Are You Ready?
Spring At The Physical Therapy Clinic
The weather is warming up and soon we will leave the heated, insulated, safety of our home gyms and fitness centers. The spring migration back to tennis, soccer, pickleball, golf, fitness running, ultimate Frisbee, and stadium steps will begin. My physical therapy question is– Are you ready for these new challenges? Has your fitness program prepared you to withstand the rigors of these spring endeavors? This checklist should help you answer the question.
Have you been performing most of your fitness activities in standing?
Nearly every sport and most household chores are performed in a standing position. During most of my visits to commercial gyms, the majority of the activity I witness is in the supine, seated, or heavily supported positions. If your goal is to move better and remain free of injury, then 90% of your exercise should be performed in standing.
Do you practice moving in all directions?
Nearly every sport involves moving side to side, forward-backward, and in a rotational pattern. Basketball, soccer, golf, and tennis all require you to accelerate and decelerate movement in all directions. Most gym activities are predominantly sagittal plane– forward and backward. You ride on the elliptical, spin the bike, and run on the treadmill for months, and your spring visit to the tennis court results in a twisted ankle because you are unfamiliar with side to side movement patterns.
Have you been working on better balance?
Balance is a skill that tends to deteriorate with age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle. Many commercial exercise machines take all balance demands away. The elliptical, spin bike, recumbent bike, rower… all are heavily supported. Proficiency with single leg stance balance prevents injuries and improves performance. The older and more deconditioned you have become, the more your fitness program should include single leg stance balance training.
Do you perform any explosive exercises?
We get slower before we get weaker, and life is an up-tempo game. We need to perform exercise that enhances quickness and improves control of deceleration forces. 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. If you train explosively, you get better at moving at faster speeds. 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 production and speed of movement.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Fitness training for those of us past 40 years of age is more complicated. Physical performance and recovery capacity are dramatically different. If you need proof, look for the forty year olds in the NBA or NFL. The good news is that with proper planning, consistent performance, and the wisdom that comes with age, we can stay fit and active for a lifetime. I have compiled a collection of tips for the forty plus fitness client.
As we age, we tend to move slower. Unfortunately, life happens at faster speeds. Those of us past forty should perform fitness activities that improve quickness and enhance the control of deceleration forces. I am sorry, but yoga and Pilates are not fast enough to be beneficial. You do not have to perform jump squats with a barbell on your back. Basic medicine ball throws and agility drills will work wonders.
For injury prevention, athletic performance, and general health, a regular program of lower extremity power training is beneficial. Traditional exercises that improve explosive leg power—jumps, hops, bounds, and skips—are too challenging for many fitness clients. Limited leg strength, poor balance, joint problems, and a high body mass index all make traditional plyometric training problematic. The assistance of a suspension trainer creates an environment that permits everyone to succeed in exercises that improve leg power.
Older fitness clients may not possess the balance to perform traditional plyometric power production exercises. The stability assist from the TRX is the balance “training wheels” necessary for beneficial jump, split jump, jump squat, and lunge exercises. The suspension trainer unloads an exercise and allows the client the opportunity to practice explosive movements with less joint stress. TRX power exercises require no set up time, and a full complement of explosive enhancing drills can be completed in five minutes.
Older fitness clients are in special need of training to improve leg power. Between the ages of 65 and 89 lower limb power (the ability to move the legs explosively) declines at a rate of 3.5% per year. Strength declines at a slower 1-2% per year rate in this same group. Power is the ability to create force in a short period of time and is different than raw strength. Lower extremity power capacity keeps us safe. It is the component of fitness that enables you to react and save yourself from a fall or sudden disturbance in balance. As leg power falters, injuries increase. As injuries increase, pain, mobility and independent living decreases.
Exercise is like medicine, administer the correct prescription at the proper dose and the patient thrives. The “exercise medicine” that is missing in many training programs is a consistent dose of power training. Watch the video for some examples of simple power production exercises you can add to your program.
-Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
To view a video demonstration of multiple exercises completed with TRX, click on the link below: