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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#1 Move Daily

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Move Daily

This is so simple, yet like many things in life, the simplicity of this basic habit causes it to get overlooked or ignored.  This is by far the most common habit among fit individuals.  Don’t over think it or complicate it–just move.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous or difficult.  When looking at the small number of individuals who are successful with long term weight loss, researchers have seen that doing 4-5+ hours/week of planned exercise/activity is a staple.  This comes out to 30-60 minutes per day.  Walk, ride a bike, kayak, paddle board, roll, carry, crawl, do a movement flow (as seen in the video) or whatever.  Just get off your butt and move around at least 30 minutes each day.  It doesn’t have to be all in one shot, but make it happen, and make it intentional.  Daily movement helps manage stress, regulate hunger, and has big cognitive benefits as well.  The only stipulation I would make is to avoid activities with high risk of injury.  After all, if you get substantially injured it makes daily movement a bit more difficult.

See video of some simple movement patterns: here

Five Fitness Numbers You Need to Know

Scale bodyweight, bench press maximum, some “girl name” and a time are all fitness numbers your hear in the gym.  If you are interested in optimal performance and health, I have the fitness numbers we all need to know.  Focusing on these numbers will keep you active and independent for a lifetime.

1) WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE

The location of bodyfat is far more important than the amount of bodyfat.  Visceral fat, the kind stored in and around the belly, is the hormonal driver of metabolic syndrome; the precursor to diabetes, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.  To optimize health, you need to monitor the diameter of your waistline.  The number you want to know is your waist to height ratio.  You want your waist to be less than half your height.  If your waist size is greater than one half your height, then reducing your waist diameter should be the primary goal of your fitness program.

2) SLEEP TIME

Sleep is the ultimate exercise recovery activity.  One or two nights of sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce gym performance by 25% – 40%.  We need seven to eight hours of restful sleep, each and every night.  The most important benefits of exercise are neural and hormonal.  Sleep reboots our neural software and replenishes the hormonal system.  Medications, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, and obesity all can interfere with sleep patterns.  Fixing these health issues and developing better sleep habits produces magical progress in the gym.  Read the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

3) FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREEN SCORE

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and Athletic Trainer Lee Burton, is a seven-step dynamic movement based test that has become a standard of practice in physical therapy and sports performance centers.  The FMS helps prevent injuries before they occur by identifying risk factors.  Movement indicates how a body works and lets us know how the brain is controlling the body and how the joints and muscles communicate.  Just like a good medical work up, the FMS permits the trainer / therapist to make the proper decision about the clients’ most urgent needs and avoid gym activities that are detrimental.

4) GRIP STRENGTH

Recent research has demonstrated that knowing your grip strength is as important as knowing your blood pressure.  The PURE research of 140 thousand individuals revealed that a drop in grip strength is a strong predictor of mortality from all causes.  We will all face health battles and the stronger body wins while a weaker body loses.

5) NUMBER OF TRAINING SESSIONS PER YEAR

Exercise is ineffective absent consistency.  Even a haphazard program of exercise is beneficial if you perform it on a consistent basis.  The experts say a good goal is 150 training sessions per year.  That is three times a week for 50 of the 52 weeks in a year.  Link together several years of the consistency habit and amazing changes happen.  Most people overestimate the value of a month’s worth of exercise and greatly underestimate the value of a year’s worth of exercise.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Mike O’Hara gives tips for aging gracefully and staying fit in his article, The Five Don’ts of Sustainable Fitness. Learn the importance of increasing mobility and stability in order to get stronger, and discover how a simple test that measures how well you get up from the floor can tell a lot about whether or not your fitness program is working.

Download Here

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

Ho Ho More Go

Holiday Gifts for the Fit and Soon to be Fit

I was recently asked to write up my recommendations for the fitness fanatic on the holiday gift list.  All of these suggestions are products I currently own and use on a consistent basis.  I would be very happy to be the recipient of any of these gifts.

Power Blocks
Dumbbell training is one of the most effective forms of exercise.  The big limitation of dumbbell training is the cost of buying a series of varying dumbbell weights and the space required to store 10 – 15 sets.  PowerBlock has solved this problem.  A set of PowerBlocks occupies less than three square feet of your home, and depending on the size you purchase, replaces 10 – 25 pairs of traditional dumbbells.  I have put some heavy use on a set of PowerBlocks that I purchased in 1992.  They have functioned flawlessly and show minimal wear.  A beginner set of PowerBlocks (5-32 pounds) cost $330 and you can add an expansion set as you get stronger.  My thirteen-year old self would have loved to get a set of PowerBlocks for Christmas.

Purmotion Air Fit Pro
The creation of the suspension trainer set off a mini revolution in fitness.  The Purmotion Air Fit Pro ($250.00) is different than other suspension trainers in that it has a high quality metal pulley built into the system.  The pulley introduces a rotational demand that is rarely addressed in traditional training.  Purmotion (purmotion.net) makes many different straps and handles that can be used with the Air Fit.  The three dimensional resistance provided by the Air Fit Pro is unique.  I bought my first Air Fit Pro seven years ago and it still functions flawlessly and shows not sign of wear.

Personal Training
Numerous studies have shown that individuals that utilize professional guidance are more successful in reaching fitness goals.  No one performs exercises correctly after only one training session.  You need ongoing evaluation and progression on proper exercise performance.  Older and physically limited individuals need the assistance of a trainer more than any other group.  Our team of trainers and physical therapists can help anyone reach their fitness goals.  Our Christmas gift certificate cards can be used for any of the training programs at the club.  Team training sessions and personal training packages make great gifts.

Massage Stick
If you consistently exercise, one of the best things you can do to enhance recovery is perform some form of soft tissue work.  Targeted stick work is the recovery ingredient that alleviates pain and restores mobility.  The older you are, the harder you work and the more frequently you train, the more you will benefit from some daily stick work.  I like The Stick from performbetter.com ($30 – 50)—it is a well built product.  We use these tools every day in our physical therapy clinics and I have never had one break.

Airex Mat
Getting up and down off the floor is an essential movement skill.  Lose the motor control for this basic task and all sorts of independence issues start to happen.  Everyone should have a quality floor mat as a training tool.  Airex makes many different sizes that are all treated to minimize microbial activity.  A basic mat can be purchased for $80.00.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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

Real Core Training Part One

Anti-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-Flexion

Kettlebell/Dumbbell (KB/DB) Throat Holds

Grab a KB/DB and hold it in the goblet position directly under your chin.  Stand tall and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position.  Don’t allow the weight to rest on your chest.  Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.

KB/DB Throat Carry

Once you’ve mastered Throat Holds, you are ready to walk.  Position yourself in the same set up, but now you are going to walk while maintaining the same upper body posture and a normal gait.  Start with 20 yards and work your way up to 100.

Hyperextension Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Set yourself up on the hyperextension bench with the thigh pad below your hips and above your knees.  Assume a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Hold this position for up to 45 seconds before adding weight.

Glute Ham Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Position yourself in the same setup as with the hyperextension bench but use the glute ham developer bench. Work up to 30 second holds before adding weight.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

To combat the effects of aging, consistent exercise is key.  Mike O’Hara discusses the benefits of fitness and gives tips on starting and continuing a program of exercise for life in his article, The Three Do’s of Sustainable Fitness.  Jeff Tirrell of Fenton Fitness gives nutrition tips for athletes and Mike’s exercise for better posture and more efficient movement is the bird dog.

Download Here

Three Steps To Reaching Your Goals

Roughly 20% of the U.S. population has a gym membership.  Based on my 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, I would estimate that of that 20%, only one half to three quarters actually regularly and consistently use that membership. I find that the majority of people who struggle with consistency do so because they either lack focus and goals or because they fail to reach those goals.  At Fenton Fitness & Athletic Center, we have found there to be three key components to reaching any goal in the fitness and nutrition realm.

Setting the Goal

First and foremost, we must name our goal.  I suggest writing this goal down and possibly sharing this goal with somebody you trust and who supports you.  When choosing your goal, you want it to be specific, something that can be measured, something realistic/attainable, and you want to give yourself a time frame to accomplish the goal.  Think about why you want to reach that goal.  It can be helpful to place the written goal somewhere visible that you will see on a regular basis.  If we can’t make a given goal happen, we can alter our actions to bring us closer to that goal.

Behaviors/Skills

Once our goal is set, we want to write out the behaviors and skills needed to reach that goal.  For example, if your goal is to drop 20lbs, two key behaviors would be eating less calories and being more active.  In the case of somebody who wants to be able to Bench Press their body weight, their skills might be bench pressing progressively heavier weights 2-3 times each week and eating sufficient protein.

Habits/Practices

After setting our behaviors that are needed to achieve our goal, we must then set up our daily habits or practices that will lead to successful execution of our behaviors, which in turn will lead to achieving our goals.  Our habits for our sample goals might look like this:

            20 pounds weight loss (less calories, more activity)

            -Pack gym bag before going to bed and put in car, including a protein shake in bag

-Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Wake up 15 minutes earlier to eat breakfast at home instead of fast food

-Workout at lunch hour instead of going out to eat with coworkers, drink shake instead of eating lunch.

            Bench Press Body weight (2-3 progressively heavier bench press workouts and more protein)

            -Go to bed 7-8 hours before alarm is going to go off

-Set alarm 1 hour early Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for early morning workout

-Prepare/plan breakfast the before going to bed and pack lunch for next day targeting 0.15-0.25g of protein/pound of body weight.

-Buy quality protein shake, protein bars, and/or Jerky to help supplement protein needs at snacks.  Keep them at home, in the car, and at work.

 

From start to finish it can be helpful to set up a chart that looks something like this.

It should be noted that it is best to only introduce one major goal at a time into your life.  I recommend picking just one goal and working on that for 3-12 months before adding or changing goals.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

 

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