Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that requires no equipment and has bountiful benefits is the Push Up.
Push ups strengthen the pecs, deltoids, triceps. They also allow free movement of the shoulder blades (unlike the bench press) and build stability in the core if done properly. There is no need to get overly fancy with these. If you can’t do a true push up with your chest touching the ground and your core locked in, start by elevating your hands instead of resorting to “girl” push ups on your knees. Guys should try to work up to 3 sets of 20 reps at least a couple of times/week. Women should strive for at least 10 reps but by no means need to stop there. Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/7oQ-_J8FjEU
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be essential for overall strength is the Deadlift.
At some point in your week, you will need to pick something up off the ground. If you have ever moved furniture or loaded your push mower into the back of your car for repairs, you have seen the value in this task.
Deadlifts are an amazing exercise to work the quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, core, and entire back all the way up to the traps and forearms. As useful as deadlifts are, they are also one of the most butchered exercises in the gym. I would highly recommend the help of a skilled professional and/or a mirror before implementing this movement into your routine. I find that for the general fitness population, 2-3 deadlift variations are all you need for the bulk of your training. Watch the video and give them a try:
1) One Leg Romanian Deadlift (mimics picking up smaller items around the house or yard; minimizes shear forces on the spine)
2) Hex Bar Deadlifts (great for maximal strength and the occasion when you have to pick up something really heavy) Note: This version offers virtually all of the benefits of a barbell deadlift with slightly more freedom for individual anatomical differences and slightly lower shear forces on your spine.
View video of deadlifts: https://youtu.be/CRbbXOMSeww
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up from a seated position is the Squat.
Squats prepare us to get up out of a chair, into the car, and up from the floor. These are daily tasks often taken for granted until they can no longer be done with ease. The ability to squat down deep, remain there for some time, and get back up creates functional carryover to real life activities. I recommend a mixture of three different squat variations. Pick one variation to include in your training every day. Watch the video and give all three a try.
1) Box Squats: Set up with a box behind you and slowly lower yourself onto the box with control. Once on the box, sit and relax completely before re-engaging the legs and standing back up. To maintain complete control of the movement all the way into the seated position, start with a tall enough box. Increase the difficulty by lowering the box height or adding a load. A 12”-14” box should be the goal for most people.
2) Deep Breathing Paused Squats: Find a stance that allows you to squat down as low as possible without your heels coming off the ground or your tailbone tucking under. Some individuals may need a wider or narrower stance. You may also need to play with the angle of your toes. Squat down to your lowest point (maintaining pelvic control and heel contact), take 2-5 deep breaths into your abdomen, and stand up. These are best done for sets of 3-5 reps for 2-5 total sets. To increase the challenge, external load can be added. Just remember that the goal is depth. If the increased load causes your range of motion to shorten, you’ve gone too heavy.
3) Split Squats: Assume a split stance, and lower your back knee down to the ground with control. Extend the legs and return to the standing position. You may find yourself in this position when picking something up off the floor or doing yard work. Add weight to this movement as you are able. You can also elevate the front or rear leg to increase the range of motion.
View video of squat variations: https://youtu.be/4gormcwHr5A
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
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.
In this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT gives ten reasons to love lunges. Video of lunge exercises/progressions are included. In Going Grizzly, Mike presents the exercise combination of Crawls and Sandbag Carries; a combination that helps you train more efficiently and move better. Watch the video for instruction on these exercises.
Improve squatting mechanics, alleviate stress from knees, and build hamstring and gluteal strength/control.
Strengthen gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and core musculature. Improve gluteal and hamstring activation during the squat. Decrease knee discomfort compared to traditional squats.
Start by standing approximately 4-6 inches in front of a box. Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The toes should be straight ahead or angled slightly outward. If using weight, a barbell can be held in the front “rack” position, placed behind the neck, or you can hold a Kettle Bell in the Goblet position. If using a barbell on your back your shoulder blades should be pinched together.
Start by pushing the hips back. The knees will naturally start to bend, continue to push your hips back as you sit onto the box. You should move slowly and with control during the eccentric (descent) portion of the exercise. Once your butt touches the box you need to briefly relax your legs. However, you must keep bracing your core, and keep your upper back tight if applicable. Once your legs have been completely relaxed you need to re-engage your glutes and hamstrings by pressing your heels into the ground and “spreading” the floor. Do not rock backward or forward in order to generate momentum to get up. Stand up at a normal speed.
Using a box that is too short so that you can’t control the eccentric portion due to weakness in the glutes or hamstrings. This causes you to fall/plop onto the box. Allowing the knees to bend first and not pushing the hips back far enough. Rocking on the box once you are seated in order to generate momentum to help yourself up.
–Jeff Tirrell, B.S., CSCS
Stability, Mobility, And Better Posture
The squat has been described as the king of all exercises. The large amount of muscle recruited during squatting makes it a very metabolically demanding exercise. In athletics, the capacity to perform a full squat with proper torso, hip, and knee position has been correlated with greater durability–fewer injuries. The overhead squat test is one of the patterns assessed in the Functional Movement Screen and is used in physical therapy and athletic training. Squatting with the load placed on the front of the body is an excellent way to enhance mobility, stability, and strength. Compared to leg presses, seated leg curls, and knee extension, front squatting creates much more carry over to activities of daily living and athletics. The problem is most people do not know how to get started with front squats.
When you squat with the load across the front of the body instead of on the upper part of the back, the stress on the spine is reduced. You can “cheat” a back loaded squat by leaning forward, but you cannot lean forward with a front squat. Leaning forward on the front squat causes the load to fall from your shoulders or hands. Front squatting creates a greater core stability demand and reduces shear force on the lower back. Full depth front squatting will improve your posture and restore mobility in the hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine.
Front squatting is an exercise that is more equivalent to daily tasks and athletics. Lifts in real life rarely place the load across your shoulders. When you lift the grandchild, carry the groceries, or hoist the wheelbarrow, the load is in front of the body. During athletics, the opponent is in front of you, and you must stay upright and tall to dominate the activity.
Front Squat 101
Before loading the squat, practice bodyweight squats to a depth target. I like to use a 12 inch box or a Dynamax ball (12 inches in diameter). You should be able to perform a body weight squat to a thigh below parallel position with a stable spine before attempting a loaded front squat. When you perform a loaded front squat, initiate motion from the hips by sitting down and back. Push the knees out and descend so the thighs travel to below a parallel to the floor position. Keep the chest up and torso tall as you push back up. Finish at the top by contracting the gluteal muscles and keeping the front of the rib cage down.
Choose A Proper Implement
While the barbell offers the greatest loading capacity, many individuals do not possess the shoulder mobility to hold the bar on the shoulders. The Goblet Squat position with a kettlebell or dumbbell works just as well. A sandbag hugged close to the body in the high Zercher position or bear hug hold has a high degree of athletic carry over. Avoid the Smith machine variation. You end up leaning on the machine and this eliminates much of the core stability demands and exposes the spine to greater shear force.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS