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Spring Trap

Preventing Gardener’s Trauma

After a long, snowy Michigan winter, the first warm and sunny day, we charge outside and clean up the yard.  The months snow bound in the house have made the gardeners eager to start the spring clean up and prepare for the summer to come.  Most of us will spend the winter in a fairly sedentary physical state and with no physical preparation to launch into hours of challenging outdoor work activity.  Every year at our clinics, we treat patients with gardening and yard work induced injuries that could have been prevented with some modifications of activity and preventative exercise.  These are my four hints to help safeguard my gardener friends from an unintended trip to the doctor’s office.

#1: Set a Time Limit.

Most of the patients we see with gardener trauma report that they worked “all afternoon” in the yard.  It is not uncommon to hear patients report they were bending, pushing, or pulling for five or six hours.  Use some caution and limit the duration of your weeding, raking, and shoveling.  Set a time limit of two hours and then stop–the garden will be their tomorrow and you will be less likely to have to undergo a springtime MRI.

#2: Use Proper Ergonomics.

Many gardening tasks place your body in challenging positions.  Ergonomic experts go to great lengths to eliminate forward trunk flexion and sustained knee flexion from industrial work settings.  Pulling weeds and cleaning out flowerbeds combines both of these positions and can create mechanical back and knee pain.  Avoid being in the “hands and knees” position for extended periods of time by changing positions frequently.  Use knee pads to reduce compressive forces on the knee joints and purchase gardening tools with extended handles so that you need not bend as far or as often.

#3: Avoid Lifting Heavy Objects.

After a sedentary winter spent indoors watching television and knitting, the last thing you should attempt is to hoist the 40 lb. bag of fertilizer into the back of the wheelbarrow. Lifting injuries increase dramatically with loads greater than 25 pounds.  Lifting any object from the floor to standing is risky, and carrying unstable loads that can shift around increases stress on the body.  Divide heavy loads into smaller portions and avoid lifting directly off the floor.  Get a bigger, stronger, and fitter neighbor or family member to help with heavy lifting tasks.

#4: Prepare For Battle.

Gardening and yard work are challenging tasks that should be met with a degree of preparation.  If you want to work for five hours in the garden and remain pain free, you must train your body for that level of activity.  I have selected three simple exercises you can do to get yourself ready for action in the yard.  Simple modification of ergonomics, limitations on work duration, and preparatory exercise can prevent a summer of pain.

Getting Ready To Toil In The Soil.

These three exercises can help you avoid injury and make your spring gardening safer and more productive.  Ideally you will perform these drills three times a week for two or three weeks before getting outside and working.

Hip Flexor Stretches

This stretch elongates the large muscle that runs across the front of the hip and attaches to the spine.  This region tends to tighten with prolonged sitting and can restrict hip and spinal motion.  Place one knee up on a cushioned chair and the other foot slightly forward on the floor.  Keep the spine tall and bend the front knee to stretch the hip flexor muscles.  Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat five times.  Perform the stretch on the other side.

Four Point Fold Ups

If you are going to spend time on all fours, it is a good idea to train your body for this task.  Assume a four-point position, knees under the hips and hands under the shoulders.  Keep the hands stationary and drop the hips back toward the heels.  Go back to the point you feel a stretch and hold–do not stretch into pain.  You may feel this in your hips, shoulders, lower back, or upper back.  Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat five times.

Bodyweight Squats

Gardening and yard work involves a lot of squatting.  Being able to safely squat allows you to lift with better body mechanics.  Simple bodyweight squats will strengthen the legs and trunk in preparation for these tasks.  Place your feet at least shoulder width apart.  Check the foot width with a full length mirror– most people squat with the feet too close together.   Keep the heels flat on the floor and squat down by pushing the hips back.  Work on maintaining balance and control during the motion.  Practicing this movement pattern will also improve your flexibility.  Perform a series of ten repetitions and then rest and perform another set of ten.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Lower Body

Split Squat

To set up for the split squat, put one foot in front of the other with the heel of the back foot off the ground. 85% of the weight should be on the front foot. An airex pad can be placed under the body for the knee to come down on when lowering to the floor. When in the bottom position of the exercise, the front knee should be in line with the toe creating a slight shin angle. Make sure to push through the front heel on the way up instead of the toe. This exercise can be made easier by holding onto a railing, or can be made harder by adding weight such as a kettlebell in a goblet hold. The split squat displays greater hamstring, external oblique, and gluteus medius muscle activity than the back squat, but less quadriceps muscle activity.

RFE Split Squat: RFE stands for “rear foot elevated”. With this variation of the split squat, set up with the back foot elevated on a bench or a padded stand created for this exercise. An airex pad can be used under the knee if necessary. Squat down, touching the knee to the floor or airex pad.  When in this bottom position, the shin angle should be angled forward just as before, not straight up and down. Common errors include sitting too far back on the rear foot, touching the glute to the heel, or the back foot can tend to roll off the padded stand on the way up and move more onto the shin. Avoid this by putting more weight into the front leg and dropping the knee straight down instead of back. This exercise can be made more difficult by adding dumbbells in each hand, a kettlebell in the goblet, racked, or double racked position, or a barbell in the front or back position. Make sure to descend slowly, creating an eccentric load instead of dropping down fast.

FOB Hip Lift: FOB stands for “feet on ball”. Lay on the floor or table on your back and place the arms out to the side. Push down into the floor with the arms to stabilize the body. Keep the feet together and brace your abdominal muscles. Use the glutes and hamstrings to lift yourself up off the floor, making sure to keep everything tight at the top of the movement. Hold 3-10 seconds at the top and lower slowly and controlled. You can remove the arms from the floor and rest them on your stomach or behind your head to create more of a challenge.

One Leg FOB Hip Lift: Same setup as before except one leg will be used. The other leg will be pointed up to the ceiling as the other presses into the ball to lift the body. This creates more of a stability challenge.

FOB Leg Curl: This variation starts out just like the FOB hip lift, except at the top of the movement when the body is raised, the knees are bent and the ball is pulled in towards the body creating more work for the hamstrings. Keep the hips extended by activating the glutes and moving the hips upward, avoiding the tendency to bend at the hips. It should look like your hips move up and then return to a straight body position.

One Leg FOB Leg Curl: The hardest variation for the FOB series is the one leg curl. Use one leg instead of two, extending the other leg up to the ceiling. Make sure to still avoid bending at the hips in this variation as well.

One Leg Deadlift: When starting out with this exercise, it is best to just use bodyweight. Stand with 95% of your weight on one leg. Extend the arms and free leg out to a “T” position, bending the standing leg slightly. The extended leg should be reaching backwards as far as it can go.  Think about sitting into that hip just as you would during deadlifts. As this exercise becomes easier and balance is not an issue, it can be progressed by holding a kettlebell. The kettlebell should be held in the same side as the leg extending back. Reach the kettlebell straight down by the big toe; the weight should not go in front of the toe but rather by the instep of the foot. If you have progressed pass the kettlebell, two kettlebells can be used or a barbell with weight. The primary muscles being used in this exercise are the posterior leg muscles including the glutes and hamstrings.

One Leg Squat: Stand in front of a 12-18” box (start higher, and work your way to a lower box).  You will want to have 5-10# of weight to use as a counter balance (dumbbell, plate, or med ball).  Standing on only one leg, slowly lower yourself to the box.  As you descend, reach forward with the weight to help with balance.  Control the descent until your butt taps the box and then stand back up.  Work for 3-12 reps before switching legs.  Over time, try to get to a lower box so that your hip is slightly below your knee at the bottom position.

Watch video of these exercises: https://youtu.be/SqFqf81UnIk

 

 

 

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Hang Snatch

 

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Hang Snatch.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/TrOhhKLIpqA.

The Hang Snatch, like the Hang Clean, is a better, easier option to learn than the full Snatch or Power Snatch.  Again, you start from the standing position.  We teach the Hang Snatch with a Hang Clean grip.  The traditional grip of the Snatch is much wider and places much more stress on the shoulders.  It is done to reduce the distance the bar must travel so you can increase the load you are able to use.  If you are not competing in Weightlifting, however, this doesn’t matter.  Once you are ready for the Hang Snatch and have the required shoulder mobility (can you touch your fingers behind your back?), it is the best power movement out there. The lighter loads used on this exercise compared to the Hang Clean make it an even friendlier exercise on your spine and the longer bar path requires more power output.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Hang Clean

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Hang Clean.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do.  See the video here: https://youtu.be/KupitKep6Lk

The problem with the traditional Clean and Power Clean is that many people have trouble getting into a good position to start the movement.  The Hang Clean eliminates this problem by starting from the standing position.  It only requires a small amount of hip movement, yet still produces a great deal of power.  A good goal for your hang clean is to do the same amount of weight as your 1 rep max bench press.  If you can’t get there, you need more cleans and less bench work.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Push Press

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Push Press.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do.  See the video here: https://youtu.be/1pI4eb6lMYQ

The Push Press is a limited, less technical, portion of the Clean and Jerk weightlifting movement.  It’s a great alternative as it has been shown to increase power but is much simpler to teach.  As long as you possess adequate shoulder mobility, there is much less risk with this exercise.  If done properly, both the hips and shoulders produce a large amount of vertical force which has strong carryover to sports that require jumping and overhead activities (throwers, volleyball, etc.).

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Plyo Push Ups

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Plyo Push Ups.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/C0A0dibCmqE

Plyo Push Ups are a great horizontal power exercise for the upper body that simultaneously improves core stability. Pushing has obvious carryover for most sports and tends to be more on the speed side of the power spectrum. It can be easily progressed by adding a weight vest (use caution while performing this exercise due to force on the wrists).

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Split Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Split Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. See video here: https://youtu.be/yahWPNE0C-k

Those who have worked up to Split Jumps know it is a tremendous power exercise.  It challenges balance and puts the individual in a split stance which has much more carryover to running and cutting on the athletic field.  Split Jumps can be increased in difficulty by adding load (DBs or KBs in the hands or a weight vest) or by elevating the back foot.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Broad Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Broad Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/iAmz2kyOx-0.

Broad jumps are a great movement for developing horizontal power/force production. Traditional Olympic Lifts emphasize vertical force with little carryover to sprinting/jumping.  Broad jumps emphasize speed though loading them can be difficult.  However, if you wish to progress the exercise and you have good mechanics, add a weight vest with a load of 10-20% of your body weight.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Box Jumps

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise: Box Jumps.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/LV9DH157nrU.

Although named box jumps, this exercise should technically be called box landings.  The point of a box jump is to introduce jumping and landing mechanics without the impact and force absorption of the landing that can lead to injury in many individuals.  The goal here should be to jump and land, softly, in the same position.  Once mastered, a one leg hop progression can be added.  Lastly, a traditional jump or hop can be used since your body will be ready to properly absorb the force of the movement.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Medicine Ball Rotational Throws

 

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Medicine Ball Rotational Throw.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/HrbowSvJ9Ck.

This movement is one area where Med Balls trump traditional weightlifting movements.  While the Clean & Jerk and Snatch are very linear and bilateral (2 feet on the ground), the Med Ball Rotational Throw works on an often neglected rotational power component.  This is a must for golfers, and softball or baseball players.  All medicine ball movements tend to be much higher on the speed continuum of the power movements.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

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