Dealing with The Crab Mentality While Dieting

Dealing with The Crab Mentality While Dieting

“You’re a health FREAK” “Ew, that look probably tastes disgusting” “You look miserable eating that” “You are so obsessive” “I can’t even enjoy my meal watching you eat that.” “Eat this, it won’t kill you!” “You looked better when you were heavier, you look thin and unhealthy” “Come out and drink, you loser!”

The Crab Mentality or Crab in a Bucket Mentality, something that people who diet, follow a healthy diet or lifestyle, are in shape or who are trying to get in shape and improve their health and quality of life deal with far too often. This negative verbal vomit is something that I have dealt with for years ever since I started lifting weights way back when I was 14 years old and something in more recent years I have dealt with nutrition and improving my diet.

The metaphor Crab Mentality or Crab in a Bucket/ Pot refers to and comes from a real-life situation where a fisherman has a bucket of crabs. The fisherman does not need to put a lid on the bucket of crabs even though the bucket is not deep enough to keep the crabs from escaping. As long as there are multiple crabs in the bucket, no crab will ever escape due to the crabs clawing at the crab that is closest to the top and closest to escaping the bucket. Individually any of the crabs could easily escape and get free but since they constantly pull each other down they will never escape which leads to all their demise. The analogy in human behaviour is a negative person with this negative mindset that when seeing another person succeed, especially when it is something that this negative person wants to succeed in, they attempt to diminish or pull that person down just because they are becoming more successful than themselves. They achieve this or try to achieve this by making negative comments, inflicting self doubt and reducing self confidence just based on spite, jealousy and resentment. This can be summed to the phrase “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

In the past I have had co-workers go out of their way to buy the unhealthiest food they could think of for lunch and make sure they ate it in front of me while I was in the middle of a strict diet, cutting down. Describing every small detail about how good it tastes and how ‘happy’ they are eating it, and this was all while making nasty comments on what I was eating trying to make it sound as unappealing as they possibly could. Every single time something like this ever happened to me, the person who was going full crab mode was extremely unhealthy, over weight and had shown very clear insecurities in the past and present.

This negativity that some people spew out when seeing others make positive changes to their own lives with improving their fitness, diet, health, etc. is just a direct representation of how they feel about themselves and their own insecurities. What is so stupid is that if these people put as much energy towards improving themselves as they did attempting to pull others down, they would likely be just as successful if not more successful than the individual they are jealous of.

So how do you deal with these people? Depending on your relationship with this individual(s) it may be very easy or very difficult, but the same general rules apply. 99.99% of the time the answer is to quite simply ignore them. This can be easier said than done, especially if this individual(s) are unavoidable in your daily life whether it be a co-worker(s) or a family member(s) but always remember to NEVER let them see that what they are saying is bothering you, because it shouldn’t. All you are seeing is just how negative and upset this person is with their life and their choices that they have made and continue to make, rather than working towards improving themselves they would rather drag you down to their level, so they can feel better about their lack of discipline.

Combat this negativity with a giant smile and when they confront you, tell them how great you feel since implementing these positive changes in your life. One of three things will likely happen; they will see that you are actually happy and flourishing and ask for guidance themselves (rare), they will realize you are mentally tough and cannot be broken and leave you alone, or you will watch their blood boil when they continue to see you succeed in what they wish they could. Use their negativity to fuel your motivation and drive towards reaching your goals. Make the choices that these people could not, CHOOSE to be positive and CHOOSE to better yourself. Do not let someone who is clearly so negative and spiteful deter you from your goals and your dreams.

Be happy, be positive but never be satisfied.



Most people think of crunches, planks or sit ups when they’re looking to strengthen their core.  The reality is that isolated abdominal training has little carryover to functional movements and sports, and thus play a small role in injury prevention and performance. If your goal is to train for stability, then you need to enhance motor patterns that incorporate many muscles, rather than just targeting a few.



Panjabi et al (1992) wrote an article about all the components that play a role in providing spinal stability:

  1. Lumbo-Pelvic structure
  2. Neural activation or motor control*
  3. Active stability from muscular forces: local musculature (inner core) and global musculature (bigger muscles)

As you can see, stability of the spine is affected by several components of our bodies not just the “strength of your core”.

*What the hell is “motor control”?

Motor control has to do with the constantly changing distribution of intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, and ongoing central nervous system mediation. It refers to the ability of the brain to turn muscles on and off depending on the demands of the task, in order to achieve stability, or coordinated movement*

Isolated core exercises have their time and place. They are a great tool to gain initial activation and control of the inner unit. But what happens once we’ve already mastered that? There must be a line of progression to standing and dynamic movements where you are using a combination of the inner unit (your deep core stabilizers) and the outer unit or prime movers (like your glutes, hamstrings, quads etc). Even if we increased the strength of the inner unit, if we don’t make the connection between the two and correct erratic movement patterns, strengthening the core can only take us so far. Because of this, we need to think about it in terms of integration and how we actually create movement.

Maximal muscle activity in the core musculature is observed during single-plane activities, but when performing functional tasks that demand multiple muscle groups to be activated at the same time, their activation is significantly diminished. This leads us to believe that isolated core exercises may not help us improve stability, stiffness and control in “functional multiplanar” tasks.

The purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of the Anatomical Slings and what their role is in stability and performance.

The anatomy slings are groups of muscles that work in an integrated fashion or in synergy to produce movement and create stability around joints. The concept of core stability can further be enhanced by increasing strength and motor control of these slings in parallel to activating the inner core.


The human body is a complex system made up of “slings” or “chains”. These slings are combinations of local/inner unit (transverse abdominis, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and multifidus) and outer/global unit that work in synergy to produce functional movements, and when trained appropriately can improve strength, speed and power output. These slings are commonly under looked as we tend to get stuck in the smaller picture when we experience injuries or weakness, and often focus only on specific muscles.


The slings are composed of a combination of local and global stabilizers. Local stabilizers are mainly concerned with providing joint stiffness and segmental stability, while most of the strength and power is coming from the big global muscles. Together they form a very powerful muscle synergy. In order to maximize trunk stability, we can’t just target the local unit, as this will not significantly help improve core function if the body is not taught how to effectively use these slings.

  1. Anterior Oblique System: External and internal oblique with the opposing leg’s adductors and intervening anterior abdominal fascia.
  2.  Posterior Oblique System: The lat and opposing glute maximus and thoracolumbar fascia
  3. Deep Longitudinal System: Erectors, the innervating fascia and biceps femoris.
  4. Lateral System: Glute medius and minimus and the opposing adductors of the thigh

PART II of this article will cover common injuries related to these slings and my favorite exercises to strengthen each sling!

Stefanie Cohen, SPT



We all know chicks are all about the booty gains. But for some reason, guys don’t seem to care much about it at all. It mostly stems out of the ignorance and lack of knowledge  people have about the role of the glutes in strength movements and athletic performance in general.


The glutes are, or at least should be the primary muscle driving hip extension and leg abduction. However there are instances in which the glutes might not be performing their main role:

  1. Poor motor control: the glutes are inhibited and can’t contract properly mostly because we lack the ability to activate it at the right time in a synchronous manner.
  2. Overshadowed glutes: in this situation they do fire correctly, but they aren’t as strong as the other lower body muscles (like your quads, or back erectors), resulting in inefficient performance and often some type of pain. Whenever you perform a movement like a squat or a deadlift, or any exercise that involves multiple muscle groups, the majority of the work will tend to be done by the strongest muscle.
  3. Posture: Your hip flexors (psoas) attach from your hip to your femur in the front, and your glutes attach from your hip to your femur in the back, they need to be in balance and have proper mobility in order for you to be able to achieve proper glute activation patterns.
    • A posterior pelvic tilt (flat ass) for example will result in lengthened and weak hip flexors, which will negate good activation of the glutes.
    • On the other hand, tight hip flexors result in an anterior pelvic tilt (butt sticking out). However a slight degree of anterior tilt can put the glutes at a slight leverage advantage (See Shirley Sahrman’s book Movement Impairment Syndromes) and result in better activation of the glutes. Look at the difference between the Kalahari Bushman vs a typical western male in terms of glute development:


Still don’t think you need a bigger ass?!

Hip extension occurs when coming out of the bottom of the squat, and in the lockout of a deadlift. If you are a powerlifter that means that 2/3 of the competition lifts heavily involve hip extension, which is often one of, if not THE limiting factor of most lifts: failing to lock out a deadlift and being unable to stand up from a squat. You with me?

Glute weakness can lead to not only failing lifts, but to form breakdown. For example, in the deadlift excessive back rounding occurs not due to lower back weakness as most people think, but due to glute weakness. You should never use your back as a prime mover in a deadlift in the first place. Your erectors should contract isometrically and allow the king muscles to do their thing: the glutes and hamstrings extend the hips, and the quads extend the knees. So here we see that back rounding is not necessarily due to back weakness but due to glute weakness!


Click here to read an article I wrote on back rounded deadlifts 

Although we know that hypertrophy isn’t directly related to strength, we do know that by increasing the size of the muscle can lead to improved recruitment and strength. If you develop stronger glutes, you will depend on them even when the weight is heavy and will be able to preserve your form even at supra maximal attempts. Improving motor control and development of the glutes can also prevent muscular imbalances!

Stay tuned for my next article, in which I talk about my favorite glute accessory exercises for devastating strength and power!

Stefanie Cohen

TENS vs. REST? Should you invest on an Electrical Stim Machine?

TENS vs. REST? Should you invest on an Electrical Stim Machine?

Adequate recovery is essential in order to achieve better performance in any sport. Muscle fatigue is a result of changes at the level of the muscle, such as micro tears, depletion of creatine phosphate, accumulation of metabolites, mismatch of oxygen supply/demand or even central nervous system fatigue. The question is, is TENS an effective method to enhance the rate of recovery after exercise? Based on 10 different articles I reviewed, the results are rather disappointing


Milne 2001 negative review of 5 trials of TENS for chronic low back pain
Johnson 2007 positive review of 38 trials of TENS for chronic musculoskeletal pain, “effective”
Nnoaham 2008 inconclusive review of 25 studies of TENS for chronic pain
Khadilkar 2008 inconclusive review of 4 trials of TENS for chronic low back pain
Walsh 2009 inconclusive review of 12 trials of TENS for acute pain
Hurlow 2012 inconclusive review of 3 trials of TENS for cancer pain
Vance 2014 mixed review: “it’s complicated”?? but promising
Chen 2015 negative review of 18 trials of TENS for knee osteoarthritis
Desmeules 2016 inconclusive (but discouraging) review of 6 trials of TENS for rotator cuff tendinopathy

How does TENS work?


Pain is a result of alarm systems that reach your brain. These alarms go off way too loud and way too often, sometimes even without tissue damage. The brain decides what hurts and what doesn’t. The TENS machine blasts the nervous system with “sensory white noise”, and by stimulating the nerves in this way it distracts the brain (temporarily) from pain. Unless you turn the machine up enough to disable your brain, if it thinks you’re in pain , the alarm will go off again sooner or later, most likely shortly after the TENS is turned off.

 Vance et al. believe that “TENS has been shown to provide analgesia specifically when applied at a strong, non-painful intensity.”

This particular study compared the effects of electrical muscle stimulation, massage and passive rest in athletes after 6 different bouts of exhausting supra maximal training. The chart on the left shows the peak power production following each of these modalities. The chart on the right shoes the blood lactate concentrations following the exercise bouts. As you can see, no significant differences were demonstrated between the effects of EMS, massage and passive rest on recovery markers or peak power output.


Even though there is controversy over the topic, some people can find symptom relief following TENS. If your goal is pain reduction, you can buy a TENS machine for less than $100 at your nearest pharmacy!

Stefanie Cohen


Martin N.A., Zoeller R.F., Robertson R.J. The comparative effects of sports massage, active recovery, and rest in promoting blood lactate clearance after supramaximal leg exercise. J. Athl. Train. 1998;33:30-35.

THE BIG CHILL- worth it?

THE BIG CHILL- worth it?


Seems like a lot of people are moving on from the classic ice pack, to this trendy technique called cryotherapy, which offers whole body immersion in chambers where temperatures drop to 150 degrees below zero for about 2-4 minutes in an attempt to reduce pain and speed recovery.


The idea sounds great! The important question always is, what does the research behind it say? Similar to ice packs and ice baths, cold therapy is thought to constrict blood vessels, flush waste products, reduce swelling and diminish tissue breakdown. It definitely lowers superficial tissue temperatures-  it doesn’t penetrate the skin’s surface more than 1/2mm into the skin. A possible explanation for this is that cold slows down the speed at which nerves fire, while constricting arteries and veins, and limiting blood flow. The idea that cold can heal is ancient, but so far, scientists have failed to find strong evidence that cold therapies can help much, if anything with muscle soreness or recovery.


Some studies even suggest that icing dampens or block the body’s ability to repair and strengthen the micro tears in muscle tissue following intense exercise, especially if people use ice too frequently. Trauma to the muscle caused by intense exercises is healed by your immune system using inflammation. Inflammatory cells called macrophages rush into the injured tissue to start the healing process and release a hormone called IGF-1, which helps your tissues heal. Applying ice reduces the swelling, delays healing and may PREVENT  the body from releasing these hormones.

