#18 – Focus on bang for the buck

Feel guilty because you can’t do all the exercises you want to do? Do you do exercises that are supposed to make you feel good, even though they make you feel bad? Fix your approach so you can fix your body.


Hey, everybody! This is Matt Hsu from Upright Health and welcome to Episode 18 of the Upright Health Podcast. I apologize that it has been almost a month since I last recorded a podcast. In that intervening four weeks, I was working on and finishing The FAI Fix, which you can check out at TheFAIFix.com. It is a two-eBook and sixty-video package of just amazing stuff to help you with your hips — to help you figure out what you can do to make your hips work better, feel better and move better. My friend Shane and I, worked on this project for the last six months, putting everything together to create a program that you can use to troubleshoot your own hip problems and hopefully, help you avoid making bad decisions like getting surgery for things that can be solved relatively easily and non-invasively.

So today’s podcast is actually related to that. I would have recorded this podcast sooner if I hadn’t also initiated a move of Upright Health to a new location. So that is the other reason why I have been delayed in doing this episode. My time has been really stretched extremely thin. And I just have not had time to get back on here to talk with you guys. So again, I apologize. It’s because of The FAI Fix and the move to a new facility that I have been unable to speak here.

Anyway, back on topic. Today, I want to talk about focus. And the reason I said this is related to The FAI Fix, is because in The FAI Fix, we talk about picking and choosing exercises from the program that we’ve laid out to maximize your personal, individual benefit. So anytime I’m working with a group of people, I’m always very, very, very careful to mention that not everything we do — not everything that I have a group of people do — is going to be good for every individual in the group.

Similarly, with the FAI Fix, we have a bunch of exercises in there that can actually be not good for you if your body is set up in certain ways, whether it’s because of poor movement habits; because of atrophy; because certain muscles are too tight. There are going to be exercises that would actually make your problems worse. And so we talk about, many, many times, about the importance of paying attention to what your body is telling you — how you are feeling — and focusing really clearly on those things that help you the most.

So in this program, we have about fifty-five, I believe, different exercises in there (it could be more) that are targeted at your hips in different ways. I can guarantee that at any given time, not all fifty-five are going to help somebody. And at least ten to fifteen to maybe even twenty, if done at the wrong time, will make somebody worse.

So when we are looking at exercise selection; when you are looking at what you should be doing for your body, whether it’s for your shoulders or for your hips or for your posture or whatever your goal is,  you need to take a look at the effect it has on you. So one really good example of this is people who have Sciatica; whether it’s actual Sciatica; whether it feels like Sciatica but the doctor hasn’t told them it’s Sciatica. If you’re not familiar with it, Sciatica is basically when the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of your leg and down into your foot, it’s when that nerve gets impinged; when it gets choked off somewhere along its roots. Traditionally, it’s thought of as impingement up near the spine; usually a disc is pushing up against it. In the last ten years, I’d say it’s starting to become more recognized that the external rotators of the hip (so, the Piriformis) can also tighten up and pinch that nerve. And so those two causes are often, these days, looked at to try to help alleviate pain down the back of the leg.

So in that kind of situation, a lot of times, there’s a couple different things people will try; there’s putting more lumbar extension into the lower back. Meaning, if you do yoga, there’s a “cat” and “cow” position. The cow position where your belly is hanging down and your lower back is highly curved, that is generally a position that could help alleviate pain of sciatica — if it’s being caused by a disc protrusion in the lower back. If that person’s sciatica is caused by tightness in the external rotators of the hip (piriformis and its buddies), then doing a stretch for the lateral hip rotators is what’s going to help.

So in that instance, you’re looking at this one situation where pain looks very similar. Two different things that you can do that could potentially help: if your problem is from the disc in the low back, and you do a lateral rotator stretch, you might actually make it worse because those stretches will often require your back to go into a position that will actually aggravate the disc protrusion. And if you have that kind of sciatica type pain in the back of your leg and it’s from the lateral rotators, and you’re just focusing on trying to get lumbar spine extension, then you will not help yourself and actually probably make it a little bit worse because you’ll feel some tightening going on in the lateral rotators as you do that. That’s just one example of one situation. Where, for you, as an individual, you need to figure out what is effective for you.

Just as an aside, I think there’s at least one other reason you’re going to have pain going down the back of your leg. And to keep it short, I think that has to do with atrophy and lack of motion; lack of strength back there. So whenever you are then selecting exercises for yourself or maybe if you’re a coach or you’re a trainer, you’re doing exercise selection for somebody else, it’s really important then to look at what the effect is for the individual, and then put your focus on that.

So, you know, if you’re looking at a reference like The FAI Fix, you have a whole bunch of exercises, you could choose from a bunch of different exercises. You can probably find twenty exercises that are, in some way, beneficial to you. If you’re a trainer and you’re trying to choose exercises for a client, you can have thousands of exercises you can choose to make your client do. But you wanna look at the things that are realistic in the time frame. So specially for people who are trying to help their own bodies – whether you’re at home trying to put together some system of stretches for yourself or you go to your local gym and wanna strength train, what you wanna look at is how much bang for the buck you get for the exercises that you’re doing.

So in strength training terms, if you’re going to the gym and doing bicep curls for five sets of ten, you’re probably not going to get as much bang for the buck as you would, if you went into the gym and were doing pull ups or chin ups, right? The bang for the buck is just not the same if you’re doing isolation exercise and you’re just working a couple muscle groups versus doing an exercise that works a whole bunch of stuff all at one time, you can very clearly see there’s going to be a difference over the course of one month, two months, six months two years the way your body is going to respond is going to be very different. When you’re doing stuff with stretching, this becomes even… I could say it’s even more important because stretching is very hard for a lot of people to motivate themselves to do. So it’s really, really important to pick the ones that seem to get you the most bang for the buck and focus on those.

I’ve had a lot of clients who need a bunch of different stretches, but it’s hard to do, you know, five, six different stretches when each one takes two to four minutes (if you’re doing both sides). And basically finding that twenty to forty minutes that you need to get that stretching in, when you have all kinds of other responsibilities in the daytime (you have a job, you have kids, you have groceries, you need to buy meals, you need to cook) you know, you have a lot of competing interests that you need to balance. So with stretching, you really need to look and see which one feels like “I really need the most work,” like, which muscle group needs the most work and focus on that.

Generally, if you’re really focusing on doing a stretch with a particular muscle group, you’re going to see within two weeks, at least some bit of change. And depending on your own individual composition, you might see it get amazingly good in a couple weeks or you might see that it takes you a couple months to get things really where they need to be. But it’s way better to focus in on the things that give you a lot of positive benefit, than it is to do five things and just get like, a little bit  benefit and lose steam and then stop doing all the stretches all together.

So, you know, it’s basically a question of balancing your life, right? You can’t just say “I’m going to do twenty the stretches and expect everything to get better. Nobody generally is capable of keeping that pace. Nobody who has like a normal day job is capable of keeping that pace. So I’ve had lots of clients beat themselves up and say “Oh, I should’ve done this stretch, this stretch and this stretch.” And if you hear yourself doing that to yourself, don’t even bother; just retract the statement and then remind yourself that it is ok to pick and choose, to focus in and get the positive effect from the things you know are good for you. It’s that simple.

So in summary, make sure you focus in on the things that are good for you. Think about what is good for you as an individual, not necessarily what is good supposedly for everybody. Pay attention to the effects for yourself. Pick and choose wisely. Be persistent. Be stubborn. And enjoy the benefits. And please remember that pain sucks, lifke shouldn’t.


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