physiology
BU's M.S.C.E.P. program is the only graduate-level program in Illinois to be endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine.
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Regina Schurman, Ed.D., R.C.E.P., C.P.A.
* MSCEP Program and Research Coordinator
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Phone: (630) 829-2171
Fax: (630) 829-6547

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Villa St. Benedict
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Fax: (630) 725-6564

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Lisle, IL 60532


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Phone: (630) 829-6563
Fax: (630) 829-6547

MS in Clinical Exercise Physiology
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General Instructions on Exercise Form:

The purpose of these instructions is to give you some basic guidelines to make your exercises safe and effective.These are general principles which can be applied in any exercise, "rules of thumb" that you should refer to in case you are confused.

Repetition speed - you do not need to perform movements over a specific period of time, simply aim to maintain control throughout the whole movement.  Control means that, if I were to tell you to stop moving, you could hold the weight in place wherever you were in that movement.Be conscious of the movement and what it feels like, and you will develop a better sense of how your body is moving through space, and what that motion feels like (good, painful, etc).

Spinal mechanics - Regardless of the exercise, give some thought to the position you are in.Your priority is to have good posture, what is called a "neutral spine," which is the shape in which the spine is most stable/safe.This will have the appearance of a "flat" lower back when viewed from behind or the side.In order to achieve this, think about keeping your chest "up" or "out" and your abdomen braced.

Pain - if you feel pain in a movement, regardless of how correctly you feel that you are performing it, stop.Pain is not acceptable.  Discomfort is natural with hard exercise - you may become uncomfortable.If you are having trouble distinguishing the two, "pain" that feels sharp, or is felt in the joints, is a signal that you should stop."Burning" in the muscle itself is quite natural during hard exercise.If in doubt, stop, readjust, and try again.If you can't find a way to perform a movement without pain, even if your form is seemingly perfect, look for a replacement movement for now.You may be able to perform this exercise at a later time, but today is not the day to do so."Know pain?No gain."

Specific Instructions for each exercise:

Body Weight Squats http://youtu.be/cZZh4mgVDr4

Description: A squat involves lowering yourself as if sitting down and returning into an upright position.Start by placing your feet approximately shoulder width apart, with your toes pointed out "slightly."Now, descend as low as you can go while A) thinking of keeping your weight on your heels and B) maintaining that "chest up" feeling, keeping your lower back flat. You should feel a stretch towards the bottom.  Once you are as low as you can comfortably go (with the back remaining "flat," i.e. neutral), return to the upright position.

Form Guidelines: There are three components to making the squat safe and effective:

1) Spinal position.As described in the general guidelines, you want to maintain a "neutral" spine.An easy way to think about this is "chest up" or "chest out," the act of trying to touch your chest to your chin.This is a way to make the muscles that run alongside your spine contract, and hold their position.

2) Knees. Your thighs, knees, shins, and feet should point in the same direction. The most common error is for the knees to come in, particularly as you rise up out of the bottom.Don't let this happen.If you find your knees moving in towards each other, thinking "knees out," i.e. trying to touch the opposite walls with your knees, is an effective cue to counteract this.

3) Balance.In a standing exercise such a squat, we want the balance to be over the middle of your foot.The easiest way to think about this is "weight on the heels," which is a sense that there's pressure on the heels of both of your feet.

Taking all of the above, think "chest up" and "weight on the heels" all the way down/up.Depth will be determined by flexibility - if you do this right, you will feel the muscles on the back of your leg become very tight as you lower yourself.If your spine is in a neutral position, your knees are "out," and you are properly balanced, you can go as low as your flexibility allows.However, if you find yourself losing a sense of tightness as you descend, stop short of this happening.

Remember: you can always improve your flexibility over time.Be patient.

4-way Hip Machine - Hip Abduction http://youtu.be/tBCGi0vuowUDescription:

Description: Hip abduction involves moving the leg you're exercising away from your body's midline.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) Place your leg against the pad of the machine and extend your leg to the side away from your body, keeping your trunk still.

If you do this correctly, you should feel a contraction in the "side" of your butt muscles.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not bend to the side or otherwise adjust your trunk position).

4-Way Hip Machine - Hip Adduction http://youtu.be/8B6L_yIRd5g

Description: Hip adduction involves moving the leg you're exercising towards your body's midline and the opposite leg.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) Your exercising leg should be placed in front of you and against the pad.Draw your leg across your body's midline towards the opposite leg.

