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
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 Man with the Missing Butt
There is an epidemic currently going on in men of all ages in our country. Virtually everywhere you go, you see men with sagging pants and exposed back sides. There are two major culprits of this unpleasant scene: an underdeveloped gluteus maximus muscle and an overly large gut. The latter is best dealt with in the kitchen, but the former can be vastly improved through proper resistance training. Perhaps the biggest problem with this issue is that many men don’t even care about it and are pre-occupied with “show muscles” like arms, shoulders, and pecs. This is a shame as Shakira was right on the money when she sang “the hips don’t lie.”
The Gluteus Maximus is the largest single muscle in the entire body and is the most dominant muscle on the hips. The glutes are also responsible for more actions than any other muscle group in the body. They extend the hips, adduct the femur, externally rotate the femur, and posteriorly tilt the hips. Strong and large glutes are distinctly correlated with reduced low back pain and reduced knee pain. If reduced pain isn’t enough motivation to get serious about training, your glutes’ improved performance will motivate you. Bret Contreras (recent PhD student and creator of the Hip Thruster) has single handedly shaped our knowledge of the glutes with his research in this area.
The glutes play the most important role in horizontal acceleration and speed. If you want to improve your sprinting times, getting stronger and bigger glutes is the absolute best way to shave time off your 40 yard dash. I think many athletes would greatly benefit from doing less “speed” training/camps and spend more time focusing on getting bigger and stronger glutes. Our hips are essential for virtually all athletic movements: throwing a ball, swinging a bat/golf club, punching, kicking, etc. all produce or transfer the majority of their energy through the hips. Ask any wrestler and he will tell you that controlling your opponent’s hips controls your opponent. Here are my two favorite exercises for building size and strength in the glutes:
Hip Thrust: The Hip Thrust has been demonstrated in research to be the single best exercise for maximally stimulating the glutes, and unlike most other exercises, it gets the most stimulation at the fully contracted position of full hip extension. Again, this exercise has been shown to be one of the best tools for shaving seconds off your 40 yard dash time. The most important aspect of this lift is that it allows for progressively heavier loads for a lifetime.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat: The Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat is a great exercise that improves single leg balance, improves/challenges hip mobility by putting one hip leg into flexion and the other into extension, and works the glute most where it is fully stretched (the opposite of the Hip Thrust). As with the Hip Thrust, this exercise allows for progressively heavier loads over time.
Add these exercises, along with a focus on overall glute strength to your program, and say goodbye to sagging pants, knee/back pain, and watch your power/acceleration increase.
Click on the link below for video demonstration of the hip thrust and rear foot elevated split squat:
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1