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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

Real Core Training Part Four

Anti-Rotation

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Rotation

Tall Kneeling Pallof Press: Grab some elastic tubing or a cable (anchored to something sturdy) and assume a tall kneeling position.  Hold with both hands and press outward away from body.  Do not allow your body to twist or rotate.  Increase load or stretch on tubing to increase difficulty.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Half Kneeling Pallof Press: Set up in a half kneeling position.  Use the same execution as the tall kneeling version.  Make sure that you don’t allow your legs/hips to lean or twist.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

Standing Pallof Press: Assume an athletic stance with your feet just outside of shoulder width, slight bend in the knees, and slightly flexed at the hips.  Execute the same movement as you would for the tall or half kneeling Pallof press. Work up to 12 reps per side.

One Leg Pallof Press: Stand on one leg with the other leg flexed at 90 degrees at the foot, knee, and hip.  Execute the Pallof press the same way as the standing Pallof press. This is a much more a balance and overall body stability drill.  Tension/resistance will need to be reduced.  Be slow and gradual with your increases in load, volume, or frequency to allow your knee time to adapt.  Work up to 12 reps per side.

PUPP with alternating arm raise:  Assume a push up position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.  Raise one arm out in front of your body while maintaining spine and pelvic positions.  A wider feet position makes the movement more stable and easier, while a narrower foot position increases difficulty.  You can also slow the movement to increase difficulty.  Remember, top priority is no hip/spine movement before trying to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 per side.

Landmine Anti-Rotations:  Place a barbell in a landmine and assume an athletic position.  Press the landmine away from your body and slowly make a rainbow arching pattern moving the barbell from one hip to the other.  Make sure that only your shoulder/elbow joints move, everything else stays stiff.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Crawl: Get on your hands and knees with your toes dug into the ground.  Lift your knees slightly off the ground.  Keeping your back flat and stable, move your opposite hand and foot to crawl forward or backward.  Work up to 50 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part Three

Anti-Extension

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Exension

Supine Bent Knee March

Lay on your back and lift your legs off the ground with your knees and hips at 90 degree angles.  Posteriorly tilt your hips so that your low back is pressed firmly into the ground.  Slowly lower one heel to the ground keeping your knee at 90 degrees and not allowing your low back to lift off the floor.  Bring this leg back up and repeat on the other side.  Work up to 10 reps per side.

Bent Leg Dead Bug

Assume the same position as the previous exercise.  Reach your arms straight up to the ceiling.  Keep your low back pressed into the floor and straighten one leg, getting the heel as close to the ground as possible without touching.  Simultaneously reach the opposite arm overhead without quite touching the ground.

Straight Leg Dead Bug

Lay on your back with your legs and arms all reaching up toward the ceiling.  Keep your leg straight. and slowly lower it toward the ground while simultaneously reaching overhead with the opposite arm.  Don’t allow your foot or arm to rest on the ground, and keep your low back pressed into the floor.

Hollow Body Hold

Lay on your back and press your low back into the floor.  Lift your feet, shoulders, and arms off the floor, keeping your low back pressed into the floor.  Keep your feet and arms as close to the ground as possible while also keeping your low back on the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Plank

Lay on your stomach and place your elbows under your shoulders.  Put your feet together and lift your hips off the ground.  Maintain neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine positions. Contract your glutes, pull your ribs down with a forceful exhalation, and try to pull your elbows toward your toes (they won’t actually move) to engage your lats.  Try to create maximum full body tension.  Hold for up to 30 seconds.

Long Lever Plank

Use the same set up and execution as the plank, except that the elbows will be farther out in front of the shoulders.  The farther forward the elbows, the harder this will be.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Body Saw

Use the set up the same as the plank only with carpet sliders under your toes.  Use your shoulders to slide yourself into the long lever position and then slide back.  Make sure you maintain spinal and pelvis positioning during the whole movement.  Work up to 12 reps.

Physioball Rollouts

Start in a tall kneeling position with a Physioball at arm’s length in front of you.  Pull your ribs down and engage your glutes.  Allow your body to fall forward by letting your hands and forearms roll up onto the ball.  Once you feel you are going to break lumbopelvic positioning, reverse the movement to get you back to your starting position.  Work up to 10 reps.

TRX Fallouts

Use the same set up as with the physioball, but use a suspension trainer instead.  Set up with straps at mid-thigh height.  Execute in the same manner.  Lower the strap starting position to increase difficulty.  Work up to 10 reps.

Ab Wheel/Dolly Rollouts

Set up on your knees with your hands on an ab wheel or dolly and place your hands directly under your shoulders.  Begin to fall forward by flexing the shoulder (overhead) and extending the hips.  Go forward as far as possible without losing spinal positioning and then reverse movement back to the start.  Make sure shoulder and hip joints extend/flex at the same speed.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Real Core Training Part Two

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Lateral Flexion

Bent Knee Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and line your knees up below your hips.  Lift your hips off the ground and hold.  Work up to 45 seconds.

Side Plank

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder and straighten your legs out.  Stack your legs on top of each other and lift your hips off the ground.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg Elevated

Position yourself in the same set up as the side plank.  Once your hips are lifted off the ground, you will move your top leg away from the bottom leg.  Make sure that you don’t flex either hip when raising the top leg.  Work up to 30 seconds.

Side Plank with Top Leg on Bench

Lay on your side and place your elbow under your shoulder.  Place your top leg on top of a bench.  Lift your hips off the ground.  The bottom leg can squeeze the bottom of the bench or dangle in the air.

Suitcase Hold

Grab a KB/DB in one hand, stand tall, and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Make sure your shoulder blades stay down and back.  If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to ensure you aren’t leaning.  Hold for up to 60 seconds.

Suitcase Carry

Assume the same set up as the suitcase hold.  Start walking with a normal gait.  Make sure to not lean excessively.  Start with 20 yards per side and work up to 100 yards.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Bonus

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Bonus:

The last four exercises I want cover are not traditional resistance training exercises, but they can have a dramatic impact on your movement, decrease discomfort, and just help make you a more awesome and higher functioning individual.

Lateral Squat– Most standard exercises are done bilaterally (2 hands or feet moving together) and in the sagittal plane of movement.  We want to make sure to also incorporate the frontal and transverse planes when training.  The Lateral Squat gets us into the frontal plane and strengthens the often neglected adductor muscles (groin/inner thigh muscles), as well as hitting the glutes in a direction they normally don’t get worked.

Crawling– Crawling is fundamental to human development.  We learn to do it before we walk or run.  We also start to lose this ability as we age.  By continuing to crawl, we can keep important neurological pathways working, as well as strengthen our core, upper body, and legs in a relatively low stress way.

Get Ups– The best-known form of this exercise is the Turkish Get Up.  However, it doesn’t need to be that complicated or technical.  Simply lying on the floor and getting up a variety of different ways can go a long way in maintaining core strength, and whole-body mobility.

Farmers or Suitcase Carry– The Farmers and Suitcase Carry are great tools for building a stronger gait, improving grip strength, core strength, and stability.  The Suitcase Carry, because of its asymmetrical loading, adds a great anti-lateral flexion component that really challenges the obliques to lock down and hold the ribs in place.

View video of these exercises: View Video

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Part 6

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Hinge:

Traditional- Barbell Deadlift

Alternatives- One Leg Deadlift or Kettlebell Swing

Both the One Leg Deadlift and KB Swing reduce the load being used.  Both have less shear forces going through the low back.  The One Leg Deadlift introduces a great balance component, as well as anti-rotational component to the hips.  The KB Swing introduces high velocity and power production which can’t be matched by a Barbell.

View video of these exercises: View Video

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Part 5

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Horizontal Pull:

Traditional–Bent over Barbell Row

Alternatives–Suspension Trainer Row or Horse Stance DB Row

The Suspension Trainer Row requires only your body weight and places no external load on your lower back.  It also better activates the lats.  The Horse Stance DB Row introduces a component to the movement in a position known to reduce back pain and strengthen the core musculature.

View video of these exercises: View Video

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Part 4

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Squats:

Traditional- Barbell Back Squat

Alternatives- ½ Racked KB Squat or Rear Foot Elevated Goblet Split Squat

Both the ½ Racked Squat and RFE Split Squat reduce load, easing the stress to the low back, hips, and knees.  The ½ Racked KB Squat introduces rotational & lateral flexion forces to the equation causing the core to work very hard to resist these forces.  The Rear Foot Elevated Goblet Split Squat leads to a more upright posture reducing shear and compressive forces on the lumbar spine.  This exercise also tends to better target the glutes and put the quad under a more stretch and larger range of motion.

View video of these exercises: View Video

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Part 3

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Lat Pullovers:

Traditional- Flat Bench DB Pullover

Alternatives- Decline Bench KB Pullover OR Alternating DB Pullover on Table or Foam Roller

The Decline KB Pullover actually increases the range of motion of this exercise and causes the Lats and Pecs to work longer and harder.  This makes this a superior exercise and reduces load so it’s a win-win.  This version also causes your anterior core to work very hard as an anti-extension component.  The Alternating DB Pullover on Table of Foam Roller increases shoulder stability, and if using the Foam Roller, also increases stability demands of the whole body.  Both of these versions will reduce strain on the shoulder, and increase core activation.

View video of these exercises: View Video

Non Traditional Tweaks to Old Time Favorites–Part 2

In the fitness world, there are several exercises which have stood the test of time.  These movements have remained because they work, require little equipment, and give you a lot of bang for your buck. The movement patterns these exercises use are very important and you should continue to train using them throughout the duration of your life for optimal function. However, as we age, our joints lose space between them.  This makes spinal compression and shear forces more problematic in many individuals.  This decreased space in the joint also makes impingements in the hip and shoulder more likely, as well as discomfort in the knee and elbow.  When this begins to happen, many individuals just shy away from the movements all together leading to loss of strength, stability, and mobility throughout the body.  One solution we have found to this problem here at Fenton Fitness is reducing overall system load by altering range of motion, balance/stability, or load placement.  In some cases, these lower load alternatives completely replace the standards and in others, they are rotated in based on client history, goals, and adaptation.  For the next few weeks, I will be giving some alternatives to some traditional exercises.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Vertical Press:

Traditional- Barbell Military Press (Overhead Press)

Alternative- ½ Kneeling One Arm KB OH Press, One Arm One Leg KB OH Press, or Stability BB Overhead Press

Both these alternatives reduce overall system load.  This can help reduce neck, shoulder, and elbow pain. The half kneeling option adds a great core strength/stability component, while the One Leg Press adds a great balance component to the movement.  The Stability BB Overhead Press introduces instability to the bar which increases the dynamic stability demands on rotator cuff muscles.

View video of these exercises: View Video

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