maintained our body’s mobility and health and stop imagining the dreams that kept our minds stimulated and creative.  The change happens so slowly that we don’t realize the creep, until we’re already in a state that is possibly irreversible, or at the very least, depressing and tedious to get out of.

In gymnastics we used to warm-up with patterns we called animal walks.  As a child we pretended to be animals and played.  Remember how you used to be able to get down on all fours and crawl around effortlessly and how good you felt after playing?  What happened?  You stopped.  I didn’t realize how amazing animal walks were as a child, but decades later have learned to appreciate their complexity, and importance for developing motor patterns and muscle firing sequences.  I believe them to be one of the best ways to warm-up the body as well as to teach muscle coordination and sequencing.  The synchronization needed to move in those patterns while loosening of entire fascial nets can not be replicated with the isolated linear movement that’s typically done.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for those movements as well, they also play a crucial role, but as a general initial warm-up, full body movement will give you the best bang for your buck.

Over the past year I have revisited “animal movement” patterns incorporating them into warm-ups, and I am always amazed at the effort that is needed to properly perform them, as well as how good and loose I feel after.  A quick heads up, if you’re planning on trying this out, and it’s been a long time since you’ve “played,” gradually add some basic movements over time.  It will be uncomfortable at first, but once your body relearns the patterns and regains its mobility,

things will feel fantastic!

This is just a quick clip of some basic patterns that I like to use.  Play with it!

Movement Tip: Rings Strength Development

Here’s an integration of rings work that I have been playing with on a torso day.  Before diving into it, you must have excellent shoulder stability already before attempting these movements.  They will add to an already strong base, but you’ll probably end up injured if you’re not ready for them.  So I would say this is for the more advanced individual.
A1:  Rings Lat Fly Pull-Up – You’re only pulling up to about 90 degrees of elbow flexion and maintaining that contraction as you externally rotate and pull your torso through.  This movement is boss for your lats and external shoulder rotators.
A2:  Rings Bulgarian Dips – These are essentially wide dips on rings which will give more focus to your costal pec fibres.  This movement requires a lot of scapular stability.  If you collapse your scaps in a regular dip, do not try this… and probably stop doing regular dips too.
Stay tuned for the regression sequences to see the step by step process on how to advance to these movements.

Quick Food Tip: Quick & Easy Chicken

Today I have another fantastic quick food prep tip that I wanted to share with you through a short video, where you can once again be exposed to my hyper energetic and overly expressive nature! Lol!

So food preparation is definitely a sticking point for many when it comes to adopting healthy eating habits.  While I generally like to bulk cook and have many things prepared in advance, sometimes you just aren’t able to do that.  But it doesn’t mean that you have to cave and grab fast food.  You can still whip up something healthy and usually quicker than it would take you to run and grab “fast food.”

Below I’m sharing with you one of the quick and easy ways that I will cook chicken when I’ve missed my bulk cook day, or just feel lazy.  Hopefully this helps stir your creativity in the kitchen and shows you that healthy can be pretty quick too!  The recipe isn’t that important, it’s the method that you should take away.  Enjoy!

Quick Explanation:

  • Mix together your favourite dry spices (in this video-cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, chilli powder, red chilli flakes, thyme, cinnamon, salt, pepper)
  • Spread spices on to large flat surface
  • Rub or mash chicken cuts of your choice into spices coating them well
  • Heat cooking oil over medium to high heat in a frying pan (I like butter or coconut oil)
  • Place spiced chicken cuts into pan and let the magic begin
  • Cooking time will vary depending on the meat cut and thickness. Generally about 4-5mins per side
  • Before eating, check to make sure there is no pink jelly middle in your chicken! Cook for longer if there is.