Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bone-Strengthening Exercises

Tuesday I spent an hour with Angie, our personal trainer. She knows that I have myeloma and that there is active disease in both shoulder blades and in the T10 vertebra, weakening those bones. I asked her to show me some exercises for strengthening the muscles in my back, because we know that bones will strengthen themselves wherever the muscles that attach to them are strengthened.

In that hour she showed me some lower-body stretches in addition to those that I already do, to improve my running. Then she gave me five upper-body exercises, which I tried this morning for the first time at home:
    Reverse Fly with cable and weights
  • Reverse Fly: The focus is on the back part of the shoulders. Equipment: Resistance band attached to a fixed object. Start with the band in hand at the opposite hip, keeping arm straight swing hand from hip across the body to shoulder height on the other side. Try to keep trapezius muscles (traps) relaxed. Three sets of 12 repetitions (reps). Alternative method (from the internet): work one arm against the other, see graphic. I tried this alternative today.
  • Reverse Fly with only a resistance band
  • Cable Row: Simulated rowing. Face toward a weighted cable or resistance band, pull both elbows backward to bring the handle to the body, keep shoulders down, imagine trying to grasp a marble between shoulder blades. Slowly return. Three sets of 12 reps.
  • Stability Ball Push-Back: Lay on back on stability ball holding a 10-lb medicine ball against the stomach, bend knees and slide down to bring butt to heels, then push back up. Cable Row with cable and weights I'm not sure what this exercise is for, actually, because I feel it primarily in the quads. I'll have to set up another appointment and ask Angie. Three sets of 12.
  • Assisted Pullup: A pullup is the same as a chinup except with palms facing away instead of toward me. I can do unassisted pullups (at least one, I tried it) but that may put my back at risk so we're going with assisted pullups which do not require me to lift my entire weight. At the gym, there is a machine for doing this with a very precise amount of assist. Floor-Assisted Pullups At home, today, I put a chair under the pullup bar, which brought my chin right to the bar at full height, and then used my legs to provide an assist. See the small graphic, where that same principle is applied but the bar is lower, making the chair unnecessary. The amount of assistance is uncalibrated, but it seemed to work fine. Three sets of 8 to 10.
  • Stability Ball Cobra: This is a sort of "reverse crunch" using the back muscles instead of the muscles in front of the body. Lay stomach-down on the stability ball, feet against the wall for stability. Cross arms, slowly let upper body down as far as it will go, slowly raise again, but only until body is straight. Pull shoulders back, again grabbing the imaginary marble with the shoulder blades. Three sets of 8 to 10. Sketch of Stability Ball Cobra
That was ONE hour with Angie. No doubt the list of possible and beneficial exercises is incomplete, as my understanding certainly is. Hopefully, by blogging about these and (therefore) looking each of them up on the internet I will learn enough to make them stick in my alleged mind. But I suspect that our family will need a few more sessions with Angie to get everything right.

After the session we stopped at Target to pick up a nice 65-cm stability ball and a couple of resistance bands. We already had a pullup bar, and that's all I needed for this morning's routine.


  1. Hi Don,
    I'm really admired! Thank you for showing us how to strenghten our bones. Thanks thanks thanks.


  2. I echo Sherlock's gratitude. The idea of strengthening bone by strengthening muscles is very appealing.
    Not that I see myself lying over a big ball (not gonna happen ;-)), but I may try some of the others.
    Thanks for this info, Don, and for the photos, which help us figure out how to do these exercises.
    Good one!
    Congrats on your counts (next post). :-)
    Happy (day after) Easter to you and yours! In Italy, the Monday after Easter Sunday is a national holiday, called Pasquetta, or little Easter. So we are both at home, which is NICE! :-)
    Florence, Italy

  3. Don, My father was recently diagnosed at the age of 71 with MM. It was a tough thing to accept after he had colon cancer 30 years prior.

    Thank you for sharing all your info on your blog.

    With your positive attitude I wish all the best to you.

    Never stop running!