Looking for the “toned look?” We have been asked many times how to tone a specific body part. In reality, the answer is…you cannot. So how can you maximize your training program and see the results you so desire? Cardio and strength training are both useful tools when it comes to maximizing your goals. Let’s break it down…
As easy as it may sound, the body does not pull fat from specific areas we are working. During training the body will use fuel from all sources and areas, depending on the type of workout, how much you eat before training, the time of training, etc. By utilizing both cardio and strength training, we can maximize the body’s system and start seeing results.
There is a delicate balance between strength training and cardio which is different for everyone. The only way to “tone” a specific area is to lose fat and increase muscle size for that area. You are probably saying, “I do not want to get bigger, I just want to lose fat.” In a perfect world that would be nice, but as we all know, this world is not perfect. Building muscle is required to see the definition of the muscle and gives you the actual “toned” look you are looking for.
How do we reach such a magical balance?
Resistance training, although not as calorically demanding as cardio, will burn fat for the long term. With an increase in muscle or fat-free mass, your body’s resting metabolic rate will increase. Resting metabolic rate is your metabolism at rest, basically the amount of energy needed to sit around the house all day.
Increasing cardio and monitoring your food intake is the best way to reach the toned look you have been striving to get. Cardio is a great way to quickly burn extra calories throughout the day.
Again, you may be asking yourself, “I cannot run, so I can’t achieve this dream look?” OF COURSE, YOU CAN! Cardio has become this scary word that no one wants to do because they do not have time to go run five miles a day.
“The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 min a day for 5 days a week.” This can be anything that gets you moving and gets your heart rate up. Now, you are probably saying, “I do not have a 30-minute chunk of time in my day!” My question is, “Do you have at least six, 5-minute chunks?” That is enough time to take a break and at least walk around the block or a couple of laps around the office.
As stated before, everyone is different when it comes to how much training is required to meet your goals. I would recommend starting with MET-FIT training with our performance coaches with the goal of building a routine that is safe, comfortable and manageable. Then, use our expertise to help provide programming to help you achieve the body you have always wanted.
Written By: Trevor Krzyzanowski, BS, CSCS, USAW-1 Performance Coach
Now fitness is a part of my life again. I passed my 500th workout session at Athletes’ Training Center! I couldn’t do what I loved without getting back in shape. Fitness is just a part of my life now and it’s been rewarding.
Lower Back Pain? Don’t Drag Your Feet!
Okay, that sounds more like the start of the motivational speech my parents used to give me when I was younger. Many of you may be asking yourself what does shuffling my feet on the ground have to do with low back pain? Well, a lot more than you might think.
When referencing lower back pain, this is the speech I find myself giving to more and more of my patients.
When we look down at the ground, we tend to bring our body into a position of trunk flexion. By this, I mean that your chest is coming forward over your toes. When this occurs, our center of mass starts to move forward and we create an anterior tilt through our pelvis.
When our center of mass comes forward we adjust our body position to maintain our balance by extending through our lower back and, on occasion, by going up onto our toes. The body corrects its position to maintain balance with changes being processed by the change in our visual field by looking down.
When we shuffle our feet, we typically create the habit of making our initial foot contact with the toes pointed down and then sliding the foot forward instead of actually rolling across the foot as one would walk with a normal gait.
A normal gait is to make initial contact with the heel and push off the toes. When I see people shuffle their feet, there is also a tendency toward reducing the amount of contact the heel makes with the ground. We refer to this as an ‘early heel rise gait’ and will often see this gait pattern in toe walkers. These individuals will hardly make contact with the ground through their heels. When we ambulate with this gait pattern, much like when we look down, we translate our center of mass forward. Again, to correct we typically go into back extension.
These tendencies toward back extension are what lead to the long-term potential problems.
First, there are the anatomical stresses that long-term extension can create. These conditions are often seen in increased arthritic changes in the lower back due to the increased stress through the facet joints in the spine.
Next, there is the tendency toward using you back extensors to perform lifting activities. Since these muscles are already being engaged to help you maintain your balance they will often fire more when you are lifting something leading to the increased likelihood of a potential muscle strain.
The next time you are out for a run or a walk my advice is to look up and enjoy the scenery and think about that nice heel to toe gait pattern. Your back and the rest of your body will appreciate you for it in the long run!
