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jeff tirrell

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Olympic Lifts

Do We Really Need Them?

I had my first introduction to Weightlifting (often referred to as Olympic lifting) in my high school football days using the Bigger Faster Stronger program.  Power Cleans were a staple of this program and the Power Snatch was also introduced to us during a clinic our football coach put together.  Over the last several years, weightlifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  These movements include the Snatch (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement), the Clean & Jerk (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in two distinct movements), and their derivatives.  Though there are several reasons to include these movements in programs, there are far more reasons, in my professional opinion, not to.

The primary reason one would or should be using Olympic lifting movements is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD).  RFD is a primary determinant of success in many sports.  This is what allows you to accelerate quickly, jump higher/farther, and change direction quickly.  There are volumes of research on the Clean & Jerk, Snatch, and their variations which demonstrate that these movements work very well at improving power and RFD; however, these lifts are not the only means of accomplishing this.  Moreover, there are multiple reasons not to incorporate them:

Time

Weightlifting movements are incredibly technical and take massive amounts of time to learn and perform correctly.  Most successful weightlifters at the international level have spent decades learning and perfecting their craft.  It is not uncommon to see weightlifters performing upwards of 10-12 training sessions per week.  The only other sport I can think of that takes this level of technical prowess is gymnastics.  While this is admirable for those choosing to compete in these sports, the level of time commitment is not practical for the average fitness enthusiast.

Safety

Due to the speed and dynamic nature of the Olympic lifts, there is a much higher probability of something going wrong.  Additionally, the vast majority of the fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises. In some fitness circles, you will see these movements programmed in for very high repetitions.  When this happens, you are ramping up fatigue which makes proper technique/form nearly impossible and minimizes power/RFD adaptation which is the whole point of these exercises. These lifts should be programmed at 1-5 rep sets with 2-5 minute rest intervals between.

Efficiency

For most people, time is a constant barrier to improved fitness.  For competitive athletes, they must balance the demands of sport practice, strength training, conditioning, skill practice, and recovery.  For this reason, the primary goal of a quality program should be to maximize efficiency of training.  Due to the mobility demands and speed of the movements, the warm ups required can take 15-20 minutes.  Combine that with the longer rest periods required and you barely have time to get in enough quality work to see optimal adaptations.  It is not uncommon for a weightlifter to take 90-120 minutes to complete a workout.

You may be asking yourself how to maximize power if you can’t perform the Olympic lifts.  Many people feel these movements are imperative for optimal fitness and performance.  In February of 2017, I traveled to Ohio State University where I heard the head Strength and Conditioning coaches for the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals speak.  None of them use Olympic lifts with their athletes.  If arguably the top athletes in the world don’t need these movements, then I think the rest of the population can get away without using them as well.

Over the next several weeks, I will introduce fourteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Stay tuned for exercise descriptions and video demonstration.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

Heat Or Ice For My Shoulder?

Try Standing Upright

In the gym, at the golf course, and during a visit to the hardware store, I am asked my advice on abolishing shoulder pain.  What everyone wants is the magical exercise, miracle ointment, or newest thermal treatment.  What they need–and what they do not want to hear–is that they have to fix their horrible posture.

Sustained poor posture can alter the function of your shoulder complex.  The shoulder girdle has only one, very small, bone to body connection.  The entire system is an interconnected series of muscles and ligaments.  Sustained slouched over postures create a faulty length-tension relationship in these structures that places adverse stress and strain on the four joints of the shoulder and the nerves in the neck and upper back.

OMG I sit lmGm (like my GrandMa).  

Shoulder posture pain problems are happening earlier.  I do not know if it is more tech toys, less physical education in schools, or a change in youth activity levels, but in the physical therapy clinic we are seeing younger people with older people postural shoulder pain.  They sit on the treatment table in extremely slouched over positions and are unable to pull themselves up into a correct position.  Most are unconvinced that how they sit and stand could be the generator of their pain problem.

What exercises can I do?

Stronger muscles will help restore posture.  The shoulder evolved to pull, lift, and carry.  The muscles that keep the shoulder strong and happy are in the back of the shoulder.  They hold the shoulder in a healthy position on the body.  Most of us never perform any pulling or lifting activities other than hoisting our laptop or toting our smart phone.   Making your shoulder girdle muscles stronger will help, but being mindful of your posture during the day is the most important factor.  Physical Therapist and US Soccer Team Trainer Sue Falsone says “You can’t out rep poor posture.”

Start with how you work and live.

Eight hours a day for five days a week equals 2080 hours of computer / desk time a year for the average office worker.  Add in a daily one hour car commute and another two hours of television a day and we push the Monday through Friday slump numbers to 2860 hours a year (120 days).  We have spent millions on state of the art chairs, elevated monitors, slanting keyboards, wrist rests, and lumbar supports.  Office modifications, while well intentioned and generally a good idea, cannot compete with 2860 hours (this number is probably low) of sitting in a year.  In order to fight against the postural stress that creates pain, we need to get up and move.

Recent research on prolonged sitting has demonstrated that the amount of movement we need to stay healthy is greater than we once thought.  To combat the adaptive changes of prolonged sitting, it is suggested you get up and move every twenty minutes.  Set a timer, enlist the help of your coworkers, and work at this every workday for a month.  I believe you will be surprised by the results.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”.  Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance  and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.

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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

 

Movement You Should Master

Weighted Carries

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 efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.

Weighted Carries

Very few things are more functional than a carry.  You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week.  While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise.  Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless.  Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability.  Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness.  Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA

Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:

1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)

2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)

3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)

4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

Movement You Should Master

Pull 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 helps build upper body strength and maintain shoulder mobility is the Pull Up.

Pull Ups

If you are a superhero and find yourself hanging off the edge of a cliff or a building, you’ll need to pull yourself up.  All kidding aside, the pull up is a fantastic exercise to build strength in the lats, biceps, rhomboids, and rear delts, while helping to maintain shoulder mobility.  Pull ups can be done with a variety of grips.  The most important thing is to use a full range of motion and maintain control (avoiding excessive movement to reduce injury risk).  I utilize one of three pull up versions with most clients depending on their fitness level.  Watch the video and give it a try.

1) Eccentric Pull ups: Use a box to start in the top position, and slowly lower yourself with complete control down to the bottom position.  Once you can complete 10 of these with a good 4-6 second descent, then it’s time to move on to a standard pull up.

2) Standard Pull up:  Start hanging from a bar (or rings) with your arms completely straight.  Pull yourself up until your clavicle touches the bar.  Slowly lower yourself back down until your arms are completely straight and your body is motionless.

3) Xiphoid Pull ups: Start as you would for a standard pull up, but rather than pulling to your clavicle, you want to lean back and pull yourself up until your xiphoid process (bony part at the bottom of your sternum) touches the bar.  Then, lower yourself in a controlled manner back to the start.

See video of pull ups here: https://youtu.be/Cyvp4X2MRC0

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

Spinning Wheel

HIIT Methods: Air Assault Dual Action Bike

The Air Assault dual action bike is a challenging metabolic disrupting machine.   For older fitness clients, heavier folks, and those of us with legs that are less tolerant of impact, the Air Assault improves cardio-respiratory capacity and minimizes joint stress.  If you are seeking an intense training experience, look no further than the Air Assault bike.

The number two reason people give for not exercising is limited time–lack of results is number one.  The Air Assault solves both of these problems.  Training sessions on the Air Assault are brief and very effective.

Set your seat for height and reach so at the bottom of the pedal stroke, the knee is bent about 20 degrees.  The arms should not fully extend at the elbows.  The bike is simple– increase the pedal speed and you push a greater volume of air.  Go slow—less resistance.  Go fast—more resistance.  Keep a tall posture to effectively drive with the arms and assist the legs.  I have outlined four of my favorite HIIT Air Assault training routines.  As usual, remember to perform a movement preparation warm up before launching into a HIIT session.

30 seconds on / 30 seconds off

Ride at an exertion level of 7/10 (1 is a stroll and 10 is sprinting away from a lion) for 30 seconds and then pedal slowly at a 1/10 exertion level for 30 seconds.  Repeat the cycle for ten intervals.  You are done in ten minutes.

45 seconds on / 15 seconds off

Ride at an exertion level of 7/10 (1 is a stroll and 10 is swimming to escape the alligator) for 45 seconds and then pedal slowly for at a 1/10 exertion level for 30 seconds.  Repeat the cycle for five intervals.  This workout takes five minutes.

Tabata Protocol

Twenty seconds on at an exertion level of 9/10 followed by ten seconds off at 1/10.  Repeat eight times.  This format is built right into the Air Assault bike timer.  Do not get discouraged if you have to stop well before completing eight intervals.  Work your way up to completing all four minutes of the session.

1.5, 1.0, 0.5 Mile Intervals

Ride for one and half miles and then rest 90 seconds.  Ride for one mile and rest for 45 seconds.  Ride for a half mile.  Record you overall time.

View Mike’s video on the assault bike: https://youtu.be/8Y3rmX2cF3s

For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Pushing For Performance

HIIT Methods: Sled Training

A good high intensity interval training (HIIT) session creates a disturbance of metabolic homeostasis while minimizing stress on the joints and / or compression of the spine.  Pushing a sled meets both of those goals.  Sled sessions are time efficient, and they have the added benefits of improving leg strength, core stability, and they make you better at nearly every daily challenge.  A well designed HIIT sled training protocol allows you to assess performance and track progress.  Presented below are four of my most frequently prescribed sled HIIT protocols.   Ditch the elliptical, cancel your Zumba sessions, and for the next month, give these a try.

I cannot tell you how much weight to use on the sled.  In general, men can start with bodyweight and women with half to two thirds bodyweight loads.  You will quickly learn if you have too much or too little on the sled.  Any progressive gym will have several sleds and plenty of open space.  The trainers at Fenton Fitness can get you started.

30 / 30 Protocol: Place a stopwatch so it is visible on the sled.  The load on the sled should create a thirty second interval exertion rating that feels “easy”.  Push the sled for thirty seconds and then rest for 30 seconds.  Perform eight intervals.

10 – 20 – 30 – 10 – 20 – 30 – 10 – 20 – 30 Yard Interval: Load your sled and start the timer.  Push the sled for 10 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Push the sled 20 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Push the sled 30 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Repeat 10, 20, and 30 yards two more times.   Finish all of the intervals and you will have covered 180 yards.  Record your time.

60 – 30 – 15 Yard Interval: Be careful that you do not use too much load for this HIIT sled session.  Push the sled 60 yards.  Rest thirty seconds.  Push the sled 30 yards.  Rest thirty seconds.  Push the sled 15 yards.  Record your time.

15 Yards Times Ten: Use a load on the sled that allows you to move at a fairly steady pace.  Think racehorse, not plow horse.  Place a stopwatch so it is visible on the sled.   Start the timer and push the sled fifteen yards.  Rest ten seconds and then push another fifteen yard push.  Perform ten, fifteen yard intervals.  Record your time.

View Mike’s video on sled training here: https://youtu.be/PfOccHMmzF4

For more information on the many benefits of high intensity interval training, read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Training Your Inner Fireman

HIIT Methods: Jacob’s Ladder

At one time, we could all crawl and we did it very well.  An infant develops the strength and coordination necessary to stand upright and walk by crawling.  The reciprocal arm/leg crawl pattern of the Jacob’s Ladder helps restore joint stability, coordination, and balance.  All of us have established neural pathways for crawling.  They are just cluttered up and inhibited by prior injuries, poor posture, bad training habits, and a sedentary lifestyle.  Performing some Jacob’s Ladder intervals will bring those pathways back to life.

The Jacob’s Ladder is a 40 degree inclined total body conditioning activity.  The ladder is self-propelled, and your position on the ladder sets the pace of the climb.  Wrap the belt around your waist with the emblem set over the side of your right hip.  Adjust the white section of the strap so that it matches your height.  Step onto the ladder and start climbing.  Initially, place the hands on the side rails and get use to climbing with just the legs.  Once you get comfortable with the stride pattern, progress to using the hands on the rungs.  Work on improving your coordination and form during the initial Jacob’s Ladder sessions.  When you are ready to stop, simply ride the ladder to the bottom and the ladder will stop.  Listed below are some of the HIIT sessions that work well with the Jacobs Ladder.

Five Climbs
Pick a distance, 100-200 feet works well for most fitness clients.  Start the stopwatch and climb 100-200 feet and  then rest.  Repeat four more times and record your time to complete five climbs of 100-200 feet.

50 feet / 20 seconds rest
Climb fifty feet at a fast pace.  Rest twenty seconds and repeat.  Repeat for a total of six intervals.

Ladder Ladders  
This routine will help you develop better endurance.  Climb 100 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 200 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 300 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 400 feet and rest 60 seconds.  Climb 500 feet and rest 60 seconds.  If you feel strong enough, climb back down; 400-300-200-100 feet.

Save My Baby Sprints
You are the fireman.  The building is on fire and the lady with the baby is at the window of the high rise.  Hold onto the side rails and sprint up to that baby in the window 200 feet up.  Rest 30 seconds and then go get another baby.  Your job is to save four babies.

View video of Mike on the Jacob’s Ladder here: https://youtu.be/rqYz0tmPIc8

For more information on the many benefits of high intensity interval training, read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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.

Why Doing Just Enough Is Not Enough–Moving From Maintenance To Improvement

15-hotel-icon-has-gym-800pxWhen I worked in Texas, I had a client named Gail.  When we first met, she had recently turned 50 and was comfortable with her appearance.  She led an active lifestyle and worked out at the gym two days a week.  Overall, she was happy with her fitness level. She just wanted to maintain her routine.  Gail had been coming to the same class at the gym twice a week for 4 years.  The more I got to know Gail, she admitted to wanting to drop the 5-10 lbs which she said had settled solely in her mid-section.  She also mentioned mild knee pain while playing tennis.  In all the years she had been participating in her fitness class, her weight gradually increased and her knee pain only got worse, but these subtle changes hadn’t been enough of a red flag.  Gail needed to change up her routine, which she eventually did with positive results

I hear this word “maintenance” frequently.  Many gym goers are relatively satisfied with their appearance and just want to continue to be active in order to maintain their fitness level.  My experience has shown that maintenance is an illusion.  You either get better at something or you get worse.  Every action and decision you make brings you closer to your goal or takes you further away.  There are no neutral actions.  This is easily measured in the world of fitness and physical performance.  The first time you run a mile or bench press your bodyweight, a relatively high level of energy is used due to the inefficiency of all of the musculature and energy systems being used.  Every time that same mile is run or that same weight is lifted, your muscles fire in a more coordinated manner and your energy systems involved become more efficient, so less energy is used for the same task.  The hour workout that may have required 300 calories worth of energy to complete the first time you performed it may only require 280 calories after a couple of weeks, and perhaps only 200 calories after several months.

When you approach exercise with a “maintenance” mentality you often end up doing the same exercises, at the same speed, with the same loads, and over time this requires less and less work.  If you can no longer do what used to do, this “maintenance” mentality may be the culprit.  The only way to improve is to consistently perform more work or complete the same amount of work in a shorter period of time.  Do this consistently 2-3x per week for months and years on end and you will actually maintain something.  Do it 4-5x per week and you might actually get better.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

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