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The 2017 Australia Open Tennis tournament had an impressive finish.  At the age of 36, Roger Federer became the men’s champion, and 35 year old Serena Williams defeated her 36 year old sister, Venus Williams to become the women’s champion.  In the world of professional tennis, a mid-thirties champion is a rarity and to have it happen in both the men’s and women’s divisions is a sign of things to come.  Rehabilitation and conditioning science have improved the results athletes can achieve in the gym.  Athletes are staying healthier by eating better and training smarter.  Take a look at some other recent examples:

Oksana Chusotivina (photo by Zelda F. Scott)

Tom Brady, 39 years old. The quarterback for the New England Patriots will be leading his team in Superbowl LI.  He is confident he can continue to compete for another five years.

Drew Brees, 38 years old.  The starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints feels he can play for several more years.

Kristin Armstrong, 43 years old.  Won a gold medal in cycling at the Rio Olympics at the age of 42.  This type of success is amazing in a competition that greatly favors youth.

Dara Torres, 49 years old.  This twelve-time Olympic swimmer medallist competed at 41 years of age and won a silver medal in three events at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Oksana Chusotivina, 41 years oldOksana is gymnast from Uzbekistan that competed against teenage gymnasts at the Rio Olympics.

Meb Keflezighi, 40 years old.  Competed in the Marathon at the Summer Olympics in Rio.

These performances illustrate how proper training and nutrition can produce a high level of performance in athletes thought to be too old to compete.  We are all going to get older.  It does not mean we are going to get weaker, slower, and more sedentary.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS


Daniel Norris, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers recently suffered multiple spinal fractures during an attempt at the clubhouse “box jump record” (See the Detroit Free Press article link below). He will be out of the line up recovering from his 57 inch leap for glory. The popularity of the YouTube, uber high, box jump has been great for the physical therapy business and terrible for athletic performance. Please take the time to read my article on appropriate box jump training. (See link below).

Professional athletes are no different than the general population in the mistakes they make in training. Pro basketball players have fractured arm bones falling off a physioball while bench pressing. A professional tennis player recently created an ankle avulsion fracture jumping onto a bosu. I witnessed a high level fitness trainer tear his Continue reading

The Man with the Missing Butt

There is an epidemic currently going on in men of all ages in our country. Virtually everywhere you go, you see men with sagging pants and exposed back sides. There are two major culprits of this unpleasant scene: an underdeveloped gluteus maximus muscle and an overly large gut. The latter is best dealt with in the kitchen, but the former can be vastly improved through proper resistance training. Perhaps the biggest problem with this issue is that many men don’t even care about it and are pre-occupied with “show muscles” like arms, shoulders, and pecs. This is a shame as Shakira was right on the money when she sang “the hips don’t lie.”

The Gluteus Maximus is the largest single muscle in the entire body and is the most dominant muscle on the hips. The glutes are also responsible for more actions than any other muscle group in the body. They extend the hips, adduct the femur, externally rotate the femur, and posteriorly tilt the hips. Strong and large glutes are distinctly correlated with reduced low back pain and reduced knee pain. If reduced pain isn’t enough motivation to get serious about training, your glutes’ improved performance will motivate you. Bret Contreras (recent PhD student and creator of the Hip Thruster) has single handedly shaped our knowledge of the glutes with his research in this area.

The glutes play the most important role in horizontal acceleration and speed. If you want to improve your sprinting times, getting stronger and bigger glutes is the absolute best way to shave time off your 40 yard dash. I think many athletes would greatly benefit from doing less “speed” training/camps and spend more time focusing on getting bigger and stronger glutes. Our hips are essential for virtually all athletic movements: throwing a ball, swinging a bat/golf club, punching, kicking, etc. all produce or transfer the majority of their energy through the hips. Ask any wrestler and he will tell you that controlling your opponent’s hips controls your opponent. Here are my two favorite exercises for building size and strength in the glutes:

Hip Thrust: The Hip Thrust has been demonstrated in research to be the single best exercise for maximally stimulating the glutes, and unlike most other exercises, it gets the most stimulation at the fully contracted position of full hip extension. Again, this exercise has been shown to be one of the best tools for shaving seconds off your 40 yard dash time. The most important aspect of this lift is that it allows for progressively heavier loads for a lifetime.


Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat: The Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat is a great exercise that improves single leg balance, improves/challenges hip mobility by putting one hip leg into flexion and the other into extension, and works the glute most where it is fully stretched (the opposite of the Hip Thrust). As with the Hip Thrust, this exercise allows for progressively heavier loads over time.
Add these exercises, along with a focus on overall glute strength to your program, and say goodbye to sagging pants, knee/back pain, and watch your power/acceleration increase.

Click on the link below for video demonstration of the hip thrust and rear foot elevated split squat:
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1


Strength training

High intensity interval training

Eat adequate amounts of protein

Sleep long and well

FFAC has been making these recommendations forever. Take the time to read the article by Kathleen Hughes, “How Athletes Can Stay ‘Fast After 50’,” in the October 18, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal. If you are over fifty and are not following these fitness guidelines, you are missing out on the magic.

Click on the link below to read the article:


-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Nutrition is a vital component for general health, body composition, and performance. Perhaps one of the most studied areas of performance nutrition is that of endurance sports and carbohydrates. Despite the large body of research and the availability of this information, a recent study* demonstrated how off-track most marathon runners are when it comes to hydration and carbohydrate intake around race time.shutterstock_109581608

In the study, two groups of runners were compared. One group picked their own nutritional strategy (FRE group) and the other utilized a scientifically based nutritional strategy (SCI group). The SCI group consumed 0.08 liters of water/hour more than the FRE group and 26.7grams/hour more carbohydrates than the FRE group. The SCI group finished the marathon 10 minutes faster than the FRE group as a result of their nutritional approach.

The researchers of this study determined that carbohydrate intake (and not water) was the biggest factor affecting the difference in performance. Some people do experience GI (gastrointestinal) distress with higher carb intakes, so it is important to experiment with this prior to competition. Energy gels are likely the easiest way to increase carbohydrate intake during a race.

Based on this and previous data, it is recommended that endurance athletes ingest roughly 0.5 grams carbohydrates/lb/hour of activity. Fluid intake should be between 0.4-0.8 liters/hour depending on weight and temperature.

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS, Pn1

*Improved marathon performance by in-race nutritional strategy intervention

Hansen EA1, Emanuelsen A, Gertsen RM, Sørensen S SR

Are you getting better or are you getting worse? No one stays the same. Our children get standardized reading tests, math exams, and comprehension assessments to measure learning. Your doctor continually assesses your blood pressure, lipid profile, and indicators of inflammation to determine if prescribed medication and lifestyle changes produce a beneficial response. In physical therapy, we look at range of motion, strength, mobility, balance, and movement patterns to make judgments on our treatment programs. In the fitness world, assessment is generally absent. This wastes valuable training time and can lead to injuries. I have some suggestions on basic fitness tests we can all use to determine if our exercise program is helping or hindering our physical performance.

The best performance tests require minimal testing equipment and can be performed safely by most individuals. They produce a time, a distance, or a measurement that can be recorded and compared to future and past results. The results are used to guide the choices you make in your exercise program. If performance tests worsen, then what you are doing is not working and you need to make some changes. If performance tests get better, be happy and keep on with your present training.

In the physical therapy clinic, we frequently see patients who pass some performance tests with an A+ grade and get a D- in other tests. They are the equivalent of the sixth grader who reads at a college level but is unable to perform simple addition and subtraction. The deficit in performance is what created the pain that brought them to the physical therapy clinic. The long term solution for these patients is to create a program of training that brings the D- up to a B grade. More reading will not improve the student’s dismal math grade.

Performance tests are the cure for the “I am not seeing any results” issue. Many well-intentioned exercise programs destroy performance, inhibit fat loss, and reduce functional capacity. Consistent assessments alert us to problems before pain is created and too much time is wasted.

Standing Broad Jump

As we age, we lose power nearly twice as fast as we lose strength. Power production is what keeps us competitive on the field of play and safe during our daily tasks. Your distance on the broad jump is an excellent measure of power production in the legs. It is also a good indicator of how well you can control your bodyweight. If you have any orthopedic issues that are creating symptoms, I would skip this test.

The standing broad jump was an Olympic event up until 1912, and I want it back. This past year at the NFL combine, Byron Jones from University of Connecticut landed a 12 feet 3 inch jump. That is impressive! If my training clients’ standing broad jump goes from 4 feet 3 inches to 4 feet 8 inches, I know good things are happening. An added benefit of this test is that it allows assessment of deceleration skills. Clients who land with inward collapsing knees and forward falling spines have issues we need to resolve with their training programs.







Stand with the feet evenly spaced on a line. Bend at the ankles, knees and hips and throw your body forward. Stick the landing– no backward fall or forward lean. Measure from the line to the back of the heel. Use the heel that is furthest back if you land in a split stance. Record the distance. Take the best distance of three trials.

Use your score to guide your exercise program. Your standing broad jump distance should be better or the same and not worse. For athletes, I believe a distance that is equal to their height is essential. Lots of normative data on standing broad jump scores are available on line, but most of it is for athletes. Use your test score to guide your training. Fitness does not need to be a competition.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

To view video demonstration of the Standing Broad Jump, click on the link below:


Enhance single leg power production and prevent injury

Build explosive single leg power in your hips and legs
Improve coordination and core stability

Start in a half kneeling position, making sure the knee of your front leg is behind your toes.
Rest your arms at your sides.

From the ½ kneeling position, drive through the front foot’s heal and explode into the air. Once in the air, quickly switch your legs so that you land with the opposite foot forward. Land in the same ½ kneeling position with the back knee stopping 1-2” above the ground.

Not landing deep enough
Not spreading the feet far enough apart
Not jumping high enough

-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS