TIGHT HAMSTRINGS are a common contributor to BACK PAIN!
There are lots of ways to stretch your hamstrings, and here's one:
Find a step or chair to prop one foot up on, and lean forward at the hips, pulling your belly button toward your thigh (not hunching over to bend your back). Lean until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your thigh, and hold for about 30 seconds on each side.
This may help your low back pain, because your hamstrings affect your pelvis position, and this can put stress on your low back.
Remember, there are LOTS of causes of back pain, so it's always best to get it checked out by a PT or your Dr!).
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP
Unfortunately, knee pain is common. The good news is, many cases of knee pain can be prevented, treated, and reduced or eliminated with proper treatment and exercise!
Here are a few tips for dealing with you knee pain. Remember, knee pain has many causes, and if you’re dealing with acute pain, severe pain, or knee pain from trauma, you should see your doctor or physical therapist to find the cause of your knee pain.
Air squats Backward lunges
Glute bridges Single leg balance
Calf raises Donkey kicks
Calf stretch 1 Calf stretch 2
Quad stretch Hamstring stretch
When should you see a doctor? If your pain is new, very painful, or persistent, it is a good idea to see a doctor or physical therapist right away and get advice on what treatment you may require or what your next steps should be.
By: Lisa Bartz, Certified Exercise Physiologist (C-EP)
It is interesting to walk into a gym and watch how people exercise. Some people hurry through their reps, while others are very slow and precise. Some look as though they are using their entire body when exercising, while some are very still and have few moving parts. The common theme is that people can look very different when performing the same exercise. So, you might be asking, which is the best way?
I’m glad you asked, because I am very passionate about performing exercises correctly. First of all, it’s important to do things correctly so you do not injure yourself. Using poor form, or too much weight with an exercise (which will create poor form) will often lead to injuries. Secondly, using incorrect form involves compensation, which we will discuss further. Third, if you hurry through your reps, you will not get nearly as much benefit as if you do slow, controlled reps.
Let’s examine each of these points further. In terms of form, we want to not only perform the exercise correctly in order to achieve the desired results, but we also don’t want to injure ourselves. Proper exercise technique not only maximizes the benefit of the exercise, but it puts you in the safest position to perform the exercise. Using the proper amount of weight will allow you to use correct form and avoid compensation, which can lead to injury.
People often compensate when they have a weak muscle or group of muscles. The body is very good at compensating, but unfortunately long term compensation will lead to dysfunction, which leads to pain. An example would be someone with shoulder weakness. Say they are performing shoulder presses, and the shoulder cannot handle the amount of stress that is being placed upon it. The brain will tell other muscles to help, which could include the neck muscles or even the low back. Continued performance of this compensation can lead to issues in other areas of the body.
Tempo of exercise is also important. The most common error is to perform the exercise too fast. This often involves using momentum to swing the weight upward, and allowing the weight to fall back down. Proper technique involves controlling the weight; lifting it slowly and precisely, then lowering it down slowly and precisely. Slow, controlled exercise is much more safe and effective. I would much rather see someone perform 10 slow, controlled reps than 30 fast, uncontrolled reps.
That is just a quick summary of the importance of exercise form. If you would like more information, or would like to have us check out your exercise form, we have the PT’s for you! Give us a call at 616-662-0990 and we’ll make sure that you’re getting the maximum benefit from your exercises!
By: Mason Riegel, PT
FMS Level 1 & 2 Certified, SFMA Certified
Kettlebells are one of the most underrated pieces of workout equipment around. They can be added to almost any type of workout and is a great way to progress the workout. Here are a few exercises to try with a kettlebell:
1. The Swing – a lot of people do this exercise incorrectly; take a look back at our blog on kettlebell swings to learn the correct way!
2. Squats – Goblet squats, squats with a single-arm shoulder press, jump squats – there are many different ways to do this with a kettlebell!
3. Bilateral Row - Grab two kettlebells. Place them in front of the feet and bend the knees slightly. Bend over to grab both kettlebells and pull them towards the stomach, keeping the elbows close to the body and the back straight.
4. Lunges – Maybe lunges are too easy for you and you want some challenge, try them with a kettlebell, or two! Have one kettlebell will challenge your balance, while two will push your strength. If you mastered that and want to progress even further, try alternating legs with the kettlebell elevated above your head.
5. Crunches and “Cherry Pickers” – Try using a kettlebell with crunches to add more resistance. “Cherry Pickers” are doing a crunch with alternating twisting to each side every time.
By: Becca Popma
Summer is in full swing, and you may already be more active than you've been all year! It's a great time to exercise because it's warm out, there's no ice to slip on, and you can get some Vitamin D while exercising.
Here's a few ways to improve your health and up your exercise game this summer!
1. Go outside and walk or run! If you don't like walking or running, bike or swim - find a cardio exercise that you enjoy!
2. Incorporate a strengthening routine a couple days per week! Focus on large muscle groups using exercises like squats, rows, push-ups, and planks. Make some of your exercises complex movements to target more muscles, like bicep curls with a shoulder press, or push-ups with a single-arm row, or squats with a lateral raise. Vary your exercise routine to continue challenging your body and developing different muscles!
3. Add some stretches to your workouts at the end. Stretching is most effective when your muscles are already warm, so do it after a walk or after your strengthening exercises. A few areas to focus on are your hamstrings, hip-flexors, IT band, calves, shoulders, chest, wrists, spine and neck. Yoga is another great way to work on your mobility (and strength).
Remember, even if you're not exercising for a long amount of time, or many days per week, the exercise you do is going to strengthen your muscles and joints and is good for your cardiovascular system. More is better than some, but some is better than none!
If you have any questions, or are dealing with pain with exercise, call us at 616-662-0990 to set up a free consultation with one of our skilled and caring physical therapists.
By: Lisa Bartz, Certified Exercise Physiologist
Your core is the central link between the rest of your body, and core strength is essential to good posture and a healthy, strong body! Your core is so much more than just your “abs” (six-pack that most people think of when they hear core). Think of your core as layers of muscles that wrap around your midsection, including your transverse abdominis (deep layer around spine), your obliques (sides of your core), your rectus abdominis (six-pack), as well as muscles on your back like your multifidus (deep and extends all the way up your spine), your erector spinae (along your back on each side of your spine), and your quadratus lumborum (deep muscle in your back connecting your spine to your pelvis).
Core strength is required for almost all movements, because when you move your upper or lower body, your core stabilizes you. When you’re walking, your core stabilizes your moving leg and the rest of your body, keeping you balanced. Strong cores stabilize your spine and back to help prevent back injuries when you’re lifting or moving things, and allows your posture stay upright and help avoid strain on your lower back or neck.
So what now? Crunches? Although crunches are good, there are lots of more effective core exercises to do (you can still do your crunches along with them!) Prioritize exercises that will target lots of core muscles. Here’s a few exercises to try:
1. Planks – Keep your body in a straight line and tighten your abs, keeping your back high (no sagging hips or sagging back between shoulder blades!), and keep your elbows from locking for maximum benefit! This will work all of the core muscles mentioned as well as your arms and legs. Start with a short amount of time (like 20 second holds, 3 times), and then challenge yourself with longer hold times or by lifting up one limb during your plank to make your core work harder to stabilize you.
2. Bird-dogs (also known as quadrupeds) – Start on your hands and knees, and slowly raise your right arm and left leg, keeping your abs tight. Return to starting position, then alternate to left arm and right leg. Do 2-3 sets of 10. If this is too challenging, start with just raising one arm or one leg at a time. These are great for your core and your back!
3. Dead-Bugs – Dead bugs are similar to bird dogs but lying on your back. Start with all 4 limbs in the air, then (while keeping your back pressed against the floor), lower one arm and one leg. Try doing 10 reps lowering your right arm and leg, then left. Then try 10 more of opposite arm and leg.
4. Wood-chops – If you have access to an exercise band or cable machine, wood-chops are a great exercise to tone your core because of the twisting motion. Tie your band to something high, like the top of a door (or set your cable machine high). Stand a few feet away from the door turned 90 degrees (perpendicular to door). Hold the band with both hands, and then rotate from high right (close to door) to low left (away from door), turning through your whole body, especially your core. Do 2-3 sets up 10 wood-chops on both sides. *If you don't have access to a cable machine, use a medicine ball, weight, or object between 5 and 20 lb and perform this same motion!
5. Swimmers– Lie face-down on the floor, with your arms overhead and legs extended. Lift all 4 limbs up a few inches of the ground and, alternating sides (as if swimming), tap your hands and legs down to the ground. Start with 15-20 seconds and work your way up in time!
Crunches and other exercises targeted for the abs are also good, but make sure you’re doing some of these total-core exercises along with them though! Also incorporate upper body and lower body exercise into your routine, for a strong healthy body! If you have any questions about core exercises, or if you deal with pain that prevents you from exercising, call or email us! 616-662-0990 or email@example.com.
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP
Its Spring! Lots of people are moving in the Spring, whether it’s to a new home or helping move a kid out of college for the summer, or even doing some Spring cleaning that involves moving heavy objects. Moving heavy objects can cause a lot of aches and pains, and we have some tips for you to keep in mind to keep your back and knees safe this Spring!
Getting ready to lift:
By: Lisa Bartz, Exercise Physiologist (C-EP)
Frequently, I get asked what’s the best form of exercise. What should I do? Should I buy a bike or a treadmill? Should l lift weights or swim? There is no one best answer. It depends on the person. Ask yourself these questions before investing in exercise equipment or a gym membership:
1. What is my reason for exercising? Do you want to loose weight, get stronger or train for something? Everybody has a different reason and its important to tailor your program to your goals.
2. How much money are you willing to invest in your exercise? Some gym memberships can be expensive, but some offer classes or services like child care that might make working out easier for you. Some pieces of exercise equipment can also be very expensive. If you’re looking to not spend much, there are a lot of inexpensive ways to work out that are easily accessible to everybody.
3. What exercise do I ENJOY doing? Believe it or not, this is by far the most important. If you don’t like what you are doing, chances are you won’t continue to do it. Everybody has different activities that they enjoy. Even if you don’t love it, which form of exercise fits you the best?
4. Am I self-motivated or do need to be accountable to somebody? This could be in the form of a trainer or a friend you exercise with. Some people like to exercise by themselves. Others need the push of a partner or somebody to help keep them on track.
The important thing to remember is there is a type of exercise out there for everybody. It does matter if your young or old, have a lot of cash to spend on exercise or minimal, there is a form of exercise that’s right for you. If you have more specific question ask your local therapist. Exercise is our area of expertise and we would be happy to give you some guidance and answer any questions. Finally, remember the most important thing: If you like the form of exercise you choose you will have a great chance for success!
By: Brian Colvin, PT
Often people will attend physical therapy with their own ideas of what they need to do in order to improve. I once had a 15 y/o female with complaints of neck pain and stiffness.
She had been attending sessions for chiropractic manipulation for the last several years prior to trying physical therapy. Her main complaint during our initial conversation was that her neck was stiff; that she always felt the need to “crack it” to loosen it up. Therefore I expected her to have a very stiff neck with limited mobility.
However, when I checked her range of motion, she had the most motion of any patient that I had ever evaluated! She could sit in a chair and turn her head so far that she could almost look behind her! The result of excessive manipulation was excessive mobility, but without stability. Her problem was not that her neck was stiff, but that it was excessively mobile and needed muscular support.
Conversely, I have had patients who were extremely strong and had excellent muscle tone, but were unbelievably stiff, lacking mobility in order to move normally.
Our goal in physical therapy is to develop an optimal balance of strength and stability. People need to have good range of motion in their joints, flexibility in their muscles, and strength in their muscles in order to have the body function at peak performance. A good physical therapist is able to evaluate these areas and prescribe the necessary corrective measures to achieve this optimal balance of mobility and stability.
By: Mason Riegel, PT
We love this article from Move Forward PT, with a few tips for YOU wherever you're at in life!
Starting healthy habits early can help stave off many age-related health conditions. Here are some decade-based tips from physical therapists.
2 Tips for 20s:
3 Tips for 30s:
4 Tips for 40s:
Steve Bartz, PT