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Training and support videos

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Triathlon Success: Hamstring And Glute Togetherness

To keep a triathlete healthy and resilient, the hamstrings and gluteal muscles must work together as a team.   The athlete fires the gluteals and hamstrings simultaneously to stabilize the pelvis and produce force through the lower leg.  When you run, bicycle, or swim, these muscles work at a team to produce efficient propulsion and reduce stress on the lumbar spine and knee.  A triathalon is the ultimate long duration physical endeavor.  Triathletes need hamstrings and gluteal muscles that can stay on and strong for a long time.

Most fitness programs do not properly train the muscle of the posterior chain.  Fitness center exercise generally involves training the hamstrings as knee flexors on some type of “leg curl” machine.  Gluteal training rarely occurs past neutral hip extension, with little effort on improving overall hip range of motion.  Any type of seated gluteal training is inappropriate for an athlete.

The term physical therapists and strength coaches use for butt muscles that are non- responsive is “gluteal amnesia”.  Our sedentary lifestyle involves very little of the glute recruiting sprinting, deep squatting, and climbing that activates the gluteal muscles.  We mistreat our gluteal muscles with hours of compressive sitting and little in the way of full range hip movement.  Many fitness clients and most physical therapy patients need some remedial gluteal training.  Give these three drills a place in your triathalon training program.

Single Leg Bridges

Lay supine with the arms braced against the floor to stabilize the upper body.   Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the ground.  Lift the right leg up off the ground.  Using the muscles in the back of the left leg, lift the hips up off the ground.  Push up through the heel of the left foot and drive the left hip into full extension.  Hold at the top for three seconds and then lower in a controlled manner.  Perform ten repetitions on each leg.  Common mistakes are allowing the pelvis to tilt and not fully extending the hip.  Hamstring cramping is an indication that you are not using the glutes enough and need to focus on creating a better mind to butt connection.

Goblet Squat

The squat movement pattern is a skill that is easier to teach if you add some load.  You can use either a dumbbell or a kettlebell for this exercise.  It has been my experience that the exercise is easier to learn with a kettlebell.  Hold a kettlebell by the horns, with the elbows down, and the kettlebell close to the chest.  Keep the chest proud and pull the abdominal muscles tight.  You may have to experiment with foot placement as everyone has different hips.  The position you would place the feet if you were going to jump is a good starting point.  Initiate the squat by pushing back the hips.  Keep the torso tall and descend.  Let your pelvis fall between the hips. The elbow should drop down between the knees.  Nothing will inhibit your progress more than thinking about how you are moving during goblet squats.  Keep your brain quiet and get in some repetitions.  Effort has amazing capacity to improve motor control.   Perform ten repetitions.

Mini Band Monster Walk

Your will need a mini resistance band–a nine inch loop of resistance band, (two dollars from performbetter.com).  Most fitness clients will do well with a green or yellow mini band.  Place the mini band loop around both legs just above the ankles.  Assume an athletic stance with the feet straight ahead, knees bent, and hips flexed.  The band should be held taught throughout the exercise.  Imagine your feet are standing on railroad tracks.  Walk forward for ten steps on each side, keeping the feet over the railroad tracks.  Walk backward for five repetitions on each leg.  Try to keep the hips and shoulders level throughout the exercise.

Once you have mastered all three exercises, build your gluteal and hamstring performance by traveling through the program for two or three trips.

  1. single leg bridges  R and L x 10
  2. goblet squats x 10
  3. mini band monster walk x 10 each leg

View video of the exercises here: https://youtu.be/QeteeLPF4AU

Kat Wood, DPT, ATC

Triathlon Success: Core Connection

In the fitness world core stability training has gained a solid foothold and more people are getting away from spinal damaging resisted twisting machines and the ever present sit up gizmo.  Most people know how to perform a “plank” exercise and have added this drill to their fitness routines.  Learning how to properly brace the core stabilizers and perform a sustained plank type isometric exercise will resolve back pain, improve the hip to shoulder girdle connection, and make you a better movement machine.  The problem is most people never advance beyond the basic plank exercise.  Triathletes need significant anti-rotation and anti-extension core strength and endurance.  I have three drills that will help keep you strong and resilient in your quest to complete you first tri.    Read the directions and give these activities a place in your fitness program.

Alternate Single Arm Planks

Position the body in a toes and elbows plank, but separate the legs so the feet are wider than the shoulders.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.

If you are unable to perform the alternate arm plank on the floor, regress the exercise by placing the hands on a bench in a push ups position.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.  How many and much?  Perform three to five repetitions on each arm.  Work up to longer hold times instead of more repetitions.  Five repetitions on each arm with a ten second hold is a good goal.

Pallof Press

You need a cable machine or resistance tubing set at mid torso level.   Position your body at a 90 degree angle in relation to the pull of the cable.  Assume an athletic posture with the feet at least shoulder width apart and the spine neutral.  Push the hips back a little and keep a slight bend in the ankles and knees.  You should look like a tennis player preparing to return an opponent’s serve.  Use a strong overlap grip on the handle and set the hands in the middle of the chest.  Brace the midsection and hips and move the handle out in front of the body and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of all repetitions without losing the set up posture.  If one side is more difficult, start the exercise on that side.  Perform fifteen repetitions on each side.

Many of us have terrible respiratory patterns.  We are unable to fully inhale and exhale when under any physical stress.  The Pallof Press can be used to improve respiratory control.  Use the same set up and press the cable out.  Hold the cable with the arm fully extended while inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds.  Bring the arms back in and then repeat.  Perform four of five inhale / exhale respiration repetitions on each side.

View the video here: View Video

 Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Hip Flexor Function

Two of the most important muscles for efficient running and a pain free set of knees are not visible in the mirror.  Most people have never heard the names of these muscles.  Located deep inside the body, covered by innards and all too often, layers of mesenteric fat, these muscles labor unloved and forgotten.  Triathletes interested in optimal performance and a body that remains injury free should give some attention to the iliacus and psoas muscles.

Anatomy

Five muscles flex the hip–bring your femur forward.  Three of the hip flexors attach to the front of your pelvis and run down the front and sides of your thigh.  They are the sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and the rectus femoris.  Two of the muscles attach to your spine and posterior pelvis and travel across all of the lumbar vertebrae, the sacroiliac joint, and the front of the hip joint.  They are the iliacus and psoas muscles.  The sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and the rectus femoris can lift your femur to parallel, 90 degrees hip flexion, and no further.  The iliacus and psoas are responsible for lifting the hip above parallel.  Many people have very weak iliacus and psoas muscles and are unable to flex the hip above 90 degrees.

Multi Joint Control

“Hip flexor” is a very simplistic description of the function of the iliacus and psoas muscles.  The iliacus and psoas flex the hip, but they also rotate the hip, stabilize the pelvic girdle / lumbar spine, decelerate hip extension and co-contract with a team of muscles to hold us upright.  Properly functioning iliacus and psoas muscles keep the pelvis stable when you walk or run and this mitigates stress on the knees and lower back.  When the iliacus and psoas muscles are weak, the pelvis tilts forward and backward.  This rotates the femur in and out and twists the knee.  Your knee joint likes to bend back and forth and dislikes any extra rotation.  Extra knee rotation wears out the back of the kneecap (patella) and places stress on the supportive cartilage (medial and lateral meniscus) of the knee.  A triathlete with a wobbly pelvis places significantly more stress on their lumbar spine.

Triathalon Considerations

Riding a bike shortens and neurologically anesthetizes the iliacus and psoas muscles.  A tight psoas muscle compresses the lumbar vertebrae together and increases pressure in the lumbar discs.  Athletes with “quad strains” often have pain in the sartorius and rectus femoris muscles that has been brought on by overuse of these muscle as they compensate for a weak iliacus and psoas muscles.  Tight and inhibited iliacus and psoas muscles are responsible for the wobbly gait pattern you frequently see as the triathlete transitions from the bike to the run.  Two drills that will improve the function of the iliacus and psoas muscles are listed below.  Read the directions and watch the video.

Standing Hip Flexor Isometric

The Standing Hip Flexor Isometric drill functions as both an evaluation and a method of restoring iliacus and psoas function.  If you struggle with this exercise, you need to spend some time and effort on improving the performance of your iliacus and psoas.  Listed below is a description of the exercise and several activity regressions and progressions.

You need a box or exercise bench.  The taller you are, the higher the bench.  Six feet tall, try a bench that is 24 inches high.  Five foot, four inches, try a twelve inch box.  A mirror for visual feedback is helpful.  Stand with the right foot on the bench and the left foot on the floor.  Hold a pvc pipe, broomstick, or golf club overhead.  Brace the abdominal muscles to keep a tall spinal position and tight lordosis (inward curve) in your lower back.  Lift the right foot off the bench by pulling the thigh up with the muscles in front of the hip.  Hold the foot off the bench in a solid and stable position for five seconds and then lower.  Do not let the position of the spine change.  Do not bend the left knee or tilt the pelvis.  The only joint that moves is the right hip.  Athletes should be able to lift and hold the right knee 30 degrees above waist level.  Start with sets of three repetitions and alternate sides.  As you get stronger, increase the duration that you hold the foot up to ten  seconds.  If one side is weaker than the other, perform more repetitions or an extra set on that side.

Bench Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch

This drill will improve hip extension range of motion and enhance mobility in all of the hip flexor muscles.  Bicyclists often have very flexed lumbar spines and limited lumbar and/or hip extension.  This mobility exercise is the antidote for the physical restrictions created by too much time in the saddle.

You will need an exercise bench or a padded chair that is 12 to 16 inches tall.  Place a cushion or Airex pad directly in front of the bench.  Set up with the left foot on the floor in front of the Airex pad and aligned with the left hip.  Place the right knee on the Airex pad and the front of the right foot up on the bench.  Stay tall through the spine and hold the position for twenty to thirty seconds.  For many people this will be enough stretch.  If you are able take the arms overhead.  Work further into the movement by bending the front knee and moving forward.  Repeat on the other side.

Video of these exercises can be found here: View Video

 Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Foot Fitness

Foot and ankle injuries are the number one problem in the sport of triathalon.  The thousands of spins on the bike, impacts on the run, and kicks with the swim can take a toll.  Some preventative training can help speed tissue recovery in your feet and safeguard the ankles.

The foot and ankle are made up of twenty-six bones that are controlled by an elaborate combination of intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles.  A web of fascia interconnected to the muscles creates a dynamic sling that gives our foot form and acts as a spring to propel   the body through space.  Our feet evolved to guide us over an ever-changing environment of varying surface with minimal support from footwear.  Modern footwear, deconditioning, and prior injuries can all take a toll on the functional mobility and strength of the foot and ankle.  Preventative exercise activities can go a long way to prevent painful injuries in the lower leg and foot.  Watch the video and give these activities a try.

Foot Wave

You can perform this exercise throughout the day and it will help keep your feet healthy and strong.  Point the foot (plantarflex the ankle) and flex all of the toes.  Draw the foot up (dorsiflex the ankle) and keep the toes flexed.  Extend the toes while keeping the foot pulled upward.  Point the foot downward while keeping the toes extended.  Keep the foot pointed and flex the toes.  Move through this exercise in a steady and deliberate fashion.  Take time to feel the muscles activate and stretch in the foot and lower leg.  Repeat the “foot wave” for five to ten repetitions.