Written By: Nick Wegener, Director of Physical Therapy – PT, ATC, OCS, CSCS
Is your breathing helping or hurting your daily performance?
The average person will take more than 8 million breaths per year! Yet, chances are you may not be taking the proper steps for your breath to properly serve you in day-to-day activities and workouts. Today, I will go over three simple tests you can use to improve your workout, mood and manage stress levels.
- Start by lying on your back.
- Place your right hand with the thumb below the ribs and the center of the palm on the abs (as if you had a tummy ache).
- Take the left hand and place it on the chest, centered on the ribs.
- Finally, inhale through your nose and out through your mouth.
What did you feel?
Ideally, you should feel your stomach begin to expand before your chest and shoulders move. There should have been minimal movement in your upper hand. This means your extremely strong breathing muscle, called the diaphragm, is doing its job!
The diaphragm pulls the lungs down during proper breathing, expanding the lungs in a 3-D like a pattern, top to bottom, front to back, and to the sides
Breathing is an involuntary muscular action, meaning we don’t have to think about it. Because of this, many people are not able to fill their lungs to full volume. When this occurs, it is called a “chest breath”.
A chest breath is a type of breathing when the diaphragm is not involved, and we are not using our lungs to their full capacity. This type of breathing causes the body to enter a response state called “Fight or Flight”. This type of body response is what we feel when we encounter a bear and must make the choice to defend ourselves or run. When our bodies are in this type of response, it causes a release of stress hormones to the body. These stress hormones are highly inflammatory and negative to the brain and body’s performance over a long period.
3 Breathing Exercises:
To help eliminate the release of stress hormones throughout the day, try this exercise.
- Inhale for 6 seconds
- Hold that breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 10 seconds
If you feel groggy or tired, try this exercise.
- Inhale for 6 seconds
- Hold for 2 seconds
- Exhale forcefully
Finally, to prepare your body for a workout, try this breathing exercise.
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold briefly
- Exhale forcefully
As we breathe all day without much thought, it is important we become aware of how we are breathing. Being able to control breathing will help you become more mindful and feel better throughout the day!
Try these three exercises out and see a difference in your mood and activity.
Parker Victor, MA, CSCS, USAW-1, Head Performance Coach
No Gym, No Weights, No Problem!
As we begin setting up our summer vacation travel plans, it is also important to plan ahead for making sure we keep our strength training and exercise plan in action during our trip. Today, I will outline simple steps needed in order to plan your vacation exercise routine and I will cover a 30-minute vacation exercise circuit.
Before you take off on your travels, be sure to let your coach or trainer know at least two weeks in advance you will be out of town. Why is this important?
Two reasons. The first is so they aren’t wondering where you are or if you are skipping out on your sessions. The second reason is so they can provide you with a training routine to complete during your vacation.
Once you have let your coach or trainer know you will be out of town, the second step is to research if there are any gyms in the area you will be traveling. Is there a gym in the hotel you are staying? If there is not, you may have to plan for implementing body weight exercises inside your hotel room.
No matter what amenities you have available, it’s all about utilizing what you have to continue toward your exercise goals. Your coach or trainer will then give you the routine with enough time in advance, in case you may have questions before leaving on vacation.
I have put together a body weight exercise plan you can complete anywhere. Remember, vacation is a time to relax. But, with a little effort each day you can also continue working towards your exercise goals. Even if it comes down to a few 30-minute routines during a week-long trip, you will not regret the effort once you get back to your everyday routine.
- 30 sec. Imaginary Jump Rope
- 10 Body weight Squats
- 10 Arm Hugs
- 30 sec. Imaginary Jump Rope
- 5 each Leg Split Squats
- 20 sec. Front Plank
- 20 sec. Each Side Plank
- 30 sec. Imaginary Jump Rope
Body Weight Strength Training:
- 10 Squats with three sec. isometric hold
- 8 each High Plank Shoulder Tap
- 20 sec. Bottom Push-up Hold
*Repeat circuit three more times
- 8 each Single Leg RDL
- 8 each Side Plank Top Leg Lifts
- 8 each High Plank Renegade Row
*Repeat circuit three more times
- 5 each Split Squats with three sec. isometric hold
- 10 Straight Leg Sit-Ups
- 5 each Quadruped Thoracic Rotations
*Repeat circuit three more times
Finisher: Energy System Development
This is a perfect exercise finisher if you feel like adding another element to your routine.
- 15 each Mountain Climber
- 15 each Seated Twist
Rest 30-40 seconds after those exercises and complete 5 times through
Written By: Trenton Clausen – MA, CSCS, USAW-L2SP, Director of Sports Performance
I have two words for you. Two words which give runners everywhere nightmares. “Shin splints”. Most people are familiar with this diagnosis; and if you have had them before, you know that they are highly irritating!
In this blog, I want to talk about three strategies you can use to help reduce your risk of developing shin splints symptoms.
1st: Buy a Good Pair of Running Shoes
Just like anything else shoes break down and need to be replaced. How often they need to be replaced depends on how far you are running in a week.
As a general rule of thumb, running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, which means you can’t simply replace them once a year (if you are averaging 50 miles a week).
2nd: Slowly Ramp up Your Running Distance
Have a plan for building up your running distance. If you want to run a half-marathon this summer, but have not been putting in any miles during the winter, you should not start off running 30 miles a week. You should instead begin by building up your walking tolerance, move to walk/run intervals, then build your running distance from there.
Going from spending most of your time sitting on the couch and binge-watching Netflix straight into hardcore run training is a sure fire way to end up with a case of shin splints.
3rd: Stretch Your Calf Muscles
Finally, make sure you stretch out your calf muscles before and after your run. When stretching out your calves, it is important to ensure you stretch out both of the major muscles which reside there, your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
The gastrocnemius is stretched when your toes are pulled toward your head with your knee straight as this muscle spans across the knee. In order to stretch the soleus, you must have your knee bent as this muscle stops short of the knee.
Each of these three strategies can play an important roll in helping you to avoid shin splints and helping runners everywhere to get a better night’s sleep!
If you or someone you know is already dealing with this condition, then set up an appointment today to be seen by one of our physical therapists. There are many strategies to help speed up recovery!
Written By: Josiah Parker, PT, DPT
Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Dan John, one of the most influential strength and conditioning coaches in history, speak at a conference. In addition to his first-class knowledge and experience, Dan is renowned for his ability to present the often complicated field of exercise science in a simple, easy to understand way.
He opened this particular presentation by posing a question to the audience. “If you could only workout for 15 minutes, what would you do?” The audience, full of experienced coaches, did not have an answer. Dan’s answer? Loaded carries (aka “Farmer Walks”).
What is a loaded carry?
A loaded carry is picking up a weight and walking with it for distance or time. The key is to maintain a neutral posture while walking, which means that the torso is vertical, shoulders are pulled back and core is braced. This simple, but effective movement simultaneously trains core stability and total body strength. Perfect for a quick workout!
Tip: To achieve a braced core position, exhale through your mouth like you are blowing up a balloon. You should feel your abdominal muscles engage. Maintain this feeling as you perform your loaded carries.
What You Need:
- 2 Heavy Kettlebells
- 2 Moderately Heavy Kettlebells
- 2 Light Kettlebells
- 2 Light Dumbbells
The Best 15 Minute Workout:
With Video & Reps
Choose kettlebells and dumbbells that will allow you to perform each movement with proper technique. Set a clock or timer for 15 minutes.
Perform in sequential order, completing one exercise every minute on the minute. For example, if it takes you 30 seconds to complete a 20-yard Farmer Carry, you have the rest of the minute (30 seconds) to recover. When the minute expires, you begin the next listed exercise. You will end up going through the circuit for three rounds.
15-Minute EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute)
1. Farmer Carry (20 yards) *Heavy Weight
2. Front Rack Carry (20 yards) *Moderate Weight
3. Overhead Carry (10 yards each arm) *Light Weight
4. Suitcase Carry (10 yards each arm) *Heavy/Moderate Weight
5. Bicep Curl Carry (20 yards) *Light Weight
FARMER CARRY (2 KETTLEBELLS)
Begin with two kettlebells at your side. Walk in a controlled manner while maintaining neutral posture.
FRONT RACK CARRY (2 KETTLEBELLS)
Begin with two kettlebells directly underneath your chin at shoulder height. Your palms should be facing each other and elbows away from your side. Focus on staying tall as you walk and don’t let the kettlebells pull you into a rounded posture.
SUITCASE CARRY (1 KETTLEBELL)
Begin with one kettlebell at your side. Resist the urge to side bend as you walk.
OVERHEAD CARRY (1 OR 2 KETTLEBELLS)
Begin by pressing one kettlebell overhead. Continue to push up through your working arm as you walk to avoid any drifting of the kettlebell. The goal is to have a straight line from your shoulder to the kettlebell. Only perform this variation if you have the proper mobility. Complete the tests in this blog post to see if you have what it takes! “Lifting Weights Overhead is a Privilege not a Right.”
BICEP CURL CARRY (2 DUMBBELLS)
Begin by curling two dumbbells so you have a 90 degree bend at the elbow. This should resemble the half-way point of a traditional dumbbell curl. Maintain this position as you walk.
Written By: Mike Servais, CSCS, USAW – L1SP
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Making changes is really tough. Human nature often seems to get the best of us, no matter how hard we try to instill a new habit or focus in on a goal.
Some of us struggle more than others and some people have an easier time with it. (I think the latter are where performance coaches come from). Either way, it might be good to start with a basic concept about motivation.
We are motivated in two ways – intrinsically and extrinsically. Intrinsic motivators are things that come from within like the desire to do your best, the ability to stay dialed into a goal, or the pleasure you get from doing a good job.
Extrinisic motivators are things outside of you that push you towards an action.
For example, a free t-shirt upon joining, a contest with a big prize at the end, a reward your coach gives you for making it to your 20th session.
The key to staying locked in on a goal or making sustainable changes to a behavior is to get yourself to a place where you rely on intrinsic motivation.
Or, at least, that is what they teach you in school when you study exercise science. You’re taught to design fitness programs or corporate wellness programs with lots of extrinsic reward up front with a goal to move people to intrinsic motivators to stay at it all by themselves.
I am sitting in an airport right now watching people and I don’t think this model is working.
How about we figure out what motivates each person? It is not the same for each of us – I can assure you that! How about we help empower people to become self-aware to know what works for them and then make sure we embed that into their programs?
Now we’re getting somewhere!
Obviously this is just my opinion, but I watch our coaches work with our members on a personal level like this everyday and see it gets results. I know digging in and learning about the person and what motivates them or keeps them accountable is an important part of serving the client.
I also know that most people need some form of ongoing extrinsic motivating factors surrounding them. Sure, there are those few that are self-disciplined or motivated at a higher level. However, the majority of us need constant focus on a reward or goal.
I believe it is time people start demanding more out of the training experience and this is simply not possible with the big box gym set-up with the cheap monthly membership.
Is semi-private training an investment? Yes, absolutely it is.
Is it worth it? Well, is what you’re doing now working?
Question: Consider your personal behaviors… what truly motivates you?
Written By: Danielle Kleber, ATC Director of Marketing & Operations
The importance of off season training is no secret to athletes and sport coaches, but some don’t fully understand the importance of in season training. Training during an athletes in season provides valuable time to maintain off season gains, reduce the risk of in season injury and aid in faster recovery from practices and games.
In our previous blog, How To: Perform Your Best All Season Long – Benefit 1 Trenton Clausen, Mike Servais and Gus Thiel discussed the 1st benefit of training while in season – maintaining off season gains.
Today, we will dive into the 2nd and 3rd benefits of training while in season and why it is paramount to continue to train during this time.
Athletes train hard in the off season to ensure they are at their best by the time the season rolls around, but once their season arrives they suddenly stop training as their schedules fill up with games and practices.
As the season wears on they might start to notice that their bodies become more sore with each game and their nagging aches and pains just won’t go away.
Why is it that? With all the work put in during the off season they should feel great all season, right? Unfortunately, it does not work that way. The 2nd benefit of training while in season is to aid in reducing the athlete’s chance of sustaining an injury.
Injury prevention is another key factor that we work on in our in season training programs. We must continue maintaining our strength to prevent soft tissue injuries. We can do this through strength training and active recovery methods such as self-myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling), stretching, icing, and rest.
If we are able to maintain our strength and tissue quality during the season we will fend off injuries that can be prevented and keep us on the field of play.
“Athletes that work to maintain their strength, muscle tissue quality and joint health during the season are less susceptible to injuries because their body is more prepared to handle the stresses of the season.”
– Mike Servais
The final benefit from training in season is the ability to recover faster from games and practices. Over the course of a long season, athlete’s bodies take a beating. But fear not! A proper in-season program will not make an athlete feel worse!
In fact, getting back in the gym will allow athletes to address this issue by performing soft-tissue work (using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, etc.) to restore muscle tissue quality.