At this point there is insufficient evidence to warrant making clinical claims about its effect in speeding recovery. There are instances in which delaying the inflammatory process might be beneficial, for example in a multiple day competition, where inflammation, swelling and pain would be detrimental for your performance. Despite the fact that there is insufficient evidence to prove how it works or why it works, cold therapies do seem to help especially with pain reduction, but their effect might be based in the brain and not the muscles.

Stefanie Cohen







Banfi, G. and Valentini, P. (2007). Effects of cold-water immersion of legs after training session on serum creatine kinase concentration in rugby players [letter]. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 41: 339. 
Gill, N., Beaven, C. and Cook, C. (2006). Effectiveness of post-match recovery strategies in rugby players. British Journal of Sports Medicine.  40: 260-3. 
Hausswirth, C., Louis, J., Bieuzen, F., et al. (2011). Effects of whole-body cryotherapy vs. far-infrared vs. passive modalities on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in highly-trained runners. PloS ONE. 6(12): e27749. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027749 
Purnot, H., Biuezan, F., Louis, J. et al. (2011). Time-course changes in inflammatory response after whole-body cryotherapy multi exposures following severe exercise. PloS ONE. 6(7): e22748. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022748 
Wozniak, A, Wozniak, B, Drewa, G. et al. (2007). The effect of whole body cryostimulation on lysosomal enzyme activity in kayakers during training. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 100: 137-142.


Foam rolling, mashing… What is it? Does it even work?

Foam rolling, mashing… What is it? Does it even work?


When we think Myofascial Release (MR) we think of foam rolling, “mashing”, laying on a lacrosse ball, getting a massage or deep tissue massage, receiving gratin technique, or maybe even manual therapy from physical therapist. You go in to the clinic or you grab whichever torture device you so choose and for the next (5 minutes for most) 10 minutes to an hour or so we allow ourselves to be put in pain. You jump, cry, wince, moan and groan but afterwards we may be bit soar but we feel better, looser, more mobile. But why?

The original thought process for manual therapy (synonymous with MR in this piece) and why it worked was defined as the biomechanical model. Wellens summarizes this model as the following:

“To summarize this model, it is proposed that biomechanical dysfunctions characterized by a combinations of segmental joint hypo or hyper-mobility  suboptimal postures, muscle weakness and/or poor muscle control play a significant role in the emergence of painful MSK conditions by putting too much strain on different tissues which would ultimately lead local and/or distant tissues to sustain damage or to function sub optimally. The end result of this dysfunctional state would then often be pain. The role of manual therapy in such a model is to find these aforementioned dysfunctions and treat them via manual mobilizations or manipulations, stabilization exercises and postural corrections among others. It is proposed that the manual mobilizations or manipulations will restore the joint play by restoring tissues optimal lengths or by reducing a fixation or sub-luxation and thus, restoring optimal joint function which, in turn, will lead to the resolution of the dysfunction and thus, the pain.

Whoa! What does that mean? In Laymen’s terms: Limited mobility or excessive mobility puts improper strain on muscle tissue which can lead to poor function and usually pain. MT finds these dysfunctions and treats them with manual mobilizations or manipulations and exercise and postural correction. Through the MT we can restore tissue’s proper length by making it more mobile or “less mobile” (through stability work) restoring it to proper function and reduce pain.

Again, WHAT? Basically through the pressure in our hands or a simple tool or lacrosse ball we can’t create enough force to tear our fascia. Lets put that in perspective; if I were to dig my thumb into you and could create enough force for your fascia to release, or even cause micro tears, however you want to describe it, humans would be very frail and fragile and we not be able to function in everyday life. Every fall, stubbed toe, shin on desk would cause torn muscles with no question. So then why after massage or self MR do we instantly feel so much better and have more ROM? Foam rolling works, but not how most people thinks it does. There are a few theories out there but the one we are talking about today is the theory of Neurophysiological Effect (NE)


Numerous Studies have demonstrate immediate positive effects on pain after non specific MR or MT. The NE effects could be a combination of the CNS and PNS. The exact mechanism of this model is far from being explained but the basics are that pain is the brains output in response to various stimuli including but not limited to nociceptive input.

Wellness simplifies the thought: “a simple explanation for a good part of the effectiveness of manual therapy could be that the novel stimulation introduced in the CNS by manual therapy may help the brain down regulate the perceived threat of current stimuli and thus decrease the pain by means of descending inhibition and other peripheral and central mechanisms (which include a placebo response).”

Lastly, I am not saying Manual therapy does not work. I am a recent graduate from PT school and Manual therapy is used in every one of my patients in some form or fashion. Everyone should use self MR by rolling on a roller or lacrosse ball. But what I do believe is that the mechanically lengthening tissue to reduce pain and symptoms is not a sound argument anymore with current research and that another avenue of thought should utilized. The nuerological avenue is my “main street” right now. But MR or MT we can nuerologically calm down the brain which then will calm down the area of pain and thus we may be able to move with improved ability and pain free.

Wellens, F; The Traditional Mechanistic Paradigm in the teaching and practice of manual therapy: Time for a reality check. Clinique Physio Axis.

Written by: Dr. CJ DePalma, DPT, CSCS

Get Your Traps Out of Your Ears

Get Your Traps Out of Your Ears

It seems a lot of the fitness community remains in a state of reverie for the mountainous, python-like upper traps sported by enthusiasts everywhere.Unknown They are the functional cushion for your back squats. They make you look mildly badass in your tank tops. They also have potential to be problematic if you’re not careful.


Rhomboids and mid-and-lower traps

These are two largely discounted members of the group of muscles responsible for (among other things) scapular movement. Both play a large role in the maintenance of a pair of solid, healthy shoulders, yet a massive number of people neglect their upkeep.


A brief example of an action this pair of muscles is responsible for, is retraction of the scapula, also cued as “pinching” your shoulder blades together. It is easy to walk around in public and visually pick out any number of people – fitness junkies or otherwise – with their shoulders rolled forward, upper back hunched over, upper traps so high it just makes your neck hurt to look at, and palms either occupied with a cellphone, or facing totally backwards (see the picture below for proper anatomical position).

This overly frequent problem that is weak or under-active lower traps and serratus anterior can lead to a host of problems both chronic and immediate: injuries to the rotator cuffs, subacromial impingements (ouch, and more common than you might think) and unstable overhead positions, for example. As long as these muscles remain weak or under-active, the upper traps will continue to compensate, and the problems will persist.

Force Couples

A force acting on a body has two effects, one to move it and two to rotate it. A force couple is a system that exerts a resultant movement, but no resultant force.

What does this mean for the shoulder?

In a force couple, the force generated by one muscle requires the activation of an antagonistic muscle so that a dislocating force does not result (Nordin & Frankel, 2001). As you can see on the image below, several muscles aide in the movement of your arm during elevation.

Particularly important for this discussion is the fact that the mid and lower traps are the primary stabilizers during abduction of the arm. What happens if we have an overactive muscle is that we break the force couple relationship. This is when abnormal movement patterns begin to occur and we increase our risk of injury.

Two muscles that are particularly important to target are the Serrates Anterior and the Lower traps 

  • The serratus anterior is the only muscle that rotates the scapula forward, along the shape of the rib cage. Having full strength and motor control of this muscle is extremely important in order to have optimal stability over head.
  • The lower traps act as one of the main stabilizers as the arm reaches 90 degrees.

note: The deltoid is NOT A PART OF THE FORCE COUPLE mechanism, but over recruitment of the deltoid can also lead to impingement.

There are, however, a number of fixes.

  1. Pull

Single arm dumbbell rows, barbell rows, pendlay rows, seated cable rows, resistance bands (think: face pulls, more rows, shoulder “Y”s and “T”s – keep your shoulder blades down and back!).

Note: Whichever exercise you chose, make sure to keep your shoulders down and back. DON’T allow your traps to do all the work, and focus on really recruiting your rhomboids and keeping your scapulae down. 

Face Pulls:

Wall angels

  • Keep your entire posterior FLAT against the wall-
    • This includes your butt, lower back, mid back, upper, the back of your head
  • Keep your neck neutral and face forwards
  • Slowly try and work your arms up the wall whilst maintaining contact at all of the points mentioned above – the backs of your hands should be brushing the wall
  • Note: the model in this picture is insanely mobile, and if you don’t get there right away, that is A-OK! Keep working at it, but only go as far as you can while maintaining contact and good position (no arching your back!!)


2. Work on your pecs 

Stretching the pecs will allow you to improve your internal rotation, which is often restricted in most people. Our every day habits such as sitting down, eating, driving, typing are all done with forward shoulders and forward head, which increase the tension and shorten our pecs.  A simple way to stretch out the muscles that may be tight and responsible for some of your internal rotation is illustrated below.


A straight arm will target the serratus and pec minor, while an arm bent at 90 degrees will have your pec major feeling *fantastic*. Think about retracting (pinching) your shoulder blades back and DOWN!

3. Push up Plus

This one is a personal favorite for the serratus anterior! slide_43

Of course, habits take time to break. In due time your shoulders, back, neck, and training will thank you!


Written by: Jamie Brynn Hamilton,

in collaboration with Stefanie Cohen