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Learn more about Rehab, Sports Medicine & Performance


Five Fitness Numbers You Need to Know

Scale bodyweight, bench press maximum, some “girl name” and a time are all fitness numbers your hear in the gym.  If you are interested in optimal performance and health, I have the fitness numbers we all need to know.  Focusing on these numbers will keep you active and independent for a lifetime.


The location of bodyfat is far more important than the amount of bodyfat.  Visceral fat, the kind stored in and around the belly, is the hormonal driver of metabolic syndrome; the precursor to diabetes, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.  To optimize health, you need to monitor the diameter of your waistline.  The number you want to know is your waist to height ratio.  You want your waist to be less than half your height.  If your waist size is greater than one half your height, then reducing your waist diameter should be the primary goal of your fitness program.


Sleep is the ultimate exercise recovery activity.  One or two nights of sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce gym performance by 25% – 40%.  We need seven to eight hours of restful sleep, each and every night.  The most important benefits of exercise are neural and hormonal.  Sleep reboots our neural software and replenishes the hormonal system.  Medications, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, and obesity all can interfere with sleep patterns.  Fixing these health issues and developing better sleep habits produces magical progress in the gym.  Read the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.


The Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and Athletic Trainer Lee Burton, is a seven-step dynamic movement based test that has become a standard of practice in physical therapy and sports performance centers.  The FMS helps prevent injuries before they occur by identifying risk factors.  Movement indicates how a body works and lets us know how the brain is controlling the body and how the joints and muscles communicate.  Just like a good medical work up, the FMS permits the trainer / therapist to make the proper decision about the clients’ most urgent needs and avoid gym activities that are detrimental.


Recent research has demonstrated that knowing your grip strength is as important as knowing your blood pressure.  The PURE research of 140 thousand individuals revealed that a drop in grip strength is a strong predictor of mortality from all causes.  We will all face health battles and the stronger body wins while a weaker body loses.


Exercise is ineffective absent consistency.  Even a haphazard program of exercise is beneficial if you perform it on a consistent basis.  The experts say a good goal is 150 training sessions per year.  That is three times a week for 50 of the 52 weeks in a year.  Link together several years of the consistency habit and amazing changes happen.  Most people overestimate the value of a month’s worth of exercise and greatly underestimate the value of a year’s worth of exercise.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”.  Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance  and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.

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Newsletter PDFIn this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT discusses the importance of strong, well-functioning upper back muscles. Exercises, including video, are presented. Jeff Tirrell gives us ways to keep all those New Year’s fitness resolutions, and Mike gives fitness tips to make your program more successful.

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Rob had been working out at a local gym for the last three years.  Three times a week, he rode a stationary bike and used six or seven resistance machines. In those three years, he lost twelve pounds and felt much better.  In an effort to improve his results, Rob started a DVD program of interval-type exercise training.  After six weeks, he dropped eight more pounds off his scale weight but his right knee and foot had become painful.  Rob tried anti-inflammatory medication and modifications of the exercises but the pain persisted.  Eight weeks after the pain began Rob was referred to our clinic for physical therapy.fms

As part of his physical therapy evaluation, Rob went through the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by athletic trainer Dr. Lee Burton and physical therapist Gray Cook.  The screening consists of seven tests of dynamic movement.  You score a 3—flawless, 2—some movement deficits, but you are cleared to exercise, 1—you have issues that need to be addressed before you train that pattern, or a zero—pain is present and you need treatment.

Rob did well on all but two of the seven FMS tests.  He scored a one on the squat test and a zero on the in-line lunge test.  Further evaluation revealed restrictions in the mobility of both hips and a lack of pelvic girdle stability.  Rob was instructed on a progressive program of corrective exercises, and after three weeks, the scores on both tests improved to a two.  Pain in the right knee and foot resolved, and Rob returned to fitness training with a new plan.

Rob’s new fitness goal was to improve his FMS test scores and work on a program of mobility and strength training.  Six months after starting on the new program, he lost twelve more pounds, and more importantly, he had increased his overall strength levels.  He achieved an FMS score of 3 on both the squat and the in-line lunge.  Rob stated that he had made more progress with six months of his new training than he had over the previous three years.

Rob’s story is not uncommon.  It is difficult to map out the most efficient and beneficial path on your fitness journey if you have no idea where your starting point is located.  Goals, the fitness destination, are easy to locate– lose twenty pounds, run a marathon, lift my grandchild…  The crucial component is finding out where you are presently located on the fitness map.  Only then are you able to choose the optimal training methods to progress along in the journey.

To make the fitness journey as efficient and productive as possible, you must begin with an evaluation.  Since 1999, the trainers and physical therapists at Fenton Fitness and Fenton Physical Therapy have been utilizing the Functional Movement Screen assessment system.  I advise everyone to participate in this evaluation.  Find out where you excel and where you struggle.   Let the FMS help guide your fitness decisions, and your road will be smoother and more direct.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS