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Workout Wednesday–Trap Dominance

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

We all seem to have it!


Between poor posture, lots of reading, slouching at computers ;) as well as while driving, caring for children, etc. etc. etc., our traps become way more dominant and the lats become weaker, making it even harder to “sit up straight” for very long!


Added to that, we tend to store stress (so to speak) in our traps as well, so for most women (can’t speak for the men!), trap dominance is a given.


First of all, what and where are the traps?


The trapezius muscle is a triangular muscle with the three points between the lower back, shoulder and neck/base of skull.  Many tension headaches can be attributed to the tension in this muscle.   Not to mention tight, sore shoulders, as well.



Here is a picture of where the traps are located.


So, what do we do about it?!


Ribs UP!


By getting the ribs up and shoulders back in alignment with the hips, you equalize the workload on the shoulder–the muscles are working more equally vs. some pulling more than others.  This also engages the lats  (latissimus dorsi, picture here), which help balance the traps!


It truly is a “balancing act”!



I know I’ve said ribs up a LOT on here, but that’s because it is so important!  Whenever you hear Teresa say “shoulders back” on the dvds, think ribs up.  For me, I was trying to squeeze the shoulder blades together, which is starting to get the idea, but it tends to be overinvasive, leading to inflammation.   Also, you are usually using the traps to “push” the shoulders back vs. the lats to “pull” them back.


I liken it to the difference between a military “standing at attention” and a graceful “model” stance.


Try it there, sitting at the computer.  Get all slouchy. :)   Now bring your shoulders up and back by squeezing your shoulder blades together.  You probably feel the muscle tightening up in your shoulder blade area most.


Now get all slouchy again. :)


This time think of a string pulling your head up, up, up and your ribcage out of your tummy.  Once you get as “high” as the “string” can pull you, gently relax your shoulders while still keeping ribs up.


Now you should feel the tightening more in the lat region.  (Around your br*a band.)


You will get tired, especially if like most of us, you spend much of your time reading, caring for children or elderly parents, leaning over washing dishes, cleaning, etc.


But with time, the lats will get stronger and it will be easier to stay in good posture for longer periods of time!


The more I do this, the more my trap tension also seems to release!  Recently I was extra tense (um…certifications plus riding in the van for 22 hours over 2 days!), and it seemed I just couldn’t get my traps to fully release.    Part of my problem is I needed a new pillow!  (That is coming up on Friday–I’ll be returning to Fabulous Family Friday with some reviews this week!)   But even throughout the day, I just couldn’t fully relax.


I thought maybe I might need a chiropractic adjustment, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was totally in the muscle.


I kept focusing on ribs up (not that I’m doing it 100% of the time–far from it!), and doing Kayla’s trick with finding the breastbone, then the bottom of the ribs, and physically lifting them.  That usually does it for me, but this was a stubborn case!  :p


The toughest part is to relax the shoulders–no hunching!  And you don’t have to be in an over-exaggerated hunch to be truly “hunching”!  But by continuing to “practice” and think “relax”, I eventually got things back in balance!


Ribs up is soooo key to much of our body alignment!  As I’ve posted before, it helps with inch loss in the arms, tummy and thighs. It helps the adrenals.  It helps our thoughts! ;)   And now you have a key to help release some tension and enjoy your day just a bit better!





I’m not trying to string everyone along about my surprise!  I’m awaiting a few final things to fall into place and then I can make the grand announcement!  As I said there will be giveaways involved–yes, plural!


Until next time–


Happy Tappin’!


T-Tapp Tuesday–More on Those Lats!

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Well, a month later I am finally finishing tips to keep the ribs up during the rest of Basic Workout Plus (BWO+)!

First I want to share a tip I found on the forums  (remember how encouraging and helpful I said they are?) that helps you focus on lat engagement.  This was posted by ayj on the forums:

So, what it is think squeezing an imaginary pencil between your shoulder blades without using your shoulders, while in the whole time your lower back is tight trying to help too (your tummy and upper abs will be tight too). Maintain this squeeze on the imaginey pencil the whole time during the work out, I am sure I will not be able to do 45 mins this… This will certainly burn back fat and tone and tighten the abs.

The trick is to not squeeze the shoulder blades together and be overinvasive that way!

Now, how about the rest of BWO+–how do the lats/ribs up figure in to the last 4 moves?

We’ll pick up where we left off–ready for The Box!

I had posted this before, but this clip from Fox Atlanta shows the Mitten Chop Box, which gives a new twist adding to muscle activation–and especially helping to get those ribs UP!   When you’re doing the regular Box in BWO+, as you’re pushing in the hips with those thumbs, get those elbows back and lift the ribs/set lats.  Just like PBS, as you go over to a flat back, really try to balance a beach ball on your back, pulling tummy up and into the spine.  Tighten the buns and press the breastbone to the floor to help get ribs up and lats engaged.  As you pulse there, use tummy muscles–not the back!–to do the pulse.  NO momentum!

Then when you do the side tilts, again, push in with those thumbs to activate the arms and lift the ribs as you tilt.  Think of breastbone to the ceiling now.   We’re trying to elongate the rib to hip area–making room for the organs and helping cinch in the waist!

Oil Wells–yep!  You can keep ribs up here, too!  Again, as you go to a flat back, follow all the tips for PBS, only instead of pressing thumbs into hips to activate arms, now you are hooking the thumbs to pull while pressing the insides of the hands together to create the leverage isometrics.  Then as you “reach through” for Oil Wells do not hunch up your shoulders or release your lats!  Continue to keep shoulders back (by using the lats) while reaching through.

After you roll up and have your hands above, recheck your form–bend knees, tuck/curl core, lift ribs, push knees out–then pulse your hands above.

T-Tapp Twist—ahhhh!  The move you love to hate!  We love how it blasts hip pads and cinches in the waist, but we just hate to do it!  It is really tough, especially in the beginning!

Try this on in a chair, first.  That will help you get the lower body isolated without having to think so much about it!  Toes forward, knees over ankles and knees also straight out from hips.  Press the feet lightly into the floor (keeping KLT!), and sit tall.  You can still slightly tuck the tail under and curl your core.  Now lift ribs!

Press your hands together–lower hand pressing up, upper hand pressing down–at about your chin, elbows out to the sides.  Slowly lower your hands, and somewhere between the collarbone and the chest, you will feel your lats kick in.  Find that point for you.  Now, as you press those hands against each other, lift ribs a bit more.  Try to keep that activation as you execute the T-Tapp Twist move–left for two counts, then right, thinking back elbow stays up shoulder level at all times (to protect the back) and ribs up, ribs up, ribs UP!

Pause here, then tilt over to your right side, reach for the back leg of the chair, but don’t focus on how far down you can go.  Keep those hips planted in the chair, keep your tummy tight, push your left knee out a bit to help stabilize your hips, and only go as far as you can without losing that tummy activation.

Press hands together a bit more to help initiate the roll-up from the tummy.  As you get to count 3 or 4 to get all the way to the top, press and lift ribs.  When you are doing this standing, this is also a good point to square the hips again to the front (they tend to drift a little!).

Pressing the hands together helps keep the arms, tummy and lats activated!   

Now try it going to the other side, then try it without the chair! ;)

Pull the Weeds–just like PBS and other flat back moves, press that breastbone to the ceiling and pretend a string is going along your body helping to pull the vertabra apart.  As you pull the elbows forward (like a scarecrow), don’t hunch!  Tighten those lats!

Finally–Hoedowns!   Oh, here is a GREAT one to keep those ribs lifted!

Get into position–toes forward, bend knees, curl core, ribs up and push knees out.  Shift over to one foot, get the other ready to lift touch.  Put hands in front, elbows bent, palms up and slowly open out to the sides.  Really tighten those mitten hands–no mushy mittens!  That will help tighten the upper back–and you got it!  The lats!

 Now as you actually lift and touch the leg, keep thinking to lift the ribs–and keep the mitten hands tight!  It’s easy to get all focused on what the lower body is doing and collapse the ribs and core!

Keep that form through the second side on the second set!  Don’t collapse!

You DID it!  :D

So keep those ribs up and–Happy Tappin’!

(Just a note about the Green Smoothie Challenge–it will be available until May 16, and it is now $59.95.  My understanding is it will go up in price each week, so if you’re still thinking about it, you might want to grab it soon! )

Workout Wednesday–Find Those Lats!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Just got back early in the morning yesterday from a wonderful time of visiting my dear friend (well, we decided we were twins separated at birth!) J. and her family in New England!  (Which is why you haven’t heard from me for last Friday or yesterday!)

We had some T-Tapp classes and I had a lot of fun and I hope everyone else did, too!

You hear about the lats in T-Tapp a LOT!  So where are they and how do you find them?

“Lats” refers to the latissimus dorsi.  You can click here  to see where your lats are located.    This is one area that is hard to get and keep activated until you have the mind-to-muscle connection.   One easy way to “wake up” a muscle is to tighten it, then poke it.   This work well for the inner thighs, right before you do Plies, and in The Box, this is partly what you are doing when you are pulling up and in and pressing in with your fingers.

But the lats are a bit harder to “poke at” while you’re in T-Tapp stance!  You could have a friend or husband or child poke there to help you feel it and tighten, but I have found some people will automatically tighten there but still not be aware of it.

Teresa showed us another way to find and engage the lats when we were at Ft. Lauderdale in February.

Stand with your back against a wall–bring your feet out just enough to be able to “curl the core” and flatten the lower lumbar against the wall.   Now bend your arms at the elbows, with the hands straight out in front of you.   Palms should be facing, thumbs on top.   Slowly open out the arms and somewhere close to or when the backs of your hands touch the wall, you should feel the lats kick in!  Remember to keep the core curled while doing this.

Now stand away from the wall, toes forward, bend knees, tuck/curl core, lift ribs and push knees out (T-Tapp stance).  Again, put hands in front as above, and slowly open arms out and keep lifting those ribs and you should be able to feel the lats again, but away from the wall!

“Ribs up” is a BIG KEY to this, so throughout the day, lift your ribs and “set the lats”.  That means just tighten them a bit—do not be overinvasive (yes, I’m talking to you Type A’s out there! ;) ).   This will help improve your posture tremendously!  You will also make more room for your organs.  

Charlotte Siems, the wonderful mama of 12  and T-Tapp Trainer who lost 10 sizes, said that when she won the 60 Day Challenge in 2007 and went to the Safety Harbor Retreat she asked Teresa what she could do for her tummy.

Teresa’s answer?

“Lift ribs, set lats.” 

Charlotte attested that it really helped with the tummy!

Teresa also has shared, especially in the LadyBug move and workout, that stretching that rib to hip really helps with hormonal balance.  But even if you don’t have LadyBug, you can incorporate this.

First of all, find and use your lats!   All throughout the day!  A great way to do this is while driving—hang onto the steering wheel underhanded, pull your belly button up and back to your spine, curl your core, ribs up.  Now, gently squeeze the hands on the steering wheel and tighten those lats!  Release, then tighten, release, tighten, release….etc. 

When you go over to a flat back in Primary Back Stretch, push those thumbs into your hips/back to really get those elbows up.   Pretend you have a beach ball balancing on your back!   Tighten the buns, pull that tummy up to your spine and engage the lats.  Press your breast bone to the floor to help as well.

Keeping ribs up during the head tilting and turning portions of the second half of PBS will also help.

Plies—ahhh!  May I confess to you that the first two sets are tough for me to keep my ribs up and lats set?!    Doing them slowly in front of a mirror is the best way to watch what is happening and get a feel for what “right” feels like as you’re seeing it in the mirror.   Hold the plie squat to really focus on ribs up, lats set throughout the Plie sequence.   A good tip on the Chest Press portions is to think “ribs up, ribs up, ribs up,” as your elbows come in, then “elbows up, elbows up, elbows up,” as your elbows go back out, to keep from dropping them below shoulder level.

Reach Scoops—here’s a great one for practicing that rib to hip stretch!   Get into position, making sure you are standing as between two panes of glass.  Tilt, keeping that alignment (not leaning back or forward).   Keep that belly button to spine at all times,  and as you reach up and inhale, reach down with the other arm, too.  Keep those ribs UP (think breastbone to ceiling) while stretching.  Now flip the palm and reach away as if someone else is pushing against that top hand to help keep the lats engaged.

Jazz Twist—you know what I’m going to say—ribs UP!  :)   Thinking ribs up right before you twist helps, as does really pushing with that thumb into the back of your hip.  Get that back elbow back, using the thumb to help press it back.   Initiate the move with your back shoulder, but use the lats on your reaching side to keep that shoulder from climbing towards your ears.  This is also a good move to do slowly in front of a mirror to check on your form, and doing it slowly helps you feel the muscles work!

I’ll share more tips to keep the lats engaged next week for the rest of the moves in BWO+.   Try these in your workouts this week as well as throughout the day, standing, walking, sitting (especially at the computer!) think, “Ribs UP, SET lats!”  and see if you don’t feel better!   You might even see a little trimming of the tummy, pec and bust measurements from getting those lats on board!  ;)

Until next week, happy Tappin’!