Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch! SIX group classes a week!

    Nia: Tues and Thurs at 9 am, Fri at 10:15 am

    Yoga: Tues at 10:30 am and Thurs at 6:00 pm

    Stretch: Thurs at 10:15 am

    Please see my website for details! I sub for the City of San Jose and the YMCA so check my website for dates and times!

    I am also available for private Nia / yoga / Personal Training!

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Posts Tagged ‘Hamstrings’

Who Thinks About Their Knees?

Posted by terrepruitt on July 26, 2014

We do!  Today in the group exercise class I was subbing, I did a Nia class. Our focus was the knee, with the intent of bringing awareness to the main muscles that help move the knee. So with that intent we were thinking about the quadriceps and the hamstrings. There are other muscles involved in the knee’s movement and stability, but we were keeping it simple and just focusing on those two sets of muscles. There are four muscles that make up the quadriceps and three that make up the hamstrings. The quadriceps are on the “front” of the thigh and the hamstrings are on the back of the thigh. To see my brief post on the Quadriceps click here. To see my brief post on the Hamstrings click here. The muscles of the quadriceps help straighten the leg. So they extends it. They pull the lower leg forward. The muscles of the hamstrings pull the lower leg back, what we call bending the knee. The knee gets straightened and bent a lot in a Nia dance exercise class, but there might not always be awareness of the muscles that are doing it. Today we brought awareness to the knee bending and straightening muscles.

Bringing awareness to muscles can be done in many ways. Often time the choreography of a Nia Routine has us doing specific steps and arm movements. In the first few songs of the routine I am doing I did not have the class do any touching of our legs. I just suggested that the class think about their legs, while, in the first song we moved our chest down and lowered our hips. Everyone moves to their own depth so not all of us were in a bend with chest on our thighs, but we were still able to bring awareness to our thighs with knees bent. The next few songs have us aware of our knees as we sink a bit to activate hips and move with front, back, and diagonal steps.

When we were at a song that is a free dance we wiggled our knees, we knocked them, we straightened them. We touched the front of our thighs while we moved our legs, opening and closing the knee joint. We kicked forward and back. While we danced we touched the back of our thighs. The act of touching allows us to sense the muscles as it moves the leg, extending and flexing. The act of touching helps us bring awareness to the muscles as we use them.

While we do a punching and blocking sequence we are aware of the stability we have in the wide stance with the knees slightly bent. This pose allows the opportunity for awareness of the full thigh activation.   Even while standing still we are sensing the dance of strength and stability.

I love that Nia incorporates a focus and an intent as one of the workout cycles. This gives us a chance to focus on many things. In this case the movement of the knee. This is a great way to keep both the body and mind active while bringing awareness of how the body moves into our dance exercise class.

Do YOU think about your knees?  Do you think about how your leg bends?

Posted in Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

More On Downward Facing Dog

Posted by terrepruitt on July 1, 2014

I once briefly wrote about the Downward Facing Dog yoga pose in my post Down Dog. This is considered a resting pose. For many; those starting out or those wanting a gentle type of workout, it is not extremely restful. There are many muscles that are being used so it is a very active pose. This pose could be qualified as a “push exercise” or using the muscles that are used for pushing. Muscles on the back of the body are considered the “push muscles”. There are many benefits to this pose.

The lower body gets the biggest stretch. If you are able to straighten your legs and place your heels on the ground the back of your legs get the stretch. The hamstrings get a good stretch along with the calves. If your heels are up there is still a nice stretch going on. With many people working in office chairs and having the posture of bent legs, tight hamstrings is a very common situation. So having heels up and bent knees is a widely used modification.

No matter how your legs are (straight or bent) your arms are holding you up. This pose does require your arms to do some work. It is considered an arm supported pose. In conjunction with latissimus dorsi, the muscles by the ribs, and your deltoids the triceps are working. So for some their arms might feel fatigued. So even though this pose is allowing for a very big stretch in the back of the legs there are muscles working on the top half of the body.

Even though the focus is in pressing the tailbone to the sky we don’t ignore the front. The front of the legs get a bit of attention, as we are lifting the knee caps.  We also have a sense of our spine lengthening.

