African Peanut Stew

A hot bowl full of vitamin loaded vegetables and protein is perfect for a cold day. Add chicken or beef for a non-vegetarian version.

Ingredients:
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
5 large tomatoes, diced
⅓ cup natural peanut butter
6 cups of vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 cups of white beans, uncooked
2 handfuls of spinach (substitute for kale if you like)
salt&pepper

  1. In a large pot heat a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. In a medium bowl whisk together peanut butter and 1 cup of vegetable broth until no clumps remain.

    stew

  1. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, sweet potato and tomatoes. Raise the heat to medium high for 5 more minutes. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.

    stew2

  2. Stir in peanut butter and vegetable broth mixture, along with the remaining cups of broth, the beans, chili powder and cayenne. Cover pot with lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until beans are cooked. Add the spinach last and cook until it is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    stew3

    DSC04019
     ENJOY!

Banana & Almond Porridge

Having the same kind of granola/porridge every day can be boring, simply add new ingredients to your basic breakfast and create something different. Today’s recipe will keep you full all morning.

Ingredients:
½ cup of rolled oats
¼ cup of coconut milk
1 tbsp almond butter
1 banana sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
handful of almonds
berries & seeds to garnish (I used raspberries and pumpkin seeds.

  1. In a medium size pot combine oats, ¾ cup of water, the sliced banana and coconut milk. Let mixture simmer for ten minutes, until all the liquids have been absorbed.banana
  2. In a food processor grind the almonds to a rough flour. Now add almond flour, almond butter, coconut oil and honey. Let simmer for about 2-3 more minutes.

banana2

Serve hot, topping your porridge with berries, seeds, any other nuts you might prefer.

banana3

ENJOY!

Overhead Squats for Shoulder Stability

 

overhead squat

Nothing is better than overhead squats to keep you honest about your shoulder stability. New lifters first trying this exercise are often seen struggling with a light bar trying their utmost to stay upright. One of the benefits of overhead squatting is shoulder stability. This week New Edge shows you why and how to make your shoulders stable and sturdy for lifting.

Many lifters focus entirely on shoulder size and strength and neglect movements that train fine control at this joint. Without training shoulder stability overhead lifts feel shaky and difficult to control. If however, going overhead is painful or feels tight, getting a mobility assessment and soft tissue treatment is recommended. If you currently have shoulder pain or feel pinching in the shoulder when moving overhead, get this checked out by a professional before training overhead movements.

Grab a light bar and hold it with your hands spaced wide so that the bar touches your hip when you hold it. Press the bar overhead and think about stretching the bar like it’s a rubber band. Point your arm pits forward. Elbows should be pointed backwards. Now perform a squat!

Once the basic movement is easy to do with the light bar you can progress on.

Make the overhead squat more challenging:

1) Add more weight to the bar. This challenges the body’s structures by adding more downward force.

2) Narrowing your grip width. This isolates more of the shoulder muscles and forces them to work at the limit of their range of motion.

overhead squat1

Elbows back, armpits forward and midsection aligned. Beautiful.

Shoulder stability is important if you want to train for as many years as possible and perform to your highest potential. In most cases a lifter faced with this instability overhead must go back to a lighter working weight. Be patient and keep up with post- workout recovery! Next week New Edge looks at hip external rotation in the squat.

References
Jaggi, A., & Lambert, S. (2010). Rehabilitation for shoulder instability. British journal of sports medicine, 44(5), 333-340.

Ronai, P. (2005). Exercise Modifications and Strategies to Enhance Shoulder Function. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 27(4), 36-45.

Overhead Squats

squat

Overhead squats are one of my favorite lifts. I love the feeling of locking out under and heavy weight and then driving it up with my legs. I also love using them to teach correct squat form. The overhead squat is great at keeping a lifter honest about their midsection strength, hip flexibility and shoulder stability. Much can be learned about how someone moves by watching how they tackle the overhead squat. Today we look at midsection stability in the overhead squat!

The overhead squat is excellent for training pelvic position and control in the back and abdominal muscles. As can be seen in the figure below the muscles of the back, abs, hips and legs create opposing forces in the pelvis and spine. Effective squatting must train you how to balance these forces and keep the pelvis and spine in a neutral position.

squat2

A simplified version of the muscular forces that contribute to anterior and posterior pelvic tilt.

To train the overhead squat begin with a dowel. Use weight by progressing slowly, once you have the technique mastered with the dowel. It is completely normal if it feels difficult at first to reach the depth you are used to squatting to. Most importantly, have a coach or other experienced lifter watch and make sure you spine position is neutral when you begin and that it doesn’t change from this position as you squat.

squat3

A beautiful example of neutral spine and pelvis position with the bar overhead.

Think of staying tight under the bar. Lock your midsection in place and control it by not letting anything go loose until you have put the bar down. Next week we dig deeper into overhead squats and look at hip flexibility and shoulder stability in this lift. Happy squatting!

References
Anderson, K., & Behm, D. G. (2005). Trunk muscle activity increases with unstable squat movements. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 30(1), 33-45.

Staugaard-Jones, J.A. (2012). The Vital Psoas Muscle: Connecting Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being. North Atlantic Books

SI Joint Pain

SI

SI joint pain is one of the most common forms of back pain in lifter. It is also a difficult problem to solve unless you know how to deal with it. Resolving pain in this area will not only rebalance your training, and prevent further pain in the back and hip area, but will also improve your posture.

The sacroiliac joint refers to the area where the sacrum meets the ilium bone. The primary function of this joint is to transfer upper body loads to the lower body. With this in mind it is easy to see how critical it is to being able to weight train.

SI2

SI joint pain referral zones

The SI joint is stabilized by the cross shaped muscle and fascia connections that are made up of links from under the foot, the lower leg, the IT band, the glutes and the lats. Any weakness in these muscles on either side of the body will alter the balance of pull at the SI joint and cause irritation in the area.

SI3

Cross shaped muscle and fascia connections that stabilize the SI joint

Internal compression forces on the joint can cause other low back muscles to compensate and develop other imbalances. Exercises for this area need to focus on external rotation and abduction at the hip. Next week we look at several exercises to train that are excellent for strengthening the SI joint.

References
Brolinson, P. G., Kozar, A. J., & Cibor, G. (2003). Sacroiliac joint dysfunction in athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep, 2(1), 47-56.

Laslett, M. (2008). Evidence-based diagnosis and treatment of the painful sacroiliac joint. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 16(3), 142-152.

Richardson, C. A., Snijders, C. J., Hides, J. A., Damen, L., Pas, M. S., & Storm, J. (2002). The relation between the transversus abdominis muscles, sacroiliac joint mechanics, and low back pain. Spine, 27(4), 399-405.

Explaining Low Back Pain

back

Low back pain is so common that most know how debilitating it can be. There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete, lifter or fitness enthusiast than being injured. Today we look at why low back pain occurs.

Many times clients bring in MRI scans to show me their herniated discs so they can prove how little they can do because of how much pain they are in. I believe them, but also realise the difference between structure and function. More often than not when ask where the pain is they point to a different area of their back than the level of the discs herniation. That’s weird. But consider that the low back is a delicate balance of pressure gradients that modulate the neurological inputs. Clearly pain is more complicated than something we can see with medical imaging.

Analyses of MRI scans have revealed that scans have very little to do with whether or not back pain is present. Structurally normal low backs can have pain and abnormal backs can be pain free. Even when healing has occurred and or no structural damage occurred, neural activation of the back and hips has likely been altered by the injury and pain.

There are several causes of low back pain. Back pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. Think of acute trauma as being hit by someone or something. Acute trauma to the body shuts off neural pathways to the back muscles and results on temporary weakness in the injured area. Chronic pain on the other hand can develop from unresolved acute injury or from long term misuse.

back2

Not all back pain is a cause for concern. Dull achy pain in the muscles of the back after training deadlifts or back extensions indicates that the muscles have been loaded eccentrically. This is means the muscles were made to contract as they lengthened. This is one of the most effective ways of strengthening a muscle. Although it may produce some discomfort at first, in many cases strengthening the back and hip muscles resolves back pain.

Chronic poor positioning of the muscles of the back alters neural activation and can lead to atrophy and weakness. The muscles may not be in a position to work optimally. With chronic pain lasting inhibition of the muscles of the hip and back can cause sciatica, sacroiliac joint pain and other problems in the area. In order for strength to return maximally, the back should be aligned and trained so the muscles pull evenly on the vertebrae. For this aligning to be effective, other areas of imbalance in the hips, shoulders and ankles for example, also need to be resolved.

References
Deyo, R. A., Rainville, J., & Kent, D. L. (1992). What can the history and physical examination tell us about low back pain?. Jama, 268(6), 760-765.

Jensen, M. C., Brant-Zawadzki, M. N., Obuchowski, N., Modic, M. T., Malkasian, D., & Ross, J. S. (1994). Magnetic resonance imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain. New England Journal of Medicine,331(2), 69-73.