Do you focus on your technique at the gym? I assume that the answer is yes. Most people spend ages scrutinising every aspect of their form when it comes to exercises like deadlifts and squats. This is with good reason as when lifting weights with poor form you can seriously injure yourself.
Does this carry on into your everyday life at home and at work? Do you drop a pen on the ground and then squat down with perfect form to pick it up or do you just bend over and pick it up without thinking about it? Do you use perfect form to put on your shoes or wash the dishes, keeping the back and neck straight? Do you squat down into and out of your chair or do you just flop down into it with careless abandon. When gardening do you take a break from bending over between sets or do you just stay stooped over for hours?
Here’s the challenge, should you choose to accept it. Every movement you do, think about your form, regardless of how light the thing you are picking up off the floor or how simple the movement seems.
At Muscle Therapy Australia we see a lot of people injuring themselves mostly without exercising at the gym. We see people aggravating their lower back discs by bending over to tie up their shoes. We see shoulder impingements from getting a jar out of the cupboard or putting a shirt on in the morning. The difference here is that when you are in the gym you are more likely to be aware of your posture and form than you are when you are doing a menial task at home or in the office. These tasks can be just as dangerous and cause injuries.
Heres some tips to try at home or in the office:
when bending over to pick something up off the floor, even if it is only light like a pen, use a perfect form squat or deadlift to pick it up. The key here is keeping the spine straight or neutral. When you mindlessly and dynamically bend over to pick something up the risk of damaging a disc is really high, especially if you are twisting and bending forward. Ideally, if you have a back injury, you should never do this movement, unless you want a whole world of pain.
When lifting something heavy off the floor approach it like a barbell and either deadlift it or squat to pick it up. Keep the spine neutral, inhale and brace the core, keep the head looking straight ahead to avoid stressing the neck, keep the weight close to your body, like you would a barbell. Then lift it like it counts. You may feel silly at first but just think, that was another rep for your training today. Make everything a workout.
When reaching for a jar high in the cupboard assess just how heavy the item it. Reaching above the head, especially out the side, is one of the most vulnerable things you can do with your shoulder and it is then easy to overstrain or damage the rotator cuff, leading to impingements, bursitis or at worse tears to the joint (labrum). If the weight is heavy, reduce the lever by getting a stool or step ladder to raise yourself up so it is not such a strain on the shoulder. Keep the weight close to your body. Use torque to brace the shoulder muscles (externally rotating the humerus and keeping it locked on) to keep the shoulder stable and strong. Then keep the shoulder muscles (especially the rotator cuff at the back of the shoulder blade) engaged.
When washing the dishes, if you are tall, widen your stance to lower yourself down so that you don’t need to strain your lower back or neck by bending forward. This goes for anything you are doing when you are standing a table or desk that is too low for you.
When putting on your shoes or pants keep your back straight so as not to strain your lower back. Use a deep breath in (and hold) to brace your core.
When walking up and down stairs try to engage your glutes (like you were doing a lunge) and press down with your heel to move the load from your quads (and knees) to the glutes. This will also help prevent knee pain when walking on stairs as you will be more stable and less likely to stress out the knee joints. This is especially important if you have bad knees or have had surgery on them.
When standing waiting for a bus or the traffic lights notice where the weight is in your feet. Is it in the balls of the feet (leaning forward which over uses the quads and calves) or is is in the heels (using the glutes). Ideally you should have the weight evenly distributed in the balls of the feet, the outside of the foot and the heel.
When sitting, keep your spine neutral.
When using a smartphone, cross one arm and then rest the arm that is holding the phone on the other arm so that you are then holding the phone in front of your face. This will stop you slumping to look down at your phone and saving the horrible neck pain and ugly posture.
When you sneeze, try to stay upright and brace your core. Don't throw yourself forward or bend forward as this can hurt your discs. You can also put one hand into the small of your back to help keep the curve there.
When walking around, notice how your feet are landing. Are you walking on your heels or your toes? Are you slamming your feet down like you are stomping out a grass fire? Do your feet roll in or do you feel like you are walking on the sides of the feet. Use walking to perfect your walking technique and strengthen those feet. Ideally the heel should touch first, then the wight shoulder roll up the outside of your foot to the toes and then the weight should roll inwards to the big toe where you finally toe off and propel yourself forward as the other foot lands and repeats. More on this in an upcoming blog on walking. This can also help to fix plantar fasciitis and other foot, knee, hip and back pain.
When gardening, try to squat down and not bend over. You can get knee pad or use a cushion to protect your knees. As you will still have to be bent over it is important to take breaks. Think of this like sets of exercise at the gym and take a break between sets of gardening.
Every opportunity is there to reduce stress on the body and prevent injury. So if you use perfect form in the gym, take this out into the real world and use that training for your real life, where it counts. This can also be a form of mindfulness. If you are aware of everything you are doing then you will become more mindful and also more present to your life, which has the side effects of making you happier, more calm and more peaceful with your life.
If you would like any advice on correct form when doing a task at home or at work then feel free to get in touch.