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Sister Hermeta Saved My Soul and My Spine

Tall Kneeling Core Stabilization Training

During my parochial grade school education,  I was taught how to kneel in church.  Eyes forward, hands together, spine tall, and no leaning on the pew.  You maintained the kneeling posture for extended periods of Father Furlong’s mass.  I believe the good sisters were on to something.  Despite every one of them being well past 100 years of age, they all possessed excellent posture and remarkable mobility.  As a physical therapist, I am convinced that a daily dose of sustained kneeling helped keep the Felician Sisters in fighting form.  I have some tall kneeling training suggestions you can add your fitness routine.

Get to Know Kneeling

Many people will benefit from some sustained tall kneeling.  Protect your knees by placing an Airex pad under your knees.  In and ideal situation, you will have a mirror for feedback on posture and alignment.  Keep some space between your knees and line the feet up with the knees.  Pull the head back, lift the chest, and reach the top of the head to the sky.  Many people have difficulty getting into a fully upright position in kneeling.  The most common problem is a forward lean at the hips accompanied by complaints of tightness in the lower back and front of the thighs.  Holding a pvc pipe or dowel overhead while performing some deep breaths can help reduce muscle tone in the hips and torso.   Perform two or three, thirty second holds at every training session for the next six weeks

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press

The tall kneeling Pallof press is an anti rotation core stability exercise that helps recruit the postural muscles that keep us upright and tall.  Lack of isometric strength-endurance in the spinal muscles is a primary contributor to back injuries.  This exercise will improve that component of spinal function.

Place your knees on an Airex pad and set up in kneeling position.  Use either a cable unit or resistance tubing set at a level even with your sternum while you are in the kneeling position.  The tubing should be directly to your right and slightly behind the body.  Use a double overlap grip on the handle and hold at chest level.  Press the tubing out to arms length and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of fifteen repetitions without losing the set up posture.  Rest and then repeat on the other side.

Tall Kneeling Anti Extension Holds

The pelvis is a bowl and the torso rests on the top of the bowl.  You need a pelvic position that makes stabilization of the torso over the pelvis effortless and automatic.  The tall kneeling isometric hold aligns your pelvis under the torso.

Kneel on an Airex pad.  Hold a kettlebell, dumbbell or Iron Grip Plate behind your back.  It is difficult to prescribe a load.  Twenty pounds may be too easy and five pounds may be too much.  My suggestion is that you err on the lighter side of the load equation.  Stay in the loaded kneeling position for at least thirty seconds.  Lower the weight, walk around, and take inventory of how you feel.  Repeat for another thirty seconds.

See video demonstration of these exercises: here

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Mike O’Hara gives tips for aging gracefully and staying fit in his article, The Five Don’ts of Sustainable Fitness. Learn the importance of increasing mobility and stability in order to get stronger, and discover how a simple test that measures how well you get up from the floor can tell a lot about whether or not your fitness program is working.

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Will That Machine Help Me?

Home Gym Hints

Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question.  Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine?  Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely.  Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos.  I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.

Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?

If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit.  Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting.  If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem.  Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center.  Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.

Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?

Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter.  You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year.  Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit.  If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.

Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?

The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”.   The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August.  The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response.   The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness.  After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis.  Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

To combat the effects of aging, consistent exercise is key.  Mike O’Hara discusses the benefits of fitness and gives tips on starting and continuing a program of exercise for life in his article, The Three Do’s of Sustainable Fitness.  Jeff Tirrell of Fenton Fitness gives nutrition tips for athletes and Mike’s exercise for better posture and more efficient movement is the bird dog.

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Sarcopenia And The Media

Older individuals have the most to gain from strength training. Six weeks of dedicated strength training will normalize balance, rejuvenate posture, revive the metabolism, and eliminate long-standing pain.  I often tell physical therapy patients that strength training is the “fountain of youth”.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to convince older individuals that they need to become dedicated to a routine of consistent resistance training.  I recently got some help from Jane Brody in the New York Times, *Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly.

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the physical attributes that keep humans healthy and vigorous over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  What percentage of your body is made of muscle?
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry?
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Bodyfat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat?

They named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well; staying durable- no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

I was happy to see that Jane recommended her elderly compatriots consume more protein.  Not enormous amounts of protein- just some protein.  Many fitness clients fail to make optimal gains because they have the protein intake of a bunny rabbit.  Adequate training recovery requires the building blocks of muscle in order to produce results.  A bagel for breakfast, a kale sandwich at lunch, a yogurt snack and a diner of soup, bread and ice cream does not supply the nutrients necessary for recovery.

So, take the time to read the amazing Jane Brody and then get those dumbbells out of the basement.

*Brody, Jane. Preventing Muscle Loss Among the Elderly, September 1, 2018, New York Times.   View article

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

That pain in your arm or hand could be coming from somewhere else.  Read Mike O’Hara’s article, Changing Locations to find out more.  Jeff Tirrell gives nutrition tips and Mike discusses the benefits of using an agility ladder.

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8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#8–Deloading

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#8–Deloading

Deloading is a term used to describe an intentional period of time (usually 1-2 weeks) where intensity and/or volume are reduced in training.  In some cases, no training at all is performed (though this is probably not optimal, unless you are injured).  In my experience, this is usually not an issue with the majority of clients.  Most people end up missing time at the gym due to illness, work, kid’s activities, vacation, etc.  If you happen to be somebody that is highly dedicated to your training and don’t ever miss any period longer than a week in the gym, then a scheduled deloading period may be needed.  I usually recommend reducing training volume by 40-60%, and intensity by 10-20%.  In practice for a one week deload, this would look something like this:

Normal Week                                                                                     Deload Week

45 total weekly training sets of all exercises                                      24 total weekly training sets

e.g. squats: 200lbs lifted                                                                     squats: 160-180lbs lifted

If you don’t ever miss time in the gym in a 12 month period, I would recommend the following deload schedule for people who train 3, 4, or 5 times per week.  As mentioned earlier, training more than 5 times per week is likely not feasible for most adults, and less than 3 doesn’t warrant a deload period.

3 days per week: deload for 1 week, 1 time each year

4 days per week: deload for 1 week, 2 times each year

5 days per week: deloa for 1 week, 3 times each year

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#7–Program Hopping

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#7-Program Hopping

As stated initially, any new exercise or activity added to a program will produce a novel stimulus that will almost always lead to some level of soreness.  Many individuals change their workout every day and never give themselves a chance to adapt.  Many people enjoy the feeling of being sore as they associate that with progress.  However, when you look at research, most of the gains in lean body mass actually occur 2-4 weeks into training after the majority of initial soreness has subsided.  It should be remembered that strength training is a skill.  It must be practiced.  It is recommended that the majority of your exercise selection remain basically the same for at least 3 weeks.  Workouts can be varied by the number of sets, reps, weight lifted, or time to completion.  After 3-12 weeks with a given exercise, you can switch it out if you are bored or no longer able to progress the aforementioned variables.

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#6–Training Frequency

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#6-Training Frequency

The cold hard truth is that when we are younger, we recover quicker.  I remember when I first started training in 1998 (8th grade), I would train 6 days per week for 90-120 minutes.  I got bigger, stronger, and rarely felt overtrained.  There was a time in the summer my junior and senior year where I would train 6 days per week, and on 3 of those days. I would actually lift 2 separate times accounting for roughly 12 hours of training each week.  Even at this time, I still made great progress.  It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that my 6 day per week plan was just more than my body could keep up with.  I scaled things back to 5x/week and did just fine again.  Once I started having kids and sleep got limited, the stress of providing for a family became real and I had to scale back to 4 days per week.  I find that most adult clients over the age of 40 can only tolerate 3-4 days per week.  There’s nothing that says you can’t train back to back days.  However, if you are always sore, and don’t feel that you’ve recovered, you may need to give yourself some extra days for recovery.

 

8 Reasons Why You’re Sore–#5 Training Volume

One of the most common complaints I get from new trainees (most often these come from middle aged men who are just now getting back into strength training) is that of being sore all of the time.  Many people associate muscular soreness with getting a good workout or getting results.  However, the research does not necessarily support this thought process.  Muscles tend to get sore anytime a new stimulus is introduced (new exercise, activity, etc), but this should typically subside within 2-3 weeks of starting the activity.  Anytime a new exercise is introduced, it is expected that some level of soreness will occur.  However, a good program will actually have an introduction phase where weight and volume are intentionally reduced in order to avoid excessive soreness, as this can negatively impact future workouts.  If you are chronically sore beyond the initial 2-3 weeks of starting a strength training program, there are eight areas that you may need to pay attention to.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

#5-Training Volume

When referring to training volume, we are typically talking about one of two things.  Total number of sets performed in a given session, week, or month is one way to look to volume.  Another way to look at volume is as volume load.  Volume load is calculated as weight lifted x sets x reps.  So, if you lifted 100 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps, your volume would be 3 sets, but your volume load would be 3000lbs (100 x 3 x 10).  Simply looking at volume (total sets performed) is a better way to compare different individual’s workloads.  Volume load is very relative depending on an individual’s training background, strength, etc.  If training volume gets too high, then you may be outworking what your body is capable of recovering from.  I find that most adult clients over the age of 40 struggle to handle more than 24 total sets in a single session or more than 72 sets in a given week.  There are some who can handle more than this, and some who struggle to recover from volumes half of this.  When increasing volume, it can be helpful to look at volume load for an individual and try not to increase by more than 5-10% in a given week.

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