If you do this correctly, you should feel a contraction on the "side" of your leg.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not bend to the side or otherwise adjust your trunk position).

4-way Hip Machine - Hip Extension http://youtu.be/CVh53o4_nMU

Description: Hip extension involves extending the leg you're exercising behind you.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) Without hyperextending your lower back, extend your leg behind you.

You should feel a contraction in the back of your legs and butt.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not hyperextend your lower back).

Abdominal Machine http://youtu.be/jxG_iHmAUPM

Description: With the arms and elbows secured properly in the machine (elbows at chest level), you will flex your abdomen towards your thighs, focusing on the feeling of contraction in your abs.

Form Guidelines:

1) This is an exercise where we will consciously flex our spines (move the chest towards the thighs).We would not normally do this, but this is the concentric function of the abdominal muscles.For people with a history of lower back pain, do not perform this exercise.

2) Assuming you are able to perform this exercise safely, concentrate on making the movement a result of squeezing your ab muscles, not drawing your elbows towards your thighs.

Bicep Curl – Dumbbell http://youtu.be/EfVmq8D2ROw

Description: While remaining stationary (do not lean back), draw the dumbbell towards your shoulder and then return it to the starting position.

Form Guidelines:

1) The first way most people cheat in a curl is by avoiding the full movement.Start with your arm completely straight, and curl the weight up all the way.At this point, lower the weight until your arms are straight again.

2) The second way most people cheat is by leaning back.Remain upright, good posture and neutral spine the whole time.This may feel harder - that's the point.Make the curl an arm exercise, not a back exercise.

Bicep Curl - Single-arm Cable http://youtu.be/mzounFVmv3k

Description: While remaining stationary (do not lean back), draw the handle towards your shoulder and then return it to the starting position.

Form Guidelines:

1)The first way most people cheat in a curl is by avoiding the full movement.Start with your arm completely straight, and curl the weight up all the way.At this point, lower the weight until your arms are straight again.

2)The second way most people cheat is by leaning back.Remain upright, good posture and neutral spine the whole time.This may feel harder - that's the point.Make the curl an arm exercise, not a back exercise.

Cable Hip Abduction http://youtu.be/MpYDKWnX-f4

Description: Hip abduction involves moving the leg you're exercising away from your body's midline.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) After securing your foot firmly in the harness, extend your leg to the side, away from your body's midline.

If you do this correctly, you should feel a contraction in the "side" of your butt muscles.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not bend to the side or otherwise adjust your trunk position).

Cable Hip Adduction http://youtu.be/xuU-227BScs

Description: Hip adduction involves moving the leg you're exercising towards your body's midline and the opposite leg.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) After securing your foot firmly in the harness, draw your leg across your body's midline towards the opposite leg.

If you do this correctly, you should feel a contraction on the "side" of your leg.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not bend to the side or otherwise adjust your trunk position).

Cable Hip Extension http://youtu.be/y2cFEWTWGFw

Description: Hip extension involves extending the leg you're exercising behind you.

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Neutral spine, good posture.

2) After securing your foot firmly in the harness, and without hyperextending your lower back, extend your leg behind you.

You should feel a contraction in the back of your legs and butt.If you don't feel this, make sure you are performing the movement correctly (do not hyperextend your lower back).

Cable Machine Rows http://youtu.be/19v9Kejj15k

Description: A rowing motion is akin to "rowing" a boat.With your torso stationary, draw your arms towards you while squeezing your shoulder blades together (together, NOT up).

Form Guidelines:

1) Remember your spinal position.Do not hunch over or lean back excessively.Sit upright and maintain good posture the whole time.

2) To perform the movement, don't think about "pulling" with your arms, but rather pinching your shoulder blades together.When you are no longer able to squeeze your shoulder blades together, the movement is over.

Laying Dumbbell Flies http://youtu.be/040lFEo2EIM

Description: with bent elbows and a "chest up" position, lower the dumbbells to a point of comfortable stretch, with the dumbbells approximately even with your lower chest level.

Form Guidelines:

1) If you have a history of shoulder problems, don't do this exercise.

2) Assuming you can perform it safely, do not, at any time, relax your arms.Maintain tension on the working muscles as you approach the position of stretch.

