Most of us drive, commute, do computer work, watch television, and often sleep in the same position. We become stuck in a forward-flexed thoracic spine posture that rotates the shoulder blades downward and pushes the head forward. Long term postural flaws will limit your strength and functional mobility, and they are the precursor to many of the pain problems we treat in physical therapy. Your fitness program should eliminate and not feed into these postural problems. I have some postural restoration training suggestions that nearly anyone can implement in his/her fitness program.
Many strength coaches and physical therapists have found that performing a mobility exercise followed by an activation (strengthening) exercise produces more expedient changes in postural flaws. Your goal is to increase the restricted movement pattern and then strengthen through the newly acquired range of motion.
Foam Roll T and Band Pull Apart
Position lengthwise on a foam roll. The head, spine, and hips should all be supported. Bring the arms out to the side so that the elbows are even with the shoulders and bent to 90 degrees. Let the shoulders relax and permit gravity alone to pull the arms toward the floor. Attempt to keep the forearms parallel to the floor and the elbows at 90 degrees. Stretch for 20 seconds and then bring the elbows together in front of your body. Repeat for three to five repetitions. The foam roll stretch will increase the mobility of the shoulder girdles and correct upper thoracic and cervical posture. You should eventually be able to get the elbows to the floor.
Immediately after the foam roll mobility exercise, perform ten band pull aparts. Stand tall with the chest proud and the head pulled back. Hold the band with the palms to the sky, elbows extended and the hands just below shoulder level. Concentrate your efforts on the muscles between your shoulder blades as you pull the band apart and bring the hands out to the side. The tempo of the exercise should be controlled–two counts to pull the band apart and two counts to return to the starting position. Choose a resistance band that is fairly easy and focus on making the motion smooth. If you sit at a desk all day keep a band at work and perform a few sets of band pull aparts every day.
Use this set of exercises as a stand alone daily posture restoration activity or as a warm up before more aggressive shoulder strengthening exercises. It is far more effective and less likely to cause harm than the commonly performed ballistic, windmill flailing, shoulder warm ups that every physical therapist is happy to see in the gym.
For foam roll and band pull apart demonstrations, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
At the clinic, I have always had a standard seated workstation. For the last three years, I have been using a standing desk in my home office. I feel much better, and I am far more productive when I work at the standing desk. It took four weeks to get used to the position of the mouse, keyboard, and monitor at the standing desk but all of the initial difficulties have passed, and I am now a standing desk convert.
Human physiology was designed to function under the physical demands of standing and walking. Much of the now rampant obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome can be linked to our species’ sudden fall into sustained sitting. Some of the statistics on the damaging effects of sustained sitting are distressing.
If you have a desk job you are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular diseases as those who stand.
People who sit all day have high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) levels that are 22% lower than people who stand.
The enzyme lipase breaks down the fat circulating in your bloodstream. Researchers at the University of Missouri found lipase activity drops by 90% with as little as 20 minutes of sitting. The circulating fat that is not acted on by lipase is stored as fat or deposited on the arterial walls.
Circulatory problems in the lower extremities, such as deep vein thrombosis, are 3 times more prevalent in people who sit for more than eight hours a day.
A Harvard research study found that men who spend more than forty hours a week sitting are three times more likely to develop Type II diabetes. The numbers were not better if the subjects exercised three times a week indicating that we are unable to counteract the negative metabolic effects of prolonged sitting with exercise.
Prolonged sitting creates multiple postural pain problems. Postural Stress Disorder (PSD) is the new term given to the pain created by seated office work. In our physical therapy clinics, we are seeing more and more patients with face, head, neck, shoulder, back, and hip pain associated with prolonged sitting.
We are de-evolving into a nation of sitters. Between internet, television, driving, and computer work, it is not uncommon for many of my physical therapy patients and fitness clients to sit for ten hours a day. Unfortunately, you cannot train away the bad effects of prolonged sitting with a 45 minute session of exercise.
My suggestion is to invest in a workstation that allows you to stand for most of the day. If you must sit get up and move often—every fifteen minutes is the suggested duration from the researchers.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Mike’s 11th Mini Met-Con workout, Kwick Knick, ends this series.
Stay tuned for the next round!
For more information, click on the link below:
I recently got a call from an orthopedic surgeon who wanted to know all about kipping pull ups. Over the last two months he has repaired four shoulders that were injured while participating in this exercise. I informed him he was not alone and that we have treated several fitness-minded patients with shoulder injuries related to kipping pull ups.
