Massage & Bodywork

January/February 2011

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BUILD A BETTER UPPER BODY Davidson is convinced her generation—the baby boomers—was misinformed about various ways to build strength: lifting weights is always the first thing that comes to mind. "It takes the help of someone who knows about that kind of stuff and a little creativity," she says. Wayne L. Westcott, a consultant at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, and a leading authority on resistance training, says there is something about the term strength training that scares people, even those in the bodywork professions. "Weights scare people; gaining muscle scares people, and that's strange particularly for people who know how important having muscle is for you in everyday life," Westcott says. "I see many massage therapists, yoga instructors, and physical therapists with chronic pain and horrible posture as the result of overused and underdeveloped upper extremities. The fact that there are still so many misconceptions when it comes to resistance training and building muscle makes getting started without using weights even more important." Westcott describes a simple back and shoulder routine that you can do at home without weights. He suggests that between clients, use an exercise band with low-to-medium resistance and do three sets of 10 repetitions of front, side, and lateral shoulder raises; also, attach the band with a wall hook to a closed door and do lat pulldowns and seated cable or band rows sitting on an exercise ball. "You're combining the pulling motion of the back exercise with the lifting motion of the shoulder exercises," he says. The bands cost $10–15 and come in various colors, depending on the tension or resistance. The wall hook allows for mimicking the motions of several back exercises and can provide similar results when compared with weights. GETTING MOTIVATED Many bodyworkers seem motivated to gain strength, not only to better serve their clients, but for their long- term health. Osteoporosis is also a major concern. As a personal trainer who has worked in health clubs and private residences, the desire I found for a stronger upper body didn't equal the objection to dealing with crowded gyms, confusing equipment, and the embarrassment of using barbells and dumbbells in the free weight areas. Emphasizing the fact that shoulders and back muscles are complicated and that there are a myriad of things to train those muscles provides motivation. "Both sets of muscles respond well to exercise and being stressed," says Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "When you think about the hours and hours that massage therapists and other bodyworkers have these particular sets of muscles engaged, you can understand how they are really at a great risk of injury without cushioning themselves to deal with the stress brought on by having less lean muscle and poor flexibility." Wright says the top three non- weight shoulder and back pieces of equipment to own are the resistance (stability) ball, exercise bands, and kettlebells, which are weighted balls with handles that don't have the bulkiness of free weight dumbbells. Wright also says if a resistance ball is too much to deal with, try a balance disc, which is more portable and a little less wobbly. It can, like the ball, help improve posture, balance, and core stability. Medicine balls can 56 massage & bodywork january/february 2011 be used for shoulder and back work as well. They come in different sizes and weights and can be good for newbies. Ralph Kruse, DC, with Chiropractic Care in Chicago, says he's seen several bodyworker's careers cut short because of pain as a result of an injury. "In the case of bodyworkers, the ability to accomplish a particular task is important to their livelihood and you don't want to do anything to take away from the available strength," he says. "It doesn't take much to make positive changes. Those with little strength or exercise experience can start by tying something weighted around a towel and do front, side, and rear deltoid raises, and push-ups of any kind work the shoulders and the back."

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