News & Events

How Do You Define An Athlete? It’s Not What You Think

Without fail, it happens about once every couple of weeks.  I meet a new patient and one of the first things they say is “I am not sure why my physician recommended me to come here. I am not an athlete.”
As the conversation progresses, the patient tells me about how they go to the gym and work out 3-4 times a week and how during the summer they regularly play in a golf league.  But, you’re not an athlete? I think maybe you are.
In this blog, I will explain three reasons why you fit our definition of being an athlete. 

Two men playing paddle tennis in wide angle shot image

I get it.  Normally, when we think about an “athlete”, we think about someone who participates in organized sports, are between the ages of 12-22 years old, or are paid, professional athletes.  
But what about the police officer who (injured his back on duty as a patrol officer) is on patrol?  
What about the (mother of three who is ready to get back to her pre-children fitness level to keep up with her family) stay at home mom who works out regularly at the nearby gym?  
How about the guy who can get a senior discount at most restaurants but lives to play tennis with his buddies three times a week?  
Or how about me? A 41-year-old (at the time of this writing) who enjoys working out a couple times a week, plays men’s league hockey, and has frequent wrestling matches with his kids?
In my eyes, everyone listed is an “athlete”.
Being an athlete is not defined by our age or whether we are in organized sports.  It is a mindset. It is a mindset that you want to perform at your optimal level, regardless of where you are in the cycle of life.
Every single person, traditional athlete or not, is on a performance continuum.

On one side of the continuum you have an injury or pain that is limiting your function and performance.  On the other end of the continuum is when you are feeling great and you are physically performing everything in life you desire to do.

How high your continuum reaches might vary compared to someone else, but you are still somewhere on it.  
I founded Athletes’ Training Center Sports Performance & Physical Therapy with that continuum in mind so that we had solutions for anyone who wanted to shift their place on the continuum to the far right. We don’t just see professional athletes or 12 to 22 year old athletes who are in organized sports.
We see so many more “athletes.”
Here are 3 easy ways to know if you are our kind of athlete:

1. You value feeling good and performing at your best 

2. You want to be challenged in a way that helps you reach your best

3. You want an environment where like-minded people come striving to get better
Help us continue to be the destination where athletes and their families could turn to get unmatched rehabilitative care, training, and service by commenting below in our feed or sharing this link with a fellow athlete. 
Thanks for reading! 
Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS, President and Founder 

Core Competencies in Athleticism and How They Carry Over to Hockey

Hockey players, in my opinion, are some of the greatest athletes in the world. They have amazing coordination, precision balance, superior relative body strength, and cunning agility.  But what most parents think is that these athletic traits are totally groomed on the ice.
The reality is that could not be further from the truth.  Those skills and traits have to be developed off the ice before they can transfer on the ice.  Sport specific skill is ALWAYS developed from a foundation of fundamental movement skills or what I call athletic core competencies.
If a player skips out on learning these core competencies, they will never reach their potential on the ice.  If fact, USA Hockey supports this exact thinking when they adopted the ADM model which focuses on long term athlete development (LTAD).  The LTAD model is rooted in establishing a base of athletic movement skills then using those to not only develop further athletic skills but also hockey skills.

The Core Competencies of Athleticism:


1. Squatting 

Wait, I know what you might be thinking. Squatting as in putting a bar on the back and squatting? No.  Before we do that, we have to know how squat down and stand up without falling over backwards, caving our knees in, or overly leaning forward.
Learning how to perform a correct squat helps our hockey players understand what an athletic, ready position is, teaches them how to turn their core on so they have balance when they are moving, and helps them better control the recovery position during the hockey stride.

2. Lunging 

Lunging is a movement that requires single leg strength, balance, and core control which are key traits our players need.  In skating, the feet are constantly split apart whether it is in skating forward (front lunge), skating backwards (lateral lunge) or crossing over (cross-over lunge).  
If a player can develop these abilities off the ice, it will reflect on the ice with longer, more efficient strides.

3. Skipping

Yes, I said skipping.  Skipping is not a skill that we naturally develop (trust me I can show you plenty of videos of kids AND adults that can not skip) but it is a skill we need.  Skipping teaching us how to move our arms and legs in a reciprocal manner.  
Reciprocal arm and leg movement is essential in the skating stride but it is also critical in the hockey shot.  Follow me on this, if I am a right handed shot, I have to be able to generate force and control with my bottom right hand while balancing and stabilizing my body on the left leg.  If we know how to skip, we can later teach how to apply force in that movement. Great building block!

4. Hopping

Hopping is defined as taking off and landing with the same leg.  Hopping is another great way to develop those intangible traits of balance, leg strength, and core control while teaching the athlete how to start using their arms to help develop power in their legs.

5. Balance

Balance is one of the key traits we need and it is also a core competency that needs to be specifically worked on.  Balance is not just standing on one foot which is definitely needed for skating.  Balance is being able to control our body over our foot or feet.  In nerdy science terminology, we call it keeping your center of mass over your base of support.  Balance happens in skating, changing directions, shooting, and keeping opponents from knocking us off the puck.
So those are the foundational core competencies in starting to build athleticism.  If players especially between the ages of 7-13 years of age can develop these skills along with others consistent with their age, they will be so much more advanced on the ice. How does your player do with these skills? Try them at home and see!
Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS, President and Founder


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Do you Experience Back Pain After Working Out?

5 Things I Did to Reduce My Own Post-Exercise Back Pain

I don’t know about you but I love those workouts when you finish and you think to yourself, “Yep, I crushed it!” But for me, then the inevitable would happen. Later that night or the next morning I would feel my back start to tighten and before long that low-grade nagging pain would return in my lower back. 

When I was younger the pain would stick around for maybe a day. However, as I got older the pain would start to last for three or four days up to even a week.

The tipping point for me personally was about eight years ago when I herniated my L5/S1 disc. Once I recovered from that injury, I decided it was time to start being more proactive toward my nagging low back pain. Here are five things I began incorporating into my workouts on a regular basis.

I started incorporating these five things in my workouts on a regular basis and I am happy to say my back pain has significantly reduced and my recovery between workouts is back to where it was 15 years ago. 

My Top 5 Go-To’s:

1. Thoracic spine rotations

Why it works: Having a mobile and flexibile thoracic spine (upper back) is pivotal to low back health. If our upper back is tight, forces will transfer down into the low back which may overload the small joints of the back causing soreness and pain. 

Performing this exercise:

Lay on your side with your upper leg bent to 90 degrees at the hip and knee and propped up on a foam roller.  The hand of your down arm should rest across your top knee.

With your top arm, reach back toward the ground trying to get your shoulder blade to rest on the floor.  

Make sure your top knee does not lift off the roller.  Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times each direction.

2. Hip figure 4 stretch

Why it works: Hip tightness, especially in the back of the hip, is without a doubt the most common restriction we see in people with low back pain. Like the upper back, if your hips are tight and don’t move well, the force from the lift gets moved up into your low back. This stretch is designed to target that specific area. 

Performing this exercise:

Starting on your hands and knees, bring one leg in front and across the other like you were folding your legs.

From there, sit back letting your other leg side straight which will stretch your other hip.  

Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times.

3. Elevated toe touches

Why it works: For lifts like squats and deadlifts, you need an appropriate amount of calf and hamstring flexibility so that when you’re at the bottom of your lift your pelvis and spine can be positioned correctly. This exercise is one that I also like to use to determine if someone is ready to do those activities. If you cannot touch your toes in this position, we are not starting those lifts. 

Performing this exercise:

Start with placing the balls of your feet up on a couple inch block (25lb plates or books work well).  With your legs straight, slowly reach down and touch your toes.  

If you can not touch your toes, go as far as you can then slightly bend your knees to achieve the desired distance.  

Breathing out while reaching down can also give you a little more reach as well. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

4. Lateral band walks

Why it works: Unlike the first three exercises that were focusing mostly on flexibility and mobility, this exercise is specifically designed to get the most important muscle in your body prepared and ready for lifting. Your glutes are the cornerstone of having a solid foundation and platform to lift from. The more awake and ready they are for exercise, the less tension force will be taken through your low back muscles to lift yourself back into an upright position. 

Performing this exercise:

With a lateral band around your ankles, get into an athletic, ready position. Slowly step out to the side then slowly bring your trail leg back into the starting position.  

Do not let your trail foot drag on the ground. Repeat for 2 sets of 15 steps each direction. 

If you need a lateral band, click here:

5. Switch to front squat over back squat

Why it works: Squatting is an exercise that has huge benefits. Increasing your heart rate, elevating your muscle building hormones and developing strength in multiple muscle groups are all key benefits of squatting. However, the back squat is not for everyone’s body.

If you lack flexibility in certain areas or foundational strength, then loading a back squat will increase stress to the joints in your lower back. When the load is switched to the front, your body naturally becomes more upright and positions your spine in a way that does not excessively load your vertebral joints. 

Performing this exercise:

Begin standing tall with feet hip width, pointing forward and a barbell resting across the shoulders.  Hands can either hold the barbell in a cross face position or a clean grip position.  Squat down until the thighs are parallel with the floor, pause and then return to the original position.

Remember, your chest should maintain a relative tallness and your heels should remain in contact with the ground.

Nagging lower back pain after working out cannot just affect your ability to perform your next workout. If left unaddressed, that nagging pain could turn into something more severe.

If you are like I was, give these 5 things a try for a good month and see if you aren’t feeling better!

If after a month you are still having pain after your workouts, give us a call and let’s figure out what else needs to be done to get you feeling better!

Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS, President and Founder 

Shoulder Saving Tips – Part 1, Shoulder Don’ts

As we see more and more shoulder injuries in our clinic, one of the places our patients commonly hurt their shoulder is at the gym.

Unfortunately, what people do not know or realize is there are common exercises and approaches that many perform at the gym that may set people up for an injury.

In this blog, I want to address some of the common questions I get from patients as well as talk about some of the common training errors I see every day at the gym. 

This topic is far too long to try to compact into one article so lets start with talking about the DON’TS at the gym. Stay tuned for part 2!

  1. Never go behind the head with a bar
    This “don’t” applies mostly to lat pull downs and military shoulder press. Going behind the head places the shoulders in a fully externally rotated position and puts the ligaments in the front of the shoulder on a significant, potentially damaging stretch. In addition, in this position, the rotator cuff is not designed to produce force and asking it to do so could cause damage to the cuff especially if heavier loads are being lifted.

  2. Avoid dips
    Dips are a staple in all gyms, and is a great exercise to develop the chest and the triceps. However, this exercise is at the expense of the labrum in the shoulders. The labrum is a cartilaginous ring that deeps our shoulder sockets and provides a stability bumper in our shoulders. As the shoulder moves into extreme degrees of extension during the dip, the upper arm bone is shoved upward and then rotates from a backward to forward position on the rim of the socket. This shearing and rotational force can create a tear and detachment of the labrum from the socket. An injury otherwise known as a SLAP tear. Does this always happen? No, but this exercise has to be high on your high risk, low benefit filter when selecting it as an exercise.

  3. Don’t Bench Press or Push-up Incorrectly
    A lot of people do not realize that there is an incorrect way to do a bench press or a push-up. The key point is not to flare your elbows away from your side. The right position as you lower the bar or your body is to keep the upper arms at no more than a 45-degree angle to the torso. Flared elbows (closer to 90-degrees) has been shown to increase stress through the shoulder joint, the ligaments on the front part of the shoulder, and the subscapularis muscle (part of the rotator cuff).

  4. Don’t Do “Shoulder Day” at the gym
    This “don’t” makes the list because of the fatiguability of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff works directly against the larger and more powerful deltoid to keep the ball of the shoulder centered in the socket. The rotator cuff fatigues well before the deltoid does which puts excessive strain on the rotator cuff and the labrum. Having a “shoulder day” where you are doing 3-4 or more exercises for the shoulders will exhaust your rotator cuff, and if you push through the fatigue to get your reps in, you will likely develop a problem.

  5. Ditch upright rows
    I am completely perplexed that this exercise still exists and is still being taught by personal trainers, physical therapists, and strength coaches. If I said to you, “I am going to give you an exercise that pinches your rotator cuff in between 2 hard bones and have you do it repeatedly,” would you do it? That is exactly what an upright row does. In this lift, your shoulder is maximally internally rotated which positions a prominent aspect of your arm bone right under the bottom of your shoulder blade. In between these two is your rotator cuff. Trying to raise your arm in an upright row will impinge your cuff eventually leading to tendinitis or a tear.

I could go on and on with more “don’ts” but I think the above hits the major errors I see and answers a majority of the questions I get in the clinic.

I hope this was helpful and look forward to Part 2 – Shoulder Do’s very soon.

Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS, President and Founder

Do you experience shoulder pain? It is time to start getting on the road of recovery! Come in for an evaluation today.

An Almost Foolproof Way to Relieve “Jumpers Knee” Pain

patellaBasketball season is upon us and with basketball comes the potential for knee aches and pains.  One of the more nagging and painful injuries basketball players can develop is patellar tendinitis, otherwise known as “jumper’s knee”.  I can always pick the players out on the floor who suffer from this injury because they all seem to wear the same brace. 

Though this brace can help certain people with the pain and keep them playing, in my experience other factors exist that continue to cause the symptoms.  In evaluating young basketball players, one of the common findings I have seen is poor flexibility in the quads, hip flexors, and IT band as well as poor mobility in the ankle.  Though other factors exist (including muscle weakness, foot posture, and poor mechanics), these problems can be easily remedied on your own with a couple of simple exercises. 

pretzel_stretchPretzel Stretch 

Step 1:  Lay on your non-injured side with your body in a perfectly straight line.   

Step 2:  Using your hand, pull your heel toward your rear end.   

Step 3:  Pull your thigh back so it is in a straight line with your torso.   

Step 4:  Put your bottom foot on the front, top aspect of your knee and push your top leg back and down toward the floor. 

*Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times 


wall_quad_stretchWall Quad Stretch: 

Get into a half kneeling position and place the top of the foot of the down knee against the wall.  Make sure your torso is straight and tighten the butt cheek on the down leg.    

* Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times 


wall_ankleWall Ankle Mobility Exercise: 

Standing with your feet staggered, place your lead foot roughly 4-6 inches from the wall.  Press the knee toward the wall, keeping your knee over your second toe.  The knee should just barely touch the wall without the heel lifting off the ground.  If your knee easily hits the wall, move your foot back and repeat.   

 *Once you have reached the optimal foot position, hold each for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. 

Good luck and remember, if your symptoms do not improve it’s possible those previously mentioned factors could be coming into play.  If that happens, consult us for a more complete evaluation.

Written By: Travis Manners, PT, SCS, CSCS 

Rehab Report – Tommy Armstrong Jr.

What do we take away from Nebraska Huskers Tommy Armstrong’s violent helmet-to-turf collision during the Nebraska Ohio State game? Listen to the Rehab Report on AMSPORTS590 as Travis Manners and the Omaha Sports Insider team discuss his injury and also breakdown the proper protocol for a concussion injury. 

Click below to listen now.

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.