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Online Fitness Recommendations – Stuck at home? Workout online!

Online Fitness Recommendations

by Terri Sullivan, PT, DPT, Orthopedic Clinical Specialist

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You’re at home due to COVID-19.  You’re going stir crazy.  You can’t go to the gym.  You’ve been exercising outside acknowledging the 6 foot social distancing rule, but you want something more.  Something you can do at home when the weather is crummy or it’s dark outside.  Here are several blogs and free apps that are available to help keep yourself active and in shape. 

 Mommastrong
This was recently recommended to me by a fellow practitioner and they thought the women who created it does a great job with providing several levels and modifying exercises to help those remotely.  Initially, it’s free, but you can pay for more.   

https://www.mommastrong.com/ 

 

SWEAT
This is also a more female based workout app and you have to pay to sign up, but they have several options depending on your needs.   

https://www.sweat.com/ 

 

7 Minute Workout
I’ve had several patients recommend this app to me.  Granted, you have lots of time right now, but this is a great way to fit exercise while working from home and taking care of family matters.  Oh, and it’s free! 

https://www.workoutinc.net/ 

 

JEFIT
Are you lonely at home and want to feel a part of an exercise community?  This is another great exercise app that is also free and has options to pay for more services.   

https://www.jefit.com/ 

 

As for yoga, here is one app and one streaming option: 

Down dog
This is a wonderful, free app that I’ve recommended to many patients.   You can choose the level of expertise, the length of time you have, the type and what you want to target.  It’s awesome because you can download it on your phone and do it anywhere! 

https://www.downdogapp.com/ 

 

Yoga with Adriene
I stream this women’s website often for my own practice and I recommend this all the time.  She is very mindful about cues, she goes slow, and there are a multitude of free videos available online.   Plus, I love her dog Benji! 

https://yogawithadriene.com/ 

 

Stay healthy and safe out there!   

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates

5 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates 

Guest Blog by Allison Moss

Before I share Allison’s awesome blog post, I want to thank her and Club Pilates on Mercer Island for opening up their doors to us.  As a physical therapist, I am always trying to find ways for patients to either become more active or to diversify how they move to maintain a healthy movement system. Pilates is a great option, and Allison does a great job of explaining more…

Take it away, Allison.

Pilates has blown up in the U.S. these last few years and it has everyone wondering what it is about this system that has people flocking into the studios. Pilates is a progressive approach to modern-day fitness that helps people from all walks of life come into the studio with confidence that their instructor will know how to safely and effectively give them the best workout for their body. Whether you are dealing with an injury, recovering from a surgery or just wanting to add in another form of exercise; Pilates has you covered! So, let’s take a look at a few reasons you should consider trying Pilates.

  1. Pilates focuses on the powerhouse, which is the core and back muscles or the midsection of your body. These muscles initiate and support our every movement and also help to protect our spine by strengthening the muscles that surround it. The Pilates Method develops a significantly strengthened core through specifically targeted exercises using fun and integrated techniques to challenge you with every class.
  2. Pilates is a gentle workout that isn’t going to harm the body which is mainly done on an apparatus called a Reformer. The Reformer is a bed like structure and has a carriage that is on wheels and uses resistance via springs connected underneath. Laying down and being able to work out horizontally allows you to use a resistance that is lighter than your body which is very useful for anyone going thru physical therapy or with any medical conditions.
  3. Pilates provides a full-body workout, making sure that you leave every class feeling balanced, energized and focused. Paying attention to all planes of the body, Pilates offers a whole-body commitment in every class. Connecting your mind and body to each exercise helps you understand how and why you benefit from Pilates exercises and keeps you coming back for the same good feeling every time you leave.
  4. Pilates instructors really know their stuff. A major requirement for instructors is that they know anatomy and have knowledge of injuries and medical conditions and how Pilates can help with each one. They look at the why behind each exercise and provide safe progressions for those who are ready by layering on their exercises, this means by starting with the basic foundations of the movements and adding on progressions so that everyone gets the work out they are looking for.
  5. Every class is a new experience. Pilates instructors strive to bring new innovative techniques to keep the classes fun, engaging and challenging while still keeping all the original concepts and principles. Awareness, breath, control and efficiency play a huge part in every exercise and while they keep things fun and new these are always the upmost focus of each class.

 

 

Hamstring tightness? Should you be stretching or strengthening?

Hamstring tightness? Should you be stretching or strengthening?

Corley McBeth, DPT

Many people struggle with hamstring ‘tightness’ despite regular, sometimes daily, stretching. The tightness never seems to go away. Let’s talk about why this is happening and what you can do about it.

The hamstrings are comprised of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. They are the primary bulk of muscle on the back of the thigh – originating on your ischial tuberosity (or “sits bone”) and running down behind the knee, where they attach on the bones of the lower leg (the tibia and fibula). This means that the hamstrings cross two joints, the hip and the knee. They are the primary flexors of the knee joint (meaning they bend the knee), as well as secondary hip extensors (meaning they help straighten the hip). The hamstrings also assist in providing rotational control at the knee, in addition to pelvic stability due to their anchoring role at the ischial tuberosities. They also play a role in deceleration when they contract eccentrically (meaning they are contracting while lengthening). This serves to slow the rate of knee extension, such as when you are trying to slow down from running to walking.

When we are focusing on stretching a muscle, it is important to differentiate muscle ‘shortness’ from ‘tightness.’ True muscle shortness is a structural issue related to a decrease in the length of the muscle fibers. Muscles become shortened due to immobilization or disuse, most often associated with casts/braces or non-weight bearing status following an injury and/or surgery. When muscles have shortened in this manner, it is called a contracture.

Muscle ‘tightness’ on the other hand, is neurologically driven and is a sensation associated with a muscle remaining in a contracted or tense state. Often the muscle is receiving input telling it to contract because the body is trying to generate stability. The nervous system may be increasing tone in the muscle as a protective response. The sensation of tightness might lead us to believe we need to stretch that muscle; however, providing input that stabilizes rather than stretches will likely be more effective in these situations.

“Muscle ‘tightness,’ on the other hand, is neurologically driven and is a sensation associated with a muscle remaining in a contracted or tense state.”

 

In many individuals experiencing ‘tight’ hamstrings, the hamstrings may actually be relatively overlengthened for optimal performance of a specific task. To improve postural control at the pelvis and/or knee, the nervous system will send excitatory input telling hamstrings to contract.  Without sufficient tension in the hamstrings (force production), the movement strategy for a particular task will be achieved through compensatory strategies impacting the performance of other muscles such as the abdominals, back extensors, hip flexors, etc. For example, consider lifting a heavy object from the floor using a hip bending strategy (i.e. deadlifting).  Without sufficient tension from the hamstrings, back extensors will create more compression on the spine.  One can debate whether this is good or bad for the back.

“Tight” muscles, despite the fact they are remaining in a relatively contracted state, are not necessarily strong muscles.  It may mean strengthening is the best course.

If you experience chronic hamstring ‘tightness,’ or have a history of hamstring strain and/or low back pain it is recommended to seek out a physical therapist for a formal evaluation. Expert advice based upon your specific experience and goals is very effective. An individualized assessment will help to address your mobility, stability, and overall movement patterns, which will increase the effectiveness of your stretching and strengthening routine.

Corley McBeth, DPT

Yoga 101: Tips to make the most of your Yoga practice

Yoga 101: Tips to make the most of your Yoga practice

By Terri Sullivan DPT, OCS

 

I’ve practiced yoga for over 15 years. Initially when I was practicing, the emphasis was on stretching. With more intensive study, however, I learned more details about the poses and integrated it into my practice as well as how I teach others to enhance their practice.  For example, a key question to ask is “Are you using your legs?”  You should be.  Strength and feeling certain muscles groups during poses is extremely important.  The more grounded, stable, aligned, and strong a person is in their pose, the less chance of injury.   Below, I’ve profiled a few common yoga poses, proper alignment of the legs, and which leg muscles should be targeted during practice.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

  • Keep weight balanced in the 4 corners of each foot
  • Toe mound down
  • Move from the ankle to help pull up arch vs tensing arch
  • Firm muscles of the legs (glut med, quads) without locking the knees
  • Create energetic lift from inner foot to the pelvis

 

Warrior 2 (Virabradasana 2)

  • Back foot turned in slightly, but still connecting with all four corners of the foot, hip in slight internal rotation
  • Front knee moved out towards pinky toe to help feel the deep hip lateral rotators
  • Press into front heel to help pull up through the inner thigh
  • Top of the pelvis level with the floor

 

Serpent Pose (Bhujangasana)

  • Anchor the pubic bone, ASIS, or whole pelvis to the floor, making sure the core is engaged and there is no back pain
  • Move the sacrum away from the lumbar spine
  • Lightly tighten the gluts, but not clenched
  • Feet straight, not turned in or out
  • Lightly squeezing the inner thighs towards each other to help recruit the pelvic floor

 

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

  • Unlock the knees by turning the legs on (to help prevent hyperextension) pulling up with inner thighs and quads
  • Externally rotate front femur bone while keeping the front big toe mound down
  • Tilt pelvis over front leg without curving the spine

 

 

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

  • Feet hip with apart and parallel, heels directly under knees
  • Roll outer thighs in
  • Elongate tailbone with a tail tuck
  • Pressing into heels to feel the gluts and hamstrings

 

Terri Sullivan DPT, OCS, Certified Yoga Instructor

 

Why you should be deadlifting

Why You Should Be Deadlifting

By Corley McBeth, DPT

 

There seems to be no exercise more effective than the deadlift in instilling fear in the hearts of patients. I cannot tell you the number of excuses, hesitations, and outright refusals I have heard regarding its performance. It would seem that we still mistakenly believe that the squat is the safest and most optimal way of lifting and moving load (thanks WebMD), but I am here to tell you that just is not the case. Mechanically speaking, the deadlift, when performed correctly, is the proper way to lift – whether it be a case of wine, a heavy moving box, or a piece of furniture. It is the ultimate functional movement.

So why are we so terrified of it? Usually it’s something along the lines of “my back is weak/sore/painful” or “that’s how I hurt myself” or “but I might hurt my back”. However none of those are a good reason to avoid it – in fact, those are all reasons you should be doing it! There are many contributing causes to back pain. Back pain can stem from weak glutes and hamstrings making it difficult to effectively move the load you required of the task. It can also come from weak spinal erectors and/or weak abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. A properly performed deadlift challenges your body to maintain a specific spinal position thereby training it to remain stable when exposed to high shear forces. You will get more benefit from a properly performed deadlift than you will from hundreds of crunches or a 3-minute plank hold.

This is because deadlifts are a total body exercise. Not only does the deadlift help facilitate strong and powerful glute and hamstring muscles and effectively challenge your core, it also places greater demand on the upper body than a squat. Squats don’t have the same effect on your scapula and rotator cuff in terms of stability, nor do they require the same muscle activity from your biceps and latissimus dorsi muscles. Deadlifts are also one of the safest weight lifting exercises to perform – you aren’t going to get pinned under weight or risk getting pulled over backward. They don’t require a spotter, you simply drop the weight if you get into trouble.

That being said, deadlifts, when performed correctly, are not bad for your back. Poorly performed deadlifts, regardless of weight, can place you at risk of injury. One must first have the required mobility as well as the appropriate stability, in order to perform a deadlift with proper form. And no, it’s not just for powerlifters. Deadlifts can be and should be performed by just about everybody.  Sure, you may need instruction and supervision during the learning process. There are many variations and modifications to allow for a safe and appropriate progression to lifting and moving heavy loads with the deadlift. Your physical therapist or other trained fitness professional can help to properly assess and instruct you in the correct performance of this movement (see video below for an example, but please use feedback for practice). Keep doing your squats, but don’t neglect the deadlift – your glutes, hamstrings and core will thank you.