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Shoulder

Suspended Push Up Animation

Atomic Push Ups Are A Fitness Blast

Your muscles work as a team to carry you through the day.  They never function alone, so training them with isolation exercise will produce less than optimal results.  The muscles over the front of the body are linked together through interwoven layers of fascia to form what Thomas Myers, in his book Anatomy Trains calls the “superficial front line”.  The shoulder girdle is slung onto the body in a basket weave pattern of muscles.  One of the best exercise activities to activate this team of muscles is the Atomic Push Up.

The guys and gals at TRX named this exercise because of the metabolic response it produces.  Although the TRX company popularized the Atomic Push Up, you can use any type of suspension trainer that has foot straps.  This exercise helps build a better connection between your shoulders and hips.  It will strengthen the push pattern and activate the frequently neglected hip flexors.  Unlike a bench press type drill, the Atomic Push Up requires core control and the active participation of your legs.  Atomic Push Ups require a great deal of neural control as you must coordinate muscles from the hands to the feet to properly perform this drill.  The Atomic Push Up is not a bodybuilding type exercise that will “sculpt your outer pectorals” but it will help you move better.

Atomic Push Up Performance
Attach the suspension trainer overhead with the foot straps eight inches off the floor.  Sit on the floor and place the feet in the straps.  Roll over and assume a push up position with the feet suspended off the floor in the straps.  The top of the suspension trainer should be directly over your feet.  Descend toward the floor, and as you push back up, pull the knees up toward your chest.  Use a steady cadence of lower down–push up–knees in–knees out.  Beginners should aim for sets of five repetitions.  Stop before the performance of the drill deteriorates.  Common faults are sagging in the middle, lack of depth during the push up, and poor head position.  For men, twenty repetitions of Atomic Push Ups is a worthy fitness goal.  For women, eight is great.

You generally do not see Atomic Push Ups performed in commercial gyms because suspension trainers are rare and this exercise is difficult.  Beginners may wish to place a mat under the torso and head in case of a sudden face plant.  You can use a pair of parallellettes if you find weight bearing on your hands is difficult.  Moving the body forward so the suspension strap is pulling you backward makes the exercise more challenging.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., O.C.S., C.S.C.S.

SUSPENSION ROWS

Our shoulders and spine must endure prolonged computer input, extended commuter drives, sustained television staring, and way too much general slumping.  The important postural muscles that keep us tall become weak and the muscles in the front of the shoulders get tight.  The spinal muscles that hold our 24 vertebrae upright and stable functionally fall asleep and forget how to work together as a team.  Prolonged sitting creates all sorts of neuromuscular problems that can be managed with restorative exercise.  One of the best exercises you can perform to mitigate the damaging effects of prolonged sitting is the suspension row.  

Better Than Seated or Bent Over Rows
Suspension rowing requires your spine to stay in a neutral position from the head to the pelvis.  Most of the bent over rowing I witness in the gym involves the same slumped sitting posture you see in every office in America.  Rows performed with a flexed thoracic spine are far from optimal and often help reinforce postural deficits.  Properly performed suspension rows improve communication between the spinal stabilizers and strengthen the muscles that retract the shoulder blades.  

Mastery Of Your Bodyweight
Being able to maneuver your body using the arms makes you functionally fit.  During suspension rows, the resistance is not a plate or weight stack, but rather the weight of your body.  You alter the resistance by moving the feet and changing the angle of the body in relation to the floor.   

Friendly Force Curve
Suspension rows produce an accommodating resistance that is easier when you are at the weakest part of the rowing motion.  The force necessary to perform a suspension row decreases as you move from the arms fully extended to the arms pulled in close to the body.  This makes it a good exercise for people with weaker than average shoulder muscles.  

Cervical Proprioception
Many people have no idea of how to correct the posture of their head and neck.  Prolonged sitting, driving, and computer work have damaged their positional awareness or proprioception.  The movement of the head and neck during suspension rows produces a neurological training of the cervical proprioceptors that can help fix this problem.

Suspension Rows
Improve the strength and endurance of the team of muscles that keep your posture tall and shoulders strong with suspension trainer rows.  At FFAC, several TRX suspension trainers are located throughout the gym.  For home use, attach the suspension trainer to the top of a doorway.  Adjust the suspension trainer length so the handles are at your waist level or lower.  Stand facing the TRX and grip the handles firmly.  The position of your feet will determine the amount of resistance.  Move the feet forward and the exercise is more challenging.  Keep the entire torso straight, one long line from ear to ankle.  Brace the abdominal muscles and gluteals and lean back.  From the arms extended position, pull the handles into your side.  As you perform the rowing motion, focus on moving the shoulder blades down and back.  Return to the starting position and repeat.  Perform two or three sets of six to ten repetitions.  As you get stronger, progress to a full inverted row with the legs on a bench.  

Caution:  Make sure you use a solid suspension trainer product when performing this exercise.  I have treated two patients with injuries that occurred when their homemade units malfunctioned and sent them flying to the floor.  Do not skimp on safety with suspension training exercise.  The emergency room visit and CT scan of your skull will be far more expensive.  The TRX and Lifeline USA suspension trainers are the most well known units on the market.    

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

SINGLE LEG STANCE OPPOSITE
 ARM REACH AND ROW

A Long Name For A Great Exercise

In life, most of the challenging tasks happen in either single leg stance or with much more of our weight on one leg.  We must be able to support, decelerate, and change directions with one leg.  Our muscles are aligned so that the hip is mechanically linked to the opposite shoulder.  In physical therapy, we know that having one side of the body function efficiently and the other side falter sets you up for injury.  Your exercise program should revolve around training to meet these physical demands.  One of my favorite life enhancing exercises is the single leg stance opposite arm reach and row.   

Exercise Benefits
Fall preventative activity that helps improves single leg balance.
Sure cure for the epidemic of gluteal amnesia.
Gives athletes the hip to opposite shoulder connection they need for performance.
Identifies any asymmetry in single leg control.
Enhances the single leg deceleration skill necessary for injury prevention.
Makes you stronger when you lift, carry, push, and pull.

Single Leg Stance Opposite Arm Reach and Row
You need a cable column machine or resistance tubing anchored at knee level or lower.  Hold the tubing or cable handle in the right hand and stand on the left leg.  You must be at least five feet away from the attachment point of the tubing or cable.  Initiate the movement simultaneously at the ankle and hip and reach forward with the right hand.  Attempt to get the hand down to knee level.  Return back to standing and pull the handle toward the body in a rowing motion.  Perform five to ten repetitions and then repeat on the other side.

Common mistakes are bending at the hip only and slouching over at the spine.  The ankle, knee, and hip all move together, and the spine should stay stable.  Holding the handle on the same side instead of the opposite side.  Performing repetitions past the point of technical failure.  If you start wobbling around, stop the exercise.  Getting the arm and legs out of sync.  Do not reach with the arm and then move the legs—the motions should happen together.  Remember to come all the way back up to a tall standing position before starting the next repetition.  Start with light resistance and try to create a steady smooth pattern before adding more resistance.  Watch the video  and give this exercise a try.  

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

GET IN YOUR CAGE

Stretch Station Mobility Restoration

Invented by Gary Gray, a physical therapist from Adrian Michigan, the Stretch Station has been a primary piece of equipment at all of our facilities.  It enables the physical therapy patient or fitness client the ability to perform three dimensional mobilization of the major peripheral joints and spine. I have not found another piece of exercise equipment that is as beneficial for improving movement as the Stretch Station.

It Has To Happen In Standing
The Stretch Station allows you to mobilize joints and move in the anti-gravity, standing upright position that it functions in every day. Gravity eliminated, floor stretching programs often fail to produce better movement when gravity comes back into play. Any new movement you develop with mobility training is only beneficial if it can occur in a standing position.

A Little Lift Goes a Long Way
Traction force (pulling apart) of a joint is a key component of all manual medicine. It helps relieve pain and makes greater joint mobility easier to achieve. The overhead bars of the Stretch Station enable you to lift up and partially decompress the spine, hips, knees, and even ankles during mobility training.  This low level traction force assists in the development of better mobility. Deconditioned and overweight patients can perform hip and knee mobility training and remain pain free with the assist of the Stretch Station.

One Good Turn…
Most floor mobility training does little to develop better rotation at the joints that are supposed to produce
rotation–thoracic spine, hips, and ankles. The Stretch Station has an angled floor and multiple handle sites that enable users of all sizes to work on improving rotation. Thoracic spine and hip mobility work is particularly beneficial for athletes that must swing a club or throw a ball.

Identification of Asymmetries
Using the Stretch Station, patients and fitness clients can immediately identify when one side of the spine, one hip, or one shoulder is more restricted than the other. Training away asymmetries at a single joint or movement pattern is important for injury prevention and optimal performance.

A Bridge to Better Performance
I have fitness clients perform thirty seconds of mobility training on the Stretch Station followed by a complimentary strengthening exercise. The idea is to neurologically reinforce the new motion achieved with the Stretch Station using an appropriate strengthening activity. This pairing of the Stretch Station work with a strengthening drill has been very effective in restoring movement and decreasing pain.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

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