3) This exercise can make your chest muscles very sore in the following days.This is normal.

Leg Press http://youtu.be/XoZfx5fDNWo

Description: Your feet should be shoulder width apart, toes pointed "slightly" out, as in a squat.With bent legs (angle based on flexibility) and feet in the middle of the platform, drive your heels through the platform, straightening your legs.Return the platform to the starting position, keeping your weight on your heels.

Form Guidelines:

Similar, in some ways, to the squat.

1) Maintain good posture/neutral spine.This might be harder to feel when seated, but you do not ever want your butt lifting off the seat, and your lower back should remain flat against the seat behind you.

2) The distance you are from the platform is based on your flexibility (ability to maintain a neutral spine).A good starting point for average flexibility is approximately a 90 degree angle between your shins and thighs.

3) Like a squat, keep the knees "out," do not let them buckle in during the movement.

Plank – Modified http://youtu.be/9xqNbLCncAk

Description: a plank is, in effect, holding a pushup position (arms shoulder width) while on your elbows (elbows under shoulders).The modified plank is in the "girl pushup" position, i.e. knees on the floor.

Form Guidelines:

1) Gravity will be acting to hyperextend your spine.Keep a neutral spine by squeezing your butt and ab muscles.

2) If you feel your stomach sinking towards the ground, stop.

Plank – Standard http://youtu.be/59XCuWxOPSY

Description: a plank is, in effect, holding a pushup position (arms shoulder width) while on your elbows (elbows under shoulders).

Form Guidelines:

1) Gravity will be acting to hyperextend your spine.Keep a neutral spine by squeezing your butt and ab muscles.

2) If you feel your stomach sinking towards the ground, stop.

Seated Leg Curl http://youtu.be/Ki1TryYXFaE

Description: a leg curl involves "curling" your lower leg towards your butt.

Form Guidelines:

1) Make sure you start from a position in which your leg is straight, and "curl" the weight as far towards your butt as possible.

2) Avoid hyperextending your back - good posture, neutral spine.

Seated Machine Shoulder Presshttp://youtu.be/62ewWonmD0A

Description: A seated machine shoulder press involves pressing the handles over your head, with the handles starting at approximately shoulder level.Note: use the inside handles:

Form Guidelines:

1) Avoid hyperextending your back - good posture, neutral spine.

2) Some people's shoulders do not tolerate overhead pressing well - if this hurts for any reason, don't do it.

Standing Calf Raises http://youtu.be/m6fLDVpMyRg

Description: a calf raise involves rising up onto your toes with straight legs, and lowering yourself back down to a position of comfortable stretch.

Form Guidelines:

1) Do not bend your knees or involve your upper leg muscles to help.Focus performing the movement by pushing the pads of your feet into the machine/stairs.

2) Lower yourself to a position of COMFORTABLE stretch.Avoid going excessively low.

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press http://youtu.be/sSkbD9luxD8

Description: While standing in an upright, good-posture (neutral spine) position, with dumbbells starting at approximately shoulder level, push the dumbbells over your head, fully straightening your arms.

Form Guidelines:

1) Because this is the standing version, you are going to have to pay particular attention to your spinal position.Good posture, neutral spine.

2) You may find it more comfortable to have your hands pointed towards each other "a little."This is referred to as a neutral grip.

Triceps Pulldown - Single-arm Cable http://youtu.be/_3f5sD4N-iw

Description: While standing in an upright, good-posture (neutral spine) position, with your elbow glued to your side, extend your forearm fully, straightening your arm.With your elbow still glued to your side, return it to the starting position.

Form Guidelines:

1) The easiest way to screw this up is by letting your elbow drift away from your body.Keep your elbow glued to your side.

2) While the elbow is glued to your side, allow your arm to fully bend and extend.If for any reason this bothers your elbow, stop.

Triceps Pulldown - Two-arm Cable http://youtu.be/kg3CORzbLT0

Description: While standing in an upright, good-posture (neutral spine) position, with your elbows glued to your side, extend your forearms fully, straightening your arms.With your elbows still glued to your side, return them to the starting position.

Form Guidelines:

1) The easiest way to screw this up is by letting your elbows drift away from your body.Keep your elbows glued to your side.

2) While the elbows are glued to your side, allow your arm to fully bend and extend.If for any reason this bothers your elbow, stop.