Terre Pruitt's Blog

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Quadriceps’

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 »

Review The Plank Form

Posted by terrepruitt on March 12, 2013

Let’s do a little form check on our planks.  We are doing our month of daily planks (and beyond?) on our elbows/forearms.  Let’s review how we are doing them.

–Rest on elbows and forearms
–Upper arm bones come straight down, so elbows should be directly under the shoulders
–Elbows are shoulder width apart, elbows are directly under the shoulders
–Shoulder blades are pulled down (putting them in your back pockets)
–Face is facing down, eyes looking at the earth (assisting with proper head alignment)
–Head is in line with shoulders, hips, knees, and feet
–The entire spine is straight
–Hips are not bowing up or sagging down (part of the “alignment” is that they are doing neither)
–Muscles are squeezing and active; abdominals, glutes, qudriceps
–Rest on the toes, heels off the ground
–Feet are in open stance, which is hip JOINT width apart*

*As with many exercises there are variations and modifications, but for this plank challenge we are keeping our feet in open stance.  (For an “open stance” reminder, click here)  With the feet in open stance it encourages the hips to stay in alignment.  Also in open stance your bones are in alignment with your joints.

Try doing the plank with your feet apart (like in “A” stance) and you might notice how much “easier” it is for the hips to start to sag down.

If you are still learning and really want to focus on form, doing the plank on your knees is always another option.  If you are doing the plank on your knees the stance is the same.  The knees are straight out from your hip joints just as if you were standing in open stance.  Your feet are also in “open stance”.

Be very conscious of your arm bones.  You want to make certain they are perpendicular to the floor.  Don’t allow your toes to push you forward.  Check to see that your shoulders are directly over your elbows.  An idea that might help with this is to press back with your heels.  Your heels are in the air but imagine the bottoms of your heels are reaching out to press against something.  This also helps with activating your thigh muscles, while on your toes.  If you are doing the modified plank on your knees you can still press with your heels you just would not be using your thigh muscles to help.

As with all exercise remember to breathe.  How you breathe is up to you, if panting helps you, then pant, if slow inhales and fast exhales help you, then do that.  Breathe however it is best for you, but don’t hold your breath.  Your muscles need oxygen so give it to them.

Remember to keep your form every time and through out the duration of your plank.  If your form starts to “suffer” then stop.  No use doing a minute of “planking” if your bum is high in the air or your hips are on the ground. Let’s make sure we are doing quality over quantity.  So every time you plank, review your form!

Do you have any questions?  Is this clear for you?

Posted in Exercise and Working Out, Planking | 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 »

Squats

Posted by terrepruitt on June 9, 2011

Squats are good for the legs, especially glutes and quadriceps.  There are a lot of ways to do a squat.  For my ten minute workout we are just doing a non-fancy squat.  The original design of this exercise in the workout is to do it on a BOSU.  The rounded side of the BOSU is on the ground and you stand on the flat side.  Adding the BOSU in the mix allows for more work to be required of the full leg and ankles.  It is great balance practice.  A squat is a lowering of the entire body as if you are going to sit down.  Only lower down to about sitting-in-chair height.  Butt “reaching” back for the “chair”.  Then come back up to standing.  For these squats have your feet from hip-joint-width to shoulder width apart.

I feel it is important for one to be able to sit and stand without having use your arms to support yourself.  Squats are one way to ensure you can move up and down without help.

What do you want to know?

Posted in Ten Minute Workout (Posts) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Long Lunges

Posted by terrepruitt on June 4, 2011

We do lunges in Nia all the time. We call them the “bow stance”.  Different Nia routines have different “lunges”.  Sometimes we do them fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes the music allows us to do a deep lunge, sometimes it might just be a shallow or a high one. Lunges are great for the quadriceps and glutes. In my original design of my Ten Minute Workout I wanted the concentration to be in the glutes, so I decided to do a long lunge. A long lunge gets the backside more.

Holding weights down at your sides adds to the work your leg and butt muscles have to do. Standing up from the long step requires much more effort. As a reminder only step as far as will allow you to stand back up. Also be certain that in addition to being able to stand back up you are stable, so your legs are wide enough that you cannot be easily pushed over.

As you step out also remember that it is a controlled step. The foot that is stepping out should land softly and not in a stomp. These do not need to be done fast.  When including this exercise in the ten minute workout I was thinking of a long controlled step.  The movement is solid and fluid.

The foot that remains stationary ends up with the heel raised (completely vertical if you can get there), weight on the ball of the foot and toes.  Since this is a long lunge, the stationary leg could end up with the knee almost on the ground or on the ground.

The idea is to step one leg out then back, then the other leg steps out then back. Alternate legs, each step out is “one”. There are other ways to do lunges, modifications that can be made, but for now, this is the explanation of the exercise chosen to be included in this ten minute workout. Eventually I will post some information on different ways to do the lunges.

What questions do you have about the long lunges?

Posted in Ten Minute Workout (Posts) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quadriceps

Posted by terrepruitt on February 20, 2010

I subbed a Nia class in another part of San Jose today and so I had a different group of participants, and the routine we did today has a lot of bows in it.  Watching the class do the bow stance made me think of how a bow is somewhat of a lunge. Reminded me how we really do work a lot of muscles in our Nia workouts with all of the different exercises we do.  The bow stance is one of Nia’s 52 Moves.

Did you know you Quadriceps are made up for four muscles?  Maybe, but since we always say, “quads” we might be thinking of them as one muscle.  Of course, when we stop to think about it we understand that “quad” means four so it makes sense that quadriceps is four muscles.

Basically they work together.  It is not as if you can work just one.  Our quads extend the leg and flex the thigh.   They move our thigh towards our chest and kick our foot out (as an example).  Quads would be included in a “Push” workout.    Lunges and squats target the quadriceps.

I am pretty sure you knew that the quadriceps were four muscles, but I thought I would just remind you.

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