In addition to increasing flexibility in your legs, hips, and ankles. And strengthening arms and wrist, this pose relieves depression and helps calm the mind. Additional benefits include:
-Energizing the body
-Increasing circulation
-Improving digestion
-Relieving headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
And it can be therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

I have learned to like this pose a bit more. I was reminded of what I tell my students and what we practice in Nia. Find the Joy in the movement, if you cannot tweak it until you do. I believe a portion of my dislike of this pose back when I first wrote about it, was that I was forcing it.  I was doing it in away that did not feel good for my back. Once I stopped the complete loose action of my spine, the pose became more comfortable. As it became easier there was room to move into the pose better and relax into it.

So, like many things it is good to do it at your level. As you improve it can be done better. The benefits can be received throughout the practice. It is a practice.

How is your Downward Facing Dog?

Posted in Yoga/PiYo/Pilates | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Roll Out The Hamstring

Posted by terrepruitt on September 4, 2012

This is not like rolling out the red carpet or a ball of string because the hamstrings are not really strings at all.  They are muscles in the leg.  Well, actually the hamstrings are made up of three muscles, so it is a muscle group/set.  The three muscles that are included in the muscle set are the Semimembranosus, the Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris.  They are on the back of the legs.  You can see them on my Hamstrings post I put up back in 2009.  According to The Muscle Book the word’s origination is “German:  hamme – back of leg, Latin: stringere – to draw together.”  The hamstrings are responsible for pulling your calf back towards your buttocks, and for extending the thigh.  There are a lot of ways to stretch out and increase flexibility in the hamstrings.  One way to treat tight hamstrings is with the foam roller.  The foam roller is a great way to ease tight hamstrings.  The roller can be used for a hamstring roll.

With many, many, many people working at desks all day, and sitting all day, tight hamstrings seems to be a common state of being for many people.  The position of the knee when one sits in a chair is part of the function of the hamstrings . . . as I mentioned above . . .pulling the calf back towards the buttocks.  So it is not unusual for people who sit a lot to have tight hamstrings.  With tight hamstrings one cannot bend over and touch their toes or easily bend over to touch the floor.  Sometimes tight hamstrings can even interfere with walking, the leg is not able to swing comfortably forward and/or allow the leg to straighten.  Does that sound familiar?  Maybe you have sat for a long time and when you stand up you don’t come up all the way and then your first few steps are short and your legs are tight.  The foam roller can help with that.  It is an easy massaging type of stretch that can be done watching TV or in between those long periods of sitting.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia at the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, NiaUsing the full roller, sit on the roller with the roller positioned at your hamstrings (just under your glutes/butt), your legs are straight out in front of your body.  Use your arms to support your body.  The position of your arms is straight and under your shoulders supporting your weight.  Using your arms, roll so that your legs roll over the foam roller.  So you bring yourself backwards and tthen push yourself forward over the roller.  The roller is rolling along the back of your legs, gently massaging your Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris.  You can do this for as long as you would like.  It really is a great way to bring relief to tight hamstrings.

Sometimes tight hamstrings may contribute to lower back pain.  When the hamstrings are tight they might cause the pelvis to tilt up increasing the strain on the lower back.  So there are really a lot of reasons this easy roll with the foam roller might be something you want to do.

Do you have tight hamstrings?  Does this sound like something that you would do to ease those tight hamstrings?

Posted in Foam Rollers, Hamstrings, Muscles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Frogs Not Just Slimy Amphibians

Posted by terrepruitt on December 1, 2011

Wet, slimy, noisy, some say even tasty.  No, I am not talking about frogs the amphibians. There is an exercise I learned in Pilates I know as Frogs.  I can’t think of a move we do in Nia that is comparable.  You lie on your back with your legs in the air.  Your heels touch, toes out, feet flexed like in first position, your thighs are squeezing.  Then you bend your knees, then straighten them as if you are jumping like a frog. This can be a somewhat big bend or a little pulse-type movement.  Concentrate on keeping the heels together, your feet flexed, and your thigh muscles tight.   Make sure you squeeze really tight when your legs are straight.  This is one of those exercises where bigger is not necessarily better.  The little pulses really compel you to squeeze your legs.

You can add another element to the exercise if you would like, by lowering your legs to any degree.  Another way to adjust this exercise besides lowering your legs is by making it more challenging by adding resistance tubing or a resistance band.  You would hold the resistance band in both hands and secure the band around your heels/feet then do the same frog leg jumping motion.

This exercise is a great workout for the legs.  With your feet flexed and heels touching you might sense your gastrocnemius and soleus, the muscles of the calves.  You will probably sense the stretch.  The lower leg muscles that are on the front of your legs are the ones you will probably sense most.  These are the ones really working to keep your foot flexed.  The  anterior tibial is the main muscle used in dorsiflexion, which is flexing your foot towards your shin.  Another muscles used in dorsiflexion is the extensor hallucis longus.  So these muscles will get a great workout.

Really pushing through your heels and straightening your legs stretches the calves as well as the hamstrings.  People with tight hamstrings might have to practice a bit in order to get their legs straight.  Even though it is not the hamstrings that straighten the leg, when they are tight, the legs cannot always straighten.  The hamstrings are the muscles that will work to bend the knee.

Now the main muscles that you will sense in this exercise are the quadriceps.  These large muscles in your upper leg will be the ones that are helping you to keep your legs together.  While you are doing this exercise you really want to concentrate on keeping your thighs together.  squeeze them together.  This squeezing is ONE of the ways this exercise works the thighs.  It also works the thighs when you straighten the legs.  The quadriceps are the ones that will also straighten the leg.

Since you are going to be flexing the knees and hips and rotating the thigh outward you are going to be working the sartorius.  This muscle starts at the outside of the hip and crosses over the thigh bone and inserts in at the inner part of the tibia, the bone below the knee.  This muscles crosses over two joints.

If you are really squeezing your legs this will also work your glutes.  This exercise can even allow the abs to get in on the fun.

This is a great lower body exercise.  It allows for so many muscles to be worked.  As with many exercises it can be done a variety of ways to increase the challenge.  So did you get down on the floor and try it in the middle of reading this?  I am sure that your co-workers would understand.  🙂

Posted in Exercise and Working Out | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Resistance Bands for Stretching

Posted by terrepruitt on September 3, 2011

I’ve talked about resistance bands being great for strength training. The other day after having taught a Nia class with a lot of sumo stances in it AND after having done some weighted squats, I really needed to stretch.  I needed a really deep stretch and as I was trying to think of how to get it I remembered I could use my resistance bands for stretching.  The resistance bands I have are long flat sheets of rubber.  I don’t have the ones that are like rubber bands or tubes.  Mine don’t have handles.  Any type of band made for exercising will do.  There are so many ways to stretch using a band.  I will just name a few in this post and maybe do another post at another time.

The first one you probably have done when you pick up a band is just to hold it in each hand and let your arms “fall” to the side.  Obviously your arms don’t actually fall because you are holding the band, but you can feel the stretch in your arms and shoulders.  The great thing about bands is you can make the tension however you need it to be by the way you hold the band.  If you need a really deep stretch make the band really short and either pull or let your arms “fall”.  If you want a gentle stretch then hold the band closer to the ends.

Holding opposite ends of the band and allowing your arms to fall behind your body really allows for a stretch in the upper arms, shoulders, upper back and neck.

You can do side bends with an end of the band in each hand holding your arms above your head.  Again sensing the stretch in your shoulders and upper back, but with this stretch you also get your sides. Using the band for this stretch allows for a much greater stretch than without the band.

For the legs there are a few I want to share.  Sit down on the ground, fold the band in half then put your foot in the band at the fold, hold one side of the band in each hand.  Then lay down, keeping your foot flexed, bring your straight leg with the foot in the band up as far as you can.  Keep your other leg straight out on the floor.  Adjusting the tension of the band gives you the stretch you need.  You can bring your leg straight up and closer to your face for an even greater stretch.  The closer you pull your leg to your face the greater the stretch in the hamstrings and even calf.

Still lying on your back with your leg up and still holding the band let your leg fall ACROSS your body.  This is a further stretch for the hamstrings and gets the outer thigh.  With this stretch – again – using the band to pull your leg closer to your head gives you a bigger stretch. Hold the end of the band in the hand opposite the direction your leg is going, while the hand on the side of where your foot is gently pulls the leg towards your head.  Remember to be mindful of what you are sensing, often a stretch will cause discomfort but the muscles need to be stretched especially after a workout.  But pain is different than discomfort, so be aware of what sensation is present.

Another stretch you can do is from the same position of laying on your back, with your foot through the band, leg in the air, foot flexed, but this time let the straight leg fall away from your body.  With this stretch the hand opposite the side your stretching leg holds the end of the band and the hand on the side of the stretching leg can gently pull the leg towards your head. This stretch allows you to really sense the stretch in the inner thigh.  The closer your leg gets to the floor the more your inner thigh gets stretch.  And at the same time you can gently pull your leg towards your head enable the back of the leg to be stretched too.

Bands are such a great way to get some assisted stretching in without having to have another person there to help you.  It is like proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) by yourself.  As I mentioned before, please be mindful and aware of what your body is saying.  Discomfort at a tolerable level is acceptable but pain is not.

Posted in Helpful Hints | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Hamstring Curls

Posted by terrepruitt on June 14, 2011

In putting together the exercises for a Ten Minute Workout, I wanted to get a quick “full body” workout.  I understand that this ten minutes might not target the ENTIRE body, but it gets most of it.  Plus I was trying to use the exercise equipment that I have.  I was bothered by the fact that I had these toys and I didn’t use them.  So I was thinking of exercises that utilized them.  Although, all of these exercises can be modified to be done without the equipment.  This Hamstring curl uses the stability ball.

Lie on your back with your calves/ankles on the stability ball.  Push your hips up into a bridge.  Pull the ball, rolling it towards your butt so your feet end up on it and your knees are up.  Then roll it out.  Your arms can be wherever they are most comfortable.  Arms can be used to help stabilize your body.  It could be at first that your body has a tendency to roll to one side or you feel as if you are going to tip over.  🙂  That is part of the exercise.  You are using your hamstrings to pull the ball back, but you might be engaging your arms a lot to stabilize your body as you learn this exercise.  Eventually your legs will be able to control the ball AND your balance without really USING your arms.

Each time the ball rolls towards your butt count that as one.

How is that for you?  What questions come up?

Posted in Hamstrings, Ten Minute Workout (Posts) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Pull Workout – Sample

Posted by terrepruitt on November 21, 2009

–Lat pull down while squatting (on Machine)
–Bicep dumbbell curls with walking lunges

–One arm dumbbell row (on bench alternating sides)
–Hamstring curls using stability ball

–Kettlebell swing
–Stability Ball Hand/Foot Pass Sit-up

–Back extension on stability ball
–Straight leg deadlift with Kettlebell alternating legs

–Wide grip row on Machine
–Single Leg Squat using bench

As you can see the first two exercises prove that the generalization of push muscles being on the front and pull muscles being on the back is not great, but for some it is helpful although not entirely accurate. You use your back muscles and your biceps to pull. With most movements more than one muscle or more than one muscle group is being used, but usually we say the exercise works which ever muscles it works the most. As with the Lat pull down, it is called a Lat pull down because the Latissimus dorsi is responsible for most of the effort, however in most cases your biceps are assisting. There are other muscles in your back that are putting in some effort too and it depends on which kind of lat pull down you are doing. Yes, there are different kind.

Usually when the exercise being done is with free weights there is less muscle isolation. Some machines do a great job of muscle isolation. Sometimes an exercise can be considered both or neither and it is add to a workout to work a “popular muscle”. The sit ups were added because most of the time people want to work the abs. I think of the single leg squat as either a push or a pull because sometimes I really feel it in the glutes and sometimes I swear it is all quads.

This is just a sample of what a “pull workout” could look like. The weight used, the reps done, the speed in which do it and how many times you do it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. This can be done different ways. It could be done all in a row as listed or done in sets. Depends on what you want.

The picture is of the Cable Cross Machine at least Freemotion calls it that. I call “the Machine”.  It lives at the gym in San Jose.

Posted in Exercise and Working Out, Hamstrings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hamstrings

Posted by terrepruitt on November 14, 2009

Not the string you use to tie up a pig or a ham, but the muscle group.  There are three muscles that make up the Hamstrings; the Semimembranosus, the Semitendinosus, and the Biceps Femoris.

These muscles flex the knee bringing your foot toward your buttocks, extend the thigh, and rotate the hip/leg.

I have been thinking about my hamstrings A LOT the past few days because of a recent workout where I did a few exercises that really worked my hamstrings.  There are a lot of gyms in San Jose but where my friend and I were is a tiny gym that does not have a lot of machines, but you don’t need machines to really work the back of the legs.

We did some deadlifts, hamstring curls, and worked with a kettlebell, not to mention our warm up lunges.  So, yes, I have been thinking about my hamstrings a bit.

I wanted to point out that the hamstrings are three different muscles and remind you of that.

Posted in Hamstrings, Muscles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »