Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

There isn’t a single muscle that isn’t tested when it comes to the sports of baseball and softball. Every aspect of these games is both mentally and physically demanding. The mental aspect demands that players have a wealth of knowledge and strategy about the game i.e. pitch selection, hitting for contact or power, knowing when to steal, etc. However, if your body is not flexible, mobile, stable, and strong, then a high baseball or softball IQ will only get you so far. At LYMBR, we hope to assist fellow baseball and softball players in their recovery and performance by mobilizing muscles, joints, and tissue involved in the three movements of the sports: swinging, throwing, and running. 

THE SWING

When you swing a bat you use a multitude of muscles to complete the swing. These include but are not limited to your deltoids, infraspinatus, wrist pronators/supinators, psoas, hip rotators, lats, pecs, etc. However, the function of any and all successful swings begin in the same place: the hips. Bat speed, point of contact, and how far that contact will go is determined by the rotational force of your lower body. It doesn’t matter how strong your upper body is, you will never be able to hit it as far as someone with better lower body rotation. The muscles listed above are consequently lengthened and shortened to complete the motion of the swing. If even one of those muscles is tight from overuse, stress, injury, or over-sitting then your ability to produce optimal swings mechanics is negatively impacted. The likelihood of this is fairly high since you’re doing this multiple times a day, every day, for years on end, and muscles will adapt to the length and motion you’ve made it comfortable with. It’s repetitive action, and it’s one of the most common muscular adaptations we see at LYMBR. By stretching out the back, shoulders, hips, wrists, and forearms we relax your connective tissues and lengthen your muscles back to its original length. This creates muscle balance. Swinging a bat at a tiny ball moving between 60-100 mph is hard enough without a tight, imbalanced body. 

PITCHING AND THROWING

At its most base, you’re just playing catch with your teammate. However, pitching and throwing at its heart is primal, ruthless, and steeped in strategy. You must understand pitch variance, changing your delivery times, hitting your cut-off man from the outfield, or whether or not to risk the far throw to home. What sets great arms apart from good arms is the overall comprehension of the throw itself. This is another motion dictated by the force production of your lower body. We are using similar muscles that we used in the swing such as the hip flexors, hip rotators, rotator cuff musculature, deltoids, lats, and wrist pronators, pectoral muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles responsible for flexion in your back. If these muscles are tight or deconditioned, then they have a higher chance of misfiring creating a much higher probability of injury. By loosening these muscles, we improve the range of motion of the joint and associated muscles. This allows the joint to move in it’s normal range, rather than a limited range created by repetitive movement or overuse. This will reduce tissue trauma, inflammation/ lactic acid build up, or spasm. By increasing the range of the joint, we allow for proper motion which will reduce injury prevalence. When it comes to pitching, whether it be baseball or softball, sustainability is the name of the game. 

RUNNING

Running is undervalued in softball and baseball. Often for a good reason. This sport is highly technical and extremely strategic. If you are a power hitter with a cannon for an arm and a very high baseball IQ, then running and speed is not a prerequisite for greatness. However, a decent majority of baseball and softball players are not power hitters with cannon arms, and use speed as a way to get on base, make tough plays in the gap, and allow for more ground to be covered in the infield. Most of the athletes we see at LYMBR are not solely athletes. They’re students, they’re kids, they’re hunched over A LOT, and very rarely do we find they have proper posture. Improper posture will lead to a pelvic tilt either anterior or posterior. When our pelvis is not aligned with the rest of the body, force production from the legs will be drastically cut. By realigning the pelvis, we put our legs in proper position for power and force. This could be the difference between a stolen base and an out, a double play and an error, or a diving catch and a face plant. Baseball is not an endurance sport so to speak.

The games can be grueling and tiresome, but the movements are usually Quick and explosive, followed by periods of rest. These quick movements can become problematic if the muscles responsible are tight or unconditioned. It will increase your chance of injury, and your central nervous systems response to the play will be slower. By stretching out the muscles responsible for running like the psoas, IT band, calf, glute, hamstring, and ankle muscles we can improve flexibility which will increase blood flow, energy levels, and provide more oxygenated blood and nutrients to your body. Stretching also primes the central nervous system for movement, so the quickness at which you respond during activity will subsequently increase. 

The winter months were long with the lingering cold, the biting wind, and the decreased access to outdoor activities, especially with the pandemic. But spring is here, which means that sports like softball and baseball are in full swing. A sport that combines physical activities such as swinging, throwing, and running. Activities that, without optimal flexibility, mobility, stability, and strength could cause a season ending, or career ending injury. If you’re ready to start your season now, if you’re ready to create the most efficient version of yourself, if you’re ready to reduce injury and increase performance, then please join us at one of our LYMBR studios. 

A Note from an injured ball player: Listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, please get yourself checked. Take one game, or one season off, rather than dealing with an injury for the rest of your life. It takes 4-6 minutes to stretch your shoulder, and rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury and inflammation. Inversely, it could take up to 4-6 months,often longer, for a full rotator cuff recovery. Do the math, take the time, talk to experts, and take care of yourself. There is nothing more demoralizing than hurting yourself on the field, and never being able to come back from it.

Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio, a LYMBR Academy Instructor, and he played High School Baseball.

Preventing Neck Pain While Working From Home

Preventing Neck Pain While Working From Home

After a long day of sitting in your kitchen chair, staring at a computer on an unusual table, is your spine feeling stuck? Are your shoulders rounded forward, leaving you wondering why your neck hurts? 

We know that poor posture can lead to neck and back discomfort, but coupled with incorrect equipment and workplace stress, this is a recipe for pain. Straining your body all day during work will decrease productivity and minimize your capacity for mental concentration. Both physical and mental stressors increase activation of the upper trapezius more than any other neck muscle. According to The Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, studies suggest that the upper trapezius muscles are activated by psychosocial stress independent of changes in concentration or posture. The Journal explains studies done by University of Colorado’s Physical Therapy Program comparing the effects of mentally challenging computer work performed with and without exposure to a psychosocial stressor on neck muscle activity and posture. The cervical flexor and extensor muscles (pictured below) however, do not experience a change in activity when adding workplace stress. It is important that we know the specific area that is being overworked in response to stress so that we can stretch that muscle and keep it relaxed throughout our day. Taking breaks in between work may be hard for you, so these practical tips will alleviate neck and back pain WHILE you work.   

1. Keep your neck from straining forward for prolonged periods of time 

  • Raise your screen to eye level 
  • Change your font to your eye’s preferred text size 
  • Lead movements with your eyes more than your whole head and slouching with your shoulders and neck 
  • 20/20/20 rule: look at something about 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at a time 

2. Reset your postural habits 

  • Lean back in your chair, rest your shoulders directly over your hips, keep your chest open and feet flat on the ground 
  • Adjust your screen and chair to an appropriate distance apart without compromising your new seated position 
  • Avoid pinning your phone between your shoulder and head while multitasking 

3. Break up the stiffness from staying still all day

  • Incorporate movement during work (i.e. walking during calls) 
  • Stretch! Take 6-8 seconds in every rep. Perform 3-5 reps on each muscle. After a brief break (up to 10 seconds) you can perform a second set! 

*As you stretch, remember to exhale during the stretch and inhale as you come out of the stretch. This will help you see the most progress in your range of motion with each repetition.  

Move as far as your body will allow by itself before using assistance. This will allow for a more functional and impactful session.  

Below are some stretches you can perform to improve your posture and relieve pain: 

Neck Extensors 

Bring your chin down toward your chest and release back to neutral position. Try with your hands behind your head, adding light assistance. 

Neck Flexors

Start leaning forward to disengage the muscles that hold your head up, resting your elbows on your knees. Leading with your eyes, look up towards the ceiling. Keeping your mouth closed and teeth together will allow for a deeper stretch. 

Try taking your elbows off your knees and use either your fingers or palms to assist at the end of your range of motion on your forehead.  

Scalenes 

Sitting upright with your head facing forward, gently bring your ear down to the shoulder. Try bringing your hand to the top of the head to provide light assistance towards the end range of motion. Keep your opposite shoulder down. 

Levator Scapula 

Turn your head 45 degrees away from the stretching side (or until your chin is slightly outside the knees). Bring only your chin and head forward toward your chest.  Bringing your hand to the back of your head, perform the stretch and provide light assistance at the end of the range of motion.

Trapezius

Turn your head 45 degrees towards the stretching side. Bring your ear forward and down toward your chest. Perform the same stretch with your hand on the top of your head, bringing your elbow down toward the floor.  

Back Flexion 

Sitting toward the front of your chair, tuck your chin toward your chest and reach your hands in between your knees, down to the floor. If you can, reach your hands towards the back legs of the chair or pull on your own legs to add assistance. 

Thoracic Extension 

Place your hands on your knees for balance. Extend your back, lifting your breast bone, head, and eyes to the ceiling. Try to arch your spine during this movement, be careful to not just lean back in the chair  

Pecs

Start by placing one arm against a wall edge or door frame. Keep your elbow straight and palm against the wall with the arm at shoulder height. Pinch the shoulder blades together. Engaging the back muscles inhibits (turns off) the pec muscle. Turn your shoulders away from the wall. 

Written by Cierra Chamberlain, LYMBR Stretch Therapist.

References:  
Bahar Shahidi, Ashley Haight, Katrina Maluf, Differential effects of mental concentration and acute psychosocial stress on cervical muscle activity and posture, Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, Volume 23, Issue 5, 2013, Pages 1082-1089, ISSN 1050-6411, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.05.009 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1050641113001235)  

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

During the winter season, there is a transition in the air that seems to affect everyone differently. Some tend to become more sedentary and stay inside where it is cozy and warm. Others rush outdoors and travel to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding. Researchers have observed decreased levels of physical activity and total daily energy expenditure during the winter months (Niebauer, 2016). It is important to consider activities like skiing and snowboarding as new alternatives to other forms of exercise. These snow sports have the potential to increase or at least maintain fitness levels during the winter. Professionals in the field also praise skiing for its positive influence on wellbeing and quality of life.

SNOW SPORTS AND THE HUMAN BODY

According to a recent article in Time (2018), skiing and snowboarding can be a ridiculously good workout. The combination of high altitude and low temperature challenges the heart, lungs, and muscles to work hard on each run down the mountain. A professor of sports medicine and cardiology expressed how the sport can have positive effects on your leg muscles, as well as the heart and blood circulation. Additionally, researchers observed improved insulin resistance, body composition, and glucose metabolism, whereas a drop in blood pressure, blood lipids, and heart rate. Each of these physiological benefits will improve your quality of life and long-term health. All of which are observed in individuals who ski or snowboard on a regular basis.

Individuals participating in these sports should consider following an exercise program before hitting the mountain, as the energy requirements of the sport is similar to high intensity interval training (HIIT).  Depending on factors like the individual’s skill level, exertion, and terrain of the slope, the body is working at a high level for roughly 15-20 minutes. Once the run is finished, skiers and snowboarders enjoy a rest period while on the lift back up the mountain. Skiing and snowboarding are challenging sports, especially to those who are untrained. The exercise program, designed by a fitness professional, may include aspects of cardiorespiratory, strength, plyometric, and flexibility training. 

The muscular system serves as the core of each movement while on the mountain. Functioning to counteract the effects of gravity and other external forces to maintain body alignment and to realign body segments while performing movements. The detailed movements in skiing and snowboarding utilize all muscle actions, resulting either in smooth motion for experts or sloppy motion for beginners. Depending on body awareness and skill level, the individual may move with more efficient muscle contractions.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBILITY TRAINING

Injury prevention for skiing and snowboarding is highly valuable for both short-term and long-term success. Maintaining optimal conditioning and flexibility of the muscles in the trunk, hips, and ankles through regular stretching is recommended. According to Vagners (1995), lower body flexibility is extremely important for efficient skiing, and may be necessary to perform more advanced movements in modern ski technique. An important note is that flexibility is specific to each joint – whereby significant differences in flexibility may be observed in left and right extremities, unless stretches are carefully balanced according to the individual’s needs. Each individual varies in abilities and will need a personalized stretching routine to address their own needs. Be mindful of tracking progress from the starting point – this is important to highlight which areas are improving and keeps you motivated to continue practice.

Focusing on skiing and snowboarding, we begin to identify the importance of stretching for these sports. Stretching may reduce the risk for injury, which should be of top priority for all ages. Mainly in the lower body, the muscles are performing countless contractions, and muscle soreness will surely follow. In order to manage the discomfort, skiers and snowboarders should perform stretching routines to maintain prime conditions of the muscles. Specific environmental factors such as cold temperatures limit performance of the muscles due to reduced blood and oxygen supply. Stretching counteracts this by enhancing your body’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Similarly, stretching helps to clear out metabolic waste like lactic acid build up. LYMBR stretching fuels the body by improving blood flow, oxygen and nutrition delivery to the working muscles. By moving these muscles beyond resting length, LYMBR stretching can keep the body ready to perform at a high level.

Skiing and snowboarding challenges the body to work through different ranges of motion. The muscles of the upper and lower body could benefit from stretching, as many of the movements will be replicated on the mountain. From the fundamentals to the advanced tricks, the body requires a high degree of flexibility when performed. Being able to flex, extend, and rotate different areas of the body are essential to these sports. For example, when snowboarders attempt a ‘180’ or ‘360’ the ability to move the back and hips is key. Stretching can help improve and maintain the range of motion required for these movements. Working with a professional at LYMBR can be useful to identify which areas need the most attention.

HOW TO STRETCH

If stretching before activity, the tempo of stretching should be matched to that of the activity to serve as a warmup. Whereas, stretching after activity should be of a slower nature to allow for a cool down. Breathing will be important throughout every stretch – inhale at the start of stretch and exhale all the way through the most intense part of the stretch. Allow the breath to help move the body through a full range of motion. Do not rush through the more difficult stretches. Give the body time to process so that the nervous system can develop confidence and understanding of the movement. Stretching should be dynamic – make sure to move through an active range before assisting. By following these principles, it ensures that every movement is both safe and efficient. Every stretch performed is an assessment of the body’s range of motion – be gradual by starting shallow and progressing to a deeper stretch. 

With our present knowledge on the topic, it can be concluded that stretching should be recommended for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels. Whether self-stretching or assisted stretching, there are clear benefits to this practice. Stretching plays a big role in the fitness and wellness routines of the winter months. Taking the time to stretch will keep the body going strong for the next run down the mountain. If done properly, a stretching routine can go hand in hand with a skiing or snowboarding hobby.

Written by Cesar Garcia, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.

References:
Heid (2018) – Time: Health – Exercise & Fitness Article Why skiing is a ridiculously good workout.
Niebauer (2016) – A comparison between alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response
Vagners (1995) – A ski instructor’s guide to the physics and biomechanics of skiing.

3 Ways To Make Sure Your Resolutions Become a New Lifestyle

3 Ways To Make Sure Your Resolutions Become a New Lifestyle

This is a new year like no other. Chances are you are looking a little harder at your New Year’s Resolutions for 2021. With the time you had for self-reflection in 2020, what have you decided are the big changes you are going to make beginning January?

While some resolutions may have nothing to do with fitness or wellness, chances are at least one does. As you may already know, fitness and wellness goals are typically the first to be abandoned shortly after they’ve begun. We are dedicated to helping you stay on track with your goals with three practices to ensure consistency and positive results. 

Practice stretching daily, even if it’s for 5-10 minutes. 

Your body is an amazing feat of bioengineering that has an amazing memory. Movement and posture habits become hard to break. As you do something repeatedly, like walking with outwardly turned feet or slouching when you sit, your body recognizes these habits as your accepted pattern of movement. Once this happens, it takes ten times as many repetitions to correct it and re-teach your nervous system. This is where stretching becomes so important. The idea that stretching is for rehabilitation is only partly true. While, yes, it is extremely important to maintain flexibility and mobility in your muscles and joints when rehabbing an injury, it is exponentially more important to recondition your body so that injury is far less likely to happen. This is done with heavy focus on form and repetition, as repeating the correct motion will increase the body’s ability to perform that skill subconsciously (“Repetition is the mother of all skills provided there is skill in the repetition”-Paul Chek). Balanced, subconscious movement is the goal. If your body and nervous system are in sync, then your chance of injury decreases tremendously as each muscle and joint is in line performing its correct action. 

Try to incorporate strength training, if that’s not for you, just move your body! 

The best way to ensure that your body’s flexibility and mobility is maintained is by using your muscles in their full range of motion through exercise and movement. This will bolster your body awareness and strengthen your joints and muscles in their correct range of motion. Flexibility and mobility are extremely important but so is stability and strength as it helps facilitate proper posture as well as your body’s proper subconscious response to stimulus. Taking a more holistic approach to reconditioning your body will be more beneficial for you in the long run as you will be more flexible and mobile with stronger joints and muscles to support that pliability. It’s important to remember that strength training is not for everyone, so do your best to get out there and move. Keep in mind that introducing weights into your exercise regiment, even one day a week, will dramatically improve joint, muscle and bone strength. 

Find a professional to help create a plan of action. 

Starting this process can be confusing and discouraging, especially for those who are just embarking on their fitness and recovery journey. Getting in front of quality personal trainers and therapists to help provide you with a plan of action is a great way to ensure you do the following: 

  1. Performing exercises correctly.
  2. Treating imbalances with proper flexibility, mobility and strength training. 
  3. Avoiding unnecessary or harmful exercises or activities. 

Fitness is hard enough without having to unravel the physiological properties of the human body. It’s important to remember that you are not alone , and you don’t have to do this by yourself. There are millions of people starting on day 1 just like you and even the strongest and most flexible person in your gym started right where you are now. The strong and flexible stay that way through practice, consistency and more likely than not, reaching out for help when they need it. This is why we got into this business in the first place: We want to help people get better. Making your resolutions a new lifestyle starts here, and we’re ready when you are.

Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist and LYMBR Academy Instructor.

6 Ways to Stay Physically and Mentally Flexible

6 Ways to Stay Physically and Mentally Flexible

In these times of uncertainty, we focus so heavily on what is happening around us that we sometimes forget to take a moment and focus on ourselves. With the added stress caused by the events of 2020, chances are many of us are experiencing added physical and mental stress that we should not overlook. 

Contrary to popular belief, small acute bouts of stress are not only important but necessary for both growth and survival. Stress is caused by external forces that strain our bodies, effecting all 5 of our natural senses. Because of this stress, we can react to potentially dangerous circumstances and prevent serious injury.  

How do we process stress? 

Stress is processed by the Limbic System, the part of our brain that controls our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest). In situations perceived to be dangerous, our fight or flight response kicks in and causes a physiological change in our bodies to anticipate the danger. Examples of this are increased heart rate, increased perspiration, and blood being removed from “non-essential functions” to fuel the muscles for action. This Sympathetic reaction is what allows us to react as best as possible during dangerous situations, or in more relatable sense, helps us function better during exercise. Once the external factors causing our body to react this way are removed, we are finally able to relax and enter a “rest and digest” mode where the body can bring all the excess blood from the muscles back to our organs for various functions such as digestion. 

Stress begins to become an issue when the balance of “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” weighs heavily in one direction over the other. When we stay in a prolonged state of stress, our mind and body begin to fatigue. Depending on the stress stimulant (fear, frustration, poor body image, etc.) these normally short-lived feelings become more embodied into our lives and we slowly become what we feel and think. Anxiety, depression, digestion difficulties and hypertension are just some of the various side effects caused by chronic stress. These negative side effects begin to spiral out of control if they are not properly checked and can significantly degrade out quality of life. 

Knowing that this excess of stress is unhealthy and, in some cases unavoidable, it’s important to fight back against stress and restore balance in our body and mind.  

Here are techniques you can use to bring yourself out of “fight or flight” and back to “rest and digest”: 

  • Focus on Breathing: We are ALWAYS breathing, so why would focusing on it help us relax? When we are in a stressed state, our breathing becomes shallow and ineffective, leading to an even further cascade of sympathetic reactions to occur. By taking a moment to reflect inward and take deep intentional breaths, you are allowing for more oxygen to fuel your body. On top of that, you also allow yourself a moment to block out unwanted external stimulus and hyper focus on something your body craves. Give yourself a moment to take 10 deep breaths (10 second inhale: 10 second exhale) and see how you feel! 
  • Exercise: Wait a minute, I thought exercise was stress on the body, wouldn’t that cause even more stress to be caked onto our body? The answer is yes, but sometimes you can use this additional stress to your advantage. Through exercise, you are making it a point to bring this stress onto yourself for the intention of bettering yourself, you are taking control of the stress and channeling it into something that you know will benefit you as opposed to laying there in a constant state of worry. The physiological benefits that come into play post-exercise start to kick in and will naturally aid you towards that “rest and digest” response.  
  • Stretching: We all saw this one coming! Like exercise, stretching allows for the body to be put through planned out intentional stress that is aimed at releasing tension in our bodies. By releasing this tension, we allow for fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to saturate our muscles and remove all the unwanted waste festering in our bodies. Stretching acts like a tune-up for the body which is important for long term functionality.  
  • Eat well and drink water: When it all comes down to it, we are all essentially giant bags of salt water, it is crucial to constantly replenish our water to maintain strong physiological function, keep blood flowing and improve our overall vitality. Throwing nutritious and delicious food into the mix will not only get you through the day but give you the energy needed to dominate the day. 
  • Keep an Affirmation Journal: This is a great practice not only to relieve yourself of stress, but to reinforce your volitions and strengthen your mental fortitude. Write down things that you want to be or be perceived as (even if you don’t currently believe it). Write down things you want to accomplish and strive for. Keep these ideas of greatness and success at the top of your mind and, over time, they will become a shield protecting you from all the negativity that seeks to bring you down. 
  • Give someone a hug:  By human nature, we need human contact to help us relax. During these trying times, there have been plenty of people who have been socially isolated for months. Human contact helps release a hormone known as oxytocin, which among other reactions in the body, helps people feel comforted and relaxed. If possible and safe, be sure to give a hug to a friend to let them know they are appreciated. 

These are just a few coping mechanics that can help you navigate through the craziness that is all around us. As we get closer to the holiday season, keep these tips in mind and be sure to stay diligent in your pursuit for mind body mastery. 

Written by Rick Charron. Rick is a Stretch Therapist and Head of the LYMBR Training Academy.

For Good Knee Health, Look a Little Higher

For Good Knee Health, Look a Little Higher

You may feel that life did not bless you with the best knees. Whether you feel discomfort during a run, playing golf, or just moving about day to day – there is chance that a muscle a little higher up is the culprit.

The Gluteus Maximus and commonly known as your glute, is the biggest muscle in our body. This muscle helps to cushion us when we fall, externally rotate our legs, and propel us as we walk. This muscle can also be the cause of your knee pain. The Gluteus Maximus (one of three glute muscles) attaches to the top of your hip bone, right on the side. The muscle doesn’t stop there, it becomes a tendon and continues down to the outside of the knee. If this muscle does not have adequate flexibility, it affects the entire chain down the leg to your knee. So if you favor one leg, jut your hip out when you stand, or habitually crosses your legs, you could develop a knee issue. We also see problems with athletes such as runners and with people that spend long hours sitting at their desks.

Working on the Glute Max and surrounding muscles releases muscular tension that can be influencing the hips and knees. Releasing this tension can give you the best chance to run a little farther or move more comfortably through your day.