Movement You Should Master
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 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
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.
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
Movement You Should Master
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 and down off the floor is the Step Up.
The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed. Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading. Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level. Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders. The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall. Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.
Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions. Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.
1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)
2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Very Short Term Running Preparation
I was recently asked by a fitness client to post exercise recommendations that would prepare her for outdoor distance running. This person was two weeks away from being out on the road, running two or three miles a day. She is middle aged, has a prior history of lower back pain, and her goal was to lose fifteen pounds and “tone up”. Given such short notice, these are my recommendations.
Perform soft tissue work on a daily basis. Foam roll the legs and use a lacrosse ball on the plantar fascia. The vast majority of overuse injuries in runners happen in the lower legs and feet. Attempt to unwind the myofascial distress created by 600-700 foot impacts a mile.
Improve your reciprocal hip pattern–one hip goes back and the other goes forward. Most general fitness clients have glaring deficits on one side. Perform some split squats, posterior lunges, step ups, and or walking lunges. If you struggle with these activities, I would reconsider running as a fitness activity.
Wake up your gluteals. Every day, perform fifty or sixty bridges, hip lifts, or leg curls. You need super gluteal strength / endurance to run distances and avoid lower extremity injury. If your butt gets sore from fifty bridges, you need to do them more often.
Running is a skill and most recreational runners need some practice. Running hills will improve gait mechanics, enhance hip extension, and decrease deceleration forces. Find a fifty-yard hill. Run up the hill and walk back down. Perform five hill runs.
You are always better to run too little than to run too much. Start with very short runs– no more than half a mile. Increase your total weekly mileage by no more than five percent a week.
You can’t do this in two weeks, but this is my big recommendation to all future runners. Lose the extra weight before running. As a method of fat loss, distance running has a poor track record. It tends to elevate the hormones that make you hungry, and physiological adaptation to distance running happens fairly quickly. Extra adipose makes you far more likely to develop a running related injury. I know the guys and gals you see running miles and miles every day are lean. Please remember that lean runners are successful with running because they possess the optimal body mass to run long distances. They did not start heavy and become lean. Put a fifteen pound weight vest on that guy or gal and everything will change. Their gait will lose efficiency and become less graceful. The extra fifteen pounds of load creates the biomechanical overload that makes them much more likely to suffer an injury.
My final recommendation is that you not become disappointed if you develop pain. A runnersworld.com poll conducted in 2009 revealed that 66% of respondents reported a running related injury that year. The statistics indicate that one third of the participants at you local 10k fun run will require medical attention for a running related injury over the next year. Have the good sense to stop when the pain begins.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Treadmills are found in virtually every gym. Read the six treadmill facts you need to know. Meet a Fenton Fitness member who learned how to manage her back pain, and read about the seven best TRX exercises. Do you have limited time to exercise? Be more efficient with HIIT.
Three Gifts I Would Give And Three I Would Take Away
Santa Gives You Gluteal Activation
You need a responsive and strong set of butt muscles to function at optimal levels. Many gym goers have gluteal muscles that are neurologically disconnected. The term physical therapists and strength coaches use is “gluteal amnesia.” Our sedentary lifestyle involves very little of the glute recruiting sprinting, deep squatting, and climbing that activates the butt muscles. We mistreat our gluteal muscles with hours of compressive sitting and little in the way of full range hip movement. Most fitness clients are in need of some intensive gluteal training. The hip lift is a simple exercise activity that produces a superior response. See the attached video for a demonstration.
Scrooge the Lumbar Spine Flexion
Drop the sit ups, stop doing crunches, ditch the glute ham developer sit ups, and forgo the toes to bar competitions. Father time, gravity, and the stress of prolonged sitting are already bending our lumbar spines forward all day long. The last thing you need to do is accelerate degenerative breakdown of the lumbar segments with more repetitions of spine flexion. Please forget about isolating abdominal muscles. Instead learn how to control the team of muscles that hold the lumbar spine stable. It is a neural event that is worthy of all your efforts.
Santa Gives You Medicine Ball Throws
Life is an up tempo game. 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. 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 and speed of movement. Medicine ball throws are the easiest way to improve power. Medicine ball throws can be scaled to all fitness levels and are safe as long as you use a properly sized and weighted ball. The large, soft Dynamax balls are a good choice for beginners. They rebound well off of the block walls in the gym and are easy to catch. Do not overload your medicine ball throws, a two to eight pound ball is best for most gym goers. Get with one of the trainers for instruction on adding medicine ball throws to your training program.
Scrooge Sitting Down in the Gym
Movement happens in an upright, standing position. “Seated exercise” is an oxymoron. If you want to improve how your body functions, you must stand up and defy gravity. Every athletic endeavor is performed in a standing position. Seated exercise reinforces poor postural habits and diminishes your capacity to move. I call it the “illusion of exercise” and it will always be highly visible in commercial gyms because it is easy to sell.
Santa Gives You Four-Point Training
Crawling is the neurological training tool an infant uses to develop the capacity to stand and walk. It is the pathway to better motor control and less pain. Nearly every physical therapy patient and most fitness clients benefit from a healthy dose of four-point position exercise. In your fitness program, reinforce the patterns of spinal stability and reboot the postural reflexes with some horse stance horizontal, crawling, and Jacobs Ladder training. Four-point training can be scaled to any fitness level. Watch the attached video for some examples.
Scrooge Elliptical Training
I know you love the elliptical. It is the no impact, cardio darling of the gym but it should be used as a fitness dessert and not a main course. Elliptical training has multiple drawbacks. Ergonomically, it is a one size for everyone apparatus that does not work well for taller or shorter people. When you walk or run, you improve the important skill of stabilizing your body over one leg. An elliptical keeps both feet stapled to the machine and deadens any neural enhancement of balance or single leg stability. Hip extension keeps our back healthy and our body athletic. Maintaining or improving hip extension should be part of every training session. There is no hip extension produced when you train on an elliptical. Many people maintain a flexed spine when they use an elliptical. Sitting produces the flexed forward spine we all need to work against in our fitness programs. The repetitive use of the shoulder girdle is a frequent generator of referrals to physical therapy for head and neck pain. Metabolic adaptation to elliptical training happens fairly quickly. In January, a 30 minute session burns 330 calories, but by June, your body becomes more efficient and that same routine creates only a 240 calorie deficit. The low impact, reduced weight bearing nature of an elliptical makes it a poor choice in your fight against osteoporosis.
I am happy when people are more active. Patients and fitness clients love the elliptical and they believe it helps. Use that belief to keep you motivated and training. I just want everyone to manage the drawbacks of this type of training. Injured people always say “Why didn’t someone tell me?” Before you jump on the elliptical, take ten minutes and improve your core stability and hip function with some four-point exercises and hip lifts. Learn how to throw a medicine ball and stay standing through the rest of your training program. Next Christmas you will thank me.
Merry Christmas and a Humbug to you.
See video of Mike in the gym demonstrating these exercises here: https://youtu.be/H0my94BPHNQ
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
The hip hinge is the most powerful movement the human body can perform. It is the pattern that allows you to lift your body off the ground in a hop, skip, or a jump. Many people, through injury or inactivity, are unable to perform a proper hip hinge pattern. Your core stabilizers, gluteals, and hamstrings all work together to create a hip hinge so you must train them as a team. The Romanian Deadlift and Row is simple exercise you can use to retrain the hip hinge pattern.
I have no idea why it is called a Romanian Deadlift and Row but many exercises have these foreign names- Turkish Get Ups, Bulgarian Squats, Czechoslovakian Chin Ups… I do know that this drill is a great method of retraining the all important hip hinge pattern while limiting loading on the lumbar spine.
RDL AND ROW
Set up resistance tubing (or a cable unit) at chest level. Stand facing the tubing / cable unit with the feet shoulder width apart. Pull the hands in so the thumbs are at the armpits and the shoulder blades pulled back. Reach forward with the hands and push the hips back. The knees should bend a little and hips should bend a lot. Keep the lower back neutral and your weight over the heels. Pull back up to the starting position and hold the hamstrings, abdominals, and gluteals tight for three counts. Repeat for eight to ten repetitions.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
All of our muscles work as a team to create movement. Postural stress, injuries, and poor training practices can cause some of our muscles to lose communication with the rest of the team. One of the more common problems we find in physical therapy and performance training is fondly termed “gluteal amnesia,” or an inability to use the gluteal (butt) muscles properly. In a strong, well-functioning body, the gluteal and hamstring muscles fire in a synchronous fashion to create motion. Strong, well-developed hamstrings and gluteals are the hallmark of an athletic body. Just look at any sprinter, speed skater, or high jumper. An extremely effective exercise to strengthen and reinforce the connection between these muscle groups is the suspension Supine Hip Extension Leg Curl (SHELC).
Why You Should SHELC
Unlike other gluteal and hamstring exercises, such as the good morning, barbell deadlift, and cable pull through, the SHELC does not put any shear stress or compression forces through the lumbar spine. The SHELC forces you to use the gluteals and hamstrings as a team. Strong and coordinated gluteal and hamstring muscles safeguard the knees and lower back. The SHELC trains hip hyperextension– a key component of efficient acceleration. The best athletes are the ones that get up to top speed the fastest.
Set 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 to the floor between repetitions.
The SHELC can be made more challenging by moving the entire body out from under the suspension point or by adding a weight across the front of the body. Another challenging progression is the Single Leg SHELC.
To view video demonstration of the SHELC, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS