Thursday, December 8, 2011

Exercises In Everyday Places: Shopper's Walk (Core)

We see these baskets in the front of the grocery store all the time, but the shopping carts always seem to win.  If the grocery list involves restocking milk, juice, eggs and fruit, grab a basket and work your way to a stronger core and better posture.

My current personal record for this exercise is two gallons of milk, two cartons of orange juice, one pack of 30 eggs, one bag of cereal, banana's and bagels.  With a little bit of Tetris skills, those baskets can hold a lot of groceries!

Anyone familiar with the Farmer's Walk exercise will feel at home with the Shopper's Walk- aside from the fact that it's done in a grocery store with shopping baskets and not in a gym with weights.  If you don't know what a Farmer's Walk is, don't worry, this exercise won't make you look weird.  All you have to do is walk with good posture while carrying a basket on one side.  Simple enough right?  The difficult part involves trying to resist leaning with the shoulders, torso or crossing the feet in trying to counter the weight of the heavy basket.  Here's a more in depth how-to:
  1. Keep the basket level. Grab the handle in the center or further from the center so that it won't tilt and jam into the side of the leg.  As the basket gets heavy, your deltoids will be tiring in an attempt to keep the basket away from the body.
  2. Load the basket with groceries.  Milk and orange juice were the heaviest items in my basket.  Here are their weights in pounds and kilograms.
    • Milk (1 gallon): 8.5 lbs or 3.9 kg
    • Orange Juice (1.75 liters): 4.0 lbs or 1.8 kg
  3. Walk with good posture: 
    • Feet hip or shoulder width apart and pointing forward (parallel to each other).
    Visually check your feet.  They might feel
    like they're parallel when they're actually not.
    • Pull shoulders back in line with the spine.  Subtle difference visually, but makes a world of difference to those with upper back pain.  People with tight or strong pecs relative to the rhomboids have a rounded shoulder posture.
    Neutral (Good Posture) vs. Rounded Shoulder (bad posture)
    • Maintain level shoulders- don't let the weight on one side throw off the shoulders
    • Head above shoulders (forward or tilted down).
    Neutral vs. Forward Head (bad posture)
  4. Engage the core while walking.  The best way to engage the core is to brace as if someone's going to punch your abdomen from all sides.  Try not to only brace the six pack muscle.
  5. Don't rely on locked the elbows.  As the weight of the basket increases, you'll be tempted to lock the elbows.  Keep them barely unlocked to relieve pressure.  Yes, your biceps will hate you for not locking them, but your elbow will thank you!
  6. Alternate sides.
In addition to the muscles involved with walking, the major muscle of focus should be on the core.  To challenge the core, be sure to do step four!  Here's a quick list of muscles which will be worked by the Shopper's Walk:
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Quadratus lumborum & Obliques - helps lift pelvis, allowing the leg to swing.
  • Trapezius & deltoids - Assists with keeping shoulder lifted and basket away from the body.