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Everything Works–For Six Weeks–Then It Stops Working

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”–Charles Kettering

One of the most frequent complaints from gym members and physical therapy patients is that they exercise but see no results.  They consistently ride the elliptical, attend yoga class, and run, but make no progress in how they look, move, or feel.  The common feature to almost all of these clients is that they have done the same activity at the same intensity for a prolonged period of time.  The human body is a master at adaptation and the only way it will change is if you alter your exercise activity on a regular basis.

In athletic training, the planned alteration in training stimulus is called periodization.  Periodization is a method of dosing your exercise workloads to promote peak performance.  The athlete works at a specific regimen for four to six weeks and then the program is changed before physical adaptation takes place and progress stalls.

Older and more experienced gym goers should alter their fitness routine every three to four weeks.  The changes do not need to be major.  Increase the weight you lift and lower the number of repetitions–four sets of six repetitions instead of three sets of ten repetitions.  Get off the recumbent bike and add some drills to improve your gait and enhance balance.  Expand your training tool box and learn how to use a new device– resistance tubing, medicine ball, kettlebell…

For fat loss, choose what strength coach Dan John calls inefficient exercise.  Over the weeks and months, the elliptical session you have been performing three days a week burns fewer calories because your body becomes efficient in that activity.  Find activities that are unfamiliar or that can be loaded to make them more challenging.  At Fenton Fitness, the Jacobs Ladder and rope drills are my first suggestions.

Most programming changes make training more difficult and produce greater delayed onset muscle soreness.  This is all part of creating a new stimulus that the body finds challenging.  In three or four weeks, the sessions will be less demanding and you will be ready for another alteration in the training cycle.

Change is good but frequently neglected.  The best results have come with regular alterations of fitness programming.  Remember that change can also be a period of rest.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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.

1) WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE

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.

2) SLEEP TIME

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.

3) FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREEN SCORE

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.

4) GRIP STRENGTH

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.

5) NUMBER OF TRAINING SESSIONS PER YEAR

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

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