Category Archives: Hot Topics

Do This, Not That

by Colleen Morgan, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS

Whether you are a weekend warrior or competitive athlete,

a life-long “gym rat” or exercise newbie, it’s important to know which gym exercises are worth your time and energy.  Learn what exercises most physical therapists would categorize as worthless (perhaps even downright dangerous) and explore some healthy alternatives in our recurring blog column “Do This, Not That!”

Do This!

Not That!

Planks are the perfect “whole body” exercise as muscles from your head to your toes are contracting to keep you stable.  They also effectively recruit your “core” which includes the muscles of your abdominals, buttocks, shoulder blades and spine.  Hit the floor and hold this position as straight as a plank! Full sit ups emphasize your rectus abdominus (aka your six pack muscle) which connects the base of your ribcage to your pubic bone.  This muscle has no attachments to your low back.  In fact, as you perform a sit up, the rectus abdominus compressed your spine, creating excessive loads to the discs.  Those with a history of low back pain should stick to crunches as they are less stressful to the spine.
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How to Be Compliant With Your Exercise Program

By Mike Kwong, PTA, CSCS

Starting and continuing an exercise routine can be a tough task. Fifty percent of those who start an exercise program usually drop out in 6 months. So why is it so difficult to maintain consistency? There are many factors that contribute to this and here are several strategies to combat them!

Location: Make sure you find a place that you are comfortable performing your exercise routine. Some are more likely to work out when they are home while others need to get away from the distractions at home and go to an exercise facility. If you do choose a gym, find one that is conveniently located to home or work.  Remember, the most expensive gym membership is the one you never use.

Schedule: Finding out a consistent time to work out is the next step. Is it going to be in the mornings before you start work or in the evenings after work? Weekdays or weekends only? 2 times a week? 3 times? 4 times? Just make sure it is something attainable for you. If you are a person who likes to watch late night TV, then it may not be advisable to try to wake up at 6 am to get your morning routine in before work. More than likely, you will choose that snooze button versus dragging your butt out of bed to do some burpees.

Habit: Make physical activity part of your routine. If you are planning to go to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after work, don’t stray away from it. Write them down on your calendar as you would for a doctor’s appointment or dentist visit. Reschedule your usual Friday happy hour retreat for Thursdays if it interferes.  Also, I like to pack my bag with my workout clothes the night before—you’ll have one less excuse the following morning.

Social Support: Find a workout partner, personal trainer or exercise in a group setting. Most people are more motivated when somebody else is pushing you. There were times when I would get off of work and feel “tired” and not wanting to go the gym, but my workout partner would just say “see you at the gym” and that would just change my whole perception on how I felt. I needed that extra “kick” to get going. Who knows? You may be the social support your partner needs on other days! Keep each other accountable. Here at CPMC’s Physical Therapy and Wellness clinic, we offer several group classes, including Pilates, Fit for Life, and Total Body Fitness. But, if you feel you need something a bit more individualized, we also have 1 on 1 Fitness training as well. All classes and 1 on 1 sessions are led by our skilled Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants.

socialsupport

Goals: Whether you are a post-op surgical patient needing to improve mobility to reach your arm overhead, a novice runner striving to run a ½ marathon in 3 months, or a person looking to lose the last few pounds/inches to look good in that swimsuit, we all have fitness goals. Commit to your goals. In the beginning, you will be very motivated to achieve these goals, but it is not unusual for your motivation to dip a bit. Find a way to track and monitor your progress. Use a journal or your smartphone to jot down your activity during the day/week. Nowadays, there are even apps to help you with tracking your mileage when you walk, run, bike, etc. If you don’t have a phone that allows you to do these functions, think about purchasing a pedometer, heart rate monitor, or stopwatch to track your progress.

These are some strategies that you can use to adhere to an exercise program.  Find the ones that work best for you.  Finding activities that are fun and convenient, setting goals, monitoring your progress, performing a variety of exercises and activities as well as having social support are great ways to help with staying compliant. Good luck!

All aboard the function train!

What is Functional Training and why is it good for me?

by Thommy Chui, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS, TPI CGFI MP2

Simply put, functional training is a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.  While it may seem like the next in a long line of fitness industry crazes, physical therapists have long been performing functional training with their patients.

