<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=424649934352787&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Ankle Mobility: Lower-Leg Stretches to Improve ROM and Decrease Injury

GettyImages-867056016-1Whether you are a seasoned workout veteran or the new face in the gym, there’s no denying that lower-leg pain can be a huge deterrent for exercise (and day-to-day life, for that matter). Some pains are dictated by the range of motion in the ankle. Due to several factors including previous injuries and wear and tear, physiological problems from the various shoes people wear, and the types of exercises people punish their bodies with, we see individuals every day who have a hard time performing some of the more basic exercises such as squats and deadlifting.

To hopefully achieve a better, safer exercise with less pain, it’s helpful to incorporate ankle mobility warmups into your routine and to be conscious of testing and retesting range of motion to monitor your progress. Here I cover some tests that are useful for checking your ankle mobility and some warmup stretches to get you heading in the right direction.

Testing Ankle Mobility

For testing and retesting your ankle mobility, NIFS uses a test that is included in the Fundamental Capacity Screen simply referred to as the Ankle Clearing Screen. What we want to see is whether your ankle mobility is capable and safe to perform a specific movement pattern. If not, we need to strategize ways to improve ROM and decrease chances for injury.

Dr. John Rusin describes a test you can do at home in which you stand, facing a wall, with your foot four inches away from the edge of the wall. While keeping your heel on the ground, try to touch your knee to the wall. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but being able to touch your knee to the wall is a sign of a healthy, mobile ankle. If you can’t do it and you want to improve, we have some work to do!

Stretches for Ankle Mobility

There are many stretches for ankle mobility that can help boost your ability. Starting with a simple ankle stretch at the wall, begin by pressing against the wall, keeping your heels flat on the floor. The more your body gets used to this movement, the farther you will be able to move your feet back (as long as your feet are flat on the ground). Holding for several seconds on each side, try to do this stretch daily or as often as you like to help get the ball rolling.

A similar way to stretch the ankle would be a self-stretch from a half-kneeling position. This is a simple yet effective movement that improves your flexibility over time. While keeping your foot flat, rock forward until you feel a stretch, then return to the starting position. Move your foot farther away from your body or closer to your body for a couple nice change-ups to the routine.

Lastly, if you were interested only in the exercise aspect and can’t find time to stretch, you can still do a squat pattern. The TRX Deep Squat is a good beginner squat that will help reestablish ankle mobility and train your body to work through the entire squat range of motion. Even sitting in the squat position feels good and helps the body get used to the pattern. Without weight to affect the body positioning, you will find this to be lower impact and a great jump off into doing traditional squats with great form.

Get Help from NIFS

Ankle mobility is where everything in the whole kinetic chain starts. If you have poor ankle mobility, chances are you aren’t going to be able to do the squats or hip hinge patterns effectively, which our bodies need to get stronger. This ripple effect passes all the way to the upper half of the body.

If you want more information or would like help improving your ankle mobility, please reach out to NIFS and one of our Health Fitness Specialists will help guide you in the right direction. Fundamental Capacity Screens are complimentary. Check with a NIFS staff member to see whether this type of testing is right for you.

As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention range of motion pain mobility assessments stretches ankle mobility lower leg

Happy Playmore: 5 Movement Tips to Stay on the Golf Course Longer

GettyImages-961002976It’s finally that time of year again—time to hit the links and chase a little ball all over a well-manicured green space with the hopes of golf immortality. If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the sport of golf, but I look forward to my weekly round with friends to take on challenging courses and ultimately myself.

All levels of golfers are continually looking for ways to improve something in their game and to get out there more and more to test their skills. But are you taking the necessary steps to make sure you are able to lace up the spikes, strap on the glove, and swing a club anywhere from 70 to 100 times in a 3- to 4-hour span? We can plan practice like crazy on the short game, driver, and flat-stick, but if you can’t move well, or if you have an injury, you won’t be booking that tee time.

As an avid golfer myself, and an aging one at that, I have found some ways to ensure I can enjoy the game that frustrates me so much at times but provides aspects you just can’t get anywhere else. That’s why we play. Here are some tips to help you play longer and, ultimately, better.

Get Screened

Do you know whether you are moving well? Do you know whether you have some mobility issues in key joints for the golf swing, or imbalances? If you do, are you performing specific strategies to help correct and enhance any movement problems you may have? You wouldn’t expect a Corvette to drive at a high performance level if it had square tires, would you? But often we golfers expect to play in the 70s with glaring movement issues and become rather frustrated when we do not. See a certified pro, like all the coaches at NIFS, and get an FMS (Functional Movement Screen) completed to see if there are any movement deficiencies that could be holding you back on the course. You will receive an in-depth report of how you are moving and a bunch of strategies to help make your movement better. Our coaches take the approach of Gray Cook: that when you move well, you will move often; and in this case, moving better means more golf.

Emphasize Mobility

If you want to hit the ball farther, and more often, you have to emphasize mobility exercises and drills in your fitness routine when you are not playing, especially mobility of the thoracic spine. The rotation of the golf swing comes mainly from your ability to “turn” through the T-spine, or upper back area. The larger the turn, the greater the potential swing speed you can create, which can lead to bigger drives and adding yards to all of your clubs. You will receive drills from your coach after completing your FMS, and you can also read more on the importance of T-spine mobility from experts like Greg Rose and others at the Titleist Performance Institute. In most if not all athletic environments (life being one of those), it truly has to start with mobility. The more mobility you have, the more potential you can unleash.

Train the Frontal and Transverse Plane

Working in a fitness facility I witness on a daily basis a lack of training emphasis on the frontal and transverse planes of motion. We are a pretty straightforward kind of fitness planet, and not in a good way. And many times I field questions about an injury that happened on the golf course from individuals who have never trained outside of walking in a straight line, or straight presses and pulls. They are confused that they move explosively in a plane of motion they never train and somehow get hurt. The golf swing happens in the frontal and transverse planes of motion, so you need to train with movements that challenge you in those planes. Countless exercises and drills can get you out of the sagittal plane (forward and back), and prepare and load your body to take on a big swing as well as provide the endurance to perform many swings. Here are a few of the classics:

Warm Up Properly

This really should go without saying, yet I have to: WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Racing to the course, pulling the bag out of the trunk, stepping to the first tee, and hitting the big dog after a few practice swings is a sure-fire way to at best play poorly, and at worst suffer a big injury that takes you out for the season. Take the time to show up a little earlier and warm-up properly. As I typically do, I reference the experts. I learned this quick and effective warmup from Jason Glass that I use every time. If you don’t dig this one, that’s fine; just do something to prepare your body to perform for that 3- to 4-hour round of golf.

RICE After the Round

If you don’t know by now, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You don’t have to suffer a trauma to enlist and perform this concept. Ice can go a long way in the recovery process, and that is the goal here, to recover quickly and get back on the course. You don’t think the pros finish up, go get some dinner, and hit the rack, do you? No way! They recover properly so they can swing well every time they step on the course. Take time to perform a light stretch after a round, jump in the hot tub, or ice down sore muscles after you are done enjoying this great sport. It will get you back out quicker and you will be playing longer.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS injury prevention golf recovery mobility movement functional movement screen

Get Moving with Improved Hip-Mobility Warmups

Whether or not you exercise, hip mobility plays a factor in your everyday life. Within the exercise realm, good hip mobility can be the difference between being “in the game” and just watching from the sidelines. In day-to-day life, hip mobility factors into nearly all movements, including climbing stairs, sitting and standing, and walking. If you find yourself wondering whether you could benefit from improved hip mobility, the answer is a resounding “Yes”! While understanding the importance of hip mobility is key, designing a routine that is appropriate for your needs and goals takes precedence.

Benefits of Improved Hip Mobility

If I were to pinpoint a few benefits of improved hip mobility, I would first look at the basic elements and emphasize the benefits of improved balance. Although you do not stand on one foot on a regular basis, you do, however, get in and out of your car, which requires a degree of balance. As hip mobility deteriorates, you may find it harder and harder to get out of your car.

A second area to look at is hip-strength imbalances in the body. This can become a more advanced quickly, so lack of hip mobility can lead to an abnormal strain on other muscle groups. An example of this is that an individual who sits all day may develop weak hip muscles (like the psoas, iliacus, and rectus femoris), which in turn could lead to the hamstring getting overworked.

Lastly better hip mobility can lead to fewer injuries and decreased overall pain due to hip tightness. Those who are running a marathon might discover tightness in their hips that could be remedied through a well-thought-out hip-mobility warmup.

Improving Your Hip-Mobility Warmups

IMG_4979Most workout formulas include a warmup process. If hip mobility is a focus, your workout would benefit from a few additions to the routine. Foam rolling, which has been around for a while, is a great way to get blood circulating to the muscles and decrease soreness (if you worked them out prior). Spending a few minutes to roll out the trigger spots (areas of higher tenderness) will help you feel better, and you will be able to exercise on a more consistent basis.

IMG_4983Second, I would suggest a dynamic movement stretch (rather than traditional static stretching) to help not only stretch the muscle, but also warm up the body for more movement. “The World’s Greatest Stretch” (yes, that’s really its name) takes the exerciser into a lunge position, rotating and opening up the torso to the ceiling. Why is this called the “World’s Greatest Stretch?” For starters, you are able to stretch not only your hip flexors, but also your hamstrings and torso. As you do the stretch, both sides back to back, you notice that the stretch allows you to flow, dynamically, which is a great way to get your body ready for movement.

IMG_4990Finally, another great stretch to do is simply called a Hip Internal Rotation Stretch. While lying on your back, cross one leg over the other, allowing the hips to lean to one side and getting a decent stretch.

 

Address Your Hip Problems Now

Some hip problems are not from a lack of trying. Physiologically, there are many reasons your hips might hurt. If you feel as though you are having excessive pain in your hips, you might need to consult with someone who can help you. Overall balance issues, unnecessary pain, and muscle imbalances can all become bigger, life-altering issues down the road, so take care of them before they become bigger issues.

We want you to feel good! Come see a NIFS staff member at the track desk to schedule a complimentary FMS Screen to determine ways we can best help you with your exercises. Remember to warm up properly and stretch when appropriate, strengthen your weaknesses to see real improvement, and consult a professional to help you develop your plan.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: staying active workouts injury prevention balance pain warmups mobility stretch hips hip mobility

BOSU Returns: 4 Reasons to Come to a Class at NIFS

COM_BOSUWhen I first came to NIFS more than a decade ago (I know, right?), I brought BOSU Conditioning with me, and the NIFS community welcomed it with open arms (and legs, and core…you get the idea). I was fresh out of a training opportunity with the inventor of the BOSU, David Weck, while working at another gym. I took to the BOSU very quickly and loved the many training dimensions it provided and wanted to share it with as many folks as I could.

In its debut here at NIFS, BOSU was a hit and saw eight great years on the class schedule with many great instructors and class designs. But it needed a break. Finally that break is over, and BOSU has returned to the class schedule and is getting a lot of hype again!

What Makes BOSU So Awesome?

Here are few things you need to know about this powerful, multi-use fitness tool:

  • BOSU stands for BOth Sides Utilized. This refers to the ball itself. You can use the dome side as well as the platform (flat side) for so many different movements. Both sides utilized also pertains to using both sides of the body in harmony.
  • You can train all aspects of fitness utilizing the BOSU, including mobility, stability, core strength, power, strength, and cardio.
  • Movement options are endless and can be adapted to the fitness level of the user.
  • Movements can become three-dimensional, which is how we move in the real world.
  • Provides an unstable surface, forcing the user to use important stabilizer muscles of the entire body.

Here are some videos that show some of those movements:

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 2.02.00 PM


Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 12.52.56 PM


Five Reasons to Try BOSU

Now that we all agree that the BOSU is pretty awesome, here are some reasons to stop waiting and just take a class already. You won’t regret it!

  • Be different: There is no other tool like the BOSU, so a class session designed around this one-of-a-kind piece of equipment will be very different from any class you might have experienced. We use different body positions and equipment differently than most training disciplines, making each class different than the last.
  • Options for movement: There are countless options for different movement patterns that can be adjusted to suit any fitness level. No matter whether it is your first time on the ball or your 50th, the BOSU finds a way to challenge you.
  • Specific adaptations: As mentioned before, the BOSU is an unstable surface that will increase the usage of small stabilizing muscles that are found all over the body globally, and locally to the area directly in contact with the BOSU. An unstable surface elicits a specific adaption of stability. “Use more, burn more" is a direct effect from a class; the more muscle you have to use, the more energy you will burn. If the goal is to increase your stability, balance, and core strength, the BOSU will provide that specific adaptation.
  • Unique experience: There are exercises that are done on the BOSU ball, and then there are BOSU movements, both providing a unique exercise experience. There are also unique training effects that can only come from working with the BOSU. Effects such as the increased usage of the foot for grip and stability, which aids in all movement on a stable or unstable surface.

There are plenty more reasons why should try a BOSU class right away, but there are only four letters in the word. So what are you waiting for? Come see me on Sundays at 10am and realize what the BOSU can do for you!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS cardio group fitness balance strength core strength mobility stability core exercises BOSU

Foam Rolling: The Next Big Thing in Pain Relief and Injury Prevention

GettyImages-686409390For the majority of my athletic and fitness career, getting sore from activities, workouts, practices, or games has not only been a sign that work has been done, but also a rite of passage. The saying, “no pain, no gain” came about as a result, and the world would judge successful workouts on soreness.

Those days have come and gone, and fitness professionals have come to the understanding that the old saying definitely needs updating. While getting a great workout and being sore is fine, being able to prevent injury, decrease soreness, improve mobility, and increase blood circulation are things we would like to incorporate into our wellness on a daily basis. One thing that I have found in my fitness journey is that you can get a great workout today, and with proper foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release), you can get back after it tomorrow.

A Brief History of Foam Rolling

Foam rolling might seem like it’s a fairly new concept, but the idea has been around quite a while within manual physical therapy circles and with nontraditional medicine practitioners. In the late 19th century, physicians were using manual therapy to improve blood circulation and lymph flow. Although there are almost no studies that show that foam rolling had any benefits, the people that these techniques were being implemented on seemed to see the benefit.

Fast-forwarding to modern times, we have seen a boom in various industries associated with massage and related therapies. Individuals are seeing great results from meeting with these professionals and become interested not only in the tools they are using, but also in figuring out ways to implement similar techniques and experiences as a way to a quick-fix home remedy. Thus was born the foam roller, which now comes in many sizes, lengths, and shapes, and can be supplemented with everything from heat and ice to vibration discs.

How to Start Foam Rolling

Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you on your way.

  • Choosing a density: Pick a foam roller density that matches your comfort level. The softer foam rollers are geared more for beginners who might be sensitive and unable to cope with the discomfort a denser foam roller brings. As you become more accustomed to foam rolling, you may increase the foam roller density to your desired comfort level. As with getting a deep-tissue massage, it might feel uncomfortable at the time, but you may feel great right away, and tomorrow you will feel like a million dollars!
  • Rolling before and after bed: NIFS Personal Trainer Kris Simpson, a huge proponent and practitioner of foam rolling, says, “Foam rolling before bed is a great way to relieve muscle tension and stress from a long day. You will sleep better while being better rested, in turn giving you a head start on the following day. Again foam rolling in the morning would help get the blood flowing after a long, unrestful sleep.”
  • Finding a pattern: Another NIFS Trainer, Cara Hartman, uses foam rollers with her athletes. She has all of her clients and athletes follow a pattern that makes sense. “We like to start lower posterior (calves) and work our way up (hamstrings, glutes, back, etc). Smaller muscles can be rolled with a little creativity. If you find yourself unable to perform a movement, try putting the foam roller against the wall and rolling vertically as opposed to horizontally.”
  • Watch our video on how to properly foam roll.

As you work to get better at foam rolling, understand that it is very similar to everything you do in life. It will be most difficult the very first time you do it, but it will get a little easier each time you try it. I have a personal philosophy regarding foam rolling:

“If you want to maintain current mobility and flexibility, foam roll one time per day. If you want to increase mobility and flexibility, foam roll more than one time per day (the only limit is how much time you have to devote to your wellness). And if you want to get worse, do nothing!”

Foam Rolling at NIFS

NIFS has multiple foam-rolling stations designated to give you as many opportunities to roll as you need. There are multiple lengths and densities as well as a specialty roller made by Rollga. If you would like a quick tutorial and to talk about foam rolling with staff, please stop by the track desk and see one of the Health Fitness Specialists on staff. Get on a roller today, feel great tomorrow!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain mobility foam rolling circulation

Stability and Mobility in Fitness: The Dynamic Duo of Movement

GettyImages-961867136Think about the most recognized duos of all time: Batman and Robin. Mario and Luigi. Buzz and Woody. Stability and Mobility. Wait, what? Yes, like superhero teams, stability and mobility work together to achieve a balanced, harmonious environment for functional movement.

It’s All Connected

First, I want to bring to your attention a concept that has been around for some time; however, we often forget the important role it plays in day-to-day performance. Let’s reflect on anatomy and the structure of the human body. I challenge you to think of it in terms of one continuous structure in which each joint affects the joints above or below it. This concept is commonly referred to as the kinetic chain. It boils down to stable joints being stable when they should be and mobile joints being mobile when they’re meant to be. In terms of starting or stopping movement, stability and mobility are quite often complementary in nature.

Being Flexible and Mobile

In case you missed it, let’s review the details from my preceding blog. Flexibility is primarily genetic, but can be improved slowly over time. It refers to the greatest length a muscle can achieve. This is often known as a joint’s range of motion (ROM).

Mobility is the ability to synchronize one’s coordination and overall strength to move around a joint under load—as, for example, when doing the front squat.

Now that we are adding stability to the equation, it enhances movement and helps it make sense. Stability is the ability to provide firmness and strength to certain joints, often with help from the surrounding connective tissue.

The Kinetic Chain in Action

The following illustration at www.acefitness.org depicts the six common links involved in the kinetic chain, along with their assigned level of stability. Each link or joint plays an important role in human movement and overall function.

Therefore, a joint’s health and function are ultimately determined by its structure and the continuous tradeoff between being stable or mobile. When there is more of one, there is always less of the other.

Why This Relationship Is Important: Injury Prevention

Why should you care? Well, when a joint is less stable, that means it is more mobile. More mobility means more motion at that joint; it can also mean more wear and tear, which can lead to more injury at that joint, including arthritis. Also, a less stable joint has to rely on surrounding muscle and tissue to provide the required stability, which can lead to injury in certain joints that are already highly susceptible.

So the next logical question is, how do I train to improve stability? We’ll explore that question in my next blog.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness injury prevention flexibility mobility joints movement stability

Flexibility vs. Mobility in Fitness: Why Not Both?

GettyImages-509723338.jpgWhen you hear the word stretch, you might think immediately about flexibility (or perhaps your lack thereof). Flexibility was always the term used for enhancing limited movement, until the word mobility arrived and took the fitness industry by storm.

As a NIFS Health Fitness Instructor for five years now, I’ve spent plenty of time in and around the fitness center using these terms. Whether I’m speaking to a client regarding their goals or sharing instructions on warm-up drills, these two words often get used interchangeably; however, they are not identical.

An Exercise Example to Illustrate the Difference

Generally speaking, flexibility can simply be defined as the greatest length a muscle can achieve during a range of motion (ROM), passively or actively. Mobility also requires achieving a certain ROM, but it also requires coordination and core strength to move around the joint under load.

Let’s examine a front squat to help make this clear. A flexible person may reach the deep squat position, enabled by the flexibility in ankles, knees, and hips, but then lack the mobility (coordination and core strength) needed to correctly complete the exercise by standing up. Similarly, without flexibility, that person wouldn’t even begin to reach the range of motion needed for the deep position required for the front squat, so mobility isn’t even a factor without the proper flexibility.

The Affects of Age

When it comes to flexibility and mobility, age is definitely not on our side. As we age, we lose the elasticity in our muscles, and the tendons and ligaments tighten, making flexibility hard work. It’s not until someone suffers from poor movement patterns resulting in limited functional movement that causes injuries for someone to start trying to combat the effects of aging. (You can learn more about your own condition by having a Functional Movement Screening at NIFS.)

Movement vs. Static Hold

Lastly, when looking to improve and enhance these two concepts, mobility requires movement, whether we are testing for it or training to improve it. On the other hand, flexibility is done more often with a static hold. It’s safe to say that you could have excellent flexibility (the length of muscles required for a deep squat) but very poor mobility because you do not possess the ability to stand up out of a deep squat position under load.

Let me share with you a few helpful movements to further differentiate between these two concepts:

Flexibility Mobility
Elbow to instep Elbow to instep w/ oscillation
Half-kneeling ankle Ankle moving in and out
Knee hug Hip drop

                

Be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this series as I discuss the important addition of stability to your movement patterns.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise fitness muscles range of motion flexibility core mobility functional movement aging

Which Fitness Assessment Is Right for Me? Part 2: Functional Movement Screen (FMS)

FMS-New.jpgMaximize Your Workout with the Functional Movement Screen at NIFS

Everyone wants to move better, to maximize their potential in their workouts, and to be free of any aches and pains that linger in the body. Some of these issues within the body can stem from imbalances between your right and left sides. Or maybe the issues lie within your mobility (the ability of your body to move freely and easily) or stability (the ability to stay balanced in both static and dynamic movement). We all compensate with movement even though we feel like we are moving “normally.”

However, the good news is that the majority of these things are fixable through corrective exercises. So where do we go from here? How do we figure out what those imbalances are and what to do to get better?

An Assessment of Limitations and Imbalances

The answer is to start with a Functional Movement Screen, or FMS. The FMS will take you through seven basic movement patterns that encompass all movement and exercise. The FMS certified trainers are looking for different things within each of the seven tests to help them score the assessment and understand what is going on in the body. And don’t let the word tests or assessments scare you off; the FMS is designed for all ability levels and ages! From the elite athlete in the NFL to the everyday exerciser, the FMS will help to identify functional limitations and imbalances in each individual.

Watch this video for a quick look at the FMS.

Get Your List of Exercises

Then what? Great question! Now it’s time to get your list of corrective exercises. You will then be entered into a database called FMS360. With this, you can have full access to your scores from the screen, exercises that are safe for you to keep doing, things that you should steer clear of until you earn a better score, and exercises that will help you work to correct those imbalances. Our trainers can also help you through how to correctly perform the exercises that are given to you.

The secret to success: You must consistently do the correctives! These exercises are simple and easily can be added into a warmup as you prepare for your workout. Stay on top of them and don’t let days go by without completing them; it’s only for the betterment of your movement!

The FMS will allow you to move as you should. No matter where you are in your training plan, I would highly encourage you to get one now, improve your movement efficiency, and reduce the risk of injury.

To schedule your FMS, call the NIFS track desk at 317-274-3432 or email fitness@nifs.org.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

 This blog was written by Amanda Bireline. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS workout exercises mobility functional movement assessments

Readiness and Durability: Better Movement Warmups for Fitness Training

I used to work at a golf course during my time as a teacher. It was a great way to spend my summers and be close to a game I truly enjoy playing. I mainly mowed greens and tees and dug a bunch of holes. I really enjoyed that time of my life very much. On all of the mowers there was a sign that read, “If this equipment can’t work, nor can you.” I think the message is self-explanatory: if the equipment is not properly cared for, it is a very good possibility it will stop working, leading to loss of productivity and failure to complete the job.

I believe the same can be said for our approach to preparing the body for training so that the body (equipment) can work when you need it to accomplish the job at hand. The most critical step in this process is changing the perception of the “warmup” as a secondary or unnecessary part of a training program—something you can skip if you are short on time. In actuality, warmups should be a major part of your training program (if you are truly looking for results, that is).

Long ago I adopted, both for the people I work with and for my personal workouts, a process from a great coach on preparing the body for work. It involves four exercises in four major categories of movement preparation: mobility, stability, core engagement, and loco-motor (dynamic stretches and small plyometrics). For obvious reasons, this is referred to as a 4x4 approach to physical readiness and preparation.

Mobility Drills

Mobility drills refers to the exercises aimed at gaining and enhancing the range of motion in a particular joint. With a joint-by-joint, ground-up approach, these drills typically work to tackle mobility of the ankle, hip, thoracic and cervical spine, and shoulder. Here at NIFS, we work to mobilize movement patterns that involve these joints, and others, which we evaluate in a Functional Movement Screen.

Here are just two of my favorite mobility drills:

i. 1/2K—Abducted T-Spine Rotation
ii. Dynamic Pigeon—Knee & Foot

 
 
Wistia video thumbnail

 

Stability Drills

These drills work to help stabilize the mobility you just gained with the preceding drills. A mobile joint is a great start, but then you must stabilize it with exercises that will aid in alignment and strength of the joint. These exercises are generally used immediately after the mobility work to help in the retention of the alignment and position we are hoping to obtain. Check out a couple of these drills that you can add to your 4x4 warmup.

i. Band Lat. Walks
ii. Split Squat w/ Band Pull-apart

 
 
Wistia video thumbnail

 

Core Drills

Exercises in this phase of our preparation are to “fire up” the core to stabilize the trunk before loading the body with all the great tools we use in strength training and conditioning. A common practice is to save the “ab work” for last during your training session, which is all fine and good, but adding these to your 4x4 work before a weight is lifted can help your performance. A strong, “awake” center will keep you safe during your exercises and allow you to get the most out of them at the same time.

i. Foam Roller Dead Bug with Ext.
ii. Side plank and row

 
 
Wistia video thumbnail

 

Loco-motor Drills

After mobilizing and stabilizing the system, now it’s time to energize it! These drills are used to increase the body and tissue temperature that will prepare your body for the strength and conditioning work that lies ahead. These drills are typically fast and fun, and can combine some dynamic stretching with basic calisthenics. These can be as simple as a jumping jack or lateral lunges, or these two gems:

i. Snowboarders
ii. Sprinter Lunge

 
 
Wistia video thumbnail

***

To prepare your body for work and to limit the chances of injury, you must perform a proper warmup. No more skipping a major part of your training session! As soon as you begin to look at the 4x4 warmup as a must-do, the harder it will be to work without it.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: functional training core videos warmups mobility movement stability loco-motor drills

Powerlifting Prep Lesson #3: The Deadlift

IMG_4534.jpgIn my previous posts, Powerlifting Prep Lesson #1: The Squat and Powerlifting Prep Lesson #2: The Bench, we took a look at how managing the three key principles of mobility, stability, and tension can have a huge impact on your ability to perform those two lifts at a high level while decreasing the chance of injury. We turn now to the big daddy of them all, the deadlift!

This hinging/pulling lift is easily one of the most popular lifts on the planet, and everybody wants to pull a huge bar from the ground and slam it back down. There really is no feeling like it. And not only does it look pretty cool on Instagram, the deadlift is one of the most functional exercises you can do that transfers very nicely to the outside world. Since the dawn of time we have picked up heavy things and set them back down, essentially doing deadlifts day in and day out. In the powerlifting world, the deadlift is where champions can be forged, or injuries suffered.

So let’s break down this giant lift, focusing on the three key principles introduced earlier:

  • Mobility: The full range of motion of a particular joint(s).
  • Stability: Alignment, with integrity, under load.
  • Tension: Defined with terms such as stiffness and phrases like “bending the bar,” and “spread the floor.”

Mobility

You might think that mobility would not play a big role in this lift, but like most weightlifting movements, it’s imperative. I hope I have done a good job in this series of posts to stress that it all starts with mobility. Strength, power, endurance, and any physical attribute must start at mobility, if you want to be the best that there is. The deadlift is no exception; and if you can’t touch your toes, you probably need to take a few steps back before heavy loading the deadlift.

The deadlift is a hinge pattern, so we will start there by focusing on the active straight-leg raise to monitor and improve the mobility of that pattern. A great place to start is with a leg-lower exercise or a kettlebell butt touch exercise to help improve your mobility for the deadlift.

Stability

For stability, take one more look at the active straight-leg-raise pattern to ensure you capture the mobility you gained through the two movements described above. The lying leg raise with core activation looks a lot like the leg-lowering exercise from above, as it should, but here you are adding stability to the mobility you just gained. Trunk stability is key in the deadlift; without it, spines tend to hyper-flex and lead to injury. Planks and plank variations are always a great place to start, as well as loaded carries and dynamic-stability movements such as a sandbag plank drag to challenge and train the musculature of the trunk so you can pull more weight safely.

Next, and just as with the squat and the bench, intra-abdominal pressure will also be key in pulling the most weight possible. Remember to “fill the can” by inhaling fully and pressing the air against your belt during the set-up and first phase of the deadlift. This again will help fire all of the muscles of the trunk to provide maximum stability during the lift. If you want to learn more about breathing and stability in loaded movements, check out this article from Mike Reinold as he breaks down this concept even more.

Tension

Tension in the deadlift starts with grip! Many studies correlate grip strength to overall strength, so the stronger the grip the bigger the deadlift. Loaded carries and all the variations are my go-to to help train grip strength as well as any pulling motions such as chin-ups and inverted rows.

In the other two lifts I referred to “bending the bar” as a cue to create tension in the system (body) during the lift. In the deadlift, I want you to think about taking that tension out of the bar by preloading the system before pulling the bar from the ground. Pull the bar toward your body without it leaving the ground; you should hear the plates make a kind of clicking noise. This will fire the lats and other spinal musculature to brace before accepting the load of the bar. Ideally in doing so, your entire body will move as one system, like a crane lifting a two-ton I-beam. This will make you a stronger unit to pull the bar off the ground and help eliminate hyper-flexing in the spine that can lead to a bad injury.

***

Executed correctly, the deadlift is a super-functional and super strength-building exercise. It is also one of the more exciting lifts in any powerlifting competition, and it’s sure to make some noise once again at the NIFS 5th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 10. Registration is full, but you should still come out and support all the athletes competing. It is a great show of strength, competition, and sportsmanship and great way to spend a Saturday morning in November!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS weightlifting powerlifting competition mobility deadlift stability tension