A Fitter U Q&A: March 2016

A Fitter U

Spring has sprung, and the Drexel Recreation Center is ready to help you focus and channel that flowering energy.  Joe Giandonato, Drexel's manager of health promotion and resident fitness expert, who captains an all-star team of fitness professionals, is back again fielding questions from the Drexel community. For March, Joe wanted to showcase some high-tech and low-tech ways to get the most out of your workout.

If you are interested in having your question answered in next month's edition you can submit it here. Those who have their questions chosen are eligible to receive one free month at the Rec Center.

"What is the new piece of equipment on the third floor of the Rec Center and how is it used?"

The Life Fitness Synrgy 360 is the most recent addition to the Rec Center and it is bound to revolutionize the way you train. The unit features stations with a collection of attachments including a battlerope, an adjustable platform and multiple elasticized bands. It also contains a number of accessories, including a cache of kettle bells as well as two TRX models – a suspension trainer and Rip Trainer. The assortment of equipment and its arrangement permits multiple users to train their entire body without needing to traverse the enormous expanse of our Rec Center, all the while infusing workouts with fun, variety and functionality. Our personal training staff will happily provide you basic instruction on how to properly use its many features and offer tips on how to incorporate it within your training program.

Proactive Health Personal Trainers have already begun using the Synrgy when conducting group training sessions and it will no doubt be added to the menu when R.I.S.E., our revolutionary boot camp, returns in April.

"I've seen one of your personal trainers have their clients blow into a balloon. What does this accomplish?"

Your respiratory system is a complex system of muscles and tubes, giving you the air you need to live. Like any other muscle in your body, if one of them isn’t working correctly, it can throw off the whole system.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that connects the sternum, rib cage and three lumbar vertebrae. It contracts and emits a downward pressure within the thoracic cavity, permitting the lungs to expand. Inhaled air enters the airway, traveling down the trachea, into the bronchial tubes and bronchioles, before diffusing over the lungs and permeating surrounding blood vessels. This oxygenated blood then fills the left atrium of the heart, where it enters the aorta and coronary arteries on its way to being delivered to the rest of the body.

In the absence of properly functioning core muscles, specifically those of the deep abdomen, the diaphragm has to work harder. This alters its length and function, and compromises its capacity to assist the lungs with respiration. Other muscles pick up where the diaphragm "left off," prompting a cascade of compensatory adaptations, including forward head posture, a flared rib cage and altered scapular positioning.

The effects of an incorrectly positioned diaphragm become magnified during intense and/or prolonged bouts of exertion. Muscles known for their force generating capabilities — hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings — are used to stabilize the entire kinetic chain. Since the diaphragm is out of alignment and muscles are doing jobs they weren't intended or designed to do, injury risk increases precipitously. People with poor diaphragm functioning are known to experience shortness of breath, abdominal cramping and premature fatigue.

Fortunately, the diaphragm can be trained. Incorporating balloon breathing with a number of exercises improves neuromuscular control of the abdominals, diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. The positions chosen during the technique are meant to enable the diaphragm to function without compensatory mechanisms. More recently, strength and conditioning coaches and fitness professionals have adopted this technique as a means to prevent lower back pain and increase mind-body awareness.

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS is the manager of health promotion at the Drexel Recreation Center where he oversees Proactive Health Services, a multidisciplinary collaborative geared to improving the health and performance of the Drexel community and comprised of Drexel's locally acclaimed personal training program. Members of the Drexel community are extended attractive rates. For more information on personal training and other services, contact memberships@drexel.edu.