Round shoulder drawing by Bonnie PruddenLONG BEFORE YOU SEE the shoulders round, before the scoliosis and forward head are noticed, before the foot turn-out becomes a hip problem, before the abdominal pouch and sway back begin to tell as back pain… your muscles are doing their thing.

Muscles become problems when they are overlooked, ignored and not taken seriously. So what if I ONLY bowl, do all my work in front of me, spend hours of time on my iPad, walk with my feet out, lift without stretch, never do abdominal exercises and can’t touch my toes.

Anything, including muscle action or inaction, done often enough, establishes patterns. Unless those patterns are balanced out, bad habits form. Bad muscle habits can become limiting and painfully rob you of joy in your life.

Strength work-outs at the gym may cause muscles to bulge and egos to swell but unless they are balanced out with flexibility exercises for EACH of those muscle groups, then mini tears (or worse) and pain are in your future. If you can do squats while lifting hundreds of pounds but you can’t bend over and touch your toes… guess what? You are NOT minimally fit. If you can do planks for minutes on end and hundreds of crunches but you can’t do one bent knee sit-up with your hands behind your head and your feet held down… guess what? Your key posture muscles, the ones that carry you around all day, are in bad shape.

Even the way we react to chronic stress and emotions can cause muscle problems. Fists clench, shoulders are drawn up to the ears or rounded forward in defeat. A feeling of self-righteousness, anger, clenching of teeth, tightening of glutes all put strain on the various muscle groups. And when you finally give up because it is too much – it begins to gnaw at your gut.

All this is to say: your muscles are your biographers. They have memory and they don’t lie. Don’t ignore them or overlook them, take them seriously.

So let’s start here by testing what you don’t know about yourself.

A. Begin with the Kraus Weber-Test for Minimum Muscular Strength and Flexibility of Key Posture Muscles. See below for the test and correctives to be done if you don’t pass.Kraus-Webert Test, drawings by Bonnie Prudden

 

Upper Back TestB. The upper back may be a victim of tight chest muscles. Improvement in this area will help prevent round shoulders, which, in turn, limits lung capacity. Stand with heels, seat and upper back touching the wall. Raise one straight arm and see how close you can come to touching the wall with your wrist. Record as a touch or measure the number of inches from wrist to wall. Repeat with the other arm. To learn the Corrective Exercises that will help you maintain relaxed chest muscles, scroll down to the Back Stroke and Snap and Stretch exercises below.

Calf Muscles TestC. Keeping the calf muscles loose helps prevent torn Achilles tendons, plantar fasciitis and improves sports performance. Stand facing the wall with your foot about 3 inches from the wall. Keeping your heel flat, bend your knee and see if you can touch the wall. If you can’t, move in a bit and try again. If you can, move out a bit. Measure from your big toe to the wall. The average is 4 inches. Measure each separately. To learn the Corrective Exercises that will help keep your calf muscles loose, scroll down to the Heel Cord Stretch and Half Knee Bend exercises below.

Shoulder Flexibility, drawing by Bonnie PruddenD. Shoulder flexibility is a must if you are going to play any kind of sport and also remain free of shoulder pain. Reach up your back with one hand and mark the spot. Then reach up from the belt line and mark the spot. Repeat with the other arm. Measure the distance between the two marks. To learn the Corrective Exercises that will help your shoulders remain flexible and free of pain, scroll down to the Back Stroke and Snap and Stretch exercises below.

Quad Test - drawing by Bonnie PruddenE. The legs are an auxiliary pump for the heart, and strong, flexible quadriceps provide good pump action and help prevent groin pulls as well as maintaining a youthful gait. Lie face down and have a friend push, trying to touch your heel to your seat. Measure the distance from the heel to the sea. A touch is recorded as T. To learn the Corrective Exercises that will help you maintain strong, flexible quadriceps, scroll down to the Thigh Shift exercise below.

To improve your measurements, take the trigger points out of the tight areas and perform the corrective exercises OFTEN. Muscles are like children. They need to be reminded.

Corrective Exercises, by Bonnie Prudden

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If you have questions or need help, email me at enid@bonnieprudden.com.

For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®.