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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Shouldering the Load: Safe Alternatives to the Overhead Press Pattern

_68R6419In my experience over the years working with folks from all walks of life to help improve their strength, mobility, performance, and overall fitness I have found that so many suffer from immobility in two major joints: the ankle and the shoulder, which is the focus of this piece. Lifestyle, occupation, inactivity, and overtraining are all culprits robbing so many of healthy range of motion in the shoulder and shoulder girdle.

Throughout the history of fitness and muscle, one of the sexiest exercises is the overhead press (OHP). The overhead press is used as an assessment of one’s strength, it’s involved in the popular Olympic lifts and many activities of daily living, and it feels pretty darn good to lift something heavy up over your head. With so many variations that can develop strength and stability in the upper body, the overhead press can be a phenomenal tool in a training toolbox.

Questions to Ask Yourself

There are many benefits to the overhead press exercise, but what if you suffer from immobility in the shoulder or have suffered an injury that has made the vertical press pattern difficult or painful? There are some options for you that can keep you safe while reaping the many benefits of the vertical press movement pattern. Before we get to those, however, I’ll ask a couple of questions.

What are your desired fitness outcomes and goals?

“If you think it, INK IT!” is a practice I learned long ago from a great coach, and for years I have been insisting clients write down what they hope to accomplish along their fitness journey. If you don’t know where you want to go, it will be difficult to formulate the map to get you there. Take the time to reflect, develop, and write your fitness goals before starting any fitness program.

How will the overhead press exercise help you get there?

Pretty straightforward question: how will the overhead press exercise help get you to where you want to go? Depending on your goals, the OHP may play a major role, or it might play a minor role in your success.

How do you know whether you should be including the overhead press in your training?

Once you have established your fitness outcomes and how the overhead press can assist in obtaining those outcomes, it is important to determine whether the overhead press is a safe exercise to include in your training. Your best first step is to complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) that will provide some crucial information to your fitness programming. First and foremost, the FMS, specifically the Shoulder Mobility Screen, will determine whether there is pain involved with the overhead position. If there is pain, you will need to see a medical professional to tackle that before anything else should happen.

A score of 1 on the Shoulder Mobility Screen signifies that, among other things, you should exclude overhead pressing from your training until the pattern is cleaned up and you are no longer scoring a 1 on the screen. A score of 2 or 3 means the vertical pressing motion can be included in your training safely. Schedule your FMS with one of NIFS instructors today to ensure you are able and safe to include the overhead press exercise in your programming.

Overhead/Vertical Press Options

Once you have your screen from your NIFS certified pro, you now know where you stand to shoulder the load. If you are cleared to press overhead, I say have at it and press on! But if you are directed to stay away from strict overhead pressing, here are a few options that can provide many of the same benefits from the overhead press while working in a safer shoulder space.

  • Landmine Press: 1/2K and Standing
  • Landmine Arc press: 1/2K and standing
  • Incline DB press: SA and double arm
  • Jammer Press

Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.52.08 AM

Shoulder health, strength, and stability are so important in training and, more importantly, everyday living. The vertical press options here are great ways to continue to bulletproof your shoulders, and the best first step is to get screened and take care of your shoulders prior to heavy loading. One simple and highly effective way to tackle shoulder health is to add the “dead hang” into your training program. Learn more in Lauren’s recent post covering this effective drill. Stay shoulder safe!

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

Topics: shoulders injury prevention muscles weight lifting strength exercises videos mobility upper body stability overhead press shoulder mobility

Just Hanging Out for Shoulder Health and Pain Relief

GettyImages-172901773How many times have you looked around a room full of people and seen nearly everyone buried in their phones? Their shoulders are slumped forward and their head is hung low. Or maybe you’re at work, and everyone’s busy composing emails with that same forward head position? Chances are, it won’t be long before you notice this posture elsewhere, and it can wreak havoc when it comes to the health of your shoulders.

Although it varies from year to year, research has found that the prevalence of reported chronic shoulder pain in the United States ranges anywhere from 23% in 18–24-year-olds to just over 50% in those 55 to 64 years old. This can be the result of a variety of factors such as previous acute injury, musculoskeletal imbalances, or dysfunctional movement patterns and compensations that over time accumulate to cause pain.

What Does the Good Doctor Say?

Dr. John M. Kirsch is a practicing orthopedic surgeon with over 30 years of experience in treating patients with wide-ranging issues when it comes to the shoulder girdle. He is the author of Shoulder Pain? The Solution & Prevention, in which he details exercise and rehabilitative exercise protocols to help alleviate or eliminate shoulder pain. He found that in 90% of his patient population who were expected to have shoulder surgery, prescribing one movement as an alternative actually eliminated their pain altogether. And this movement is the brachial dead hang.

What Is a Brachial Dead Hang?

A brachial hang describes a vertical hanging pattern from a fixed point. Think back to when you were a kid on the playground. We climbed up and down structures and swung from the monkey bars during recess. This was routine. This hanging movement acts to positively change the structure of the shoulder girdle itself. Evolutionarily speaking, we were literally built to hang; it goes hand in hand with our physiology. However, when we spend years and years hunched over, gravity, along with lifestyle changes, makes it easier for the shoulder to be chronically stuck in an anterior, rolled-forward position. This can not only exacerbate any underlying shoulder injury, but can also cause dysfunction of its own, leading to potential impingements and pain.

The act of hanging works to reverse this shackled pattern that arises over time. It also aids in spinal decompression, encouraging appropriate space between the ribs, and allowing for more effective breathing mechanics as well.

How Do You Build Hanging into Your Routine?

If you’ve never hung from a pull-up bar before, the goal is to start small and gradually work your way up to supporting your full body weight. Specifically, start with a box underneath you so that you will have your feet touching the ground. Gradually let your body weight carry you down while keeping your feet on the ground, and support as much of your weight on the bar as you can tolerate. Hold this position for 10 seconds, resting for as long as needed, before trying another 10-second hang.

Dr. Kirsch has recommended hanging for up to 1.5 minutes per day, in whatever increments you can tolerate. This could be bouts of 10, 15, or 30 seconds depending on your grip strength. So the next time you’re in the gym or passing your local park, try giving a dead hang a shot. It could help quiet down some of those cranky shoulders.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: shoulders stretching pain exercises posture spine

10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises (Part 2)

Salutations NIFS blog followers! Welcome back! In part 1, I discussed how to perform effective pushups, improved treadmill walking efficiency, and a more challenging way to do the classic bicep curl, making these more effective exercises. Understandably, we all have our own idea of what a workout should look like, which exercises work best, and which exercises make us almost want to quit. Here I continue our mission to take your fitness knowledge library to the next level.

4. Behind-the-Head Lat Pull-Downs


In most gyms, a good trainer will tell you not to perform a behind-the-head pull-down, but we must ask ourselves, “why not?” If you have the luxury of having a good trainer, they will tell you it is because it is bad for your rotator cuffs, which is mostly true. I feel that even if you are doing this exercise and not experiencing pain, it’s still not a natural movement for your body to perform.

I recommend doing a standard lat pull-down, in which the bar comes to about eye level (or the bottoms of the arms are parallel to the floor) in front of the face. Not only will this be a safer movement, it is more akin to what your end goal could be: standard pull-ups.

back-lateral

    front-lateral

5. Weighted Torso Rotation Machine

The idea here is simple: Train your core like any other muscle group with the ease of a machine. The bad news is that your spine and disks in your back aren’t meant to be under that kind of stress, which can be a big problem for individuals with weaker cores. I would avoid this machine if possible and replace the exercise with some modern gym science.

One option is a side plank reach. While performing a side plank, reach through the space between your body and the floor. Our core can respond to mobility training, but this requires stability as well, making for one tough exercise. No weights are required, and you can modify by going to one knee on the bottom side.

torso-rotation side-plank

6. Stability Ball Bench Press

Of all the exercises we will discuss, the stability ball bench press may be considered one of the most dangerous. The idea of using a stability ball is appealing for individuals who want to get the most out of their training and improve core strength and balance, but what they do not realize is that there is a stability ball weight capacity. The ball is intended to support your body weight, not your body weight plus 75-pound dumbbells. If you are a 200-pound person using 150 pounds of weight on a stability ball with a capacity of 350 pounds, you can easily see where the danger arises. In a worst-case scenario, the ball bursts, you end up with a broken back, and life won’t be the same again.

