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Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Medicine Ball Wall Balls

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Medicine Ball Wall Balls.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/vCWu2gsCfU4.

If you are looking for a full body movement that offers the same triple extension (ankle, knee, hip) as the traditional weightlifting movements, then this exercise is for you.  Wall Balls focus on vertical power development.  All medicine ball movements tend to be much higher on the speed continuum of the power movements.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Medicine Ball Chest Pass.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/iN4qcOPe2vo

The Med Ball chest pass is a great exercise to build up horizontal pushing power.  It can be regressed to be stable, safe, and emphasize the upper body musculature, or progressed to be very dynamic and athletic in nature.  All medicine ball movements tend to be much higher on the speed continuum of the power movements.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

The Wisdom of Frank Part II

“Keep Your Legs In The Game”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank would work through some stretches, warm up and start in on the jump rope.  He was amazing with the rope.  Frank said an athlete was “nothing without his legs”.  “Power comes from the ground” and strong arms were useless without legs that could react.  He told me that keeping the “pop in your hop” was critical to successful aging.

Recent research on lower extremity power production and aging has proven Frank correct.  As we age, we lose lower extremity 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.  The current area of interest in exercise science has been the “discovery” of the benefits of lower extremity power training with older clients.  One of the best books on this subject is Bending the Aging Curve, by Dr. Joseph Signorile.  I read this book in 2011 and thought to myself, I heard all of this from Frank in 1979.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Get Sweaty and Get Smarter

The big benefit of a consistent program of exercise is the impact it has on the nervous system.  Muscle strength, flexibility, fat loss, and greater endurance are the happy side effects.  Immersion in a fitness program keeps the brain healthy and receptive to learning.

Anyone concerned with optimizing brain health needs to read Spark, by Dr John Ratey.  In this book, he discusses how brain function is enhanced by the habit of exercise.  Over the last nine years, more research has documented the positive effects of exercise on brain health and learning.  Read the recent *article from the New York Times on how we learn language more readily if we exercise.

* How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, August 16, 2017

View the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/well/move/how-exercise-could-help-you-learn-a-new-language.html?_r=0

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Learn how to keep your spinal stabilizers strong by performing side planks.  Mike O’Hara explains this in his article, “Learning to Lean”, and includes video demonstration and explanation of the importance keeping your stabilizers strong to stand up to the demands of daily life. It’s time for another Fenton Fitness Love Your Jeans Challenge–see page 3 for more information. In his article, “The Periodization of Nutrition”, Jeff Tirrell gives tips on optimizing dietary intake.

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Movement You Should Master

Push Ups

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that requires no equipment and has bountiful benefits is the Push Up.

Push Ups

Push ups strengthen the pecs, deltoids, triceps.  They also allow free movement of the shoulder blades (unlike the bench press) and build stability in the core if done properly.  There is no need to get overly fancy with these.  If you can’t do a true push up with your chest touching the ground and your core locked in, start by elevating your hands instead of resorting to “girl” push ups on your knees.  Guys should try to work up to 3 sets of 20 reps at least a couple of times/week.  Women should strive for at least 10 reps but by no means need to stop there.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/7oQ-_J8FjEU

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Movement You Should Master

Deadlifts

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be essential for overall strength is the Deadlift.

Deadlifts

At some point in your week, you will need to pick something up off the ground.  If you have ever moved furniture or loaded your push mower into the back of your car for repairs, you have seen the value in this task.

Deadlifts are an amazing exercise to work the quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, core, and entire back all the way up to the traps and forearms.  As useful as deadlifts are, they are also one of the most butchered exercises in the gym.  I would highly recommend the help of a skilled professional and/or a mirror before implementing this movement into your routine.  I find that for the general fitness population, 2-3 deadlift variations are all you need for the bulk of your training.  Watch the video and give them a try:

1) One Leg Romanian Deadlift (mimics picking up smaller items around the house or yard; minimizes shear forces on the spine)

2) Hex Bar Deadlifts (great for maximal strength and the occasion when you have to pick up something really heavy) Note: This version offers virtually all of the benefits of a barbell deadlift with slightly more freedom for individual anatomical differences and slightly lower shear forces on your spine.

View video of deadlifts: https://youtu.be/CRbbXOMSeww

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Ladder Matters

Moving well is a combination of balance, coordination, strength, and power.  During everyday tasks, you must be able to plant, pivot, and shift your bodyweight over one leg to change directions or decelerate an impact.  Movement is a skill that we all take for granted until the day that it fails us.  “I can’t believe I can’t do that,” is commonly heard from people in physical therapy.  They are unaware of the level of motor control they have lost to age, injury, and a sedentary lifestyle.  The good news is that with some consistent training, most motor control skills can be restored.  For gym members, an excellent method of enhancing movement skills is the agility ladder.

Agility ladders help you move better.  How you move says more about your age than how you look.  Responsive legs that can react to a disruption in balance keep you durable and injury free.  Consistent agility ladder training develops the neural coordination that allows more graceful movement.

Rotation is the movement pattern that creates the distance in your golf drive, the pop in your punch, and the acceleration in your sprint.  Rotation is the missing movement pattern in most training programs.  Ladder drills improve cross body, shoulder, and hip rotation.

Ladders are the rehab bridge that allows the injured athlete to move from a controlled series of movement patterns to the chaos of competition.  Ladders are one of the best power production and injury prevention activities older clients can perform.

As a conditioning method, I call ladder drills “three-dimensional jump rope”.   Move through a few sixty second intervals of continuous ladder drills and your body heats up, respiration increases, and your metabolism is disrupted.  Ramp that up to 90 seconds and check your heart rate.  See video of agility ladder drills: https://youtu.be/CmLXGLeyGfE

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Heat Or Ice For My Shoulder?

Try Standing Upright

In the gym, at the golf course, and during a visit to the hardware store, I am asked my advice on abolishing shoulder pain.  What everyone wants is the magical exercise, miracle ointment, or newest thermal treatment.  What they need–and what they do not want to hear–is that they have to fix their horrible posture.

Sustained poor posture can alter the function of your shoulder complex.  The shoulder girdle has only one, very small, bone to body connection.  The entire system is an interconnected series of muscles and ligaments.  Sustained slouched over postures create a faulty length-tension relationship in these structures that places adverse stress and strain on the four joints of the shoulder and the nerves in the neck and upper back.

OMG I sit lmGm (like my GrandMa).  

Shoulder posture pain problems are happening earlier.  I do not know if it is more tech toys, less physical education in schools, or a change in youth activity levels, but in the physical therapy clinic we are seeing younger people with older people postural shoulder pain.  They sit on the treatment table in extremely slouched over positions and are unable to pull themselves up into a correct position.  Most are unconvinced that how they sit and stand could be the generator of their pain problem.

What exercises can I do?

Stronger muscles will help restore posture.  The shoulder evolved to pull, lift, and carry.  The muscles that keep the shoulder strong and happy are in the back of the shoulder.  They hold the shoulder in a healthy position on the body.  Most of us never perform any pulling or lifting activities other than hoisting our laptop or toting our smart phone.   Making your shoulder girdle muscles stronger will help, but being mindful of your posture during the day is the most important factor.  Physical Therapist and US Soccer Team Trainer Sue Falsone says “You can’t out rep poor posture.”

Start with how you work and live.

Eight hours a day for five days a week equals 2080 hours of computer / desk time a year for the average office worker.  Add in a daily one hour car commute and another two hours of television a day and we push the Monday through Friday slump numbers to 2860 hours a year (120 days).  We have spent millions on state of the art chairs, elevated monitors, slanting keyboards, wrist rests, and lumbar supports.  Office modifications, while well intentioned and generally a good idea, cannot compete with 2860 hours (this number is probably low) of sitting in a year.  In order to fight against the postural stress that creates pain, we need to get up and move.

Recent research on prolonged sitting has demonstrated that the amount of movement we need to stay healthy is greater than we once thought.  To combat the adaptive changes of prolonged sitting, it is suggested you get up and move every twenty minutes.  Set a timer, enlist the help of your coworkers, and work at this every workday for a month.  I believe you will be surprised by the results.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Movement You Should Master

Squats

Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer.  Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body.  An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up from a seated position is the Squat.

Squats

Squats prepare us to get up out of a chair, into the car, and up from the floor.  These are daily tasks often taken for granted until they can no longer be done with ease.  The ability to squat down deep, remain there for some time, and get back up creates functional carryover to real life activities.  I recommend a mixture of three different squat variations.  Pick one variation to include in your training every day.  Watch the video and give all three a try.

1) Box Squats:  Set up with a box behind you and slowly lower yourself onto the box with control.  Once on the box, sit and relax completely before re-engaging the legs and standing back up. To maintain complete control of the movement all the way into the seated position, start with a tall enough box.  Increase the difficulty by lowering the box height or adding a load.  A 12”-14” box should be the goal for most people.

2) Deep Breathing Paused Squats:  Find a stance that allows you to squat down as low as possible without your heels coming off the ground or your tailbone tucking under.  Some individuals may need a wider or narrower stance.  You may also need to play with the angle of your toes.  Squat down to your lowest point (maintaining pelvic control and heel contact), take 2-5 deep breaths into your abdomen, and stand up.  These are best done for sets of 3-5 reps for 2-5 total sets.  To increase the challenge, external load can be added.  Just remember that the goal is depth.  If the increased load causes your range of motion to shorten, you’ve gone too heavy.

3) Split Squats: Assume a split stance, and lower your back knee down to the ground with control.  Extend the legs and return to the standing position.  You may find yourself in this position when picking something up off the floor or doing yard work.  Add weight to this movement as you are able.  You can also elevate the front or rear leg to increase the range of motion.

View video of squat variations: https://youtu.be/4gormcwHr5A

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

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