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Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Medicine Ball Wall Balls

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Medicine Ball Wall Balls.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/vCWu2gsCfU4.

If you are looking for a full body movement that offers the same triple extension (ankle, knee, hip) as the traditional weightlifting movements, then this exercise is for you.  Wall Balls focus on vertical power development.  All medicine ball movements tend to be much higher on the speed continuum of the power movements.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

Olympic Lifts–Do We Really Need Them?

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Over the last several years, Olympic lifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  The primary reason to use Olympic lifts is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD); however, the general fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises.  Over the next several weeks, I will introduce thirteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Today’s exercise is the Medicine Ball Chest Pass.  Watch the video, give it a try, and let us know how you do. View the video here: https://youtu.be/iN4qcOPe2vo

The Med Ball chest pass is a great exercise to build up horizontal pushing power.  It can be regressed to be stable, safe, and emphasize the upper body musculature, or progressed to be very dynamic and athletic in nature.  All medicine ball movements tend to be much higher on the speed continuum of the power movements.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

 

The Wisdom of Frank–Part IV

“Change It Up”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank was big on developing one set of skills for a defined period of time and then switching to performance parameters.  We would work hard on improving strength with squats, cleans, and pull ups for six weeks and then take a break.  The next six weeks would focus on speed and endurance–lots of jump rope, sprinting, and medicine ball throws.  I never got bored and I never got hurt.

The best injury preventative for athletes and fitness enthusiasts is a consistent change in activity.  Look at your training / competition schedule and alter your activity every six to eight weeks.  Better yet, take a week or two away from running, dance, yoga, lifting, baseball, or Zumba.  If you are older or more injury prone, that rest period might need to be stretched out to three weeks.

The popularity of the club system has young athletes playing the same sport year round.  In the clinic, we are treating young athletes with “old person” overuse injuries.  Playing multiple sports is infinitely more beneficial.  Taking layoffs from overused movement patterns and participating in a variety of athletic endeavors gives the body a chance to rebuild and recover.  It is no coincidence that successful professional athletes are the product of multi-sport participation.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

The Wisdom of Frank–Part III

“Leave Some In The Tank”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank said that it is always better to do too little than to do too much.  A training session should make you feel alive and awake, not beaten up and broken.  Frank recommended exercise sessions that involved about forty minutes of training and ten minutes of what we now call “recovery work”.  He often told me to take it easy, go home, eat well, sleep soundly, and enjoy being young.  “When you get to my age you will thank me.”

The latest trend in fitness is throwing your body into the propeller.  Lying on the floor gasping for air is a badge of honor and a sought after result.  As a physical therapist that treats the byproduct of this training method, I urge caution.  Most young athletes can only train super hard for eight to ten weeks a year.  Older clients have a much more limited recovery capacity and are unable to sustain that level of activity before an injury occurs.  The winner in the life long quest for health and fitness is the contestant with the fewest surgical scars.

Training related injuries are a tragedy.  It is easy to get swept up by the emotions of competition and the desire to excel.  As we age, maintaining an exercise habit that keeps us strong and injury-free is even more important.  I frequently remind myself to dial it down and then I say a silent “Thank You”.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

The Wisdom of Frank Part II

“Keep Your Legs In The Game”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank would work through some stretches, warm up and start in on the jump rope.  He was amazing with the rope.  Frank said an athlete was “nothing without his legs”.  “Power comes from the ground” and strong arms were useless without legs that could react.  He told me that keeping the “pop in your hop” was critical to successful aging.

Recent research on lower extremity power production and aging has proven Frank correct.  As we age, we lose lower extremity power nearly twice as fast as we lose strength.  Power production is what keeps us competitive on the field of play and safe during our daily tasks.  The current area of interest in exercise science has been the “discovery” of the benefits of lower extremity power training with older clients.  One of the best books on this subject is Bending the Aging Curve, by Dr. Joseph Signorile.  I read this book in 2011 and thought to myself, I heard all of this from Frank in 1979.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

Olympic Lifts

Do We Really Need Them?

I had my first introduction to Weightlifting (often referred to as Olympic lifting) in my high school football days using the Bigger Faster Stronger program.  Power Cleans were a staple of this program and the Power Snatch was also introduced to us during a clinic our football coach put together.  Over the last several years, weightlifting movements have made a comeback into many gyms.  These movements include the Snatch (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement), the Clean & Jerk (bringing the bar from the floor to overhead in two distinct movements), and their derivatives.  Though there are several reasons to include these movements in programs, there are far more reasons, in my professional opinion, not to.

The primary reason one would or should be using Olympic lifting movements is to improve/maximize power output, or Rate of Force Development (RFD).  RFD is a primary determinant of success in many sports.  This is what allows you to accelerate quickly, jump higher/farther, and change direction quickly.  There are volumes of research on the Clean & Jerk, Snatch, and their variations which demonstrate that these movements work very well at improving power and RFD; however, these lifts are not the only means of accomplishing this.  Moreover, there are multiple reasons not to incorporate them:

Time

Weightlifting movements are incredibly technical and take massive amounts of time to learn and perform correctly.  Most successful weightlifters at the international level have spent decades learning and perfecting their craft.  It is not uncommon to see weightlifters performing upwards of 10-12 training sessions per week.  The only other sport I can think of that takes this level of technical prowess is gymnastics.  While this is admirable for those choosing to compete in these sports, the level of time commitment is not practical for the average fitness enthusiast.

Safety

Due to the speed and dynamic nature of the Olympic lifts, there is a much higher probability of something going wrong.  Additionally, the vast majority of the fitness population lacks the requisite mobility and stability to safely get into the required positions to perform these exercises. In some fitness circles, you will see these movements programmed in for very high repetitions.  When this happens, you are ramping up fatigue which makes proper technique/form nearly impossible and minimizes power/RFD adaptation which is the whole point of these exercises. These lifts should be programmed at 1-5 rep sets with 2-5 minute rest intervals between.

Efficiency

For most people, time is a constant barrier to improved fitness.  For competitive athletes, they must balance the demands of sport practice, strength training, conditioning, skill practice, and recovery.  For this reason, the primary goal of a quality program should be to maximize efficiency of training.  Due to the mobility demands and speed of the movements, the warm ups required can take 15-20 minutes.  Combine that with the longer rest periods required and you barely have time to get in enough quality work to see optimal adaptations.  It is not uncommon for a weightlifter to take 90-120 minutes to complete a workout.

You may be asking yourself how to maximize power if you can’t perform the Olympic lifts.  Many people feel these movements are imperative for optimal fitness and performance.  In February of 2017, I traveled to Ohio State University where I heard the head Strength and Conditioning coaches for the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals speak.  None of them use Olympic lifts with their athletes.  If arguably the top athletes in the world don’t need these movements, then I think the rest of the population can get away without using them as well.

Over the next several weeks, I will introduce fourteen exercises that you can use instead to maximize speed, power, and RFD with less risk of injury, less technical skill required, and more efficiency.  Stay tuned for exercise descriptions and video demonstration.

-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CFSC, Pn1

The Wisdom of Frank

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank’s biggest lesson was that no matter how busy, over worked, and over scheduled you were, there was no excuse not to perform some type of exercise.  The crucial component of lifelong fitness is consistency.  You can slow down but never stop.  Do something, even if it is only ten minutes–every day.  As Frank traveled through his eighties, he performed twenty minute sessions of mobility work and some calisthenics on a daily basis.

A recent *article by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times reinforces this lesson.  Older athletes that maintain the lifelong fitness habit have remarkable fitness assessment scores.  Many have posted VO2 max tests that make researchers rethink the present expectations for testing standards.

*Age Like a Former Athlete, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, August 23, 2107.

View the NY Times Article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/well/move/age-like-a-former-athlete.html?_r=0

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

 

Get Sweaty and Get Smarter

The big benefit of a consistent program of exercise is the impact it has on the nervous system.  Muscle strength, flexibility, fat loss, and greater endurance are the happy side effects.  Immersion in a fitness program keeps the brain healthy and receptive to learning.

Anyone concerned with optimizing brain health needs to read Spark, by Dr John Ratey.  In this book, he discusses how brain function is enhanced by the habit of exercise.  Over the last nine years, more research has documented the positive effects of exercise on brain health and learning.  Read the recent *article from the New York Times on how we learn language more readily if we exercise.

* How Exercise Could Help You Learn a New Language, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, August 16, 2017

View the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/well/move/how-exercise-could-help-you-learn-a-new-language.html?_r=0

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Learn how to keep your spinal stabilizers strong by performing side planks.  Mike O’Hara explains this in his article, “Learning to Lean”, and includes video demonstration and explanation of the importance keeping your stabilizers strong to stand up to the demands of daily life. It’s time for another Fenton Fitness Love Your Jeans Challenge–see page 3 for more information. In his article, “The Periodization of Nutrition”, Jeff Tirrell gives tips on optimizing dietary intake.

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Biomarker Reminder

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg are Tufts University researchers interested in the measurable parameters that keep humans healthy and fit over an entire life span.  They have determined that the top four biomarkers are:

  1. Muscle Mass.  The percentage of your body that is made of muscle.
  2. Strength.  Can you use that muscle to push, pull, lift and carry.
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate.  The number of calories your body expends at rest.
  4. Body fat Percentage.  What percentage of your body is composed of fat.

The authors named these top four biomarkers, the decisive tetrad.  They are the prerequisites to maintaining healthy numbers in all of the other essential biomarkers.

  1. Aerobic Capacity
  2. Blood Sugar Tolerance
  3. Cholesterol / HDL ratio
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Bone Density
  6. Internal Body Temperature Regulation

Drs. Evans and Rosenburg coined the term age related sarcopenia in their 1991 book Biomarkers.  It refers to the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age.  The keys to aging well, staying durable–no injuries, and maintaining control of all health parameters is maintaining or improving muscle mass / strength and eating properly.  An ongoing program of strength training and nutritional discipline are the foremost components of fitness and health.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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