The human body is designed to move, and on any given day we may ask ours to bend, twist, lift, pull, push, squat, jump and even climb in order to perform necessary tasks at home, work or during sports. Functional training builds the strength and mobility necessary to perform these movements by mimicking the task at hand.  Consider the example of an individual having difficulty standing up from a kitchen chair.  Traditional strength training might have this person performing resisted knee extensions and leg presses to increase strength in her quadriceps musculature.  A functional training approach would have this same individual performing squats with appropriate modifications to range of motion and assistance.

Because functional exercises, like the squat, challenge not only muscular strength but also coordination, speed of movement, mobility and balance, they often produce a superior carryover effect in improving your ability to perform real-life activities.  Exercises performed on most traditional gym machines have less carryover to improving these daily tasks because they generally isolate individual muscle groups and don’t challenge the balance and mobility components which are vital to efficient movement.

Other important points regarding functional training:

  • Functional strength training should serve as a supplement to, rather than a replacement of, traditional strength training
  • “Non-functional” exercises such as those performed on gym equipment can still play an important role in addressing areas of weakness and establishing a foundation of strength, particularly in newcomers to strength training. This will help you participate in functional training activities more safely
  • To perform Functional Training, you should be strong enough to first perform the individual pieces of a movement pattern. For example, a construction worker that needs to press an object overhead from a squat position needs to be able to perform the squat and press individually and correctly before he can combine the movement
  • Proper exercise form is vital–functional training should promote good health, not create injury

Do This, Not That!

by Colleen Morgan, PT, MS, OCS, CSCS

Whether you are a weekend warrior or competitive athlete,

a life-long “gym rat” or exercise newbie, it’s important to know which gym exercises are worth your time and energy.  Learn what exercises most physical therapists would categorize as worthless (perhaps even downright dangerous) and explore some healthy alternatives in our recurring blog column “Do This, Not That!”

Do This!

Not That!

Lunges help to improve quadriceps strength using a functional movement pattern your body may use throughout the day.  You can vary the degree of knee bend depending on your comfort level and stability.  Since you are standing, you are also working on your balance and core stability.  If you’ve mastered your forward lunges, progress to lunges in multiple directions. Seated knee extensions against resistance.  Upon mentioning this popular exercise to a physical therapist, expect their reaction to include the following: redness of the face, difficulty speaking, and spontaneous combustion.  Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but if you know anything about the knee joint, you will loathe this exercise.  Seated knee extensions against resistance isolate your quadriceps, but put unnatural, excessive load and stress on your patellofemoral joint and ACL, which can lead to knee pain and injury.
 Lunge
 Seated Knee Extension Machine

Ski/Board Strong, All Day Long: Week 6

Welcome to the FINAL week of the Ski and Snowboard Series. This is a progressive strength and conditioning program specific to snow sports injury prevention and performance enhancement.  If you have not been skiing this year yet or are feeling like you need a little zip in your technical moves, the following blog is for you!

The previous blogs in this series direct you in beginning hip, core, and balance exercises.  Here are the links to the blogs and videos:

Week 1: Glut med and balance progressions

Week 2: Front plank and squat progressions

Week 3: Clams and side plank progressions

Week 4:  Bridge and hip power progressions

Week 5: Lunge and rotational stability progressions.

If you have not done any of the previous weeks exercises, you may not be fit enough to safely perform the following plyometric exercises just yet.  If you’re just tuning in, we strongly recommend going back to cover the basics before attempting these advanced exercises.

What are plyometrics?  A plyometric activity occurs a muscle is lengthened quickly and then shortened quickly (called a stretch shorten cycle).  This is highly effective in developing power.

Unfortunately there is little understanding by many on how to prepare for and how often to do plyometric training.  We do know that the most important component of plyometrics is ensuring that you warm up with dynamic stretching and mobility work.  It is also important to perform a consistent strengthening program for 1-2 months (similar to weeks 1-5 above) prior to the first session of plyometrics.

Perform the following exercises in the video 1-2 sessions per week at most.  Start with moderate intensity/speed and increase as you feel that your body can accelerate in a controlled manner.  Perform on a solid surface using two feet and progress towards the unstable surface (BOSU ball) and to one foot.  Perform each exercise for 1 minute and repeat 2 times each.  Make sure that you do not have any pain while performing these exercises.

Continue performing the exercises above for the remainder of the snow season including 3-5 of the most challenging exercises from the previous blogs listed above.  This will help keep you healthy and strong for the entire ski and snowboard season.

Check back with our blog for the next few months as we outline common injuries and exercise remedies.

Happy Skiing and Boarding!  Own the slopes!

Still not motivated or don’t have enough time to practice every day?  Come to Total Body Fitness every Tuesday and Saturday where we will feature specific exercises geared towards snow sports fitness.

Ski/Board Strong, All Day Long: Week 5

Welcome back to the fifth week of the Ski and Snowboard Series.  This is a progressive strength and conditioning program specific to snow sports injury prevention and performance enhancement.  By now you should have a good base strength to protect you from injuring yourself the first day out on the slopes.  Also by now, hopefully you have made it to the slopes!  The previous weeks direct you in beginning hip, core, and balance exercises.

Week 1:  Glut med and balance progressions

Week 2:  Front plank and squat progressions

Week 3:  Clams and side plank progressions

Week 4: Bridge and hip power progressions

The coming ski and snowboard posts will be emphasize development of your speed, agility, and power necessary for some seriously technical moves!

Lunge Progression – Week 5

The lunge exercise is one of the best total lower body exercises there is.   Eccentric muscle contractions in the gluts, hamstrings and quadriceps occur while performing the lunge, which creates strength for powerful movements.  The lunge will prepare your legs for more technical moves such as jumping and moguls.

Start: Stationary lunge.  Step one foot forward making sure that your front knee does not go beyond the toes.  Keep the trunk upright and abdominals engaged while lowering the back knee towards the ground.  Repeat 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions on each side.

Progress:  Perform the dynamic lunge by stepping back between each repetition.  To further advance it, add a rotational twist into the front leg.  Perform 2 sets of 10 – 20 repetitions or to fatigue.  

Squat and Rotation Progression – Week 5

Since much of our time on skis and snowboard are spent in a slight squat, this is a very sport specific exercise to improve your stability with shredding, moguls, or for creating power prior to aerial moves.

Start: Squat with rotational chop.  While holding a squat, use a weight or medicine ball to perform a low to high diagonal movement.  To progress in intensity move the weight faster without letting your hips/trunk sway.  Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds or to fatigue.  Repeat the other direction moving the weight low to high from your opposite side.

Progress: Single leg squat with rotational chop.  Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds or to fatigue.  Repeat the other direction moving the weight low to high from your opposite side.  Perform on each leg. 

Still not motivated or don’t have enough time to practice every day?  Come to Total Body Fitness every Tuesday and Saturday where we will feature specific exercises geared towards snow sports fitness.

Check back for next week’s installment of the ski and snowboard series!

Ski/Board Strong, All Day Long: Week 4

Hooray for SNOW!!!  Welcome back to the fourth week of the Ski and Snowboard Series.  This is a progressive strength and conditioning program specific to snow sports injury prevention and performance enhancement.  By now you should have a good base strength to protect you from injuring yourself the first day out on the slopes.  Also by now, hopefully you have made it to the slopes!  The previous weeks direct you in beginning hip, core, and balance exercises.

Week 1:  Glut med and balance progressions

Week 2: Front plank and squat progressions

Week 3:  Clams and side plank progressions

Now, we are going to work on power development:

Bridge Progression – Week 4

If there was a single exercise we’d perform on a deserted island, it’d be an exercise called bridging, or just, the bridge.  The bridge reverses so many deficits that can be detrimental to our level of conditioning.  The bridge will strengthen your core, gluteals, hamstrings, and stretch the hip flexors.  This exercise progression is great for prepping for the slopes and can be a lifelong injury prevention exercise.

Start: Double or single leg bridge.  Perform 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions or to fatigue.  Make sure your lumbar spine and pelvis is neutral and that you engage your lower abdominals.  During the single leg bridge keep your pelvis flat like a table top.

Progress:  Perform the progression above on a physio ball

Hip Power Progression – Week 4

Last week, we introduced the clamshell exercise to help stabilize the hip joint and ligaments during movements requiring change of direction.  The large outer layer of the hip musculature (the gluteus maximus) along with the hamstrings are responsible for large bursts of power.  The squat below will help develop this movement, and work on upper body muscle imbalances at the same time.  To work on hip extensors, power, AND balance, perform the RDL progression.

Start: Overhead squat.  Make sure to keep your elbows locked and arms right overhead.  Squat down as far as you can before your arms start migrating forward or your heels start leaving the ground.  Perform 2 sets of 10-20 or to fatigue.

Progress: Single leg Romanian dead lift (RDL).  Perform 3 sets of 10-20 reps or to fatigue on each side.

Still not motivated or don’t have enough time to practice every day?  Come to Total Body Fitness every Tuesday and Saturday where we will feature specific exercises geared towards snow sports fitness.

Check back for next week’s installment of the ski and snowboard series!