Sit down, stand up with ease?
Spending time on the floor is something that modern living is driving towards extinction, unless of course you are interacting with children; who you may notice are perfectly happy functioning on the ground.
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Part 1: Get Stronger, Live Longer?
The sitting-rising test (SRT) has been suggested as a way to assess components of musculoskeletal fitness through evaluation of the subject’s ability to sit and rise from the floor. In the original study the aim was to evaluate the association between the ability to sit and rise from the floor and all-cause mortality. The result of the study found that each unit increase in SRT score conferred a 21% improvement in survival.
In the study the SRT was administered on a non-slippery flat surface, in minimal space of 2 2 m, with the subject standing barefoot and wearing clothing that did not restrict body movements. Before the SRT, the instructions given were: ‘Without worrying about the speed of movement, try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed.’
SRT scores began with a maximum of 5 points, separately for sitting and rising. One point was subtracted for each support utilized, that is, hand, forearm, knee, or side of leg, and an additional 0.5 point was subtracted for partial loss of balance during the action. Crossing the legs for either sitting or rising from the floor was allowed, while the sides of the subject’s feet were not used for support. If a 5 score was not obtained, the evaluator provided some advice that might assist the subject to improve their SRT score in future attempts. Source
A video illustrating SRT performance and scoring is available Watch Here
I can do it because I have practiced it! I have the leg strength to lift my body weight and the required mobility in the hips to do it. But actually I use the sides of my feet so strictly speaking I lose a point!
There are many instances when degenerative changes or recent injuries will inhibit your ability to get on and off the floor. But I do believe strongly that this is a functional skill which we should work to preserve. I am quite content for you to push onto your knee, even use a nearby chair to get up. But preserving your capacity for movement will pay dividends when grandchildren come along and you can join them on the floor for some joyous moments of connection.So what do we do?
First of all, warm up…
It is important to use movements that mobilize the joints and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles, such as marching on the spot. Stretching the legs before and after exercise can also help lower the risk of injury or strains.
Strengthen the thigh muscles
Taking a stance wider than shoulder-width has been shown to provide the same level of quad activation as a traditional “narrow” stance, but squatting wide provides distinct advantages. A wide stance works a greater number of muscles. Step wide, and you’ll feel it in your thighs, glutes and maybe feel less back and knee pain! The glutes are a source of power and strength, and if you can use their strength in a movement, you almost always should. The evidence: A wider stance when squatting, such as 140–150 percent of shoulder width allows for greater posterior displacement of the hips. This displacement activates the glutes to a greater degree than narrow squats when depth is reached, according to research from the University of Abertay, in Dundee, Scotland. Source
Remember the key points regarding your form during a squat:
- start in a standing position
- keep the feet shoulder-width apart, or wider than shoulder width
- while exhaling, bend the knees and lower the buttocks as though going to sit down
- float the arms out to maintain balance
- ensure that the heels remain planted on the floor
- keep the buttocks above knee level and only go as low as is possible without causing discomfort
- Only go so low as suits your knees
- keep the back in a neutral position
- make sure that the hips, knees, and toes are all pointing in line with one another
- inhale and return to a standing position by pushing down into the heels and keeping the buttocks switched on
Strengthen calf muscles
It is vital if you want to improve your running and make yourself more resilient to injury. The calf raise is an excellent place to start. It’s an easy exercise to do anywhere — you can easily do a set while brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil
Every step you take when running puts a significant amount of strain on the calves, and common injuries like achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis may be brought about by weak calves that can’t take that strain. Building up your running gradually and strengthening your calves are your best bets for reducing the risk of suffering these problems.
Adding the running arms makes this a more functional running drill so pop on the kettle and give it a go.
Strengthen the Queen of the Quads
The Vastus Medialis Obliquitus (VMO) is one of four quadriceps muscles. Your VMO sits medially or on the inside of your thigh. Its primary function is to extend the knee. VMO activity is enhanced during weight bearing conditions hence it is desirable to train it whilst standing. Its attachment onto the medial side of the patella (kneecap) and its force vector is lateral or sideways which contributes to stabilisation of the patella in the femoral groove. This video shows how the patella moves in the patellofemoral groove; it’s only short and informative.
Gently squeeze inwards on a rolled up towel, cushion or soft pilates ball between the knees. This will increase VMO activation, but not so much that the alignment of your knees shifts. Balance yourself at the worktop and do a few while the kettle boils!
Single leg focus
Having the ability to balance on one leg like, while putting your shoes on or lunging to grab a wine glass before it falls may just be useful. Hence the role of unilateral exercises. Single-leg or single-arm exercises can help address muscle imbalances and build strength. Shifting the focus towards one leg and then the other is a step towards lifting a leg away completely for a move such as a single leg squat, single leg calf raise or a more dynamic move such as lunges.
The split squat is one of the moves which assists in balancing your lower body and provides a stepping stone toward more dynamic moves such as lunges.. The main focus of the split squat is to improve the single-leg strength of each leg and develop a foundational movement pattern that facilitates progression to more dynamic movements like lunges.
Take care with your stance; It’s common to be too short or even too wide, find the sweet spot in the middle. Practice the move sideways in front of a mirror — your feet need to be far enough apart that your front heel stays planted as you lower and most of the movement is up and down.
Why strengthen gluteus medius
Adduction and internal rotation of the femur is associated with lateral patellar tracking, since the hip abductors control the frontal plane position of the femur and thus increasing the abductor and external rotator strength at the hip can help patellofemoral pain.
So settle into a hinge squat for some simultaneous training of the Vasti (quads) Glutes and trunk muscles. Incorporating isometric holds, single leg balance and increasing the challenge with a moving arm and leg. Not for the faint hearted.
Want to get stronger? Join a FREE Group Session Online
Boost your mood, build muscle and bone with my Bone Healthy Pilates Online Sessions. We will target the major muscle groups, incorporate the principles of ideal posture and alignment and move with precision and control. The membership option offers a recording which you can repeat at your leisure to fulfil the twice weekly recommendation.
My Mindful Movement online sessions will stretch muscles and an opportunity to put your joints through their full range of movement. Moreover the combination of breath-work and guided meditation will moderate brain activity which in turn positively impact the autonomic nervous system reducing overall levels of stress and anxiety.
Few minutes to spare? This weeks Precizion Podcast
A Mindful Menopause
A wonderful conversation this week with Sune Markowitz-Shulman about mindful approaches to wellness. Sune is a qualified nutritional therapist, mindfulness teacher and trained chef.
We discuss how to nurture mind and body and explore skills and tools to promote optimal physical and mental wellbeing approaching menopause and beyond.
Grab your earpods and make a start on you 10,00 steps or sit down with a cuppa and notice the flavour, aroma, the warmth of the mug in your hands and close your eyes to dive deep into this wonderful conversation.