Maintaining tissue quality is vital for joint mobility (ability for a joint to move) and stability (ability to control joint position).
“Always remember that training in season doesn’t mean that your workout program should be put on the back burner. Be smart about your in season programs and your body will thank you later!” – Gus Thiel
Here at Athletes’ Training Center, we want our athletes to be at their best once the season starts. However, it takes discipline and dedication to maintain peak performance throughout the year. We will make sure you feel your best come game time!
Tip: Interested in our in season programs?
Ask about our maintenance memberships or our Free Trial Sessions!
Written By Performance Coaches:
Trenton Clausen – MA, CSCS, USAW-L2SP, Director of Sports Performance
Mike Servais – CSCS, USAW-L1, Performance Coach
Gus Thiel – BS, FMS-L1SP, Performance Coach
The push up movement is one that I see many of our members struggle with. It isn’t because they are not capable of doing them.
I think most of the time they struggle because they are not aware of what a proper push up should look like.
We are here to direct you on the right path to doing a shoulder friendly and strong abdominal push up.
Let’s dive into 3 common mistakes that we see our members make when they are trying their push ups.
Mistake #1 – Hands too far forward:
With this mistake, people tend to not use their abs or core correctly. This can cause unwanted stress on other muscles and joints.
Make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders when starting and finishing your push up. Refer to image (5).
Refer to image (4). Don’t allow your hands to be placed in front of your shoulders.
Mistake #2 – Hips too low:
It is vital to keep your hips level with your shoulders throughout the entire movement including the start and the finish of a push up. Refer to image (5).
If we allow our hips to drop lower than our shoulders as demonstrated in images (3 & 6) we will produce extension in our low back and not using our abdominals to stabilize our body.
Mistake #3 – Elbows pointed out:
One of the most popular flaws is letting the elbows point to the side as can be seen in image (1). As you can see with this poor technique, when one’s elbows point out to the side their head meets their hands at the bottom position.
This is not good. This can present shoulder pain and is a compensation of poor core control during the lowering and raising portion of the push up movement.
We should shoot to have our elbows angle back towards our waist and our shoulders meeting our hands at the bottom position (2).
I am constantly getting questions from high school athletes about which supplements they should be buying or taking to improve their performance and recovery.
Now, this may seem like a complicated question requiring an endlessly long answer full of micro and macro nutrient breakdowns, but in reality it’s a simple as asking those athletes a few questions.
Today, we will dive into 3 effortless tips athletes can do to jump-start their athletic ability.
Tip #1 Eat a quality breakfast
This one is vital! I am constantly talking to athletes who tell me they cannot gain weight or are continuously losing weight while in season. I immediately ask them about their breakfast every morning.
Most of the time I get one of two answers.
Response #1 “I don’t have time for breakfast in the morning.”
Response #2 “I ate a pop tart, does that count?”
Response #1 leads me into my “how important sleep is” spiel. We will dive into this in a bit. With response #2 I usually respond with a giant eye roll and a large exhale. In what world is a pop tart considered a meal?
Especially a meal that will support and sustain a growing athlete through a long and stressful school day, a practice or a game.
I don’t expect a gourmet breakfast every morning, but I do expect an athlete to get up 10 minutes earlier than they are accustomed to in order to prepare some food. Making sure your body is fueled with quality calories is the first step to high level sport performance!
- 3-4 full eggs
- Steamed rice or toast
- Deli meat, ground beef or turkey
- 1 piece of fruit
Tip #2 Sleep 7-8 hours a night
I cannot stress this point enough, high school athletes need to sleep. While asleep the body regulates hormones, repairs cells, and controls stress. The “Journal of Physiology and Behavior” published a study showing the benefits extra sleep on serving performance in tennis players, giving credibility to the fact that sleep improves performance.
Most of the time, high school athletes are very busy with school, sports and social activities. With such busy schedules, sleep is usually the first thing on the chopping block. Don’t let it be!
- Get in a pre-sleep routine
- Keep bedtime as consistent as possible (weekdays AND weekends)
- Sleep in the DARK (no TV, phone, tablet)
Tip #3 Hydrate
Hydration is often taken for granted when discussing athletic performance. It seems simple, right? Drink water. But, it is often neglected and can have a negative effect on practice and game performance.
The ACSM describes water as “the most essential component of the human body”. Water transports nutrients, eliminates waste products, regulates body temperature, maintains blood circulation and pressure, lubricates joints and body tissue as well as facilitate digestion.
Long bouts of exercise I.E. practices or games can result in up to a 2% loss of body weight due to fluid loss. That means it is possible for a 150 pound athlete to lose up to 3 pounds of “water weight” during a sporting event or workout.
Dehydration can cause premature muscle fatigue, coordination loss, a decrease in energy and a loss of athletic performance. They need to be drinking before, during and after their session. An easy rule of thumb for athletes to follow is to drink 20-24 ounces of water for every pound loss during activity.
- Drink a large (16-20oz) glass of water first thing in the morning
- Carry a water bottle with you during the school day
- Continue to drink water or Gatorade DURING your workout, practice or game
Not all sports performance enhancers come in a plastic tub or bottle! These easy tips and reminders will go a long way in ensuring your body is ready for the demands of your toughest workout or game!
Written By: Joe Servais – MA, CSCS, Performance Coach
Schwartz, J., & Simon, R. D. (2015). Sleep extension improves serving accuracy: A study with college varsity tennis players. Physiology & behavior, 151, 541-544.
Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). Exercise and fluid replacement. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 39, 377-390.
Why You Are Really Missing Training Sessions
Obstacles to staying on track with a training program are numerous and how you chose to deal with them can make or break your dedication and work towards your overall goals.
Over the years I’ve heard a multitude of excuses and reasons why people can’t fit their training or rehab in for the week. What I rarely hear though, is how people plan to deal with those obstacles and get back on track.
Developing a plan and sticking to it is really important and those that tend to do this naturally seem to be more successful at reaching their goals then those who do not problem solve when things get tough.
If you find yourself constantly missing sessions or making excuses, try this 5 step approach:
1. Identify the real obstacle.
Be honest with yourself and figure out why you’re letting yourself get off track. Dig deep and identify the true source of the problem. Just saying your busy isn’t going to cut it. Maybe the real reason is because you let yourself schedule too many things at a time because you’re afraid to tell people no, you won’t ask for help when you need it because you’re afraid to look weak. Once you get to the heart of the matter, you’ll be able to identify better solutions.
2. Brainstorm solutions.
Once you have the real problem identified, then you can begin to problem solve it. Start by thinking of all the potential solutions that might exist. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. It’s best if you write them all down so you can refer to them when needed.
3. Choose one or two of your solutions.
There are lots of ways to rank your solutions. If you don’t have a place to start, begin by deciding which solutions cost you the least amount of time, money or work and produce the best chance of being successful. Once you’ve narrowed it down, chose the best solution for the situation.
4. Put your solutions into actions.
Lots of people get stuck at this point. They have some good ideas and some viable solutions to use, but then forget to develop a game plan to put them into action. Write a quick action plan for yourself that includes a deadline. It’s always best to put it in writing, but it doesn’t have to be a formal proposal. Just get it written down! Also, make sure if you depend on another person as part of your solution you get their buy-in before you count on them to help, otherwise you may be right back at step one.
5. Evaluate the solution
Most people forget this step. Don’t be afraid to take a look at the solution you put into place and judge its effectiveness. Maybe it’s only a short-term solution and you’ll need to be working on something more permanent. Maybe you find it’s a great solution and you can share your experiences with someone else that faces the same challenges as you.
Written By: Danielle Kleber, ATC Director of Marketing & Operations
Question: Which obstacle is the hardest for you to overcome?
The Truth about Overhead Weight Lifting that Everyone Should Know
Today’s fitness mindset is evolving. Today, more and more people are doing exercises that require them to lift or hold weights overhead. In the past, the most common overhead exercise was the military press. People would use that exercise to try to sculpt their deltoids.
Today, thanks in part to CrossFit and it’s branch-offs, overhead squats, snatches, jerks, and hand stand push-ups are commonly found in many people’s routines. But should they be?
In the last 10 years (and really more so in the last 3 years), I have noticed an increasing trend in my practice. The number of people in their 30’s and 40’s who are coming into our facility with damaged shoulders (torn rotator cuffs, torn labrums, dislocated shoulders, etc.). All of these injuries were a result from lifting weights over their heads.
The ability to lift weights over our head requires a lot of things to work just the right way to keep the forces and stresses from overloading (i.e. damaging) our shoulders. This is why I say lifting weights overhead is a privilege and not a right.
You do not have the right to press or hold weights overhead just because you think you should be able to. You have to earn the right!
I want to share with you 3 easy tests you can do to see if you should be lifting weights overhead. It just may save you the agony that my patients face when they realize that they may have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fix their overhead lifting injury.
Should you be lifting weights overhead?
Take these 3 simple tests.
Test #1 – Arching over a foam roller
When we lift overhead, our upper back (thoracic spine) needs to be able to extend to allow our shoulder blades to optimally position themselves within the socket of our shoulder joints.
If the shoulder blade, and thus the socket, are not in the correct place more force is taken on through the rotator cuff, labrum and ligaments to keep the weight over our head. In this test, you should be able to arch over a standard 6″ foam roller and touch your head to the ground while your rear end stays on the ground.
Test #2 – Raising your arms without moving your lower back
Exercises like the snatch and the overhead squat require the torso to be completely straight so that the weight is balanced over a stable, vertical base. The arms must be able to raise without subsequent movement from the lower back. This test looks for exactly that. Stand with your back up against a wall and your feet about 12 inches away.
With your head, shoulders, low back, and butt against the wall, slowly raise your arms up straight overhead and touch your thumbs to the wall. If any part of you lower back comes off the wall as you raise your arms up, you didn’t pass the test.
Test #3 – Face to wall squats
Test 3 builds on Test 2. In Test 2, we are looking to see if you can move your arms overhead without low back movement. In Test 3, we are looking to see if you can squat down vertically and without a forward lean.
With overhead squats and snatches, your arms know they have to be vertical. If you can not place your torso under them for that solid base then you end up over reaching backwards and injuries can happen.
This test looks to see if you can vertically squat. First, face a wall and place your feet 3-4 inches from the wall. Then, place your hands behind your head and perform a squat. You should be able to squat down without touching the wall or loosing balance.
“Remember, lifting weights overhead is extremely technical to do correctly, and that technicality is essential to keeping your shoulders healthy.”
Not everyone can or should be doing these lifts. Try these tests.
How did you score? Can you pass all three?
Written By: Travis Manners, President and Founder PT, SCS, CSCS
As we are well into the wonderful winter season, I want to take a moment to share some tips on snow shoveling that I hope will come in useful and maybe keep you from having to visit your favorite physical therapist.
As anyone who has ever picked up a snow shovel knows, it is WORK. In 1996, the Surgeon General noted that shoveling snow for 15 minutes was considered moderate physical activity equivalent to speed walking at 5 mph for 15 minutes on a treadmill. As with any other physical activity, a warm up is always important.
When completing a warm up, I encourage an active motion that is similar to the movement that you will be doing. In this case I suggest a lunge with arm reach toward the opposite knee (see above picture).
Perform 10 lunges on both sides. This will help emphasize the need to bend with your legs, increase muscle activity, and provide a nice warm up before you ask your legs to lift a load.
After the lunges, I also encourage some light stretching of the shoulders, neck and low back. Good stretches to complete include pulling your arm across your chest, looking over your shoulder and seated rotational stretches for your low back. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat 2-3 times. Now let us get to the most important thing.
5 Tips – how to position yourself when shoveling:
- Bend your knees like you are going to lunge.
- DO NOT reach your arms forward when shoveling, LUNGE forward. This reduces strain on your back.
- Move forward into the lunge as you lift the snow and bring your arms back in to your abdomen. This will force you to use your legs more and reduce strain on your back bringing the weight
closer to your body.
- When throwing the snow off to the side, move your feet and DO NOT simply twist at the waist. Avoiding twisting will reduce the possibility of straining your back.
- Push opposed to lifting: If you can push the snow forward opposed to lifting this will reduce the strain on your back.
Other things to consider:
- Stay hydrated. Just because it is winter doesn’t mean you don’t get dehydrated.
- Choose an appropriate shovel size and DO NOT overload it!
- Take a break when needed. If we get 10 inches, shovel in sections and not all at once.
If all else fails, my last recommendation is a good snow blower. Happy shoveling!
Written By: Nick Wegener, PT, ATC, OCS, CSCS
Jennie A., Collegiate Track & Field Athlete
Athletes’ Training Center has worked to specialize workouts to fit my athletic needs. The strength coaches have a one on one personal connection to fix minor details that have had a major impact on my athletic performance.