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Training Your Inner Fireman

HIIT Methods: Jacob’s Ladder

At one time, we could all crawl and we did it very well.  An infant develops the strength and coordination necessary to stand upright and walk by crawling.  The reciprocal arm/leg crawl pattern of the Jacob’s Ladder helps restore joint stability, coordination, and balance.  All of us have established neural pathways for crawling.  They are just cluttered up and inhibited by prior injuries, poor posture, bad training habits, and a sedentary lifestyle.  Performing some Jacob’s Ladder intervals will bring those pathways back to life.

The Jacob’s Ladder is a 40 degree inclined total body conditioning activity.  The ladder is self-propelled, and your position on the ladder sets the pace of the climb.  Wrap the belt around your waist with the emblem set over the side of your right hip.  Adjust the white section of the strap so that it matches your height.  Step onto the ladder and start climbing.  Initially, place the hands on the side rails and get use to climbing with just the legs.  Once you get comfortable with the stride pattern, progress to using the hands on the rungs.  Work on improving your coordination and form during the initial Jacob’s Ladder sessions.  When you are ready to stop, simply ride the ladder to the bottom and the ladder will stop.  Listed below are some of the HIIT sessions that work well with the Jacobs Ladder.

Five Climbs
Pick a distance, 100-200 feet works well for most fitness clients.  Start the stopwatch and climb 100-200 feet and  then rest.  Repeat four more times and record your time to complete five climbs of 100-200 feet.

50 feet / 20 seconds rest
Climb fifty feet at a fast pace.  Rest twenty seconds and repeat.  Repeat for a total of six intervals.

Ladder Ladders  
This routine will help you develop better endurance.  Climb 100 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 200 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 300 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 400 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 500 feet and rest 60 seconds.  If you feel strong enough, climb back down; 400-300-200-100 feet.

Save My Baby Sprints
You are the fireman.  The building is on fire and the lady with the baby is at the window of the high rise.  Hold onto the side rails and sprint up to that baby in the window 200 feet up.  Rest 30 seconds and then go get another baby.  Your job is to save four babies.

View video of Mike on the Jacob’s Ladder here: https://youtu.be/rqYz0tmPIc8

For more information on the many benefits of high intensity interval training, read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Training Modifications That Help With Your Medication

Statin medications are amazingly effective at lowering blood lipids and have, undoubtedly, lengthened lives.  More doctors are recommending their patients start on these drugs at younger ages.  For a long time, we have known that a common side effect of cholesterol lowering statin drugs is severe muscle soreness after exercise.  Recent research on animal models has demonstrated that statin medications inhibit the beneficial muscle adaptations that occur with exercise.  If you are taking a statin drug, take the time to read Gretchen Reynolds’s interesting article in The New York Times, “A Fitness Downside to Statin Drugs?”  Over the years, I have found certain exercise modifications help reduce the muscle soreness symptoms in physical therapy and fitness clients who are taking statins.  The following recommendations may work for you.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is more pronounced with two types of training:  eccentric type muscle contractions (the muscle lengthens against resistance) and deceleration activities (landing from a jump, hop, or stride).  I have found that managing eccentric muscle contractions and reducing deceleration activity allows clients taking statins the ability to perform beneficial training with less discomfort.

Manage Eccentric Muscle Contractions

Eccentric contractions (the muscle lengthens against resistance) create more micro trauma to the muscle fibers, and it takes longer to recover from a bout of training that involves more eccentric repetitions.  Controlled pace, bodybuilding type muscle isolation training delivers eccentric loading in an effort to stimulate a hypertrophy response in the muscle.

Performing isometric strength training (no movement of the joints) completely eliminates the eccentric portion of an exercise.  Sled pulling and pushing has no eccentric component and many statin medicated fitness clients say this fairly intense fitness activity is well tolerated.  A suspension trainer works well to preferentially unload the eccentric portion of a squat or lunge movement pattern.  Strength training with resistance tubing creates an accommodated force curve that reduces eccentric loading of the muscles.  At FFAC, we have a Surge 360 that is a concentric only device that works all directions of a push or pull with no eccentric muscle stress.  A good fitness coach can find multiple ways to reduce the eccentric involvement of an exercise activity.

