R.O.S.S. strategy for efficient, pain free movement!
If you have seen me for a class or one on one training session you have no doubt heard me talk about my R.O.S.S. concept. A few years ago during yoga class I was explaining the order of operations I prefer when doing any kind of movement (yoga, Pilates, strength work, interval training etc…) and one of my ladies came up with the acronym – R.O. S. S., for Release, Organize Strengthen and then Stretch. Thanks Maureen!
Why R.O.S.S.? By working in this order, you strengthen and stretch efficiently, allowing for freedom of movement without pain or injury.
Want to be able to garden for four hours on Saturday without injuring your back, or play on the floor with your grand kids without being hobbled with knee pain the next day? Well listen up because I have a plan for you!
So what does R.O.S.S. mean exactly and how would you incorporate this concept into your workouts? In five to ten minutes you could easily go through one of two of each of these moves for a quick, well rounded program, say when you first wake up in the morning. For one of our sixty minute classes we may start with five minutes of release work, another five to ten of organization, the next forty minutes or so of strength work, then the last five stretching.
When training a client who is recovering from an injury we might flip that equation, doing primarily release and organization work, and less strength work, depending on what her body needs that day.
Often when we are injured or suffering from muscle tightness we think “oh I should stretch”. Yes that is true. I would add that you should stretch after doing all of the above. By starting with even a minute or two of release work you allow time for your muscles to get the message, “hey all you tight muscles can relax, we don’t need you just yet”. A lot of us suffer from chronically tight neck, shoulders and hips (or upper traps, pecs, hip flexors, quads and glutes to be more specific) especially if you spend a large portion of your day in front of a computer, or driving, or both. By spending a few minutes at the start of your workout allowing these muscles to relax you are training your body to work more efficiently.
Here is Baby Bear, an example of release work:
Our next step is organization, or stabilization. Now we ask the small organization muscles (paraspinals – the muscles that run along your spine, the group of shoulder muscles that make up your rotator cuff, the smaller glute muscles – medius and minimus, and your obliques for example) to get on board. These helper muscles keep us injury free by kicking in a millisecond before your large prime movers. For example, as you reach down to lift a heavy box your pelvic floor and deep abdominals engage, then your legs, back, shoulders, and arms activate to lift the box.
Bird dog is a nice example of stabilization work:
This work is about only using the muscles you need to (again, efficiency) to do the task at hand. For example during bird dog can you use the least amount of effort to lift your arm? No tensing your upper traps, rounding your back, or holding your breath.
Ok we released, we organized, now it’s time to strengthen. ACSM guidelines call for 2 -3 days a week of strength work, including exercises that train major muscle groups. As you are lifting weights or executing body weight exercises can you breathe, maintain proper form, and perform your movements in a controlled manner, and through a full range of motion? If not, stop and reorganize yourself. Depending on your strength goals, shoot 2-4 sets, with 8-15 reps of each exercise. My favorite anywhere strength workout is a quick warm up (brisk walking or stair climbing) followed by two to three rounds of one minute of each – Squats, Pushups (or Plank hold), Lunges, and Dips.
Rows, one of my favorite strength exercises:
Now we stretch! The manner of stretching I do with my clients (and myself) has changed quite a bit over the years. Instead of holding long static stretching (or God forbid – straining, holding your breath or trying to muscle through tightness) I try to find ease and gentle movement while stretching. That might look like gently lifting and lowering your leg during a passive spine hamstring stretch (see photo below).
When we force our muscles into an overstretched position our bodies believe we are in danger of muscle injury and work like crazy to protect the area by shortening it. If we stretch in a relaxed fashion, breathing and moving with curiosity rather than force our muscles naturally lengthen and relax. Doesn’t that sound less like torture?
Here is an example of a hamstring stretch done with ease, moving gently in and out of the stretch:
The R.O.S.S. method allows you to be mindful about your movements, and also helps you prevent injuries.
Have you ever gone to a yoga class thinking “This is going to be great, I’m gonna feel so good after all this stretching!” only to injure yourself by overstretching? Next time try applying my R.O.S.S. principles – get to class a little early and go through a few baby bears and bird dogs. As you are holding static poses check in with yourself to see that you are staying organized. Often yoga poses incorporate strength and flexibility. For example in triangle (see photo below) can you avoid hanging out in your joints by unlocking your knees and elbows. Can you provide support by engaging your core, leg, shoulder and back muscles? Can you find length in your body without overstretching?
Want to learn more about Anne’s R.O.S.S. program, or how to work pain free and injury free? Contact Anne today for your complimentary consultation. (503) 705-4762
Anne McCranie is a Portland, Oregon based personal trainer and licensed massage therapist. She offers classes, and movement + massage sessions to help her clients reduce stress, and improve strength, flexibility and balance.