Archives for May 2012

Exercises for knitters and sitters: stretch and strengthen to avoid injuries

When I’m not at the gym, I can often be found curled up on the couch with a pot of tea and my knitting.

exercises for knitters

Yes. I knit. A lot. (fitKNITchick; get it?)

If you have to ask how much ‘a lot’ is, you aren’t a knitter (or sewer or quilter or handicrafter of any type). However, even if  you don’t spend your time ‘crafting’, this post may still be relevant to you. In particular, if you spend a significant amount of time on the computer or with your handheld device (blogging, texting, surfing, YouTubing…).

Knitters and other types of ‘sitters’ share many of the same seated postural patterns;

  • anterior pelvic tilt
  • round shoulders
  • forward jutting chin
  • hands elevated above elbows
  • perpetually flexed fingers
  • overstretched lower backs

Over time, these less-than-ideal postures can result in back pain, joint stiffness, headache, tendonitis and other repetitive strain injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome; all conditions which will eventually limit how often you can engage in your favourite crafting (or on-line) activity.

Now I’ve been knitting since I was 8 and I plan on being that little old lady sitting on the park bench knitting her grandchild a baby blanket when I’m 80. Knitting-related injuries are not part of my game plan. Here’s are some exercises for knitters (and sitters) to help prevent repetitive strain injuries:

  • take frequent breaks. Every 10-15 minutes, I put my knitting aside, get up and walk around the room.
  • change sitting locations. I rotate between my favourite armchair, the couch, a straight back chair and the lawn chair in my ‘knitting’ garden. Stability balls also make great chairs, although perhaps not when one is wielding a sharp instrument.
  • practice mindful posture. Remind yourself to pull your tummy in, retract your chin and rotate your shoulders back and down. If you have a hard time remembering these cues, write them down on a sticky note and leave it where you can see it (I used to leave one on my steering wheel after I caught a glimpse of my ghastly driving posture).
  • exercise and stretch your entire body regularly. Keeping your body in good working condition will help prevent all sorts of injuries, including postural ones.

Prevention too late for you? Already suffering from one of the injuries or strains described above? Here are some stretching and strengthening exercises for knitters that can help get you back to doing what you love quickly.

  • improve your upper and mid back strength with bent over rows and reverse flys. Practice scapular retraction by ‘sitting’ against a wall with shoulder blades held back and down (great for strengthening your legs at the same time!).
  • strengthen the back of your shoulders. Perform long arm lateral raises and upright rows using light dumbbells (or no dumbbells at all if the muscles are really weak).
  • build a stronger core. Weak abs and lower back muscles will prevent you from comfortably maintaining an upright posture. Try planks, side planks, back extensions and anti-rotation holds to improve your core’s ability to stabilize your spine.
  • improve wrist and forearm strength. Try reverse bicep curls and wrist curls using light weights.
  • build a stronger butt. Your glutes help to hold your pelvis in a neutral position. Stronger glutes can help to counteract the anterior pelvic tilt caused by tight hip flexors.
  • stretch out tight chest and front shoulder muscles. My favourite chest opener is the door jamb stretch. Downward facing dog or half dog are also great options.
  • stretch fingers and wrist joints every time you take a break. Fully extend and flex each finger. Using the opposite hand, carefully press fingers back towards wrist (hyper-extension). Rotate wrists both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Find more stretch and strengthening exercises for knitters and specific repetitive strain injuries in Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Self-Care Program. Written by a massage therapist, this book organizes repetitive strain injuries according to profession (different types of injuries are more common amongst certain professions) and provides rehabilitative suggestions for many common RSI’s.

Have you ever experienced an injury due to repetitive strain or poor posture?

What did you do to treat the injury? And did the treatment work? 


Bosu balance trainer workout and a new Tuesday Trainer video

One of my favourite fitness tools is the Bosu balance trainer.

Essentially, it’s a stability ball, cut in half and mounted on a hard, flat piece of rubber. It can be used dome side up (for beginners) and platform side up (for more advanced and stable exercisers). I like to use it both ways (BOth Sides Up)!

 Bosu group fitness class

Great for challenging your balance and adding a bit of instability to your workouts, I often use it with my clients to improve

  1. knee and ankle strength; just standing on the dome side forces all the little stabilizer muscles surrounding the knee and ankle joints to wake up and turn on (you’ll also feel it in your inner thighs). Try closing your eyes!
  2. balance and kinesthetic sense; knowing where your body is in space (“proprioception”) is helpful for avoiding slips and slides and falls
  3. knee tracking; often knees ‘drop’ inwards or ‘splay’ outwards during lunges due to weak quadriceps. Stationary lunges or squats on the Bosu can help strengthen the vastus medialis and reduce or eliminate the knee tracking problem. Just make sure that knees are staying above the ankles during movement

Balance training is an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. It improves your posture, functionally strengthens your core and adds an interesting challenge to exercises you may already have mastered on a stable surface.

Here’s a sample workout that I’ve done with my weekly Bosu Blast class.

Bosu balance trainer

You’ll need a Bosu balance trainer, some light to moderately heavy dumbbells and a mat. Make sure your running shoes are tightly laced; after a few minutes of marching on the dome, your feet may feel like they’re sliding around in your shoes. And avoid wearing short shorts; during seated Bosu work, they tend to ‘migrate’ upwards (think ‘wedgie’). Enough said.

The workout has 6 parts; I’ll describe the first five (with examples of increasing difficulty) and leave you to stretch on your own!

  1. Balance and proprioception
  2. Dynamic warmup
  3. Speed and agility (cardio)
  4. Strength and conditioning
  5. Core specific exercises
  6. Stretch

Balance and Proprioception

  • standing on dome side; arms at sides or extended out from body or overhead, eyes open or closed
  • 1/4 squat and hold; arms extended at sides, eyes open or closed
  • single leg balance; non-supporting foot touching side of dome, pressed against calf of supporting leg, extended straight out to the side (‘tree pose’)
Dynamic Warmup
  • marching on and off the dome; increasing speed
  • marching or jogging on top of the dome; high knees
  • mini-squat jumps
  • lateral squat (one foot on top, one on the floor beside); up to balance knee
Speed and Agility (perform 30 s of each at high intensity with 15 s rest between)
  • fast feet; marching on an off as quickly as you can with pumping arms; switch lead leg 2nd time through
  • squat or tuck jumps; arms out front or hands behind head
  • tire runs; one foot on dome, one on floor; switch sides 2nd time through
  • Bosu burpees
  • Bosu straddle jacks or straddle squat jacks
Strength and Conditioning (perform 10-12 repetitions of each movement, no breaks between; rest and repeat)
  • dome (or platform) squat with bicep curl to shoulder press
  • platform power pushups (from knees or toes); drop, hold at bottom, slowly push up
  • split lunge with lateral raise (back toe on dome or platform); lift arms as you push up out of the lunge
  • bent over reverse flys (on dome or platform); both arms together or alternate arms with torso rotation
Core (hold static positions for 30 s, perform 10-12 repetitions of movements; rest and repeat)
  • V sit on dome (hands behind for support/knees bent/legs extended/arms across chest/arms extended)
  • Bosu sit to stand crunches; sit low on dome, weight in hands, lean back, curl up and push through feet to stand
  • platform plank tilts; holding handles, plank from knees/toes; alternately press hands down towards floor, pausing to regain balance in the centre before pressing to other side
  • belly on Bosu back extension; hands on floor/feet on floor/hands behind head/feet lifting

Whew! That’s a lot of words to describe a workout. Maybe I should have shot a video? (Do you want me to???)

A big thank you to Lindsay for giving me the idea for today’s post. This week, Tuesday Trainer is all about balance training. Here’s my video contribution:

For more great balance exercise videos head on over to Lindsay’s List!

Do you incorporate balance training in your fitness routine?

Have you ever tried an extreme balance board? Makes the Bosu balance trainer look like a piece of cake!




Upper body pyramids and lower body supersets; one for today, one for tomorrow

It’s Tuesday! And that means a new Tuesday Trainer workout is up!

This week, Janetha is hosting and has put together an upper body pyramid workout to shape our arms, chests and backs. You can see my contribution below.

Given that pyramids typically work your muscles to fatigue, tomorrow, by default, will be a ‘leg’ day.

So here’s some quick lower body supersets you can do while your upper body gets a needed day of rest. Remember to choose a weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles by the end of each set (that means you shouldn’t be able to do another repetition in good form without a break). Going to fatigue is the best way to build muscle, burn fat and see some much appreciated definition.

The workout is of the ‘antagonistic superset’ variety. That means you’ll be working opposing muscle groups, one after the other, with no rest in between.

For example, your first superset will consist of a squat and a deadlift; the squat works your quads (among other things) and the deadlift your hamstrings (primarily). Aim for 8 to 10 reps of each exercise, 3-4 times through each superset before moving on to the next.

Work hard enough on your lower body supersets and you’ll be wishing for some upper body exercises for ‘a break’!

 lower body supersets

As always, if you like the workout, please Pin it to your favourite exercise Pinterest board!

When you weight train, do you work different body parts on different days?

If so, what type of ‘split’ do you like best?