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Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Lower Body

Split Squat

To set up for the split squat, put one foot in front of the other with the heel of the back foot off the ground. 85% of the weight should be on the front foot. An airex pad can be placed under the body for the knee to come down on when lowering to the floor. When in the bottom position of the exercise, the front knee should be in line with the toe creating a slight shin angle. Make sure to push through the front heel on the way up instead of the toe. This exercise can be made easier by holding onto a railing, or can be made harder by adding weight such as a kettlebell in a goblet hold. The split squat displays greater hamstring, external oblique, and gluteus medius muscle activity than the back squat, but less quadriceps muscle activity.

RFE Split Squat: RFE stands for “rear foot elevated”. With this variation of the split squat, set up with the back foot elevated on a bench or a padded stand created for this exercise. An airex pad can be used under the knee if necessary. Squat down, touching the knee to the floor or airex pad.  When in this bottom position, the shin angle should be angled forward just as before, not straight up and down. Common errors include sitting too far back on the rear foot, touching the glute to the heel, or the back foot can tend to roll off the padded stand on the way up and move more onto the shin. Avoid this by putting more weight into the front leg and dropping the knee straight down instead of back. This exercise can be made more difficult by adding dumbbells in each hand, a kettlebell in the goblet, racked, or double racked position, or a barbell in the front or back position. Make sure to descend slowly, creating an eccentric load instead of dropping down fast.

FOB Hip Lift: FOB stands for “feet on ball”. Lay on the floor or table on your back and place the arms out to the side. Push down into the floor with the arms to stabilize the body. Keep the feet together and brace your abdominal muscles. Use the glutes and hamstrings to lift yourself up off the floor, making sure to keep everything tight at the top of the movement. Hold 3-10 seconds at the top and lower slowly and controlled. You can remove the arms from the floor and rest them on your stomach or behind your head to create more of a challenge.

One Leg FOB Hip Lift: Same setup as before except one leg will be used. The other leg will be pointed up to the ceiling as the other presses into the ball to lift the body. This creates more of a stability challenge.

FOB Leg Curl: This variation starts out just like the FOB hip lift, except at the top of the movement when the body is raised, the knees are bent and the ball is pulled in towards the body creating more work for the hamstrings. Keep the hips extended by activating the glutes and moving the hips upward, avoiding the tendency to bend at the hips. It should look like your hips move up and then return to a straight body position.

One Leg FOB Leg Curl: The hardest variation for the FOB series is the one leg curl. Use one leg instead of two, extending the other leg up to the ceiling. Make sure to still avoid bending at the hips in this variation as well.

One Leg Deadlift: When starting out with this exercise, it is best to just use bodyweight. Stand with 95% of your weight on one leg. Extend the arms and free leg out to a “T” position, bending the standing leg slightly. The extended leg should be reaching backwards as far as it can go.  Think about sitting into that hip just as you would during deadlifts. As this exercise becomes easier and balance is not an issue, it can be progressed by holding a kettlebell. The kettlebell should be held in the same side as the leg extending back. Reach the kettlebell straight down by the big toe; the weight should not go in front of the toe but rather by the instep of the foot. If you have progressed pass the kettlebell, two kettlebells can be used or a barbell with weight. The primary muscles being used in this exercise are the posterior leg muscles including the glutes and hamstrings.

One Leg Squat: Stand in front of a 12-18” box (start higher, and work your way to a lower box).  You will want to have 5-10# of weight to use as a counter balance (dumbbell, plate, or med ball).  Standing on only one leg, slowly lower yourself to the box.  As you descend, reach forward with the weight to help with balance.  Control the descent until your butt taps the box and then stand back up.  Work for 3-12 reps before switching legs.  Over time, try to get to a lower box so that your hip is slightly below your knee at the bottom position.

Watch video of these exercises: https://youtu.be/SqFqf81UnIk

 

 

 

 

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Vertical Pulls

Just like the vertical press exercises, vertical pulls can be hard to execute due to their mobility requirements, but are the most effective and efficient movements when trying to build a strong and healthy upper body. The broadest posterior chain muscle in the body, the latissimus dorsi, has the primary actions of humeral adduction, extension and internal rotation, but also contributes to posture due to its attachment points. Vertical pulls also work the arms (brachioradialis, biceps brachii, triceps long head), shoulders/back (trapezius, posterior deltoid, teres major, rhomboids), and pelvic floor (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques).

Pull Up/Chin Up: Pull ups/chin ups work the majority of the muscles in the mid/upper back and flexors of the arm. The rotator cuff muscles and core musculature play a more stabilizing role.  In both variations, think about keeping the core engaged.  There should not be extension in the lower back and if there is, you will notice yourself swinging back and forth during reps. When pulling up, think about leading with your collarbone and actually touching it to the bar. Another useful cue is to think about pulling the elbows to your pockets. Avoid rounding the upper back over the bar when reaching the top of the movement.  If you are having trouble touching your chest to the bar, it is either a strength or mobility issue.

½ Kneeling One Arm Pull Down
Set up at the Cybex machine or any cable hook up. Grab just one handle and put that same side knee down on the ground with the toe dug in.  Make sure the arm is angled in such a way that you have to reach across your body when the arm is flexed overhead. Your palm should be facing forward, and as you pull down, turn the hand towards the body and keep the elbow close to your side. Concentrate on squeezing the muscles in the back and keeping the rest of the body still with the core braced. Switch legs when you switch arms.

View video of vertical pulls here: https://youtu.be/knAFry9p-LM.

Functional Stability

The last twenty years have brought about many changes in the fitness industry as our understanding of functional anatomy and evidence based training grows.  Some of these changes have been taken too far, misunderstood, or poorly applied such as stability training. When I was introduced to weights in 1998, exercise programs were built around machines which offer very little carry over to stability, core strength, and function.  Machine based training fails to maximally improve balance/stability, prevent injury, or maximize performance.  Enter functional fitness.  This concept has been popularized by strength coaches and physical therapists such as Eric Cressey, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Grey Cook, and Fenton Fitness owner, Mike O’Hara who saw a gap in training methods and optimal coaching.  Functional training includes better core stability/lumbopelvic control and more unilateral (single limb) exercises that closely mimic human movement. Unfortunately, as with many concepts in the fitness industry, this trend has been taken too far.

Many have latched onto “functional” fitness and incorporated unstable surfaces to challenge the small stabilizing musculature. This gives the illusion of strength and function, but as world renowned strength coach Mark RIppetoe says, these are simply “balance tricks”.  Real life doesn’t involve unstable surfaces like wobble boards, bosu balls, physioballs, etc.  This type of training highly restricts the amount of work the primary movers of the body can do, and doesn’t allow for strength adaptation to occur which should be a primary focus of any solid fitness program.

This Functional Stability series will address the best ways to improve real world function and strength while reducing injury.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Horizontal Pulls

A horizontal pulling exercise is any exercise that involves moving a weight in towards your torso horizontally from straight out in front of you. A good exercise routine should incorporate both pushing and pulling movements in order to keep a healthy balance, better posture, and prevention of shoulder injuries. Muscles involved in pulling exercises include biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, and middle trapezius.

Arm DB Row
There are a couple different variations that could be done with the one arm row. In the first and most common variation, set up with one dumbbell and put the opposite hand and knee on a flat bench. The back should be flat and the weighted arm should be straight with full extension in the shoulder. Keeping the core braced, bring the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side. Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. In the second variation, we are going to get a little more athletic and functional. It is called three stance row, or straddle stance row. Stand with the legs a little wider than shoulder width apart. Bend the knees slightly and make sure the feet are equally distributed and the back is flat (think linebacker).  Put one arm on the end of the bench or a 16-20” box. The hand with the dumbbell should be directly under the shoulder and centered. Row as described previously.

PUPP DB Row
Set up with two dumbbells in a push-up position plank. Keep the feet further apart to make the exercise easier, keep feet closer together to make it harder. Pull up one dumbbell, keeping the elbow close to the body and avoiding the tendency to dip the opposite hip. The body should stay still throughout the exercise. This variation is going to challenge the core as well as the rowing muscle groups. Alternate arms.

Horse Stance DB Row
This variation of the DB row is going to be more challenging than just a regular row as it is going to test your core stability and balance. Set up with one dumbbell and a bench. Put the opposite hand and knee on the bench and extend the free leg out horizontally, with the ankle dorsiflexed. The other arm is holding the dumbbell straight down as with any other row variation. Keeping the core braced, bring up the dumbbell in the same pattern as previously stated. Avoid the tendency to dip the opposite hip down. The weight used in this variation is going to be lighter than usual.

View the video here: https://youtu.be/gSMvrJGVeN4

PDFRead about keeping your hip flexors healthy and working well in Mike’s article, Nobody Names Their Child Iliacus.  Video instruction of the exercises in the article is available.  Jeff Tirrell gives five nutrition rules than can be broke.  Find out the correct way to set up your dual action air assault bike.

Download Here

PDFFind out if you scalenes are causing problems in Mike’s article, Scalene Salvation.  Read the inspirational stories of some Fenton Fitness members who conquered osteoporosis.

Download Here

Movement You Should Master

Step Ups

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 and down off the floor is the Step Up.

Step Ups

The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed.  Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading.  Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level.  Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders.  The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall.  Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.

Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions.  Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.

1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)

2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

Movement You Should Master

Weighted Carries

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 efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.

Weighted Carries

Very few things are more functional than a carry.  You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week.  While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise.  Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless.  Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability.  Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness.  Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA

Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:

1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)

2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)

3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)

4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1

 

The 2017 Australia Open Tennis tournament had an impressive finish.  At the age of 36, Roger Federer became the men’s champion, and 35 year old Serena Williams defeated her 36 year old sister, Venus Williams to become the women’s champion.  In the world of professional tennis, a mid-thirties champion is a rarity and to have it happen in both the men’s and women’s divisions is a sign of things to come.  Rehabilitation and conditioning science have improved the results athletes can achieve in the gym.  Athletes are staying healthier by eating better and training smarter.  Take a look at some other recent examples:

Oksana Chusotivina (photo by Zelda F. Scott)

Tom Brady, 39 years old. The quarterback for the New England Patriots will be leading his team in Superbowl LI.  He is confident he can continue to compete for another five years.

Drew Brees, 38 years old.  The starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints feels he can play for several more years.

Kristin Armstrong, 43 years old.  Won a gold medal in cycling at the Rio Olympics at the age of 42.  This type of success is amazing in a competition that greatly favors youth.

Dara Torres, 49 years old.  This twelve-time Olympic swimmer medallist competed at 41 years of age and won a silver medal in three events at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Oksana Chusotivina, 41 years oldOksana is gymnast from Uzbekistan that competed against teenage gymnasts at the Rio Olympics.

Meb Keflezighi, 40 years old.  Competed in the Marathon at the Summer Olympics in Rio.

These performances illustrate how proper training and nutrition can produce a high level of performance in athletes thought to be too old to compete.  We are all going to get older.  It does not mean we are going to get weaker, slower, and more sedentary.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Kettlebell Swings and Push Ups

When designing programs for rehabilitation patients and fitness clients, I often pair up exercises.  This practice is commonly called super-setting and it has multiple benefits:
Train efficiently—You get much more work done during your training time.  
Abolish performance deficits—Most physical therapy and fitness clients need to work on glaring right vs. left movement asymmetries, postural restrictions, and stability limitations.  
Lose weight—Fat loss is a primary goal of most fitness clients.  Pairing exercises ramps up exercise intensity and creates the hormonal response that improves body composition.  
Move better—Training neurologically related movement patterns improves motor control.   

Swings and Push Ups

Strength coach Dan John got me started on kettlebell swings/push up sessions.   This pairing challenges core stability as the swings create an anti-flexion core stabilization demand and the push ups an anti-extension demand.  If your goal is fat loss, this exercise pairing produces a total body metabolic boost.  A hidden benefit is getting up and down off the floor during the training session.  It is a basic mobility skill we need to practice in order to maintain our independence.

Kettlebell Swings
kb_swingA swing is not a squat and a squat is not a swing.  A kettlebell swing is a hip dominant motion; the hips move a lot and the knees just a little.  The handle of the kettlebell should stay above the knees.  At the bottom of the swing, the forearms should contact the upper thighs.  You swing the kettlebell forward with an explosive contraction of the gluteal and hamstring muscles.  Do not lift the kettlebell with the arms.  Project, or throw, the kettlebell to shoulder level and no higher.  The swing is an exercise that is worthy of some coaching.  Find an instructor that can help you with proper performance.

Push Ups
Keep the shoulder blades down the back and tight against the rib cage.  Hold the head in a retracted position and relax the neck.  The shoulders should not ride up into a shrugged position. Start at the bottom of the push up (flat on the floor).  Place the hands under the shoulders and keep the elbows tucked in to the side of the body.  Grip the floor with the hands and activate the muscles in the back of the shoulder blades.  Brace the abdominal muscles, tighten the glutes, and maintain tension between the legs by drawing them together.  Push up while maintaining spinal and shoulder position.   Hold at the top for two counts and repeat the push up.

Swing/Push Up Sessions
The great thing about these sessions is that you need minimal equipment—just a single kettlebell and a willingness to work hard.

This is a good place to start.  You will need a kettlebell and a stopwatch.
Swings x 20 seconds
Push ups x 6 repetitions
Rest 30 seconds
Repeat for fifteen minutes
As you get stronger, increase the push up repetitions.

This is one of my favorite swing/push up training sessions.
20 swings
20 push ups
20 swings
15 push ups
20 swings
10 push ups
20 swings
5 push ups
20 swings
You will finish with 100 swings and 50 push ups.

Try a push up “countdown” session.  Follow this pattern:
10 swings
10 push ups
10 swings
9 push ups
10 swings
8 push ups
Work your way down to 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 push up.  You will complete 100 swings and 55 push ups and transfer up and down off the floor 10 times.  If that is too much, modify the program and start at five push ups.  You will complete 50 swings and 15 push ups.

View video of Mike performing these exercises here: https://youtu.be/Vq3VYg847Xs

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Hip Lifts and Roll Outs

When designing programs for rehabilitation patients and fitness clients, I often pair up exercises.  This practice is commonly called super-setting and it has multiple benefits:
Train efficiently—You get much more work done during your training time.  
Abolish performance deficits—Most physical therapy and fitness clients need to work on glaring right vs. left movement asymmetries, postural restrictions, and stability limitations.  
Lose weight—Fat loss is a primary goal of most fitness clients.  Pairing exercises ramps up exercise intensity and creates the hormonal response that improves body composition.  
Move better—Training neurologically related movement patterns improves motor control.  

Hip Lifts and Roll Outs

An intricate system of muscles holds the spine upright over the top of the pelvis.  This pair of exercises coordinates and strengthens this support system.  If you sit all day long, have postural problems, or a history of lower back pain this pair of exercises is worthy of your training time.

Hip Lifts
hip_liftThis drill coordinates hip extension and lumbar spine stability.  It is very beneficial when progressed to the single leg version.  Lay with your shoulders across a bench with the head supported.  Place your arms out to the sides.  Plant the feet on the ground with the knees bent 90 degrees and the shins perpendicular to the floor.  Drop the hips to the floor and then push back up with the gluteals and hamstring muscles.  Hold at the top for two counts and repeat.

Roll Outs
The roll out can be scaled to serve any fitness level.  Beginners can start with a large 65 centimeter physioball, and as they become more proficient, progress to a smaller 55 centimeter ball.  The closer the hands get to the floor the more challenging the exercise becomes.  If you get strong enough, you can perform the forward roll out with a Power Wheel or Sorinex roller.

Kneel on a mat to keep the pressure off your knees.  Your femur (thigh bone) is positioned perpendicular to the floor and the hips are hinged at 45 degrees.  Place the hands on the front of the ball and the elbows directly under the chin.  Brace the abdominal muscles and roll out onto the ball until you feel a challenge through your midsection.  Hold in the challenging position for three counts and then return to the starting position.
Perform twelve repetitions of the hip lifts, rest 30 seconds, and then perform ten roll outs.  Rest and repeat the cycle.  Work up to three sets through this exercise combination.

View video of Mike performing these exercises here: https://youtu.be/Xf08rFU7A4w.

-Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

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