Short Foot Drill

The muscles on the bottom of the foot are called the foot intrinsics.  The foot intrinsics function in a manner similar to the core muscles of the torso.  Their job is to brace the foot so it can transfer forces through a stabilized series of boney arches.  Weak or slow to respond foot intrinsic muscles impede the foot’s capacity to decelerate forces.  The short foot drill will improve foot intrinsic muscle performance.

To perform the short foot drill on the right foot, place the right foot flat on the ground and place the left foot back.  Bend the right knee about 20 degrees and lift the left heel off the ground so more weight is on your right foot.  Lift and spread the toes of the right foot.  Lower the toes back to the ground and grip the floor with the big toe.  Contract the muscles on the bottom of the foot.  You should feel a lifting of the foot arches.  Tighten the muscles of the right leg from the calf to the hip and lift the pelvic floor.  Hold this tension in the foot and leg for ten seconds and then release.  Perform five repetitions.

Soft Tissue Mobilization

Treat the soft tissue structures of the ankle and foot with a consistent program of massage.  Three or four times a week, take five minutes and perform some massage stick work to the muscles of the lower leg.  Find a tennis ball and roll out the plantar aspect of the foot.  Deep soft tissue work helps improve circulation, prevents aberrant scar tissue formation, and promotes tissue elasticity.

Cryotherapy

Age brings lower leg arthritic changes and circulatory deficiencies.  These can create pooling of inflammatory byproducts in the feet and ankles created by a week of triathalon training activity.  Cooling the feet and ankles in an ice bath can help break the chemical cycle of inflammation and enhance recovery.  At the end of a training day, fill up a bucket with water and lots of ice.  I like to get most of my lower leg under the water.  Try fifteen to twenty minutes every other day.

Watch our Foot Fitness video for demonstration of these exercises: View Foot Fitness Video

Kat Wood, DPT, ATC

Triathlon Success: Movement Prep

Limited mobility is a fairly common finding among recreational runners, bikers, and swimmers.  Very often, the deficits are worse on one side of the body.  A movement asymmetry makes any triathlete more susceptible to injury.  As a group, triathletes benefit greatly from the diligent application of a simple movement preparation program.  Movement preparation drills help prevent and/or train away mobility impairments.

Movement Prep is Superior to Stretching

For athletes, movement preparation drills are more beneficial than static stretching.  Movement prep improves postural reflexes, deceleration skills, standing balance, and coordination.  Any extra mobility you achieve with training must be controlled by your neuromuscular system during varying level of fatigue.  Movement prep develops all aspects of athleticism.  The two exercises I recommend for endurance athletes are the moving posterior lunge and the world’s greatest stretch.

Moving Posterior Lunge

Most runners and bikers have tight hip flexors, weak lateral gluteals, and limited lumbar extension range of motion.  This exercise will improve all of these areas.

Stand tall and step backward with your right leg.  Try to get the right knee close to the ground, stay balanced, and keep the torso tall.  At the same time, bring your arms overhead.  Push up with the left leg, lower the arms, and return to standing.  Repeat with the left leg and move down the track with alternating posterior lunges.  Perform ten repetitions on each leg.  Perform five times on each side.  Common mistakes are allowing the torso to tip forward and caving inward of the front knee.

World’s Greatest Stretch

Running, biking, and swimming are primarily single plane motions.  Runners do little in the way of rotational motion and often have restricted thoracic spines.  The world’s greatest stretch opens up the thoracic spine and will reveal any limitation in movement capacity between the right and left legs.

You need about ten yards of open space.  Stand tall and step forward with the left leg.  Place the hands down on the ground and attempt to lower the pelvis to the ground.  Pause, support the torso with the right hand, and turn toward the left leg.  Reach the left hand to the sky and pause in full rotation.  Return the left hand to the ground outside the left knee and gently attempt to straighten the left knee and then pause.  Bring the right leg up and return to standing.  Repeat the drill with the right leg stepping forward.  Perform five times on each side.  Many mistakes are made with this drill.  Please persevere as it is worthy of your efforts.

View the video here: Movement Prep Video

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Myofascial Management

Triathlon training is a vigorous and demanding athletic endeavor. The successful triathlete is often the one with the fewest injuries and the best recovery capacity.  Soft tissue mobilization with a roller helps decrease pain, improve mobility, and will speed up recovery between bouts of exercise.  Few of us can afford or dedicate the time to a daily massage.  The roller is the best do-it-yourself method of enhancing myofascial recovery.  Triathletes should begin every training session with five to ten minutes of roller work.

In the book, Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers describes the interconnected webs of fascia and muscles that move our joints and hold us upright.  The human body is not just isolated muscles, but rather a series of interconnected lines of muscles and fascia that are reliant on one another to produce efficient movement.  The mechanical stress created by a roller keeps the tissue lines sliding and gliding across one another.  It removes neural and mechanical inhibitors of movement and makes exercise easier.

More varieties of rollers have come on the market and whenever we are faced with a lot of choices, it becomes more difficult to make a decision.  In this short presentation, I have some suggestions on the proper roller for the job.

Rollers are available in three foot and one foot lengths.  I find the longer versions easier to use.  Bigger and taller athletes generally do not do well with a short roller.

The best roller for you will depend on your tissue tolerance or how sensitive you are to the compressive forces of the roller.  If you are new to foam rolling, a low density white foam roller is softer and will create less discomfort.  As you develop better tolerance to rolling, you can progress to a firmer black foam roll.  It has been my experience that the white rolls break down faster than the firmer black versions, so be prepared to replace a white roll fairly often.

Hollow, pipe style rollers are newer to the market and I have had good results with two products.  The Grid Trigger Point roller is a cushioned hollow pipe with a grid pattern across the surface of the roller.  Many smaller clients and patients report they like the short version of the Grid roller.  Another hollow pipe version is the Rumble Roller.  This product has a series of projections that extend from the roller surface.  Self-soft tissue mobilization with a Rumble Roller is more uncomfortable than any other roller I have used.   It is a more aggressive treatment, but I have found it works well for individuals with thicker and denser muscles.

So how often should you, a triathlete, use a roller?  I like to stay active, pain free, and maintain my posture, so I use a roller every day.  Physical therapy patients with painful myofascial restrictions may need to foam roll two or three times a day.  Including five to ten minutes of foam rolling prior to a training session is the preventative medicine that will keep you on the road and out of the doctor’s office.  Watch the video that accompanies this article and get going on a roller.

View video here: Roller Video

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Lower Body

Split Squat

To set up for the split squat, put one foot in front of the other with the heel of the back foot off the ground. 85% of the weight should be on the front foot. An airex pad can be placed under the body for the knee to come down on when lowering to the floor. When in the bottom position of the exercise, the front knee should be in line with the toe creating a slight shin angle. Make sure to push through the front heel on the way up instead of the toe. This exercise can be made easier by holding onto a railing, or can be made harder by adding weight such as a kettlebell in a goblet hold. The split squat displays greater hamstring, external oblique, and gluteus medius muscle activity than the back squat, but less quadriceps muscle activity.

RFE Split Squat: RFE stands for “rear foot elevated”. With this variation of the split squat, set up with the back foot elevated on a bench or a padded stand created for this exercise. An airex pad can be used under the knee if necessary. Squat down, touching the knee to the floor or airex pad.  When in this bottom position, the shin angle should be angled forward just as before, not straight up and down. Common errors include sitting too far back on the rear foot, touching the glute to the heel, or the back foot can tend to roll off the padded stand on the way up and move more onto the shin. Avoid this by putting more weight into the front leg and dropping the knee straight down instead of back. This exercise can be made more difficult by adding dumbbells in each hand, a kettlebell in the goblet, racked, or double racked position, or a barbell in the front or back position. Make sure to descend slowly, creating an eccentric load instead of dropping down fast.

FOB Hip Lift: FOB stands for “feet on ball”. Lay on the floor or table on your back and place the arms out to the side. Push down into the floor with the arms to stabilize the body. Keep the feet together and brace your abdominal muscles. Use the glutes and hamstrings to lift yourself up off the floor, making sure to keep everything tight at the top of the movement. Hold 3-10 seconds at the top and lower slowly and controlled. You can remove the arms from the floor and rest them on your stomach or behind your head to create more of a challenge.

One Leg FOB Hip Lift: Same setup as before except one leg will be used. The other leg will be pointed up to the ceiling as the other presses into the ball to lift the body. This creates more of a stability challenge.

FOB Leg Curl: This variation starts out just like the FOB hip lift, except at the top of the movement when the body is raised, the knees are bent and the ball is pulled in towards the body creating more work for the hamstrings. Keep the hips extended by activating the glutes and moving the hips upward, avoiding the tendency to bend at the hips. It should look like your hips move up and then return to a straight body position.

One Leg FOB Leg Curl: The hardest variation for the FOB series is the one leg curl. Use one leg instead of two, extending the other leg up to the ceiling. Make sure to still avoid bending at the hips in this variation as well.

One Leg Deadlift: When starting out with this exercise, it is best to just use bodyweight. Stand with 95% of your weight on one leg. Extend the arms and free leg out to a “T” position, bending the standing leg slightly. The extended leg should be reaching backwards as far as it can go.  Think about sitting into that hip just as you would during deadlifts. As this exercise becomes easier and balance is not an issue, it can be progressed by holding a kettlebell. The kettlebell should be held in the same side as the leg extending back. Reach the kettlebell straight down by the big toe; the weight should not go in front of the toe but rather by the instep of the foot. If you have progressed pass the kettlebell, two kettlebells can be used or a barbell with weight. The primary muscles being used in this exercise are the posterior leg muscles including the glutes and hamstrings.

One Leg Squat: Stand in front of a 12-18” box (start higher, and work your way to a lower box).  You will want to have 5-10# of weight to use as a counter balance (dumbbell, plate, or med ball).  Standing on only one leg, slowly lower yourself to the box.  As you descend, reach forward with the weight to help with balance.  Control the descent until your butt taps the box and then stand back up.  Work for 3-12 reps before switching legs.  Over time, try to get to a lower box so that your hip is slightly below your knee at the bottom position.

Watch video of these exercises: https://youtu.be/SqFqf81UnIk

 

 

 

 

Be Happy and Feel Good

Watch The Ted Takj by Dr. Stephen Ilardi

The number of Americans with depression has increased dramatically over the last ten years.  Depression is usually managed with medications and at present, one in five Americans is taking an antidepressant medication.  A modality of depression treatment that is often overlooked is exercise.  Daily movement has a restorative effect on brain health.  For decades, we have known that bed rest, induced by illness or injury, can change our physiology in a fairly short amount of time.  A sedentary lifestyle can have just as big an impact on how the brain functions.  Take the time to watch Stephen Ilardi PhD *Ted Talk on the management of depression.  If you have the time read the **article he wrote in the October 26, 2017 issue of the Wall Street Journal.  Dr. Ilardi has some insight on how technology enhancements are making us unhappy.

Consistent exercise restores brain health, immunizes us from depression, and greatly reduces pain.  Physical therapy patients and fitness clients frequently say the most beneficial aspect of a renewed devotion to exercise is the improvement in their mood.  Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the positive effects exercise has on brain chemistry.  All of the happiness and pain suppressing molecules antidepressant medications attempt to increase are developed and maintained sooner and stronger with exercise.  Mood improving serotonin, dopamine, and BDNF–Miracle Gro for you neurons–all increase with exercise.  Some of the most revealing research on pain science has shown that the brains “pain circuitry” changes when a patient is depressed.  Pain is perceived as more intense, widespread, and emotionally challenging.  Now put down your iphone and watch Dr. Ilardi.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

*TedxEmory, Dr. Stephen Ilardi.  See the ted talk on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drv3BP0Fdi8

**Wall Street Journal, Why Personal Tech Is Depressing, Dr. Stephen Ilardi, October 26, 2017.

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Vertical Pulls

Just like the vertical press exercises, vertical pulls can be hard to execute due to their mobility requirements, but are the most effective and efficient movements when trying to build a strong and healthy upper body. The broadest posterior chain muscle in the body, the latissimus dorsi, has the primary actions of humeral adduction, extension and internal rotation, but also contributes to posture due to its attachment points. Vertical pulls also work the arms (brachioradialis, biceps brachii, triceps long head), shoulders/back (trapezius, posterior deltoid, teres major, rhomboids), and pelvic floor (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques).

Pull Up/Chin Up: Pull ups/chin ups work the majority of the muscles in the mid/upper back and flexors of the arm. The rotator cuff muscles and core musculature play a more stabilizing role.  In both variations, think about keeping the core engaged.  There should not be extension in the lower back and if there is, you will notice yourself swinging back and forth during reps. When pulling up, think about leading with your collarbone and actually touching it to the bar. Another useful cue is to think about pulling the elbows to your pockets. Avoid rounding the upper back over the bar when reaching the top of the movement.  If you are having trouble touching your chest to the bar, it is either a strength or mobility issue.

½ Kneeling One Arm Pull Down
Set up at the Cybex machine or any cable hook up. Grab just one handle and put that same side knee down on the ground with the toe dug in.  Make sure the arm is angled in such a way that you have to reach across your body when the arm is flexed overhead. Your palm should be facing forward, and as you pull down, turn the hand towards the body and keep the elbow close to your side. Concentrate on squeezing the muscles in the back and keeping the rest of the body still with the core braced. Switch legs when you switch arms.

View video of vertical pulls here: https://youtu.be/knAFry9p-LM.

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Horizontal Pulls

A horizontal pulling exercise is any exercise that involves moving a weight in towards your torso horizontally from straight out in front of you. A good exercise routine should incorporate both pushing and pulling movements in order to keep a healthy balance, better posture, and prevention of shoulder injuries. Muscles involved in pulling exercises include biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, and middle trapezius.

Arm DB Row
There are a couple different variations that could be done with the one arm row. In the first and most common variation, set up with one dumbbell and put the opposite hand and knee on a flat bench. The back should be flat and the weighted arm should be straight with full extension in the shoulder. Keeping the core braced, bring the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side. Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. In the second variation, we are going to get a little more athletic and functional. It is called three stance row, or straddle stance row. Stand with the legs a little wider than shoulder width apart. Bend the knees slightly and make sure the feet are equally distributed and the back is flat (think linebacker).  Put one arm on the end of the bench or a 16-20” box. The hand with the dumbbell should be directly under the shoulder and centered. Row as described previously.

PUPP DB Row
Set up with two dumbbells in a push-up position plank. Keep the feet further apart to make the exercise easier, keep feet closer together to make it harder. Pull up one dumbbell, keeping the elbow close to the body and avoiding the tendency to dip the opposite hip. The body should stay still throughout the exercise. This variation is going to challenge the core as well as the rowing muscle groups. Alternate arms.

Horse Stance DB Row
This variation of the DB row is going to be more challenging than just a regular row as it is going to test your core stability and balance. Set up with one dumbbell and a bench. Put the opposite hand and knee on the bench and extend the free leg out horizontally, with the ankle dorsiflexed. The other arm is holding the dumbbell straight down as with any other row variation. Keeping the core braced, bring up the dumbbell in the same pattern as previously stated. Avoid the tendency to dip the opposite hip down. The weight used in this variation is going to be lighter than usual.

View the video here: https://youtu.be/gSMvrJGVeN4

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