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posture

landmine_squatThe squat (equal knee and hip motion) is an essential movement pattern that should be a part of everyone’s fitness program. Improving your squat in the gym produces carry over to better performance during activities of daily living. The ultimate goal of any training program is to move better, stay functional and maintain independence for all your days on this planet. Many people lack the balance, mobility, coordination, and strength to perform a squat with a barbell or kettlebell. They need a modification that helps develop better squat mechanics and at the same time creates a training effect in the muscles. A Landmine Squat is one of the best modifications you can add to your training program. Take a minute to read this article and then give this exercise a place in your training program.

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A Landmine is a modification on the use of an Olympic bar. The bar is anchored onto the floor at one end with a Landmine device and you lift the free end of the bar with a load of your Landmine_Ichoosing. At FFAC, we have five landmine set ups that can be used with either a standard 45 pound Olympic bar or a 15 pound training bar. These are the reasons to use a Landmine.

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scapular_touchdownMost shoulder pain problems are brought on by the cumulative effect of poor posture and weak scapula muscles. Sustained slouched over postures create a faulty length-tension relationship in the scapula muscles. This produces adverse stress and strain on the joints of the shoulder and the nerves in the neck and upper back.

The muscles that keep the shoulder healthy and pain-free attach to the scapula (shoulder blade). They hold the shoulder girdle in a mechanically advantageous position on the body. They pull the scapula inward, toward the spine and downward, toward the hips. Making your scapula muscles stronger will help, but being mindful of your posture during the day is the most important factor. I like the quote from Physical Therapist and US Soccer team trainer Sue Falsone “You can’t out rep poor posture.”

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One of the biggest changes I have witnessed in my 30 years as a physical therapist has been the onset of old age postural problems in younger bodies. Every day, we help young people with complaints of upper back soreness, neck pain, and headaches related to postural stress.   On a recent trip to Manhattan, I was amazed at how many of the subway riders spent the entire trip slumped over, staring into a smart phone while the train subjected their spines to the damaging vibratory oscillations we work to eliminate in industrial work sites. Unfortunately, as is the case with prolonged sitting, you cannot exercise enough to “out train” the damaging effects of these poor posture habits. It appears the damage extends farther up the neck.

 

A recent article by Amy Cuddy in the December 12, 2015 edition of The New York Times entitled “Your iPhone is Ruining Your Posture—and Your Mood” reveals how poor postural habits can damage our mood, memory, and decision making skills. The number one reason people give for exercising is that it makes them “feel better.” Perhaps these positive feelings are related to the connection between mood and activation of dormant postural reflexes. I believe this is the scientific answer to why individuals fall into fountains and walk into traffic while using an i-device. This article demonstrates that correction of posture has more than just physical benefits. Ill-advised text messages and tweets will be less common as your reasoning and logic improve with a reformation in your posture.

To read the article, click on the link below:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/opinion/sunday/your-iphone-is-ruining-your-posture-and-your-mood.html?_r=0

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

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, but 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 posture creates 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)  kid_posture

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 2,080 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 2,860 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 2,860 hours (this number is probably low) of sitting 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 that you get up and move every twenty minutes.

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

The pelvis and spine must be able to stay stable during reciprocal hip (one hip flexed and the other extended) movement patterns.  Walking, running, and sprinting are all reciprocal hip movement activities that require core coordination and isometric strength-endurance.  You can improve this skill with the Half-Kneeling Pallof Press.

Exercising from the half-kneeling position has multiple benefits:  It will improve your posture when you walk or run.  You need the split stance position to get up off the floor.  Becoming stronger in the half-kneeling position makes you a more efficient athlete and improves balance.  It creates a buffer zone of functional mobility and strength so you are less likely to suffer an injury.  Half-kneeling is the antidote for the physical damage produced by prolonged sitting.

Half-Kneeling Pallof Press Performance

Assume a half-kneeling position:  Place your left knee on an Airex pad and position the right foot in line with the right hip.  The left foot is dorsiflexed and the toes dig into the floor to stabilize the leg.  Keep the torso tall and the lumbar spine in neutral.

Resistance tubing is the most convenient tool for this exercise, but you can also use a cable column.  In the half-kneeling position, you set the tubing at chest level.  Align your body so the tubing is directly to your left.  Use a double overlap grip on the handle.  Start with the handle against the sternum and press the tubing out to arms-length and then back to the chest.  Stay tall and stable and do not let the resistance from the tubing pull you into rotation.  The legs should not move. To encourage stability, imagine you have a cup of water resting on the top of the right knee.

Select a resistance level that permits execution of all repetitions without losing the set up posture.  Switch to half-kneeling on the right and repeat the exercise.  If one side of the body is more difficult, start the exercise on that side.  Perform two sets of fifteen repetitions on each side.

I have found that this exercise works well when programmed with the Bird Dog exercise (see post from 5/12/15).  The Half-Kneeling Pallof Press is an upright Bird Dog that progresses the demands of rotation control.  For better posture, improved performance, and injury prevention travel through this exercise series two times:

1.         Bird Dog x 10 repetitions each side- hold ten seconds

2.         Half Kneeling Pallof Press x 15 each side

3.         Stir the Pot x 30 seconds

Physical Therapist, John Pallof – We Thank You!

To view video demonstration of the Half-Kneeling Pallof Press, click on the link below:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukpsUx_-NJ4&feature=youtu.be

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Most of the fitness clients I work with want better posture, movement, and performance.   Most of the physical therapy patients I work with want their pain to go away and never come back.  Almost everyone has heard that having strong abdominal muscles is a good thing.  Many well-intentioned fitness enthusiasts injure their lower backs and ruin their posture with improper abdominal exercise activities.  A simple exercise that fixes all of these problems is the Bird Dog.

Bird Dogs Build Core Coordination

The spinal column is controlled by a cylinder of muscles made up of the abdominal muscles in the front and sides, the lumbar muscles in the back, the pelvic floor on the bottom, and the respiratory muscle (diaphragm) on the top.  These muscles never work in isolation.  They function as part of a coordinated team to transfer forces and create joint stability.  Core coordination is essential for better movement and pain-free living.

Bird Dogs Reverse Spine Muscle Atrophy

Each lumbar vertebrae is covered by layers of interwoven muscles that travel in multiple directions.  Ultrasound imaging of the muscles around an injured spinal segment- dx sprain, bulge, post-surgery, slipped disc, lumbago, etc.—reveal that atrophy (shrinkage) of the muscles can set in fairly quickly.  Long after the pain has resolved, the atrophy will persist unless some sort of rehabilitative training is performed.  Bird dogs build these atrophied muscles back to normal size and strength.

Bird Dogs Help You Move

Every time you exercise, your neural system uploads motor control patterns that, for better or worse, alter how you move.  Save good patterns and you move better, save bad patterns and you move worse.   The Bird Dog exercise reinforces the opposite shoulder to hip connection through a stable and resilient spine.  We need this pattern of movement to successfully throw a punch, toss a ball, and save us from a fall.

“But I Don’t Feel The Burn.” 

This is the statement I often get from the patient laying on the treatment table with back pain.  They are reluctant to abandon the traditional sit ups, crunches, and various versions of disk herniating spinal flexion exercises that have helped them return to physical therapy.  I don’t believe the sensations that occur with fifty crunches are the abdominal muscles singing.  I think the abdominal muscles are screaming “Where are my teammates?” and “Would you please stop?”   

Bird Dog Performance

Set up in a quadruped position, the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.  Your fingers are facing forward and the elbows are slightly flexed.  It is important to keep your neck in line with your body– do not look down towards your chest or up towards the ceiling.  Brace the abdominal muscles and hold your back stationary.  Lift the right arm into the air to a point 45° off the midline of the body.  Make sure to lead with the thumb.  Extend the left leg backward by hinging at the hip.  Push out through the heel of the foot and do not let the hip rotate outward.  Keep the body stable and hold this position for 5 seconds.  Now perform the same motion with the left arm and right leg.

Start with five repetitions of five seconds on each side and gradually ramp up the duration of the holds to ten seconds.  As ten second holds become easy, add a resistance band to the exercise.  Before adding duration or resistance to the bird dog, become more graceful and steady through the exercise.  Program two or three sets of the Bird Dog into your training sessions.

Be mindful of your performance of the Bird Dog.  Pay attention to how your body moves and feels during the exercise.  Use a mirror to monitor the position of your spine.  The lower back should stay still as the arms and legs move.  The body should not rotate or wobble.  Do not point the toes- keep the ankle dorsiflexed and push out with the heel by actively contracting the gluteals and hamstrings.  As you get better at the exercise, you should feel a better connection of the shoulder girdle to the torso and hips to the pelvis.

Mastery of the Bird Dog takes time.  Work on this exercise for six weeks and I believe you will be surprised by the changes in pain and movement capacity.

To view video demonstration of the Bird Dog, click on the link below:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sq05Uhzba90&feature=youtu.be

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

We all want fitness results, and we want them now.  We want to look, move, and feel better in two weeks.  We know it took us years to get into this overweight, weak, and deconditioned state, but we have a wedding in three months, a reunion in six weeks, and a date next Friday.

Unfortunately, many of the physical problems that slow our progress toward specific fitness goals will not resolve with two or three exercise sessions a week.  Postural deficits, faulty motor control, mobility limitations, and joint restrictions require daily attention to elicit any meaningful change.  Short bouts of focused training, interspersed throughout the day, will produce the best results.  In physical therapy rehabilitation, we prescribe home exercise programs that are performed up to every two hours to reduce pain and restore function.  Fitness clients will more rapidly reach their goals with some daily Nano Sessions of exercise.

Nano Office Session

A rounded shoulder, forward bending thoracic spine posture is delivered free of charge with your new smart phone.  This posture has become nearly universal, and it brings with it a gigabyte of shoulder, neck, and head pain problems.  Fitness training at the gym often feeds into this postural problem- sit ups, crunches, spin bike, heavy bench texting, etc…  Combine this with an eight hour office day of computer entry and number crunching and you create a postural deterioration feedback loop that needs a killer app.  This Nano Training session can help.

You will need a resistance band or tubing and a doorway.  It takes daily training to eliminate postural deficits.  Perform this program twice a day. Two or three gym workouts a week are not enough.  I understand you can set an alarm on your smart phone as a reminder that it is time to stand up and move through your Nano Session.

Doorway Stretchoffice_nano

Office workers perform so many tasks with the arms forward and head down that they develop restrictions in the muscles in the front part of the shoulders and chest.  Use a doorway stretch to reverse this adaptive shortening.  Stand up with the elbows placed just below shoulder level against the doorjamb.   Step one foot forward through a doorway.  Hold a gentle stretch for ten seconds and then lower the arms and rest.  Perform two or three ten second stretches.

The stretch should be felt across the front of the shoulders and chest.  Go easy.  Stop at the first point you feel a stretch.  If you are grimacing in agony, then you either have a shoulder problem or you are being too aggressive with the stretch.  As the stretch gets easier, try working the elbows higher up the doorjamb.

Postural Band Aid

One of the most convenient and easy to perform postural correction activities is an exercise I call the postural band aid.  This exercise takes less than thirty seconds to complete and can be performed at any work sight.  Take a short length of tubing or resistance band and stand up.  Assume a tall posture with a proud chest and the head pulled back.  Hold one side of the band in each hand and keep the elbows by the sides.  Pull the band apart so that your arms form a letter W with your body.  You should feel a tightening of the muscle between your shoulder blades.  Hold the band apart for three counts and then slowly release back to the starting position.  Repeat for eight to ten repetitions.

To view video demonstration of the above exercises, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmUoUKzPr9k&feature=youtu.be

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

We all want fitness results, and we want them now.  We want to look, move, and feel better in two weeks.  We know it took us years to get into this overweight, weak, and deconditioned state, but we have a wedding in three months, a reunion in six weeks, and a date next Friday.

Unfortunately, many of the physical problems that slow our progress toward specific fitness goals will not resolve with two or three exercise sessions a week.  Postural deficits, faulty motor control, mobility limitations, and joint restrictions require daily attention to elicit any meaningful change.  Short bouts of focused training, interspersed throughout the day, will produce the best results.  In physical therapy rehabilitation, we prescribe home exercise programs that are performed up to every two hours to reduce pain and restore function.  Fitness clients will more rapidly reach their goals with some daily Nano Sessions of exercise.

Hip Extension-Thoracic Rotation Nano Session

You need to maintain movement in your hips and thoracic spine if you want to stay active, healthy, and independent.  Prolonged sitting, father time, and most of the problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle attack these areas first.  The restrictions that we deal with most frequently in physical therapy are limited hip extension and thoracic spine rotation.  They are also the mobility issues that are most likely to reduce your performance during athletic activities and fitness pursuits.  This Nano Session is designed to resolve these problems.  Perform this Nano Session twice a day for the next six weeks.

Four Point Thoracic Spine RotationHip_ext_thor_rot

This exercise will improve thoracic spine rotation range of motion, help you stand up taller and make it less likely that your shoulder will breakdown.  Assume an “on all fours” position, hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.  Place the left hand behind the head.  Keep the right shoulder blade down your back and away from the neck.  Do not let the head travel forward.  Turn the torso to the left and lift the left elbow toward the ceiling.  Hold the open position for two counts and then lower back down.  Perform ten repetitions into left rotation and then switch to right rotation.

Chair Hip Flexor Stretch

Limited hip extension makes it nearly impossible to use your gluteal muscles and hamstring muscles properly.  It places greater stress on the lumbar spine and is one of the leading causes of lower back pain.  If you are involved in an activity that requires you to jump, sprint, or move quickly you better be able to move your hip into extension.  Sitting is the position that permits your hip to become tight and reduces hip extension.  You simply get up off the chair and regain hip extension.

You will need a padded chair, 14-18 inches tall.  Do not use a chair with wheels.  Set up with the left knee on the chair.   For balance, hold onto the back of the chair with the left hand.   Set the right foot out in front of the body.  Bend the right knee and push the belly button forward.  Stay tall through the spine and hold a low level stretch for ten seconds and then repeat on the right side.  Perform this stretch twice on each leg.

To view video demonstration of the above exercises, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw2mvRqMVgc&feature=youtu.be

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

 

 

 

Human physiology was designed to function under the physical demands of standing and walking.  Much of the now rampant obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome can be linked to our species’ sudden fall into sustained sitting.  Some of the statistics on the damaging effects of sustained sitting are distressing.

Prolonged sitting creates multiple postural pain problems.  Postural Stress Disorder (PSD) is the new term given to the pain created by seated office work.  In our physical therapy clinics, we are seeing more and more patients with face, head, neck, shoulder, back, and hip pain associated with prolonged sitting.

We are de-evolving into a nation of sitters.  Between internet, television, driving, and computer work, it is not uncommon for many of my physical therapy patients and fitness clients to sit for ten hours a day.  Unfortunately, you cannot train away the bad effects of prolonged sitting with a 45 minute session of exercise.

My suggestion is to invest in a workstation that allows you to stand for most of the day.  I am a big believer in stand up desks and have created many happy converts.  Google, Facebook, Intel, and Boeing are some of the corporations that have switched to stand up desks.  Please take the time to read the Smithsonian Magazine article, “Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks,” by Joseph Stromberg.

To read the article, click on the link below:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259/?no-ist

-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

 

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