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The Wisdom of Frank–Part IV

“Change It Up”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank was big on developing one set of skills for a defined period of time and then switching to performance parameters.  We would work hard on improving strength with squats, cleans, and pull ups for six weeks and then take a break.  The next six weeks would focus on speed and endurance–lots of jump rope, sprinting, and medicine ball throws.  I never got bored and I never got hurt.

The best injury preventative for athletes and fitness enthusiasts is a consistent change in activity.  Look at your training / competition schedule and alter your activity every six to eight weeks.  Better yet, take a week or two away from running, dance, yoga, lifting, baseball, or Zumba.  If you are older or more injury prone, that rest period might need to be stretched out to three weeks.

The popularity of the club system has young athletes playing the same sport year round.  In the clinic, we are treating young athletes with “old person” overuse injuries.  Playing multiple sports is infinitely more beneficial.  Taking layoffs from overused movement patterns and participating in a variety of athletic endeavors gives the body a chance to rebuild and recover.  It is no coincidence that successful professional athletes are the product of multi-sport participation.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

The Wisdom of Frank–Part III

“Leave Some In The Tank”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank said that it is always better to do too little than to do too much.  A training session should make you feel alive and awake, not beaten up and broken.  Frank recommended exercise sessions that involved about forty minutes of training and ten minutes of what we now call “recovery work”.  He often told me to take it easy, go home, eat well, sleep soundly, and enjoy being young.  “When you get to my age you will thank me.”

The latest trend in fitness is throwing your body into the propeller.  Lying on the floor gasping for air is a badge of honor and a sought after result.  As a physical therapist that treats the byproduct of this training method, I urge caution.  Most young athletes can only train super hard for eight to ten weeks a year.  Older clients have a much more limited recovery capacity and are unable to sustain that level of activity before an injury occurs.  The winner in the life long quest for health and fitness is the contestant with the fewest surgical scars.

Training related injuries are a tragedy.  It is easy to get swept up by the emotions of competition and the desire to excel.  As we age, maintaining an exercise habit that keeps us strong and injury-free is even more important.  I frequently remind myself to dial it down and then I say a silent “Thank You”.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Olympic Lifts

Do We Really Need Them?

I had my first introduction to Weightlifting (often referred to as Olympic lifting) in my high school football days using the Bigger Faster Stronger program.  Power Cleans were a staple of this program and the Power Snatch was also introduced to us during a clinic our football coach put together.  Over the last several years, weightlifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  These movements include the Snatch (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement), the Clean & Jerk (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in two distinct movements), and their derivatives.  Though there are several reasons to include these movements in programs, there are far more reasons, in my professional opinion, not to.

The primary reason one would or should be using Olympic lifting movements is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD).  RFD is a primary determinant of success in many sports.  This is what allows you to accelerate quickly, jump higher/farther, and change direction quickly.  There are volumes of research on the Clean & Jerk, Snatch, and their variations which demonstrate that these movements work very well at improving power and RFD; however, these lifts are not the only means of accomplishing this.  Moreover, there are multiple reasons not to incorporate them:

Time

Weightlifting movements are incredibly technical and take massive amounts of time to learn and perform correctly.  Most successful weightlifters at the international level have spent decades learning and perfecting their craft.  It is not uncommon to see weightlifters performing upwards of 10-12 training sessions per week.  The only other sport I can think of that takes this level of technical prowess is gymnastics.  While this is admirable for those choosing to compete in these sports, the level of time commitment is not practical for the average fitness enthusiast.

Safety

Due to the speed and dynamic nature of the Olympic lifts, there is a much higher probability of something going wrong.  Additionally, the vast majority of the fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises. In some fitness circles, you will see these movements programmed in for very high repetitions.  When this happens, you are ramping up fatigue which makes proper technique/form nearly impossible and minimizes power/RFD adaptation which is the whole point of these exercises. These lifts should be programmed at 1-5 rep sets with 2-5 minute rest intervals between.

Efficiency

For most people, time is a constant barrier to improved fitness.  For competitive athletes, they must balance the demands of sport practice, strength training, conditioning, skill practice, and recovery.  For this reason, the primary goal of a quality program should be to maximize efficiency of training.  Due to the mobility demands and speed of the movements, the warm ups required can take 15-20 minutes.  Combine that with the longer rest periods required and you barely have time to get in enough quality work to see optimal adaptations.  It is not uncommon for a weightlifter to take 90-120 minutes to complete a workout.

You may be asking yourself how to maximize power if you can’t perform the Olympic lifts.  Many people feel these movements are imperative for optimal fitness and performance.  In February of 2017, I traveled to Ohio State University where I heard the head Strength and Conditioning coaches for the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals speak.  None of them use Olympic lifts with their athletes.  If arguably the top athletes in the world don’t need these movements, then I think the rest of the population can get away without using them as well.

Over the next several weeks, I will introduce fourteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Stay tuned for exercise descriptions and video demonstration.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

The Wisdom of Frank

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank’s biggest lesson was that no matter how busy, over worked, and over scheduled you were, there was no excuse not to perform some type of exercise.  The crucial component of lifelong fitness is consistency.  You can slow down but never stop.  Do something, even if it is only ten minutes–every day.  As Frank traveled through his eighties, he performed twenty minute sessions of mobility work and some calisthenics on a daily basis.

A recent *article by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times reinforces this lesson.  Older athletes that maintain the lifelong fitness habit have remarkable fitness assessment scores.  Many have posted VO2 max tests that make researchers rethink the present expectations for testing standards.

*Age Like a Former Athlete, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, August 23, 2107.

View the NY Times Article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/well/move/age-like-a-former-athlete.html?_r=0

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

 

Biomarker Reminder

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the measurable parameters that keep humans healthy and fit over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  The percentage of your body that is made of muscle.
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry.
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Body fat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat.

The authors named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well, staying durable–no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Movement You Should Master

Push Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that requires no equipment and has bountiful benefits is the Push Up.

Push Ups

Push ups strengthen the pecs, deltoids, triceps.  They also allow free movement of the shoulder blades (unlike the bench press) and build stability in the core if done properly.  There is no need to get overly fancy with these.  If you can’t do a true push up with your chest touching the ground and your core locked in, start by elevating your hands instead of resorting to “girl” push ups on your knees.  Guys should try to work up to 3 sets of 20 reps at least a couple of times/week.  Women should strive for at least 10 reps but by no means need to stop there.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/7oQ-_J8FjEU

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Movement You Should Master

Deadlifts

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be essential for overall strength is the Deadlift.

Deadlifts

At some point in your week, you will need to pick something up off the ground.  If you have ever moved furniture or loaded your push mower into the back of your car for repairs, you have seen the value in this task.

Deadlifts are an amazing exercise to work the quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, core, and entire back all the way up to the traps and forearms.  As useful as deadlifts are, they are also one of the most butchered exercises in the gym.  I would highly recommend the help of a skilled professional and/or a mirror before implementing this movement into your routine.  I find that for the general fitness population, 2-3 deadlift variations are all you need for the bulk of your training.  Watch the video and give them a try:

1) One Leg Romanian Deadlift (mimics picking up smaller items around the house or yard; minimizes shear forces on the spine)

2) Hex Bar Deadlifts (great for maximal strength and the occasion when you have to pick up something really heavy) Note: This version offers virtually all of the benefits of a barbell deadlift with slightly more freedom for individual anatomical differences and slightly lower shear forces on your spine.

View video of deadlifts: https://youtu.be/CRbbXOMSeww

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Ladder Matters

Moving well is a combination of balance, coordination, strength, and power.  During everyday tasks, you must be able to plant, pivot, and shift your bodyweight over one leg to change directions or decelerate an impact.  Movement is a skill that we all take for granted until the day that it fails us.  “I can’t believe I can’t do that,” is commonly heard from people in physical therapy.  They are unaware of the level of motor control they have lost to age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle.  The good news is that with some consistent training, most motor control skills can be restored.  For gym members, an excellent method of enhancing movement skills is the agility ladder.

Agility ladders help you move better.  How you move says more about your age than how you look.  Responsive legs that can react to a disruption in balance keep you durable and injury free.  Consistent agility ladder training develops the neural coordination that allows more graceful movement.

Rotation is the movement pattern that creates the distance in your golf drive, the pop in your punch, and the acceleration in your sprint.  Rotation is the missing movement pattern in most training programs.  Ladder drills improve cross body, shoulder, and hip rotation.

Ladders are the rehab bridge that allows the injured athlete to move from a controlled series of movement patterns to the chaos of competition.  Ladders are one of the best power production and injury prevention activities older clients can perform.

