ABS Blog

The Ultimate, Pencil Test
Saturday, September 17th, 2011

The ultimate, Pencil Test

 

 

Have you ever noticed that guy at the gym who is bench-pressing the small car? He does a ton of chest workouts and his arms look like they are in front of him like he has a grocery bag stuck under each armpit. It looks like he couldn’t put his arms down if he tried!

 

 

Typically this is a combination of what we call kyphosis and internal rotation. While we have all made fun of that guy or thought, OMG that looks so bad. Do not be surprised if you have the same issues, just not as pronounced. We discussed this phenomenon in our Desktop Warrior Series on YouTube. Here is what to look for and a simple test:

 

Kyphosis: Kyphosis is a curving of the spine that causes a bowing or rounding of the back, leading to a hunchback or slouching posture.
Notice the rounding of the shoulders and forward head tilt. Symptoms include tight pecs, long weak back, and multiple shoulder imbalances – the perfect recipe for injury, weak muscles, and not to mention … man does that posture look bad!
Medial Rotation (Internal Rotation): Rotary movement around the longitudinal axis of a bone toward the center of the body; turning the upper arm inward.
This appearance is known to exercise professionals as kyphosis and internal rotation, where the shoulders round forward and the arms turn inward at the shoulders, causing the palms of the hands to face backward – basically, gorilla-like. What you might not know is that there's no missing link between you and this ape. Most of us suffer this affliction to some degree. A consequence of hunching over our computer screens and steering wheels, kyphosis is characterized by tight chest muscles and forward-rounding shoulders. In addition, those who spend a great deal of time training the muscles they can see in the mirror, such as the chest, lats, and biceps, may end up with this appearance. Aside from looking like a primate, this kind of muscle imbalance commonly results in neck pain and headaches. No one wants that. So how can you tell if it's happening to you?
Try the pencil test, a postural assessment that ABS trainers give our clients: Stand facing a mirror with a pencil in each fist and arms at your sides. (When most people do this, they assume the military perfect posture position. This is not how you normally stand. Once you have a pencil in each hand then your arms drop and stand normally. Completely relax, as if you were going to stand for an hour … that’s right, go to your normal not-so-sexy posture. Now that you are aware of where your posture was and where it needs to be, it doesn’t feel so good to relax, huh?
If the pencils point straight forward, you're good. (This happens about 2% of the time, so don’t feel bad if this didn’t happen.)


If the pencils point inward toward your thighs, then you have internal rotation.




If the pencil points almost tip to each other, you have severe issues and you can’t waste another moment!



To correct it, spend time stretching your chest muscles (ask a trainer for proper technique) as well as strengthening your upper back with exercises like the row (palms facing down). The seated row is great for beginners; even better is the inverted row (put the bar of the Smith machine to chest height or lower for increased difficulty, grab the bar and hang under it with body in a straight line, and pull your chest to the bar, like a horizontal pull up), or dumbbell iso-row. As for all you bench-press devotees? You may want to back off the chest workouts for a few weeks while you focus on strengthening your upper back.
The good news? 
Get these two opposing muscle groups into better balance and you can expect:
· Your strength will go up on pressing movements
· Your strength will go up on pulling movements
· You’ll have a much lower chance of injury
· Your posture will look 100x times better … yes 100x not 99!
What NOT to do for 4-8 weeks:
· Any type of Rowing with your hands in a neutral position (palms facing each other)
· Lat Pulldowns
· Biceps
· Bench Press and variations of it
· Pec Deck / Fly (it is a waste of time to begin with, that’s another story)
What TO do:
· Cuban Press
· External Rotation Low Cable Pulley
· L-Laterals
· Lots of stretching for Lats, Biceps, Chest
· More posterior chain work (back of the body, upper back) 2-3x as much as as anterior thorax work (chest).
If you are not sure what do to or to what degree – ASK A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER!

Advanced Body Solutions
Charlotte's Premiere Personal Training Solution
www.eastcoastabs.com

 


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