The kipping pull up is a gymnastic derived exercise that uses momentum to help lift the body up to the bar. The benefit of kipping is that it helps improve upper body power production capacity. Power is different than simple strength. Power is the ability to produce force in a short period of time. Kipping style pull ups have become popular with the spread of the CrossFit culture. They are often performed at high speeds in an effort to complete as many repetitions as possible in a timed protocol. Kipping pull ups are frequently programmed into workouts that involve weight training activities.
While I am certain that a kipping pull up can help improve upper body power production, the stress it places on the shoulder joint puts this exercise on the bad side of the risk/reward ratio. The first commandment of fitness is to not get injured while training. A torn labrum, ripped rotator cuff, or avulsed bicep tendon will halt your training for months and could permanently alter your capacity to use the upper extremity. On the financial side, a shoulder surgery and rehabilitation is an easy ten thousand dollar bill.
“But gymnasts do kipping pull ups”
Gymnasts start training at an early age (four or five years old). They have developed an elite level of shoulder strength, stability, range of motion, and thoracic spine mobility. They have minimal body fat so they are lifting lighter loads. They are not Olympic lifting and kettlebell training along with performing kipping pull ups. They do not perform timed kipping pull up challenge tests.
The Real World
The average fitness client has never done any overhead pulling strength or power training. Most are unable to perform a single strict pull up and have horrible thoracic spine mobility. Their shoulders have significant glenohumeral joint stability issues and a great number of them have associated cervical pain problems. Magnetic resonance imaging of non-painful shoulders in 30 plus year olds finds over a third have positive findings for labral injuries and partial rotator cuff tears. Also, none of the patients I have treated with kipping pull up related injuries were close to the body fat percentages of gymnasts.
If you want to get better at pull ups and chin ups, I suggest you start with standard parallel grip pull ups. Use a large resistance band or a dip/chin assist machine to help improve your performance. Get your body composition dialed in and your pull up performance will improve.
Click on the link below to view kipping gone wrong:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Success in any fitness program is based on consistency. Train, eat, sleep, repeat produces amazing results if carried out over a long period of time. Several studies have found that those of us who exercise in the morning miss fewer workouts and are more dedicated to a fitness lifestyle. When you exercise in the morning no unscheduled life events have a chance to develop which often happens when you work out in the afternoon. While everyone else is dozing, you can train and no one misses you at home or work. It takes the guilt out of spending time on yourself instead of tending to the needs of your family, work, and home.
Many people look at those of us who exercise in the morning as beings from another planet–my wife included. They are unable to fathom how we can get out of a warm bed in the morning and participate in any type of activity. After discussing this with several morning-only exercise members at the gym, we have some suggestions:
If you want to exercise early and still make it through your day, you must hit the hay at least an hour earlier.
Get Up As Soon As Possible
Move your alarm clock far away from your bed. Resist hitting the snooze alarm. Stand up as quickly as you can and start the preparation process.
Lay Out Your Clothes the Night Before
Get your fitness clothes and shoes ready before retiring for the evening. If you want to bring a hydration drink, get it ready the night before and have it waiting in the refrigerator. Nearly every morning exercise participant states that the hardest part of training in the morning is getting dressed and out the door.
Training in the morning usually involves colder temperatures, so put on some extra layers of clothing that you can peel off as you heat up during the training session.
Some Sort of Breakfast
A hard lesson learned by many of us AM exercisers is that training on an empty stomach can lead to a sudden blood sugar crash. The breakfast suggestions from my morning training team vary; however, the common denominators are hydration in the form of coffee, juice, tea, or water and an easy to digest carbohydrate meal. Common pre-training breakfasts include: Tea and half a bagel, a juice blender drink, or cereal and coffee.
Morning exercise people are rarely successful training at home. There are too many distractions, and you end up waking your family. We go to the track, gym, pool, or open road, but we all get out of the house.
A Longer Warm Up
After spending six to eight hours in bed, your muscles and joints will be stiff and the neural system sluggish. You need to dedicate more time warming up when you exercise in the morning. Become familiar with movement preparation activities. Schedule an assessment with Jeff Tirrell, our Program Director, for more information. I also highly recommend reading books by Mark Verstegen or visiting the Exos website. Expect to spend at least ten or twelve minutes on movement preparation before diving into the pool, running on the track, or lifting weights.
-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Dropping body fat/weight is listed as a top goal for 80-90% of the people I have talked to over my 16 years in the fitness industry. When I got my first gym membership, I was one of them. This can be a good and admirable goal, but it must be done right. When most of us make the decision to lose weight, we tend to go overboard. Though moderation is almost always best, we turn our whole world upside down. We eliminate entire food groups from our diet, totally revamp our grocery list, and go from no exercise to working out 6-7 days/week –sometimes twice a day. I speak from experience as a former competitive bodybuilder. My weight would regularly fluctuate 50-65 lbs in a year’s time (off-season to onstage weight). The competition diet was so restrictive and severe that there was no way to maintain it. The same thing is found in many of the boot camp and weight loss challenges that pop up in the fitness world. The quicker you lose weight, the sooner you can get into those smaller jeans, right? Not so fast.
The best remedy is keeping weight loss slow and steady. Layne Norton, PhD in Nutrition Science, recommends no more than a 1% loss of body weight /week. The more weight you lose the slower your journey should be. For example, a 150 lb female should not lose more than 1.5 lbs/week and this amount will decrease as she loses more weight. If you have participated in any of our training programs, read any of our newsletters or Mike’s blog, you should have a decent grasp on the exercise/movement portion. So, where do we start with nutrition?
World renowned expert dietician, Dr. John Berardi, gives the following advice: Don’t eliminate anything. Start by correcting deficiencies. Water intake, vitamins and minerals, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids are the most common areas of deficiency. Water intake should amount to at least ½ oz per pound of bodyweight. Adding a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement can help when calorie counts are low or there is a lack of variety in food choices. Protein intake should be a minimum of ½ gram per pound of bodyweight, though extremely active individuals may need more. If fish isn’t a weekly part of your diet, a good fish oil supplement can keep your omega-3 fatty acids at a healthy level. Once you’ve eliminated any deficiencies, take a look at your plate. The following recommendations are from Dr. Berardi’s company, Precision Nutrition. They are sensible and easy to follow:
6 palm sized portions of lean protein/day (size and thickness)
6 fist sized portions of fibrous vegetables/day
6 thumb sized portions of fat per day (oils, butter, nuts, etc)
6 cupped hands of carbohydrates/day (berries, potatoes, rice, bread, etc)
4 palm sized portions of lean protein/day
3 fist sized portions of fibrous vegetables/day
4 thumb sized portions of fat/day
3 cupped hands of carbohydrates/day
Start with these numbers and then adjust as needed, adding more if you are losing weight too quickly and subtracting if you aren’t losing enough.
Fenton Fitness is your partner as you strive to reach your fitness/nutrition goals. Take a look at the nutrition tips we have posted at the gym. If you have questions or need guidance, please schedule your assessment today.
-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS
Improve horizontal pulling strength. Enhance stability in the shoulders.
Strengthen the Deltoids, Traps, Rhomboids, Teres, Minor, and Bicep muscles. Improve neurological control that stabilizes the shoulder joint.
Grab a pair of TRX handles. Firmly grip the handles and lean back. Keep a straight line from your ear, shoulder, hips, knee and ankle.
Pull your hands toward your ears/face. As you pull, turn your wrist so that you finish with the back of your knuckles to your ears. You should finish with your elbows high, squeezing your shoulders together at the top.
Taking too steep of an angle; not rotating the wrist; lacking control; allowing hips to drop.
-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS
Program Director, Jeff Tirrell, demonstrates the right and wrong of the overhead press.
Click on the link below to view:
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” –John Wooden
Amy Warner, Jeff Tirrell, and I recently attended the three day Perform Better Summit in Chicago. This gathering showcases presentations from experts in the fields of fitness, sports medicine, athletic training, nutrition, and rehabilitation. All of these presenters work with clients and patients on a daily basis and, as is often the case, their “in the trenches” experience precedes the findings of research studies. I attend the Summit every year and always walk away with new ideas and knowledge. We present a brief review of some of the more memorable aspects of the presentations.
Mike Boyle, Body By Boyle Performance Centers and Strength Coach for the Boston Red Sox
- Know and be able to teach a progression and, more importantly, a regression of every exercise.
- Don’t put load on top of poor movement. If the movement looks bad you must fix it before you load it.
- If you are not foam rolling your athletes, you are a dumbass!
- Power training is essential if you train older adults, but you must choose the appropriate method. Know the risk / benefit ratio of your power activity selection.
- The purpose of the program is to reduce injuries and improve performance. We are not trying to create power lifters, Olympic lifters, bodybuilders, or strongmen. We are trying to create athletes. Strength training is simply a means to an end.
The Best Functional Exercises In the World
Gray Cook, MPT, OCS, CSCS, Co-Founder of the Functional Movement Screen
We need functional exercise because we erode our environment to make life easier:
- Posture fails because we slouch in chairs.
- Endurance falters because we simply do more of it instead of performing it better.
- Coordination dissipates because we train in a supported state or, worse, sitting down.
- Strength is blunted as we perform all tasks with exterior support and easy access handles.
1. Balance beam
2. Bottoms up kettlebell activities
3. Farmers carry
4. Indian club exercises
5. Jump rope
6. Bear crawl—especially uphill
7. Turkish Get Up
8. Overhead carries
1. Push ups
2. Pull ups
4. Push press
6. Agility work—physical jigsaw puzzle
Cracking the Coordination Code: Pre Pubescent Athletes
Brett Klika, CSCS, Creator of Spiderfitkids
- Coordination is how the brain synchronizes and controls movements through muscular activation. It is a set of physical skills that can be practiced, learned and improved.
- Neural plasticity is at a high point between ages six and twelve.
- PAWs–Preferential Adaptation Windows– are age phases in which certain coordinative skills can be preferentially developed.
- Accelerated periods of brain maturation: 15-24 months, 6-8years, 10-12 years, 18 years.
- If you take children and enhance their movement efficiency and performance, then you increase the likelihood of participation, reduce the propensity to become obese, and make injury less of a concern.
How To Develop Agile Strength
Michol Dalcourt, University of Alberta Exercise Physiologist, Founder and Director of the Institute of Motion, Creator of the Vipr
- The shape and stability of the human body is produced by the myofascia systems that are woven through the body.
- The layers of fascia are connected to the nerves that transmit signals of tensile stress and compression that occur as we move.
- Muscles rely on nerve sensitivity and nerves rely on the fascial sensitivity.
- Agile strength involves loading and unloading the myofascial lines is a three dimensional activity that trains the muscles, nerves and fascial systems to work together as a team.
- Athletic activities are multiplanar and three dimensional, but most training is uniplanar and one dimensional.
- Get better at creating better fascia-nerve-muscle communication and you become better at all activities. Not just weight room strong but farm boy strong.
Paleo, Vegan, Intermittent Fasting: What’s the Best Diet?
Dr. John Berardi, PhD, CSCS, Founder of Precision Nutrition–my favorite source for nutrition information
- There’s no such thing as a universal best diet.
- Most popular diets have a lot in common.
- Coaches should never lock into a single philosophy.
- Habit-based coaching is better than diet-based coaching.
- Proper nutritional coaching involves formulating a plan based on your needs, what you want to accomplish, how you live, and what is personally important.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
I was driving home from work last week and found four bicyclists down on the side of the road. One of the riders had moved over to avoid a car and that was enough to create a chain reaction with his fellow riders. Of the four riders, only two were wearing helmets. One of the riders had a fairly bad gash on the side of his head. An ambulance took the two without helmets off to the hospital.
After witnessing the aftermath of that car-bicycle interaction, I traded in my ten year old bicycle helmet and purchased a new Bern helmet. During a recent trip to New York City, I saw many bicycle riders wearing these helmets. Bern helmets are low profile and fit better than any other helmet I have tried. This new helmet covers more of my head, yet it feels well ventilated and cool. I do have the advantage of not being insulated by hair.
Helmetless bike riders tell me they are “extra careful” and that they “stay off busy roads”. They are making a major mistake. The problem is not the bike rider. The problem is the car driver. People driving cars are not looking for bicyclists. They are on autopilot–listening to the radio, talking on the phone, and texting. Most of us never see something unless we are actively looking for it. Watch this video and assess your level of awareness.
As a physical therapist, I get to work with individuals who have suffered closed head injuries. Nothing creates a more sudden and long lasting change in your world like an impact to your cranium. It does not take that much in the way of force to permanently alter the way you move, think, react to stress, and generally function during the day. Falling off a bicycle can create more than enough force to scramble your neurons for the rest of your life. If in the past you did not use a helmet because of the appearance, I urge you to look at a Bern and some of the new low profile helmets. Buy your kids a good helmet and make them wear it whenever they get on their bikes. Be a good example and use a helmet whenever you ride.
To test your awareness, click on the link below: