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
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.
Manage Spinal Compression
As we age, changes occur in the joints, discs, and muscles that make up our spine. A lifetime of driving and sitting at a desk can create soft tissue restrictions and postural flaws. Statistically, the primary predictor for a future injury is a prior injury. By the age of 45, over 80% of the population will have lived through either a lower back or neck pain problem that was so severe it required medical attention. If you are older and have a history of lower back or neck pain, you should manage the level of spinal compression during your fitness program.
Compressive forces are at work on our spine from the moment we stand upright in the morning until we retire to our bed for a night of sleep. In the world of industrial ergonomics, we work to limit compressive forces that workers experience at the job site because we know increased compression produces more injuries. Recent dynamic imaging tests of lower lumbar and cervical spines placed under compressive loads have revealed surprising changes in disc dimension and spinal position. Rehabilitation and fitness professionals are now more aware than ever that the daily compressive forces our spines encounter is a major driver of pain and disability.
One third of our spinal length is made up of intervertebral discs—that is why we get shorter as we get older. Intervertebral discs are made up of compressible tissue. Under normal loads the discs can deform and then bounce back to their normal height, but inappropriate loading can damage the discs and alter their ability to absorb forces and create motion. Thinner discs create greater intervertebral joint stress and the environment for “wear and tear” breakdown of the spinal joints. Smoking, diabetes, and occupational sitting are some of the health and environmental factors that make you more susceptible to the damaging effects of excessive spinal compression.
Most people are unaware of the many fitness activities that create compressive forces on the lumbar spine. Treadmill running (greater if you hold on the treadmill handles), leg press, rowing machine, crunches, and leg lifts all create a compressive loading of the lumbar joints and discs. Be aware of the accumulated level of compression you place on your spine during a week of exercise. If you are uncertain which activities place a compressive load on the lumbar spine, you need to work with a physical therapist or an educated trainer.
-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Training to develop lower extremity power is important for staying safe on the playing field and functional in everyday life. More important is the ability to efficiently and properly absorb force during a landing. Box jumps are a basic power exercise that will improve these skills. If you are a snow skier, volleyball player, or runner then box jumps should be in your fitness program.
Competition vs. Athletic Enhancement
Box jumps have become popular in fitness competitions. The goal during these games is to get a number of jumps finished in a prescribed period of time. During these events the box jump is the field of play and not a training tool. Athletes who wish to improve performance and reduce the chance of an injury perform box jumps to retrain the neural system and enhance mechanics. Training for a box jump competition and training to improve performance are very different.
Box Jump Prerequisites
You should score a 2 or better on the straight leg raise, squat, and in-line lunge portion of the functional movement screen before you perform box jumps. See one of our trainers if you have not had a movement screen assessment. You should be able to perform a solid stable landing on a “step and catch” off a twelve inch box.
Box jumps are performed on a plyometric box. At FFAC, we use the Plyosafe boxes made by UCS. These twelve, eighteen, and twenty four inch boxes are made of layered foam padding to absorb much of the force when landing a box jump.
- Start in front of a twelve inch box. Your toes should be about six inches from the side of the box with the feet shoulder width.
- Hip hinge–bending a little at the ankle and knees and more at the hips. Do not permit the knees to crash inward. Use the arms to aggressively drive the jump. Throw the arms up as you drive off the floor with the hips.
- Do not look down. Keep the eyes up and think about jumping up and extending the legs out long. Do not pull the knees up and turn the jump into a hip flexion exercise. You want to displace the hips vertically and not flex the hips forward in an effort to reach the top of the box. You should never land on the top of the box in the “cannonball dive” position.
- Your take off position should be the same as your landing position. “Stick the landing” by staying stationary for two counts.
- Land soft with minimal noise created when you impact on the top. Good plyometrics are seen and not heard.
- Use a mirror to assess your landing position. The knees should line up with the feet and never buckle inward. Keep your torso tall and eyes up. Make an effort to get rid of any wobble in your landing.
- Step down (do not jump down), reload your stance, and repeat. We want to avoid the eccentric stress and impact of jumping down and remove any influence of the stretch-shortening cycle.
Perform three to five box jumps and then take a short rest to let your neural system recharge. Three sets of three to five repetitions is a good start. Box jumps stress your nervous system so stay with a low volume of high quality box jumps. As you become more proficient, work on using a higher box (most of us will never need a 30 inch box). Avoid the high box jumps you see on the internet that are mostly a measure of hip mobility and sponsored by the local spinal surgery center. Holding a kettlebell, weight plate, or wearing a weight vest and performing a box jump offers little reward and carries lots of unnecessary risk.
We all have limited time to train so choosing the proper training activities is important. The combination of box jumps and some properly performed kettlebell swings will go a long way to prevent injuries, improve strength, and enhance vertical leap.
For video demonstration of the box jump, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Ten million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis. An additional 18 million are at risk to develop it. An additional 34 million are at risk to develop osteopenia, or low bone mass. These ailments lead to higher incidents of fractures which lead to lack of physical activity and a quick decline in the fitness and health of affected individuals.
Last week, we talked about the vital role our diet plays when it comes to preventing osteoporosis by providing the needed nutrients to build and maintain strong bones. It should be noted that over half of our bone mass is accumulated during adolescence (12.5 years for girls and 14 years for boys) with peak bone mass being achieved in our mid 20’s. It is, therefore, very important for people of all ages, especially younger individuals, to incorporate appropriate activities and nutrition and not wait until we are in our 50’s and beyond to start trying to modify diet and activity.
In addition to giving our bodies the needed nutrients of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, the most effective way to stimulate our bone density is through activity. Ultimately, putting our bones under large amounts of force gives them the stimulus they need to get dense and strong.
There are two main ways we can put stress on our bones where the requisite force is being absorbed or transferred which in turn stimulates bone density. One such way is through weight bearing exercises which force your body to absorb impact. These include walking (on hard surfaces), running, sprinting, jumping, and various upper extremity plyometric exercises. The potential drawback to some of these exercises is that they can be hard on your joints (knees, hips, back, ankles), especially for those with preexisting conditions in these areas. This type of training should be used 2-3x/week for 15-30 minutes.
The second form is that of resistance training. This can be done with machines, bands, body weight, or free weights. It has been demonstrated that free weight activities using barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells (especially at heavier weights/intensities) lead to greater force production. It would stand to reason, therefore, that utilizing primarily free weight exercises with moderate to heavy weights would be most effective at increasing/maintaining bone density. Resistance training should be performed 3-5 times per week for 30-60 minutes.
It should be noted that low/no impact activities such as swimming, water aerobics, yoga, elliptical trainers, and biking provide little stimulus for improving bone density. Also, even with the best training protocol, appropriate considerations must be made in regard to nutrition to be sure the needed nutrients are available to build up our bones.
Click on the link below to see video demonstration of one of our members in action:
-Jeff Tirrell, B.S., OCS, CSCS