Reduce Impact

Impact activities produce high intensity, eccentric muscle contractions.  Land from a jump off a box and your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles must create a quick, coordinated contraction that slows your interaction with gravity.  Deceleration eccentric exercises create more muscle damage and repeated deceleration events are notorious for creating higher levels of delayed onset muscle soreness.

If you want to perform “cardio exercise,” choose the elliptical, Ski Erg, or one of the many types of bikes.  If you possess the mobility, use a Concept 2 rower.  Stay away from the impact of treadmill running and avoid jumping rope, jumping jacks, and any activity that involves both feet leaving the ground.  Medicine ball throws can be performed with minimal impact and produce an excellent muscular and neurological training response.  Avoid box jumps, Olympic lifts, and any other activity that creates an impact on your body.

Talk to Your Doctor

I have worked with many people who had a discussion with their doctor and a simple alteration of their statin medication resulted in far fewer side effects.  I am always surprised by how often patients are reluctant to report their symptoms of severe muscle soreness to their physician.

So those are the hints that have come from years of my work with physical therapy patients and fitness clients.  Stay off the wheel and stay healthy.

Read the NY Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/04/well/move/a-fitness-downside-to-statin-drugs.html

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Three Gifts I Would Give And Three I Would Take Away

Santa Gives You Gluteal Activation
You need a responsive and strong set of butt muscles to function at optimal levels. Many gym goers have gluteal muscles that are neurologically disconnected.  The term physical therapists and strength coaches use is “gluteal amnesia.”  Our sedentary lifestyle involves very little of the glute recruiting sprinting, deep squatting, and climbing that activates the butt muscles.  We mistreat our gluteal muscles with hours of compressive sitting and little in the way of full range hip movement.  Most fitness clients are in need of some intensive gluteal training.  The hip lift is a simple exercise activity that produces a superior response.  See the attached video for a demonstration.

Scrooge the Lumbar Spine Flexion
Drop the sit ups, stop doing crunches, ditch the glute ham developer sit ups, and forgo the toes to bar competitions.  Father time, gravity, and the stress of prolonged sitting are already bending our lumbar spines forward all day long.  The last thing you need to do is accelerate degenerative breakdown of the lumbar segments with more repetitions of spine flexion.  Please forget about isolating abdominal muscles.  Instead learn how to control the team of muscles that hold the lumbar spine stable.  It is a neural event that is worthy of all your efforts.

Santa Gives You Medicine Ball Throws
medballLife is an up tempo game.  What you do in the gym is reflected in how well you can move during activities of daily living.  If you continually exercise at slow tempos you will get better at moving slowly.  The capacity to decelerate a fall requires fast reactions.  Gracefully traveling up the stairs and getting out of the car are only improved with exercise that enhances power and speed of movement.  Medicine ball throws are the easiest way to improve power.  Medicine ball throws can be scaled to all fitness levels and are safe as long as you use a properly sized and weighted ball.  The large, soft Dynamax balls are a good choice for beginners.  They rebound well off of the block walls in the gym and are easy to catch.  Do not overload your medicine ball throws, a two to eight pound ball is best for most gym goers.  Get with one of the trainers for instruction on adding medicine ball throws to your training program.

Scrooge Sitting Down in the Gym
Movement happens in an upright, standing position.  “Seated exercise” is an oxymoron.  If you want to improve how your body functions, you must stand up and defy gravity. Every athletic endeavor is performed in a standing position. Seated exercise reinforces poor postural habits and diminishes your capacity to move.  I call it the “illusion of exercise” and it will always be highly visible in commercial gyms because it is easy to sell.

Santa Gives You Four-Point Training
Crawling is the neurological training tool an infant uses to develop the capacity to stand and walk.  It is the pathway to better motor control and less pain.  Nearly every physical therapy patient and most fitness clients benefit from a healthy dose of four-point position exercise.  In your fitness program, reinforce the patterns of spinal stability and reboot the postural reflexes with some horse stance horizontal, crawling, and Jacobs Ladder training.   Four-point training can be scaled to any fitness level.  Watch the attached video for some examples.

Scrooge Elliptical Training
I know you love the elliptical.  It is the no impact, cardio darling of the gym but it should be used as a fitness dessert and not a main course.  Elliptical training has multiple drawbacks.  Ergonomically, it is a one size for everyone apparatus that does not work well for taller or shorter people.  When you walk or run, you improve the important skill of stabilizing your body over one leg.  An elliptical keeps both feet stapled to the machine and deadens any neural enhancement of balance or single leg stability.  Hip extension keeps our back healthy and our body athletic.  Maintaining or improving hip extension should be part of every training session.  There is no hip extension produced when you train on an elliptical.  Many people maintain a flexed spine when they use an elliptical.  Sitting produces the flexed forward spine we all need to work against in our fitness programs.  The repetitive use of the shoulder girdle is a frequent generator of referrals to physical therapy for head and neck pain.  Metabolic adaptation to elliptical training happens fairly quickly.  In January, a 30 minute session burns 330 calories, but by June, your body becomes more efficient and that same routine creates only a 240 calorie deficit.  The low impact, reduced weight bearing nature of an elliptical makes it a poor choice in your fight against osteoporosis.

I am happy when people are more active.  Patients and fitness clients love the elliptical and they believe it helps.  Use that belief to keep you motivated and training.  I just want everyone to manage the drawbacks of this type of training.  Injured people always say “Why didn’t someone tell me?”  Before you jump on the elliptical, take ten minutes and improve your core stability and hip function with some four-point exercises and hip lifts.  Learn how to throw a medicine ball and stay standing through the rest of your training program.  Next Christmas you will thank me.

Merry Christmas and a Humbug to you.

See video of Mike in the gym demonstrating these exercises here: https://youtu.be/H0my94BPHNQ

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Health and Ergonomic Assist Gift That Get Used

I have some fitness and health promoting ergonomic gift recommendations for the 2016 holiday season.  I have used all of these products and have been happy with the results.  Most can be purchased on line and this allows you to devote more time to a fitness program.  In the tradition of all great holiday shoppers, I like to get one for me and another to give.

Personal Training
Giving a healthy holiday gift is easy at Fenton Fitness and Athletic Center.  Our Christmas gift certificates can be used for any of the training programs at the club.  Team training classes and personal training packages make great gifts.  Numerous studies have shown that individuals who 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 everyone reach their fitness goals.

Jungle Gym XT Suspension Trainer
The creation of user-friendly suspension trainers set off a mini revolution in fitness.  If you go into a fitness center and they do not have multiple suspension trainers readily available, you need to find a new gym.  The Lifeline Jungle Gym XT is an elegantly simple and extremely versatile device that should be a part of every home gym.  Suspension trainer exercises can be scaled to any level of fitness and are a valuable weapon in our fight against age, injury, and occupational stress.  At $90.00, the Jungle Gym XT wins the price war and, in my experience, it has worked well in both commercial and clinical conditions.

Aerocart by Worx
worx-toolsGardening and landscaping activities are responsible for many of the referrals to physical therapy.  The afflicted gardener has tweaked a lower back or strained a knee after hoisting a heavy object or spending too much time slumped over the flowerbeds.  A single ergonomic tool can help remedy both of those problems.  The Aerocart from Worx is a gardener’s Swiss Army Knife.  It functions as a lightweight wheelbarrow, handcart, rock lifter, snow plow, pull wagon, and gardening stool.   The Aerocart costs $140 and you can get a snow plow- my favorite- and the wagon attachments for another $100.  I have used this tool to push snow, haul firewood, rearrange rocks, and move soil.  The fact that the bucket does not hold mega volume prevents a user from overloading his spine.  This device will extend the gardening career of the avid weed puller on your Christmas list.

All Purpose Bands From Perform Better
One of the best strength training devices is a set of the All Purpose Bands.  These bands are sturdy dipped latex products made by Lifeline.  They have two handles on one end and a loop system that makes them easy to anchor in either a closed door or around a stable upright device.  All Purpose Bands can be used in a home gym set up, but my suggestion is that you anchor a set in a door at work and fight off the debilitating stress of all day sitting with some daily rowing, hip hinging, and scapula retraction exercises.  A set of All Purpose Bands costs $25.00, and as your strength improves, you can purchase the next level of resistance in the series (light—purple, pink, orange, yellow, blue, black—strong) from performbetter.com.

Varidesk Conversion Desk
standing-desk-pro-plus-36_main-10a88d7d8eef66cbc9309ff1100d93b41Human 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.  The health statistics on the damaging effects of sustained sitting are distressing.

I can think of no better health-promoting gift for a loved one than a sit to stand conversion desk.  The product I have the most experience with is the Varidesk.  It comes pre-assembled and has functioned flawlessly.  It allows the user to sit for some portion of the day and gradually transition to greater time in the standing position.  The Varidesk comes in a variety of sizes / set ups and costs $375 to $550.

My First Stand Up from Jaswig
The New York Times recently reprinted an article by Jane Brody, “Posture Affects Standing, and Not Just the Physical Kind.”  In the article, Ms. Brody talks about how poor posture creates problems across multiple areas of physical and mental well-being.  The respiratory, digestive, emotional, and neurological systems are all impacted by postural restrictions.  You are even more likely to be a victim of crime if you have a slumped over posture.  So how do you develop better posture?

My suggestion is to start with early intervention in the form of a standing workstation.  The Belgian company Jaswig, has produced a standing desk for children.  As the child grows, this adjustable wood desk travels with him.  In our physical therapy clinics, we are seeing younger people with head, neck, and upper back pain problems related to poor posture.  Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and all the other “devices” are being used at earlier ages leading to the postural breakdown that usually occurs in later years of life.   The My First Stand Up workstation from Jaswig (cost $379) is the early intervention answer.

PowerBlock Adjustable Dumbbell Set
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.  The PowerBlock company 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 (5-40 pounds) costs from $300 – $330 and you can add expansion sets as you get stronger.  My thirteen-year old self would have loved to get a set of PowerBlocks for Christmas.

Hyper Vest
Most people have busy lives and limited time to devote to fitness.  They want to get stronger, improve mobility, and maintain some degree of conditioning with minimal time commitment.  For those people, I have a suggestion: Buy a Hyper Vest Pro and get to work.

I have used the Hyper Vest Pro for many years and can vouch for its durability.  The comfort and overall function of the Hyper Vest Pro is impressive.  The side lacing system makes the fit superior to other weight vest products.  The individual weights are small and spread evenly over the front and back of the vest.  Ten pounds of small steel plates are standard with the Hyper Vest Pro.  I have found fitness clients do well with vest loads between five and twelve pounds.  At $160, the Hyper Vest Pro is more expensive than other products, but the first rate fit and comfort make it worth the money.  It is a great holiday present for the fitness fanatic on your shopping list.

Roller
gridx_matrix1If you consistently exercise, one of the best things you can do to enhance recovery between sessions is perform foam rolling soft tissue work.  Combining foam roll work with mobility drills is the secret fitness ingredient that makes chronically tight individuals more flexible.  The older you are, the harder you work, and the more frequently you train, the more you will benefit from the foam roll.  I like the roller made by Trigger-Point (tptherapy.com).  They come as a short, 13 inch version for $40.00 or the longer, 26 inch roller for $65.00.

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

PDFIn this month’s issue, Mike O’Hara discusses hypermobile joints and exercise, 4 steps to fitness success are given, and information on how to stop back pain from disturbing sleep is presented.  Check out page three for a description of the latest class offered at Fenton Fitness– Suspension Shred.

Download Here

Suspension_LandingMost physical therapy patients are injured in a failed attempt to control deceleration. Most sports injuries do not involve contact from an opponent or any force greater than bodyweight. The athlete just plants a foot and attempts to move in a new direction. When an athlete is unable to properly control deceleration, he or she becomes much more prone to ankle, knee, hip, and even upper extremity injuries. Teaching physical therapy patients and athletes how to properly manage deceleration forces is an essential component of training.

For many people, it has been years since they have performed any jumping or hopping. They do not possess the core stability, balance, and proprioception necessary to control full bodyweight activities. A suspension trainer permits a gradual introduction on landing mechanics. You can slowly and steadily add load as you become more proficient.
Suspension Landing Performance

Use a TRX or similar suspension trainer attached at least nine feet up the wall. Grab the handles and face the attachment point. Place the feet at least hip distance apart. Bend at the ankles, knees, and hips. You will perform an easy jump and use the assist of the suspension trainer to support your landing. Attempt to land softly and hold a flexed ankle, knee, and hip position. We call this “sticking the landing.” Keep the knees in line with the feet and the torso upright.

Focus on landing in a smooth and efficient manner. The height of the jump is not important. Perform this exercise at the beginning of your workout, when you are rested and fresh. Five landings or less is a good start for most people.

This is the practice progression that I have found works well:

1) Basic bilateral landing
2) Rotation landing
3) Split landing
4) Single leg landing

Deceleration training is important for keeping older individuals free from falls and living independently for a lifetime. I recommend you take the time to get some instruction on proper deceleration mechanics.

For video demonstration of suspension landing performance, click here: Video_Practicing_Landing

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

The most popular method of exercise in commercial exercise equipment rental centers is the treadmill. Several studies have shown that treadmill training gives us the greatest cardiovascular challenge with the lowest rate of perceived discomfort. The modern treadmill allows us to train free of the dangers of inclement weather, angry dogs, and poor pavement. However, the way we use the treadmill often places us at risk for injury. In an effort to keep you productive and injury-free, I have some recommendations as to how to properly use a treadmill.

Home Treadmill Safety

Modern treadmills have powerful electric motors with exposed belts underneath the unit. Any object that gets under the unit while it is operating can actually liftreadmillt the unit off the ground with you on it. Pediatric friction burn injuries are becoming more common with greater home treadmill ownership. I know of two family pet fatalities brought on by treadmill accidents. When setting up the treadmill in your home keep this in mind. Be aware that a treadmill makes noise, and if you are concurrently listening to your i-device, you may not hear everything that is happening around you.

Kick the Holding Habit

Holding onto the rails, control console, or heart rate monitor handles of the treadmill significantly alters the reactive forces that travel through your body. It inhibits the reflexes that make walking/running automatic and prevents a normal gait pattern. Holding on exerts greater compressive forces on the shoulders, lumbar, and cervical spine. I have treated many patients whose cervical and lumbar pain abolished when they stopped holding on while using the treadmill. Holding on greatly reduces the amount of work you perform (35% to 60% decrease) and devalues the time you spend exercising. The saddest sight in the gym is the guy or gal trying to lose weight by walking uphill on the treadmill while clinging to the front of the machine. If you cannot walk on the treadmill without holding on, you are better served by staying off the treadmill.

Pay Attention

Think about what you are doing while on the treadmill. Your posture should be tall with the head back and gaze forward. The arms should swing by your sides and the pelvis should rotate with each stride. Studies demonstrate that reading while walking or running on a treadmill shortens the stride, inhibits rotation, and alters posture. Listening to music increases lateral sway and widens foot placement in novice treadmill walkers. I have treated many headache patients whose pain symptoms can be traced back to reading while on the treadmill. Pay attention because falling off a treadmill is a painful and embarrassing experience that can dramatically impair your efforts to become more fit.

Whoa Thunderfoot

If your neighbor can hear you running on the treadmill from his front porch, you should rethink using a treadmill as a training method. Modern treadmills have suspended decks that absorb force. Anyone who runs on a treadmill and creates a lot of deck noise does not possess an efficient gait and is much more susceptible to overuse injuries. To land softer, try limiting the vertical component of your gait. Improving hip extension mobility, posterior chain strength, and postural awareness can make you a quieter and more efficient runner.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

At one time, we all had a very stable and pain-free squat pattern. As toddlers, we could transfer up off the floor through a deep and complete squat. Deconditioning, prolonged sitting, and injuries take their toll until we lose so much movement that many of us are unable to properly descend into a chair. Regaining a functional squat pattern reduces the incidence of injury, enhances functional mobility, and maintains lifelong independence. One of the most effective squat restoration drills is the suspension overhead squat.

The suspension overhead squat is like riding a bike with training wheels. The resistance provided by the suspension trainer acts as an assist to make the squat easier to perform. With consistent practice you reconnect with the neural signals that create an efficient and pain-free squat movement.

Suspension Overhead Squat Performance

Anchor the suspension trainer at least nine feet up on a wall. Face the anchor point and hold the handles overhead. The palms face inward and the shoulder blades are pulled down the back-similar to the football official signaling touchdown. Position the heels at least shoulder width apart. A mirror that provides a side profile can be helpful for visual feedback on your performance. Push the hips back and lower into the squat. Keep the chest proud and the spine tall as you descend. Drive through the hips and rise back up to the starting position. Perform two sets of ten repetitions.

Most people need to work on squat stability first and then attempt greater depth. Initially, I have clients progress through a five second isometric contraction at the bottom of the squat. As the pattern improves, slowly work into greater squat depth.

Valgus collapse and the butt wink are the two most common flaws. During valgus collapse the knees buckle inward instead of staying lined up with the feet. A butt wink involves the pelvis tucking under at the bottom of the squat. If you are unable to monitor and correct these problems, you need to get some coaching.

To watch video demonstration of the suspension overhead squat, click on the link below:

Video_Overhead_Squat

-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

All of our muscles work as a team to create movement. Postural stress, injuries, and poor training practices can cause some of our muscles to lose communication with the rest of the team. One of the more common problems we find in physical therapy and performance training is fondly termed “gluteal amnesia,” or an inability to use the gluteal (butt) muscles properly. In a strong, well-functioning body, the gluteal and hamstring muscles fire in a synchronous fashion to create motion. Strong, well-developed hamstrings and gluteals are the hallmark of an athletic body. Just look at any sprinter, speed skater, or high jumper. An extremely effective exercise to strengthen and reinforce the connection between these muscle groups is the suspension Supine Hip Extension Leg Curl (SHELC).

Why You Should SHELC

Unlike other gluteal and hamstring exercises, such as the good morning, barbell deadlift, and cable pull through, the SHELC does not put any shear stress or compression forces through the lumbar spine. The SHELC forces you to use the gluteals and hamstrings as a team. Strong and coordinated gluteal and hamstring muscles safeguard the knees and lower back. The SHELC trains hip hyperextension– a key component of efficient acceleration. The best athletes are the ones that get up to top speed the fastest.

SHELC Performance

Set the TRX straps so the bottom of the strap is at the mid-calf level of your leg. Lay supine and place the heels in the foot straps of the TRX. The feet should be directly under the overhead attachment point of the TRX. Place the arms on the floor at a 45 degree angle. Brace the abdominal muscles and keep the head down. Push the arms against the floor for stability. Lift the hips off the floor and keep them up for the duration of the set. Bend the knees so that the feet travel toward the body. Keep the hips up and extend the knees in a controlled manner. Perform ten to fifteen repetitions. Common mistakes are turning the feet outward and allowing the hips to fall to the floor between repetitions.

The SHELC can be made more challenging by moving the entire body out from under the suspension point or by adding a weight across the front of the body. Another challenging progression is the Single Leg SHELC.

To view video demonstration of the SHELC, click on the link below:

SHELC_Video

-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Your muscles work as a team to carry you through the day. They never function alone so training them with isolation exercises 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 exercises 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. The Atomic Push Up requires core control and the active participation of your legs. 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 Performanceatomic_Pushup

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 the set before movement quality 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 parallelettes 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.

To view video demonstration of the Atomic Push Up, click on the link below:

-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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