As an instructor at the National Personal Training Institute, I place a great deal of emphasis on my students learning and understanding the various, major muscles of the human body. For the students who are simply not concerned, or those who may not understand the importance of learning about the bones and muscles of the body, I inform them of one thing which seems to spark their interest in the musculoskeletal system. Having this understanding can go a long way in designing the ideal training program, correcting a client’s posture, or even helping a friend or family member push past a chronic discomfort that has been plaguing them for years.
With the proper education and motivation to understand the human body, we can form a unique skill that allows us to think visually when providing rehabilitation services. This ability assists with increasing range of motion and with instructing clients on an exercise that targets their focal point.
Another factor that I ask my students to consider is this: Imagine yourself in the gym, looking over at the guy next to you who is performing an exercise which you have never seen before. Obviously without the proper knowledge of anatomy, the average person would wonder which particular muscles this strange exercise is targeting. They might even feel the need to curiously question the guy on his workout. On the other hand, an educated anatomy specialist would not have to wonder. They also would definitely not believe the guy saying he is working on his biceps when he is clearly doing an exercise that is meant to focus on his pecs. One of the greatest peices of knowledge that people lack while exercising is their assumption that certain exercises work on certain body parts, simply because they feel it there. With a minor adjustment we can transform an exercise such as the pull-up, which some say they feel in their biceps, to the correct form in which these individuals feel the burn where they should – in their lats.
Below I have listed two examples of very common issues people have approached me with, and common causes for these symptoms.
CHRONIC HEADACHES – Tight superior fibers of the trapezius muscle can be the culprit of chronic or consistent headaches, and more often than not, all it takes is one glance to see if a person’s upper traps are tight. The upper trapezius muscle starts off on the occipital bone of the skull, also known as the bump on the back of your head. If these fibers become tight and tensed, it can cause a pull on the occipital bone, which can then send a domino effect through the rest of the skull. When other portions of the skull are pulled on, this results in constant headaches or stress headaches.
By alleviating tension in the upper traps, we can remove pressure on the occipital bone, which in turn should free up pressure on the other sections of the skull and provide relief from constant headaches.
Tight upper traps can result from:
– Poor exercise technique
– Typing while sitting at an elevated desk
– Poor posture (slouching/hunching over)
– Stress and much more
LOWER BACK PAIN – If you notice on the Question & Answer page, you will see that my father inquired with me about lower back pain as he was preparing for a ten hour flight to Houston. When he asked me what he could do for his lower back pain, the first thing I asked him in response was whether he had been sitting for a long period of time. Once he told me he had been, I immediately made the connection toward the iliopsoas, which is the name for a pair of muscles that start off directly on the lower region of the spine and travel to the front of the hip. Similar to the upper trapezius, having the knowledge of where the iliopsoas originates allowed me determine the source of my father’s back pain. For example, try to visualize a muscle on the front of your hip directly attached through your body to your lower spine. With this visualization, if our hips become tight then the lower spine will get tugged on, thus resulting in back pain for which many people struggle to find relief.
Tight hip flexor muscles generally result from remaining in a seated position for prolonged periods of time, and may be accompanied by weak gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles.
The biggest mistake “professionals” make is treating the spot of the pain instead of the source of the pain. When I was just 15 years old, I injured my lower back while performing squats under the supervision of my high school basketball coach. Throughout ten sessions at a Physical Therapy clinic, not one session included a therapist checking on my hip mobility. In fact, all ten sessions consisted of an ice pack, electrical stimulation, and heating pads placed directly on my lower back. It was not until I became educated on the human body and how it works as a system that I associated tight hip muscles with a tight lower back. Needless to say, since I have increased my hip mobility and flexibility, my lower back pain has gone down substantially. Through proper knowledge and utilization of the musculoskeletal system, we have the ability to properly restore mobility which can have a positive lasting impact on a person’s life.