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Sister Hermeta Saved My Soul and My Spine

Tall Kneeling Core Stabilization Training

During my parochial grade school education,  I was taught how to kneel in church.  Eyes forward, hands together, spine tall, and no leaning on the pew.  You maintained the kneeling posture for extended periods of Father Furlong’s mass.  I believe the good sisters were on to something.  Despite every one of them being well past 100 years of age, they all possessed excellent posture and remarkable mobility.  As a physical therapist, I am convinced that a daily dose of sustained kneeling helped keep the Felician Sisters in fighting form.  I have some tall kneeling training suggestions you can add your fitness routine.

Get to Know Kneeling

Many people will benefit from some sustained tall kneeling.  Protect your knees by placing an Airex pad under your knees.  In and ideal situation, you will have a mirror for feedback on posture and alignment.  Keep some space between your knees and line the feet up with the knees.  Pull the head back, lift the chest, and reach the top of the head to the sky.  Many people have difficulty getting into a fully upright position in kneeling.  The most common problem is a forward lean at the hips accompanied by complaints of tightness in the lower back and front of the thighs.  Holding a pvc pipe or dowel overhead while performing some deep breaths can help reduce muscle tone in the hips and torso.   Perform two or three, thirty second holds at every training session for the next six weeks

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press

The tall kneeling Pallof press is an anti rotation core stability exercise that helps recruit the postural muscles that keep us upright and tall.  Lack of isometric strength-endurance in the spinal muscles is a primary contributor to back injuries.  This exercise will improve that component of spinal function.

Place your knees on an Airex pad and set up in kneeling position.  Use either a cable unit or resistance tubing set at a level even with your sternum while you are in the kneeling position.  The tubing should be directly to your right and slightly behind the body.  Use a double overlap grip on the handle and hold at chest level.  Press the tubing out to arms length and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of fifteen repetitions without losing the set up posture.  Rest and then repeat on the other side.

Tall Kneeling Anti Extension Holds

The pelvis is a bowl and the torso rests on the top of the bowl.  You need a pelvic position that makes stabilization of the torso over the pelvis effortless and automatic.  The tall kneeling isometric hold aligns your pelvis under the torso.

Kneel on an Airex pad.  Hold a kettlebell, dumbbell or Iron Grip Plate behind your back.  It is difficult to prescribe a load.  Twenty pounds may be too easy and five pounds may be too much.  My suggestion is that you err on the lighter side of the load equation.  Stay in the loaded kneeling position for at least thirty seconds.  Lower the weight, walk around, and take inventory of how you feel.  Repeat for another thirty seconds.

See video demonstration of these exercises: here

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Seven Habits for Long Term Success–Part 1

There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets that have been used throughout history. The intent of most diets is to lose weight and bodyfat. Diets that “work” will reduce your intake of calories. This can be done by reducing or eliminating certain food groups, types of food, or macronutrients. If the diet reduces caloric intake enough, then an individual will lose weight and body fat. A good diet will encourage the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins, but these aren’t mandatory for weight loss and fat loss. The problem with dieting alone is that good nutritional skills and habits are not typically emphasized so they do not last. Once the “diet” ends, then we revert back to old broken habits and lose all of our progress.

At Fenton Fitness, we utilize the Precisions Nutrition system of habit-based nutrition coaching. We know that in order to change, our actions need to change. And in order to make lasting changes, actions need to remain changed. This is where a habit-based approach comes in. Most people know how to eat better or what they can do to lose weight. What they lack are the skills and action steps to make that a reality. With our Nutrition Coaching clients, we have a 52-week curriculum that helps clients work through obstacles and motivations. We introduce new habits every two weeks along with daily lessons that reinforce and teach the importance of each habit. Each habit builds off of the previous one, mastering one before moving on. For most people, two weeks is a good time frame to get a good grip on each habit, but If there is difficulty, we simply spend more time on that habit until the client is ready to move on.

The six habits which back up the foundation of our program will take most of our clients twelve weeks to work through. These six habits will serve anyone looking to improve their eating habits and can be adapted to virtually any food preference and goal. This series will describe the basics of our program.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Take Time:
I hear it over and over from our clients: “I’m busy, I don’t have time to eat right.” I get it. You’re busy, we’re busy too. When you’re busy, you need to have a plan to get the important stuff done because getting into shape won’t happen by accident. Remember, nobody is going to “give” you time. You have to take that time. Create time, carve it out, grab it, defend it like a mad man once you’ve got it. Because that time is an appointment with YOU.

Here’s what a many people find about setting that time aside. Making time puts YOU in control.
Whatever your reasons for being busy (and rushed), I’m sure they’re good ones (except maybe that netflix or social media binge time). And whatever your reason, today is the day you start a new relationship with “busy”. Today, by making time, you start to take control back. Control of your life, and your time. The kind of control that will eventually make you feel more focused, more confident, more in charge, and ultimately… happier.

You need time to change your body. One more reason to make time: getting healthier, fitter, and in better shape is a slow process. You’ve got to put in the work, be patient, and persistent. But remember: If you want to change your body, being consistent is more important than anything else. So get in the habit of making that time, consistently, starting today.

Slow Down: (week 1-2)
It’s so simple, you won’t believe it, but it works. At every meal today, eat more slowly than you normally do. Today, and for the next two weeks, focus on doing this habit. Keep doing your first habit (making time). In the PN Coaching system, habits are cumulative–they build on each other, one by one. So a new habit doesn’t mean ditch the old one. A new habit means you simply add one more tool to your tool belt. In other words, keep doing your first habit: making time.

How to eat slowly: At each meal today, take a few extra minutes to simply pause (Here’s where your “make time” habit comes in handy.). Put your utensils down between each bite. Take a breath. When you take a bite, notice, and enjoy the taste and texture of the food.
Then put down those utensils again, and take another breath, or a sip of water. Relax, wait a few more moments before picking up your utensils again and repeat. That’s it. Quick tip: Try a timer.

If you’d like to track your progress with this habit, try simply timing yourself today.
Check your watch before you start eating. Or start a timer. When you’re done eating, see how long you took. Now you have a baseline for improvement! If you add only one minute per day, by the end of two weeks you’ll have added nearly 15 minutes more. Smooth ‘n’ easy.

Help yourself succeed. Eating slowly is one of the most important habits of the PN system. But in a rushing-around and busy society, it’s hard to remember at first. Changing a habit will take a little extra effort in the beginning, and that’s OK. That’s why we recommend at least two weeks on this habit. Here’s how to stay on track:
1. Make a note of your goal to eat slowly on a Post-it note, your computer, or your phone.
2. Put it somewhere that you’ll see it often, especially before you eat.
3. If you’ve used your computer or phone, set a reminder to go off before your regular meal times.
4. During your meal, try using a timer to check how fast you’re eating.
5. You can also use an app. Here is one we like: EatSlowly (for iphone)
6. Having a bit more information about what you’re actually doing can help you track your improvement with this habit over the next couple of weeks.
7. Even if you add only one minute per meal, that counts as progress!

Will That Machine Help Me?

Home Gym Hints

Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question.  Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine?  Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely.  Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos.  I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.

Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?

If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit.  Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting.  If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem.  Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center.  Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.

Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?

Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter.  You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year.  Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit.  If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.

Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?

The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”.   The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August.  The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response.   The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness.  After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis.  Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Real Core Training Part Four

Anti-Rotation

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Rotation

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press: Grab some elastic tubing or a cable (anchored to something sturdy) and assume a tall kneeling position.  Hold with both hands and press outward away from body.  Do not allow your body to twist or rotate.  Increase load or stretch on tubing to increase difficulty.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Half Kneeling Pallof Press: Set up in a half kneeling position.  Use the same execution as the tall kneeling version.  Make sure that you don’t allow your legs/hips to lean or twist.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Standing Pallof Press: Assume an athletic stance with your feet just outside of shoulder width, slight bend in the knees, and slightly flexed at the hips.  Execute the same movement as you would for the tall or half kneeling Pallof press. Work up to 12 reps per side.

One Leg Pallof Press: Stand on one leg with the other leg flexed at 90 degrees at the foot, knee, and hip.  Execute the Pallof press the same way as the standing Pallof press. This is a much more a balance and overall body stability drill.  Tension/resistance will need to be reduced.  Be slow and gradual with your increases in load, volume, or frequency to allow your knee time to adapt.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

PUPP with alternating arm raise:  Assume a push up position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.  Raise one arm out in front of your body while maintaining spine and pelvic positions.  A wider feet position makes the movement more stable and easier, while a narrower foot position increases difficulty.  You can also slow the movement to increase difficulty.  Remember, top priority is no hip/spine movement before trying to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 per side.

Landmine Anti-Rotations:  Place a barbell in a landmine and assume an athletic position.  Press the landmine away from your body and slowly make a rainbow arching pattern moving the barbell from one hip to the other.  Make sure that only your shoulder/elbow joints move, everything else stays stiff.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Crawl: Get on your hands and knees with your toes dug into the ground.  Lift your knees slightly off the ground.  Keeping your back flat and stable, move your opposite hand and foot to crawl forward or backward.  Work up to 50 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part Three

Anti-Extension

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Exension

Supine Bent Knee March

Lay on your back and lift your legs off the ground with your knees and hips at 90 degree angles.  Posteriorly tilt your hips so that your low back is pressed firmly into the ground.  Slowly lower one heel to the ground keeping your knee at 90 degrees and not allowing your low back to lift off the floor.  Bring this leg back up and repeat on the other side.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Bent Leg Dead Bug

Assume the same position as the previous exercise.  Reach your arms straight up to the ceiling.  Keep your low back pressed into the floor and straighten one leg, getting the heel as close to the ground as possible without touching.  Simultaneously reach the opposite arm overhead without quite touching the ground.

Straight Leg Dead Bug

Lay on your back with your legs and arms all reaching up toward the ceiling.  Keep your leg straight. and slowly lower it toward the ground while simultaneously reaching overhead with the opposite arm.  Don’t allow your foot or arm to rest on the ground, and keep your low back pressed into the floor.

Hollow Body Hold

Lay on your back and press your low back into the floor.  Lift your feet, shoulders, and arms off the floor, keeping your low back pressed into the floor.  Keep your feet and arms as close to the ground as possible while also keeping your low back on the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Plank

Lay on your stomach and place your elbows under your shoulders.  Put your feet together and lift your hips off the ground.  Maintain neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine positions. Contract your glutes, pull your ribs down with a forceful exhalation, and try to pull your elbows toward your toes (they won’t actually move) to engage your lats.  Try to create maximum full body tension.  Hold for up to 30 seconds.

Long Lever Plank

Use the same set up and execution as the plank, except that the elbows will be farther out in front of the shoulders.  The farther forward the elbows, the harder this will be.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Body Saw

Use the set up the same as the plank only with carpet sliders under your toes.  Use your shoulders to slide yourself into the long lever position and then slide back.  Make sure you maintain spinal and pelvis positioning during the whole movement.  Work up to 12 reps.

Physioball Rollouts

Start in a tall kneeling position with a Physioball at arm’s length in front of you.  Pull your ribs down and engage your glutes.  Allow your body to fall forward by letting your hands and forearms roll up onto the ball.  Once you feel you are going to break lumbopelvic positioning, reverse the movement to get you back to your starting position.  Work up to 10 reps.

TRX Fallouts

Use the same set up as with the physioball, but use a suspension trainer instead.  Set up with straps at mid-thigh height.  Execute in the same manner.  Lower the strap starting position to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 reps.

Ab Wheel/Dolly Rollouts

Set up on your knees with your hands on an ab wheel or dolly and place your hands directly under your shoulders.  Begin to fall forward by flexing the shoulder (overhead) and extending the hips.  Go forward as far as possible without losing spinal positioning and then reverse movement back to the start.  Make sure shoulder and hip joints extend/flex at the same speed.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Save Your Back When Shoveling Snow

Improve Your Snow Shoveling Mechanics to Avoid Injury

‘Tis the season for hot cocoa, warm fires, and lots of snow. With snow comes shoveling, and unfortunately with shoveling comes injury. It is estimated that there are over 11,000 hospital visits each year due to injuries while shoveling snow. This number does not even include the thousands of people that see their primary care doctor with the onset of an injury. Many of these medical visits involve the low back including complaints of pain with movement, leg numbness, and the inability to maintain the proper posture. Lumbar injuries while shoveling are often due to the combination of repeated flexion and rotation of the spine. Adding the load of snow and having poor spine stabilization during the lift results in overload on the structures of the lumbar spine and resultant injury. Here are three exercises you can use to improve your shoveling mechanics in order to spend more time sipping cocoa by the fire, and less time in a physician’s waiting room.

  1. Hip Hinge – a proper movement pattern to bend forward and push snow involves flexion at the hips and knees, while maintaining a more neutral spine.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Using a broom stick, golf club, or wooden dowel, place the stock along your lumbar spine.
  • The stick should come in contact with the back of your head, mid-thoracic spine (between your shoulder blades), and at the sacrum/mid-buttock.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, hinge your hips by driving your buttock backwards, while maintaining the three points of contact throughout the movement.
  • Perform ten repetitions

Common mistakes: squatting versus hinging – try and minimize knee bend. Your buttock should move backwards, not down.

Losing contact with the stick – if you notice the stick is leaving the sacrum the spine is flexing. Slow down the movement and move only as far as you can with contact.

  1. Isometric Hip Bridge – once you have properly bent forward to push and load the snow, using the buttock and hamstring muscles to lift the snow will decrease strain of muscles of the lower back.
  • Start lying on your back, knees bent, and hands raised straight in the air.
  • Push through your heels driving your hips upwards, hold for 5-10 seconds, and return. Repeat this movement 10 times.
  • If you find that you feel this more in the low back than the legs or buttocks, try squeezing a pillow at your knees during the lift.
  1. Rotational Step – now that you have properly bent to load the snow, and used the proper muscles to lift it, increasing rotation at the hips to move the snow versus rotating through the lumbar spine will reduce torsional strain on the vertebral discs and spinal stabilizers.
  • Begin by standing in an athletic stance with your feet shoulder width apart and slight bend in your knees.
  • Keeping one foot in place, open up through your hips by stepping to the side and backwards. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the feet.
  • Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, being mindful not to bend forward or rotate through the spine.
  • Perform 10 repetitions to each side.

See video demonstration of these exercises: here

Sean Duffey, DPT

Clinic Director, Ivy Rehab, Ortonville

Ho Ho More Go

Holiday Gifts for the Fit and Soon to be Fit

I was recently asked to write up my recommendations for the fitness fanatic on the holiday gift list.  All of these suggestions are products I currently own and use on a consistent basis.  I would be very happy to be the recipient of any of these gifts.

Power Blocks
Dumbbell training is one of the most effective forms of exercise.  The big limitation of dumbbell training is the cost of buying a series of varying dumbbell weights and the space required to store 10 – 15 sets.  PowerBlock has solved this problem.  A set of PowerBlocks occupies less than three square feet of your home, and depending on the size you purchase, replaces 10 – 25 pairs of traditional dumbbells.  I have put some heavy use on a set of PowerBlocks that I purchased in 1992.  They have functioned flawlessly and show minimal wear.  A beginner set of PowerBlocks (5-32 pounds) cost $330 and you can add an expansion set as you get stronger.  My thirteen-year old self would have loved to get a set of PowerBlocks for Christmas.

Purmotion Air Fit Pro
The creation of the suspension trainer set off a mini revolution in fitness.  The Purmotion Air Fit Pro ($250.00) is different than other suspension trainers in that it has a high quality metal pulley built into the system.  The pulley introduces a rotational demand that is rarely addressed in traditional training.  Purmotion (purmotion.net) makes many different straps and handles that can be used with the Air Fit.  The three dimensional resistance provided by the Air Fit Pro is unique.  I bought my first Air Fit Pro seven years ago and it still functions flawlessly and shows not sign of wear.

Personal Training
Numerous studies have shown that individuals that utilize professional guidance are more successful in reaching fitness goals.  No one performs exercises correctly after only one training session.  You need ongoing evaluation and progression on proper exercise performance.  Older and physically limited individuals need the assistance of a trainer more than any other group.  Our team of trainers and physical therapists can help anyone reach their fitness goals.  Our Christmas gift certificate cards can be used for any of the training programs at the club.  Team training sessions and personal training packages make great gifts.

Massage Stick
If you consistently exercise, one of the best things you can do to enhance recovery is perform some form of soft tissue work.  Targeted stick work is the recovery ingredient that alleviates pain and restores mobility.  The older you are, the harder you work and the more frequently you train, the more you will benefit from some daily stick work.  I like The Stick from performbetter.com ($30 – 50)—it is a well built product.  We use these tools every day in our physical therapy clinics and I have never had one break.

Airex Mat
Getting up and down off the floor is an essential movement skill.  Lose the motor control for this basic task and all sorts of independence issues start to happen.  Everyone should have a quality floor mat as a training tool.  Airex makes many different sizes that are all treated to minimize microbial activity.  A basic mat can be purchased for $80.00.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Real Core Training Part Two

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Bent Knee Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and line your knees up below your hips.  Lift your hips off the ground and hold.  Work up to 45 seconds.

Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and straighten your legs out.  Stack your legs on top of each other and lift your hips off the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg Elevated

Position yourself in the same set up as the side plank.  Once your hips are lifted off the ground, you will move your top leg away from the bottom leg.  Make sure that you don’t flex either hip when raising the top leg.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg on Bench

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder.  Place your top leg on top of a bench.  Lift your hips off the ground.  The bottom leg can squeeze the bottom of the bench or dangle in the air.

Suitcase Hold

Grab a KB/DB in one hand, stand tall, and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Make sure your shoulder blades stay down and back.  If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to ensure you aren’t leaning.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Suitcase Carry

Assume the same set up as the suitcase hold.  Start walking with a normal gait.  Make sure to not lean excessively.  Start with 20 yards per side and work up to 100 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part One

Anti-Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Flexion

Kettlebell/Dumbbell (KB/DB) Throat Holds

Grab a KB/DB and hold it in the goblet position directly under your chin.  Stand tall and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position.  Don’t allow the weight to rest on your chest.  Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.

KB/DB Throat Carry

Once you’ve mastered Throat Holds, you are ready to walk.  Position yourself in the same set up, but now you are going to walk while maintaining the same upper body posture and a normal gait.  Start with 20 yards and work your way up to 100.

Hyperextension Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Set yourself up on the hyperextension bench with the thigh pad below your hips and above your knees.  Assume a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Hold this position for up to 45 seconds before adding weight.

Glute Ham Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Position yourself in the same setup as with the hyperextension bench but use the glute ham developer bench. Work up to 30 second holds before adding weight.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Bonus

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Bonus:

The last four exercises I want cover are not traditional resistance training exercises, but they can have a dramatic impact on your movement, decrease discomfort, and just help make you a more awesome and higher functioning individual.

Lateral Squat– Most standard exercises are done bilaterally (2 hands or feet moving together) and in the sagittal plane of movement.  We want to make sure to also incorporate the frontal and transverse planes when training.  The Lateral Squat gets us into the frontal plane and strengthens the often neglected adductor muscles (groin/inner thigh muscles), as well as hitting the glutes in a direction they normally don’t get worked.

Crawling– Crawling is fundamental to human development.  We learn to do it before we walk or run.  We also start to lose this ability as we age.  By continuing to crawl, we can keep important neurological pathways working, as well as strengthen our core, upper body, and legs in a relatively low stress way.

Get Ups– The best-known form of this exercise is the Turkish Get Up.  However, it doesn’t need to be that complicated or technical.  Simply lying on the floor and getting up a variety of different ways can go a long way in maintaining core strength, and whole-body mobility.

Farmers or Suitcase Carry– The Farmers and Suitcase Carry are great tools for building a stronger gait, improving grip strength, core strength, and stability.  The Suitcase Carry, because of its asymmetrical loading, adds a great anti-lateral flexion component that really challenges the obliques to lock down and hold the ribs in place.

View video of these exercises: View Video

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