As a conditioning method, I call ladder drills “three-dimensional jump rope”.   Move through a few sixty second intervals of continuous ladder drills and your body heats up, respiration increases, and your metabolism is disrupted.  Ramp that up to 90 seconds and check your heart rate.  See video of agility ladder drills: https://youtu.be/CmLXGLeyGfE

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Heat Or Ice For My Shoulder?

Try Standing Upright

In the gym, at the golf course, and during a visit to the hardware store, I am asked my advice on abolishing shoulder pain.  What everyone wants is the magical exercise, miracle ointment, or newest thermal treatment.  What they need–and what they do not want to hear–is that they have to fix their horrible posture.

Sustained poor posture can alter the function of your shoulder complex.  The shoulder girdle has only one, very small, bone to body connection.  The entire system is an interconnected series of muscles and ligaments.  Sustained slouched over postures create a faulty length-tension relationship in these structures that places adverse stress and strain on the four joints of the shoulder and the nerves in the neck and upper back.

OMG I sit lmGm (like my GrandMa).  

Shoulder posture pain problems are happening earlier.  I do not know if it is more tech toys, less physical education in schools, or a change in youth activity levels, but in the physical therapy clinic we are seeing younger people with older people postural shoulder pain.  They sit on the treatment table in extremely slouched over positions and are unable to pull themselves up into a correct position.  Most are unconvinced that how they sit and stand could be the generator of their pain problem.

What exercises can I do?

Stronger muscles will help restore posture.  The shoulder evolved to pull, lift, and carry.  The muscles that keep the shoulder strong and happy are in the back of the shoulder.  They hold the shoulder in a healthy position on the body.  Most of us never perform any pulling or lifting activities other than hoisting our laptop or toting our smart phone.   Making your shoulder girdle muscles stronger will help, but being mindful of your posture during the day is the most important factor.  Physical Therapist and US Soccer Team Trainer Sue Falsone says “You can’t out rep poor posture.”

Start with how you work and live.

Eight hours a day for five days a week equals 2080 hours of computer / desk time a year for the average office worker.  Add in a daily one hour car commute and another two hours of television a day and we push the Monday through Friday slump numbers to 2860 hours a year (120 days).  We have spent millions on state of the art chairs, elevated monitors, slanting keyboards, wrist rests, and lumbar supports.  Office modifications, while well intentioned and generally a good idea, cannot compete with 2860 hours (this number is probably low) of sitting in a year.  In order to fight against the postural stress that creates pain, we need to get up and move.

Recent research on prolonged sitting has demonstrated that the amount of movement we need to stay healthy is greater than we once thought.  To combat the adaptive changes of prolonged sitting, it is suggested you get up and move every twenty minutes.  Set a timer, enlist the help of your coworkers, and work at this every workday for a month.  I believe you will be surprised by the results.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Movement You Should Master

Squats

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up from a seated position is the Squat.

Squats

Squats prepare us to get up out of a chair, into the car, and up from the floor.  These are daily tasks often taken for granted until they can no longer be done with ease.  The ability to squat down deep, remain there for some time, and get back up creates functional carryover to real life activities.  I recommend a mixture of three different squat variations.  Pick one variation to include in your training every day.  Watch the video and give all three a try.

1) Box Squats:  Set up with a box behind you and slowly lower yourself onto the box with control.  Once on the box, sit and relax completely before re-engaging the legs and standing back up. To maintain complete control of the movement all the way into the seated position, start with a tall enough box.  Increase the difficulty by lowering the box height or adding a load.  A 12”-14” box should be the goal for most people.

2) Deep Breathing Paused Squats:  Find a stance that allows you to squat down as low as possible without your heels coming off the ground or your tailbone tucking under.  Some individuals may need a wider or narrower stance.  You may also need to play with the angle of your toes.  Squat down to your lowest point (maintaining pelvic control and heel contact), take 2-5 deep breaths into your abdomen, and stand up.  These are best done for sets of 3-5 reps for 2-5 total sets.  To increase the challenge, external load can be added.  Just remember that the goal is depth.  If the increased load causes your range of motion to shorten, you’ve gone too heavy.

3) Split Squats: Assume a split stance, and lower your back knee down to the ground with control.  Extend the legs and return to the standing position.  You may find yourself in this position when picking something up off the floor or doing yard work.  Add weight to this movement as you are able.  You can also elevate the front or rear leg to increase the range of motion.

View video of squat variations: https://youtu.be/4gormcwHr5A

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

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