If you are interested in a good core challenge while doing bench press, try single-arm dumbbell press on a normal flat bench. It’s the same as traditional dumbbell bench press, except with only one dumbbell. To counteract the imbalance on the bench, your core has to work just that much more to stay on the bench. Be sure to do both sides.

stability-ball-press bench-press

7. Knees-over-the-Toes Squat

The idea that squatting over the toes is bad dates back many years, almost so long ago that a lot of people have no idea why it’s bad. A common misconception is that it causes way too much stress on the knee and could cause injury. This can’t be 100 percent true because in day-to-day life as well as athletic performances, we track our knees over our toes, and many times it will be in a higher-stress event such as doing heavy yard work or scrimmaging in volleyball. The underlying problem with knees-over-the-toes squats is the tendency to lean forward as we squat, which shifts our hips out of position and in turn our back out of alignment.

For starters, I would start over, developing a new squat pattern from the ground up, known as a primitive squat. A primitive squat, not unlike what our ancestors used for day-to-day tasks, is a good place to begin reprogramming your lower body. Use a TRX for assistance and squat as low as possible without weight, pausing at the bottom for a brief moment. Stay back on your heels as though you are sitting in a chair. If you are experiencing tightness, hang out at the bottom of the squat to stretch and loosen up the muscles. As unnatural as it feels, primitive squats are one of the most natural exercise positions your body will ever be in and will also help if you are invited to have a cultural dinner experience in Tokyo.

Squat-new TRX-squat

This concludes part 2 of “10 Better Ways to Do 10 Exercises.” As you can see, there are many topics to discuss. Skip to Part 3 for exercises 8 through 10: the dangers of rotating shoulder shrugs, are weighted sit-ups worthwhile, and what can a kip pull-up do for me? Until next time, muscle heads rejoice and evolve!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

 

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Topics: fitness center equipment shoulders injury prevention muscles core dumbbell exercises

Thomas’s Corner: Using Tennis Balls for Self Myofascial Release

By now, you may have been to the gym a few times and have seen or even tried using the foam rollers. As we have learned from NIFS Personal Trainer Kris Simpson in her blog, foam rollers are a great way to loosen up the muscles by promoting flexibility, blood circulation, and recovery through self myofascial release. Although foam rolling is great, we can take the self myofascial release techniques a step further by implementing a commonly found piece of fitness gear, the tennis ball (or lacrosse ball).

Differences Between Foam Rollers and a Tennis Ball

A tennis ball or lacrosse ball can be used as a tool for applying self myofascial release to the muscle, similar to foam rolling. Differences between foam rolling and tennis ball rolling go beyond the obvious. Visually, a foam roller is traditionally a cylindrical, foam object and can be rather bulky, which would be fine for large muscle groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, or latissimus dorsi. The tennis ball is much smaller and round, giving it the ability to reach smaller areas and pinpoint tight, sore muscles. This is great news for small-muscle issues, but it is not exactly practical for total body myofascial release.myofascial release

How to Use a Tennis Ball for Self Myofascial Release

Some examples of areas on which I like to utilize a tennis ball or lacrosse ball(pictured) include the hip flexor, the glute, and the shoulder blade. Follow these steps:

  1. Rest your body weight (as much as you can handle) on the tennis ball.
  2. Support yourself with your opposite-side leg and foot or with your upper body (depending on the areamyofascial release you are targeting).
  3. Then, roll over your target area, pinpointing and triggering muscles that otherwise may have been missed by the bigger foam roller.

Foam rolling and tennis ball rolling intensity can be determined by increasing or decreasing the size, shape, and hardness of the tool. The various tools you bring to the table will ultimately determine the experience you have with myofascial release.

myofascial release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are new to self myofascial release or want to experience some new rolling techniques and tips, meet with a NIFS health fitness specialist or personal trainer to get started on your way to wellness excellence. A more fit day is right around the corner.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS Thomas' Corner shoulders injury prevention muscles flexibility stretching

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) at NIFS

Over the last several weeks a lot of you may have gottenFMS logo
a small taste of our new movement screen. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) will be our new way to assess movement-pattern quality. Movement training is somewhat new and looks at fundamental movements and motor control rather than isolated joint movements. Its purpose is to find dysfunctions so that they can be rectified and your chance for injury decreases.

The FMS Movement Tests

The FMS is made up of seven movement tests that can be divided into three sections. There are two tests that measure mobility, two tests that measure stability, and three tests that measure function. All of these tests coincide with each other so that we don’t miss anything. If you can FMS screeningmove pretty well at one test, it will eventually find a restriction or asymmetry/imbalance at some point if you have any. Our job is to identify any weaknesses, limitations, imbalances, or asymmetries so that we can immediately prescribe you a corrective strategy to reduce your chance for injury and increase fitness results.

Increasing Fitness Results and Reducing Injuries

As a staff, we are always looking for ways to improve our members’ safety and training, and our effectiveness to get results. Having a reliable way to assess movement allows us to program specifically for your needs and really zero in on what you need to achieve the best results. One of the reasons people hit plateaus is because their movement restricts how much they are able to do. So the FMS helps build a functional platform so that you can first move well and then move often. Essentially, if you try and move often first before you move well, your chance for injury goes up and your chances of seeing major results go down.

Scoring the Functional Movement Screen

Each test is graded from 0 to 3. A 0 indicates that there is pain during that specific movement. A score of 1 indicates that there is a dysfunction and the chance of injury greatly increases. A score of 2 is acceptable, and a 3 is considered optimal movement. A scoring system helps know whether the program we are prescribing is working and shows you specific results. The bottom line is if you are moving better, the chances of you getting injured are going down and your ability to get results is going up.

Modifying Training Based on FMS Scores

Lastly, if there is a dysfunction present, it is our job to put you in the best possible position to succeed and to stay injury free. This means that we will modify your training to correct your dysfunction as quickly as possible so that you can get back to the things that you are used to doing, but doing them more efficiently. If you are tired of not seeing results, the path that you continually take isn’t working.

Let us help you by taking you through the FMS, taking a step back from your misguided approach, and working on the small things that will help you achieve big results. Learn more about the FMS at NIFS, and sign up today!

This blog was written by Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, FMS. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

Topics: fitness center functional training shoulders NIFS programs injury prevention muscles range of motion

Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Performance Series, Shoulder Care

Shoulder Care: The Rotator Cuff

In this post I want to go over the basic anatomy of the rotator cuff, the functions of its parts, and some exercises that can help strengthen your shoulder stabilizers to keep your shoulders healthy. The shoulder tends to be a problem with not only athletes but in the general population as well. The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints we have, so when we are working up the kinetic chain we want to work on its overall stability so that we can protect it from injury.

ROTATOR CUFF

Anatomy of the Shoulder

First and foremost, the rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder connecting the upper arm (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff’s main purpose is to hold the head of the humerus in the glenoid (shoulder) cavity. Below are the rotator cuff muscles and their main functions.

 

The muscles in the rotator cuff include the following:    

  • Supraspinatus: Abducts the shoulder in the first 30 degrees.
  • Infraspinatus: External rotation.
  • Teres minor: External rotation.
  • Subscapularis: Internal rotation.

 You can remember these using the acronym SITS.

Exercises for Shoulder Stability

Now that you have a basic understanding of the shoulder’s anatomy and functions, let’s go over exercises that help improve strength and overall stability of the shoulder.

Supraspinatus (Abduction)

Infraspinatus and Teres Minor (External Rotation/ER)

Subscapularis (Internal Rotation/IR)

Grip Strength and Stability

Performing exercises that challenge your grip strength is another great way to improve the stability in the shoulder. These exercises target the entire shoulder instead of focusing on one muscle. Examples here include KB bottoms up variations such as half kneeling single-arm bottoms-up press or bottoms up walk.

Programming

As a strength coach, I deal with overhead and throwing athletes on a daily basis, so keeping the shoulders healthy is a big part of my job. My goal is always to keep the shoulders healthy and strong instead of waiting until they are completely out of competition due to injury. Shoulder care exercises are not just for throwing athletes. These exercises can benefit all athletes and should be integrated into your weekly training program.

The biggest concern that I deal with on a daily basis is fighting overuse injuries. Overuse injuries account for most of the shoulder injuries, and so I have to find a balance to keep their shoulders healthy. My pitchers are required to do some sort of shoulder care each day that they are in. This past year my pitchers were doing mostly supraspinatus strengthening and everyone else did more external and internal rotation exercises.

Depending on what is in your workout for the day, you can complete these either before or after the strength portion of your workout. If you have pressing, pulling, or any overhead exercises, they should be done first to activate the shoulder musculature to reduce the chance for injury. If it is more of a lower-body workout, you can finish your workout with some shoulder care exercises.

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of the importance of shoulder care, the benefits of strengthening your rotator cuff, and how to implement these exercises so that your shoulders can feel better than ever.

This blog was written by trainer Josh Jones, MS, CSCS, USAW, NIFS Center for Athletic Performance. Read more about the NIFS bloggers here.

Topics: fitness center workouts shoulders flexibility strength