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Real Core Training Part Two

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Bent Knee Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and line your knees up below your hips.  Lift your hips off the ground and hold.  Work up to 45 seconds.

Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and straighten your legs out.  Stack your legs on top of each other and lift your hips off the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg Elevated

Position yourself in the same set up as the side plank.  Once your hips are lifted off the ground, you will move your top leg away from the bottom leg.  Make sure that you don’t flex either hip when raising the top leg.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg on Bench

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder.  Place your top leg on top of a bench.  Lift your hips off the ground.  The bottom leg can squeeze the bottom of the bench or dangle in the air.

Suitcase Hold

Grab a KB/DB in one hand, stand tall, and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Make sure your shoulder blades stay down and back.  If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to ensure you aren’t leaning.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Suitcase Carry

Assume the same set up as the suitcase hold.  Start walking with a normal gait.  Make sure to not lean excessively.  Start with 20 yards per side and work up to 100 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part One

Anti-Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Flexion

Kettlebell/Dumbbell (KB/DB) Throat Holds

Grab a KB/DB and hold it in the goblet position directly under your chin.  Stand tall and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position.  Don’t allow the weight to rest on your chest.  Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.

KB/DB Throat Carry

Once you’ve mastered Throat Holds, you are ready to walk.  Position yourself in the same set up, but now you are going to walk while maintaining the same upper body posture and a normal gait.  Start with 20 yards and work your way up to 100.

Hyperextension Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Set yourself up on the hyperextension bench with the thigh pad below your hips and above your knees.  Assume a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Hold this position for up to 45 seconds before adding weight.

Glute Ham Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Position yourself in the same setup as with the hyperextension bench but use the glute ham developer bench. Work up to 30 second holds before adding weight.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Renegade Rows and SHELC

When designing programs for rehabilitation patients and fitness clients, I often pair up exercises.  This practice is commonly called super-setting and it has multiple benefits:
Train efficiently—You get much more work done during your training time.  
Abolish performance deficits—Most physical therapy and fitness clients need to work on glaring right vs. left movement asymmetries, postural restrictions, and stability limitations.  
Lose weight—Fat loss is a primary goal of most fitness clients.  Pairing exercises ramps up exercise intensity and creates the hormonal response that improves body composition.  
Move better—Training neurologically related movement patterns improves motor control.  

Renegade Row-SHELC Combo

Renegade Rows
The renegade row starts in the top position of a push up.  Rubber hex dumbbells work the best for this exercise since they do not move on the floor.  Place the dumbbells on the floor and position the hands on top of the dumbbells.  Try to align the dumbbells directly under the armpits.  Maintain a strong grip on the dumbbell handle during the exercise.  Spread the feet at least shoulder width.  Tighten the shoulder blades down the back and create total body tension.   Without allowing the torso to turn, row one dumbbell up so the thumb approaches the armpit.  Lower the dumbbell in a controlled manner and repeat with the other arm.  Perform five repetitions on each arm.

Supine Hip Extension Leg Curls
shelcSet 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 toward the floor as the knees flex and extend.

The anti-flexion and anti-rotation core stabilization demand created by this pair of exercises produces some interesting next day abdominal muscle soreness.  The ability to link the hips to the shoulder and produce movement is what everyone tries to accomplish with functional training.  Move through three sets of the Renegade Row – SHELC combo and let me know how it goes.

View video of Mike performing these exercises here: https://youtu.be/2_fT0zShTSo

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Hip Lifts and Roll Outs

When designing programs for rehabilitation patients and fitness clients, I often pair up exercises.  This practice is commonly called super-setting and it has multiple benefits:
Train efficiently—You get much more work done during your training time.  
Abolish performance deficits—Most physical therapy and fitness clients need to work on glaring right vs. left movement asymmetries, postural restrictions, and stability limitations.  
Lose weight—Fat loss is a primary goal of most fitness clients.  Pairing exercises ramps up exercise intensity and creates the hormonal response that improves body composition.  
Move better—Training neurologically related movement patterns improves motor control.  

Hip Lifts and Roll Outs

An intricate system of muscles holds the spine upright over the top of the pelvis.  This pair of exercises coordinates and strengthens this support system.  If you sit all day long, have postural problems, or a history of lower back pain this pair of exercises is worthy of your training time.

Hip Lifts
hip_liftThis drill coordinates hip extension and lumbar spine stability.  It is very beneficial when progressed to the single leg version.  Lay with your shoulders across a bench with the head supported.  Place your arms out to the sides.  Plant the feet on the ground with the knees bent 90 degrees and the shins perpendicular to the floor.  Drop the hips to the floor and then push back up with the gluteals and hamstring muscles.  Hold at the top for two counts and repeat.

Roll Outs
The roll out can be scaled to serve any fitness level.  Beginners can start with a large 65 centimeter physioball, and as they become more proficient, progress to a smaller 55 centimeter ball.  The closer the hands get to the floor the more challenging the exercise becomes.  If you get strong enough, you can perform the forward roll out with a Power Wheel or Sorinex roller.

Kneel on a mat to keep the pressure off your knees.  Your femur (thigh bone) is positioned perpendicular to the floor and the hips are hinged at 45 degrees.  Place the hands on the front of the ball and the elbows directly under the chin.  Brace the abdominal muscles and roll out onto the ball until you feel a challenge through your midsection.  Hold in the challenging position for three counts and then return to the starting position.
Perform twelve repetitions of the hip lifts, rest 30 seconds, and then perform ten roll outs.  Rest and repeat the cycle.  Work up to three sets through this exercise combination.

View video of Mike performing these exercises here: https://youtu.be/Xf08rFU7A4w.

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

PDFIn this month’s issue, Mike O’Hara, PT provides information on Achilles tendinopathy with exercises that will help prevent this painful condition. Watch the video for the exercises by following the link in the article “Achilles Recovery”. Mike also demonstrates and describes the combination of turkish get ups and waiters walks–paired exercises that can help you train efficiently. Video for this article can also be seen on our youtube channel; just follow the links in the article.

Download Here

 

Testing Fitness Readiness

Isometric Spinal Extension Strength Test

A big problem in the fitness industry is that there are no standardized performance evaluations that participants must achieve in order to begin or progress in an exercise activity.  Anyone, no matter how deconditioned, posturally flawed, and orthopedically challenged can walk into the gym and get a workout.  As a strength and conditioning coach, the present “free for all” system is a challenge that at times can be very frustrating.  As a physical therapist treating orthopedic injuries on a daily basis, the present system keeps me busy.  Performance tests and movement assessments identify asymmetries, strength deficits, and potential pain problems.  A good coach uses assessments to determine the appropriate exercise prescription for their client.  I will be posting some basic user-friendly performance assessment tests that should be a part of all fitness programs.  If you pass the tests, congratulations and keep up the good work.  If you did poorly on the tests, you need to get to work on improving your performance.

Isometric Spinal Extension Strength Test
The muscles around your spine and pelvic girdle are designed to reduce and not create motion.  They are isometric muscles that brace the torso and pelvis to create the pillar strength you need to carry in firewood, lift the wheelbarrow, or push the lawn mower.  The Isometric Spinal Extension Strength Test is an assessment of the component of core stability that isometrically resists spinal flexion.  This test is used in industrial medicine to assess a worker’s ability to return to material handling tasks.  In my evaluation of fitness clients, it is often the stability test with the most significant deficits.

You need a Roman Chair or Glute-Ham Developer Bench to perform this test.  The support pad of the bench should be on the front of the thigh just set below the pelvis.  Position your body so that the ankles, knee, hips, and lumbar spine are in one long line that is parallel to the floor.  Cross the arms across the chest and hold a solid, floor parallel position as long as you are able.  Pain with the test is a fail and you need to be evaluated to find out why the test is painful.  Less than thirty seconds is a poor grade.   You need to improve your performance, and in the meantime, avoid activities that require you to resist spinal flexion-resisted squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and bent over rows.  Thirty to sixty seconds is a fair grade and clears you for most resistance training.  Athletes and those involved in occupations that require lifting and carrying need the isometric strength that permits a sixty-second hold.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

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