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Learn more about Rehab, Sports Medicine & Performance


Keep your shoulders and spine happy and strong by following Mike O’Hara’s advice in “Pushing Up Performance”.  Video explanation and performance of pushups and their variations included.  Jeff Tirrell discusses the proper performance of pull ups in his article. “Movement You Should Master”. Is your mobility limited?  Try massage sticks or foam rollers with the information provided in “Pain, Pressure, and Pliability”.

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I get flak from some of my fellow gym rats because I do not believe in muscle isolation exercises.  While I do not think it will harm most young and recovery-resilient trainees to perform fifteen sets of shoulder lateral raises or five different styles of bicep curls, I do find that format of training less than optimal.  Older gym goers (30+ years) will see better results and fewer injuries if they stay far away from incline curls and the seated knee extension machine.  Father time and experience has taught me that, excluding the bodybuilder who trains solely for hypertrophy, most of us will be more successful by becoming proficient in multi-joint exercises.

That being said, there are a few isolation-type exercises that I regularly use with fitness and rehabilitation clients.  These isolation exercises are designed to improve posture, restore proper joint mechanics, enhance neural response, and reduce the risk of injury.  These activities will not put a “peak on your bicep” or give you “massive quads,” but they will make you less likely to develop shoulder and lower back pain.

Band No Money Drill

Most people have weak shoulder external rotator muscles and a rounded over shoulder girdle posture.  This is never a good combination if you are going to perform any type of upper extremity strength training.  The band no money drill helps remedy both of these problems.

Stand tall with the chest proud and the head pulled back.  Hold the band with the palms to the sky, elbows bent at 90 degrees held at the side-the palm up and no money in your hand position.  Concentrate your efforts on the muscles between your shoulder blades as you pull the band apart and bring the hands out to the side.  The tempo of the exercise should be controlled– two counts to pull the band apart and two counts to return to the starting position.  Choose a resistance band that is fairly easy and focus on making the motion smooth.  Perform two or three sets of ten repetitions.

Four Point Band Gluteal Activation

The gluteus medius is the muscle responsible for preventing unwanted rotation and inward collapse at the knee.  It also helps stabilize the pelvis and keeps damaging stress off the lumbar spine.  The four point gluteal activation drill activates the gluteus medius.

Place a mini band around both legs just above the knees.  Position on all fours–hands directly under the shoulders and knees under the hips.  Keep the spine stationary and lift the right leg up and out to the side so that the hip abducts approximately 30 degrees.  Hold for twenty to thirty seconds and then repeat on the other side.  Perform two times on each side.

Belly On Ball “Ys”

Postural Stress Disorder (PSD) is the new name given to the multiple pain problems associated with a flexed-over thoracic spine, forward head, and rounded shoulder posture.  Your fitness program should help you combat the damaging forces created by prolonged sitting.  The belly on ball Y exercise helps train away the postural flaws that create the symptoms of PSD.

Position yourself facedown over the top of a physioball.  You need a fairly firm ball that does not flatten out when placed under load.  Keep your spine stable and the chest off the ball.  Lengthen the neck and thoracic spine-they should not move at all during the exercise.  Keep the gluteal muscles tight and legs extended.  Start with the arm in front of the shoulders on either side of the ball.  The shoulders should be externally rotated in a thumbs up position.  Raise the arms overhead like a football official signaling touchdown.  This will create a Y shape with your torso and arms.  Hold the arms overhead for three counts and then lower back down in a controlled fashion.  Perform two sets of ten repetitions.  As you get stronger try adding resistance with some dumbbells.

Single Leg Hip Lifts

Gluteal amnesia is at epidemic levels in gyms and fitness centers across America.  A loss of gluteal muscle activity is the primary driver of lower back, knee, and hip pain.  Prolonged sitting, elliptical training, and a general lack of any type of sprinting has created a large group of people who are unable to efficiently fire their gluteal muscles.

The single leg hip lift facilitates a better neural connection to the gluteals and can help reduce the occurrence of anterior hip pain.  Lay supine with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Lift the right leg off the floor and hold onto the front of the right lower leg with both hands.  Use the left leg to perform a single leg bridge.  Focus on contracting the left gluteal muscles in an attempt to reach full left hip extension.  Hold at the top of the bridge for three seconds.  Perform two or three sets of five to ten lifts on each leg.

To view video demonstration of Mike’s choice isolation exercises, click on the link below:


-Mike O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS