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Movement You Should Master

Step 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 I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.

Step Ups

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


RDL_and_RowThe 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.

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.

SHELC Performance

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

“Hamstrings” is the name given to the series of muscles on the back of the thigh that connect the pelvis to the lower bone of the knee. The hamstrings cross two joints, and like all bi-articular muscles, they are more prone to injury and create more difficulties when they become weak. Properly functioning hamstrings work at the knee like the reins on a horse. They tell the knee to slow down, speed up, turn in, and turn out. Lack of hamstring control at the knee makes you more susceptible to injury and pain problems.   At the pelvis, they work in concert with the gluteal muscles to produce hip extension and control the position of the pelvis. As anyone who has had a hamstring tendonitis will tell you, running, jumping, climbing stairs, and getting up off the floor suddenly becomes very painful.

Your friendly neighborhood gym has an answer in the form of a leg curl machine. Leg curl machines are designed to strengthen the hamstrings by bending the knee against a plate loaded resistance. While leg curl machines will make your hamstrings bigger, they produce little carry over to better functional performance. Leg curl machines do not train the hip extension component of hamstring function, and they completely separate the hamstrings from their functional teammates the gluteal muscles.

The saying in neurology is “What fires together, wires together.” Every time you perform an exercise, you neurologically reinforce the movement pattern of that exercise. It is like hitting “save” on your computer. If you reinforce faulty movement patterns with enough frequency and intensity, the pattern becomes your method of moving during stressful situations. Seated and prone leg curl machines reinforce a faulty motor pattern that will not save you from a fall, improve your performance on the field of play, or make you more durable.

Roller Leg Curl

With the Sorinex Roller Leg Curl, you can train the hamstrings to work at both the knee and the pelvis at the same time.   As in all aspects of locomotion, the gluteals and hamstrings fire together. Just like when you run or sprint, a strong core stability demand is necessary. If you get strong enough to perform the single leg version, a challenge of rotational control at the pelvis is created.

In the supine position, with the knees extended, place a Sorinex Roller underneath both feet. Contract the gluteal muscles and lift the hips off the floor. Tighten up the hamstring muscles and pull the sliders up toward the hips. Slide back out to full knee extension but keep the hips up off the floor. Keep the ankles pulled up into dorsiflexion throughout the exercise. Perform two sets of five to ten repetitions. As your strength improves, you can add resistance in the form of a band attached to the roller or a sandbag on the hips. The ultimate goal is to progress to single leg training. We travel through life one leg at a time.

To view video demonstration of the Roller Leg Curl, click on the link below:

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS