Less Is More
Understanding The Requirements Of Rest
The weight room at my high school was small and had only basic equipment. It consisted of two Olympic weight sets, some mismatched dumbbells, a squat rack, and a chin up bar. In the gym, we had a pegboard and a rope for climbing. No bench press, curl bar, or pulldown machine. It was the ultimate blessing in disguise. We did not have the temptation of exercise variety for variety’s sake. What we did have was solid instruction on basic lifts. We performed the same exercises repeatedly and became more proficient at squats, hang cleans, overhead presses, and pull ups. Four simple activities performed consistently with an effort to add weight to the bar on a regular basis. The results were magic.
The television fitness gurus have brought forth the latest craze of “muscle confusion”. You change your exercise activity often in an attempt to stimulate a greater adaptation response. The problem is that you never get the chance to practice the exercise long enough or with enough resistance to get stronger. Getting stronger is the performance parameter that preserves muscle mass, speeds up your metabolism, and makes you more durable–less likely to get hurt.
I never want any of my muscles, nerves, joints, or any other part of my body to be “confused” when training. I want the bodies of the athletes I train to perform better at every session. My suggestion is that you pick five or six exercises and set a goal of getting better at each of them over the next six months. The exercises you chose do not have to be a barbell or dumbbell exercise. Bodyweight exercises will work just as well and are a better choice for most fitness clients. Keep a record of your performance and work on improving the number of inverted rows, pull ups, or push ups you can perform. Single leg strength training is a good choice for nearly everyone and works wonders for athletes. Athletes should choose exercises that not only improve strength, but also mobility—front squats. Long term dedication to the mastery of an exercise will reward you with better body composition, enhanced mobility, less pain, and the strength you need to perform in athletics and daily activities.
This training approach requires mental toughness and a willingness to at times be bored. Toughen up and get after the challenge. Read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “We Need To Relax Like Roger Federer”. Better yet, go out and buy the book Starting Strength.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Many of life’s activities involve using our legs in a reciprocal pattern. Find out why training in half kneeling position can help. Exercise instruction and demonstration included in a video link. Learn the four steps to a successful fitness program and how to correctly use the Concept 2 rowing ergometer.
The August Newsletter includes an article by Mike O’Hara, PT on training the muscles of the torso. Included are exercises for training with video demonstration. Also by Mike is an article on training to prevent Achille’s tendon injury–the most injured tendon among recreational runners. Be sure to check out the Fenton Fitness Love Your Jean Challenge.
This month’s issue has information on the lumbopelvic hip complex including written/video exercises. Mike O’Hara also gives information on unstable pressing exercises to improve posture and improve motor control and symmetry. Also read about the Becoming Unstoppable clinic for athletes 13 years and older that will be help April 30th at Fenton Fitness.
My shoulders have racked up a few extra miles, so they get a little cranky when I perform fixed plane pressing activities with a barbell or a dip stand. I have better results with pressing exercises that afford my shoulders more freedom of movement. The closed chain feedback (hand on the ground and body moving) of a push up helps improve posture and strengthens the scapula stabilizer muscles. The slider push up combines greater freedom of movement with a push up resistance pattern, and it has become my favorite horizontal pressing exercise.
Slider Push Up Performance
Place the hands on the sliders and set up in a push up position. Keep the gluteal muscles tight and pull the bottom of the rib cage down with the abdominal muscles. Slide the right hand overhead and lower down with the left arm. Keep the left elbow tight to the body as you push back up. Reach overhead with the left hand and perform the push up with the right arm. Perform three to eight repetitions on each side.
Many active individuals are unable to transfer up off the floor with any degree of mastery or grace. Our childhood motor development has laid down the neural pathways used in crawling and rolling that are necessary for efficient floor mobility. We need to perform exercise activities that reinforce the use of these pathways and improve this important survival skill. Slider push ups help restore the lost art of floor mobility.
Unlike most of the supine and seated pressing exercise performed in the gym, the slider push up has a major core stability demand. You can only push what your pelvis and torso can stabilize. The old saying is “You can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe.” Core stability and pressing strength come together in this exercise.
Equipment requirements for the slider push up are minimal, and the exercise can be regressed or progressed by changing the position of the lower extremities. The single arm loading of the slider push up creates a unique shoulder girdle stabilization and strengthening challenge.
Beginners can start on their knees and progress to performing the slider push up on the toes. As you get stronger at this exercise, try adding a weight vest or elevating the feet on a low box.
I like to program kettlebell swings with slider push ups: fifteen snappy swings followed by eight slider push ups on each side. Rest for however long you need and repeat for three to five circuits. This circuit combination has a magical effect on the strength of my middle. Try it twice a week for four weeks and let me know how you do.
To view video demonstration of the Slider Push Up, click on the link below:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T. OCS, CSCS
We want the time we spend exercising to carry over to better performance on the field of play and in our daily lives. In the gym, most push-type resistance training is performed on a machine or lying down on a bench; however, all functional pushing tasks and nearly all athletic endeavors place you in an asymmetrical standing position. One leg is loaded to a greater extent than the other as you move an object or an opponent with your arms. The split stance dumbbell curl to press is an exercise that creates carryover to real world.
It matters little how much push force you can create on a machine or bench if you are unable to stabilize that force in an upright position. A 150 pound press performed while sitting or supine will not carry over to a 150 pound standing push if your core and leg muscles are only able to stabilize 25 pounds. The reciprocal hip position you assume during the split stance dumbbell curl to press is the sprint in track, the stiff arm on the football field, and the lay up in basketball.
Proper set up is important. Stand holding two dumbbells at your sides. Place your right foot on a stable bench, rack, or box that is set at mid-thigh height. The left foot is set behind your body so that the right hip is flexed and the left hip is extended. Keep a perfect upright torso posture. The bottom of the rib cage stays pulled down and the pelvis should not wobble during the exercise.
Curl the dumbbells up and rotate the palms so they are facing you, then immediately perform an overhead press. Hold the dumbbells overhead for two counts then lower the weight in a controlled fashion. Perform six repetitions and then rest. Repeat the exercise with the left foot up and the right leg back. Start with two sets of six repetitions on each side.
Keep your ego in check and start with lighter dumbbells on this exercise. Maintaining a rock solid posture is more important than the load being lifted. As your core stability improves you will be able to up the weights.
You will feel this exercise in your shoulders, biceps, and core muscles. If one side is more difficult, always start on that side. Perform an extra set on the weaker side, and try to train that performance asymmetry away.
Click on the link below to view video demonstration of the Split Stance Dumbbell Curl To Press:
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Program Director, Jeff Tirrell, demonstrates the right and wrong of the overhead press.
Click on the link below to view:
An Exercise That Prevents Lumbar Rotation
Your brain is a master of physical manipulation. It has the capacity to move your body by any means necessary. If your hips and thoracic spine are stiff, weak, and unable to rotate, it will demand rotation from your lumbar spine. Frequent and excessive rotation at the lumbar spine is never good. The five lumbar vertebrae are only able to handle 10-13 degrees of total rotation before bad things start happening. In our treatment of patients with chronic lower back pain, our physical therapists work to restore thoracic spine / hip mobility and reduce rotational movement in the lumbar spine. Lower back pain can be trained away with better control of excessive lumbar rotation. One of our favorite anti-rotation core stability exercises is the Pallof Press. This exercise deserves a greater presence in the programs of the general fitness population.
Why You Should Do It
Nearly everyone can perform a Pallof Press. If you can stand up without assist, you can perform the Pallof Press. Physical therapy patients start with light loads and usually progress quickly.
It is one of the few exercises that will strengthen the abdominal / back muscles that resist rotation of the lumbar spine and improve hip stability at the same time.
The Pallof Press develops the proprioceptive awareness you need for better posture. It is a great exercise for those suffering from the epidemic of SNSS -soggy noodle spine syndrome.
It can also be used to teach better breathing patterns.
You need a cable machine or resistance tubing set at mid torso level. Position your body at a 90 degree angle in relation to the pull of the cable. Assume an athletic posture with the feet at least shoulder width apart and the spine neutral. Push the hips back a little and keep a slight bend in the ankles and knees. You should look like a tennis player preparing to return an opponent’s serve. Use a strong overlap grip on the handle and set the hands in the middle of the chest. Brace the midsection and hips and move the handle out in front of the body and then back to the chest. Select a resistance level that permits execution of all repetitions without losing the set up posture. If one side is more difficult, start the exercise on that side. Perform fifteen repetitions on each side.
Many of us have terrible respiratory patterns. We are unable to fully inhale and exhale when under any physical stress. The Pallof Press can be used to improve respiratory control. Use the same set up and press the cable out. Hold the cable with the arm fully extended while inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds. Bring the arms back in and then repeat. Perform four of five inhale / exhale respiration repetitions on each side.
You can make the exercise more difficult by adding more resistance, but I like to use a change in the base of support as the initial progression. Assume a split stance and perform the Pallof Press with one leg forward and one leg back. The half kneeling Pallof Press is an excellent injury prevention exercise. During this exercise you want a firm anchor to the ground so avoid the Bosu, Physioball, and other circus versions of this exercise.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
Exercise Of The Week–Kneeling, One Arm Landmine Press
Improve vertical pressing strength. Increase core and shoulder stability.
Strengthen the shoulders, triceps, abdominals, and obliques. Increase neurological control of shoulder girdle and core musculature.
Kneel down (one knee with one foot planted) at the end of the barbell (positioned in landmine). Pick up the end of the barbell with the hand on the same side as the knee that is down. Your hand should almost be touching your shoulder at the start.
Firmly grasp the end of the barbell, brace your core (by inhaling and expanding your abdomen) and extend your arm pressing the bar away. Repeat on the other side.
Starting with your hand/end of the barbell too far away from your shoulder. Not extending your arm all the way. Not bracing the core. Allowing flexion or extension of the hip joint.
Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS
Exercise Of The Week
Dynamic Bench Press
Training Objective: Increases upper body rate of force production. Improves ability to create and use elastic energy, with the result being a high increase in pressing power.
Setup: Loop two identical bands around each side of the bar and anchor the other ends of the bands near the floor, pulling down in a straight line from the bar.
Procedure: Lay supine on a bench with the heels comfortably on the ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back and then un-rack the bar and position over the middle to lower part of the chest. Lower the bar with a higher than normal speed, then when the bar is about an inch from the chest, rapidly decelerate the bar and press back into the starting extended position. Immediately perform the next rep.
Recommended Sets/Reps: Perform 9 sets of 3 reps with 1 minute between sets. Use approximately 50-60% of 1 rep max.
Common Mistakes: Dropping the bar too fast and bouncing off the chest. Trying to do too much weight–speed must stay high. Lifting the legs off the ground.
Josh Kosier, MA, CSCS