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Why Some Warmups Aren’t Useful

As performance physical therapists in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we work within a very knowledgeable and active community.  Our clients and patients understand the importance of warming up.

Warming up is commonly touted as essential for anyone wishing to avoid injury during exercise, performance training, or running.

We agree with this statement; however, warmup routines are often implemented in a non-productive way.

There is a time and place for everything, however this does not mean that you need to stretch, roll around on the ground, and perform “activation” drills prior to being ready for exercise.

In addition to increasing total body temperature, a warmup routine should prepare the body for the specific workout that is going to take place. For this reason, we call warming up “movement preparation.” The body is being prepared to move!

Movement preparation should include drills that train the skills necessary for the day’s workout. Many times, these drills will look similar to the exercises within that day’s work out.

If you are getting ready to run, perform activities that practice things necessary to run effectively. If you are going to lift weights, practice movements similar to the lifts you are going to perform (ie. If you are going to squat, then squat in your warmup!).

This advise applies regardless of whether you are healthy, injured, in performance physical therapy, or training for performance.

Below are 2 drills that we often use during movement preparation prior to running. Each drill practices single leg balance, the ability to shock absorb on one leg, and trunk rotation. These are all attributes necessary for running.

Single leg knee to chest
Forward lunge with cross connect

Furthermore, if you have been sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, you may need a more comprehensive warmup. On the other hand, if you have an active job requiring you to move in a variety of different ways then your warmup may not need to be as comprehensive.

Movement preparation is necessary, however it is essential to be purposeful, rather than mindlessly performing the same thing before every workout.

2 Simple Drills to Improve your Running Times

As a dedicated runner you likely have suffered an injury at some point. Perhaps it forced you to seek performance physical therapy. Whether you realized it or not, this injury limited your ability to train effectively.

At CHP, we consistently help runners in Chevy Chase and Bethesda overcome injuries that otherwise would limit their ability to train, ultimately causing disappointing results.

There is not a one size fits all solution to helping all runners; however, we often discover that runners are limited by their hamstrings.

Are you concerned that hamstring stiffness or weakness could be limiting your performance?

Your hamstring is responsible for keeping your heel close to your bottom during the heel recovery phase of the running cycle. This portion of the cycle occurs as you bring your leg back underneath your body to prepare it to strike the ground again. The closer you can keep your heel relative to your bottom, the better! This allows you to efficiently move your leg faster through space, resulting in faster times. Below is a drill we prescribe to many runners to improve this attribute.

 

 

When running the hamstrings also need the ability to lengthen as the thigh is in front of the body. This should be achieved without drastically changing the position of the pelvis. Many runners struggle to maintain control of their pelvis as the hamstring lengthens. This increases the stress placed onto a variety of soft tissues through the lower body and alters foot strike position. Below is a drill to improve these capabilities.

 

 

A thoughtful and more scientific approach to training, specifically designed for runners is likely all that you need to drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!

Do your running shoes pass the test?

You don’t need performance physical therapists like us to tell you that footwear makes a large impact on running performance. The correct running shoe can reduce your race times and lower your injury risk.

When walking into any running store in Bethesda or Chevy Chase, you will find many different shoe brands and several different models of shoes within each brand. Among this wide array of shoes, how do we determine which is best for you?

The answer is different for each person and is dependent on a multitude of different factors. However, any running shoe must meet a few requirements to be considered and these are the first things we look for when assessing any running shoe in physical therapy for runners.

The first is that it must have a firm and snug heel cup. Your heel sits at the base of the shoe, in a place called the heel cup. The heels cup should fit snugly around your heel and should not be much wider than your heel itself. This prevents your heel from sliding around within the shoe, which would negatively impact foot mechanics.

Next, the shoe must have a toe break that folds where your toes bend.  Place your shoe on the ground and hold it there. Pull the front of your shoe upwards from underneath. The folding point of the shoe should be located where your toes bend. If your shoe prefers to fold at another location, your foot is being encouraged to bend somewhere else. This alters foot mechanics and can lead to breakdown within the structure of the foot itself.

Finally, you should be able to feel the entirety of both feet on the ground as you are standing still in your shoes. People are often unable to feel their arches, which results in more stress on the areas that are receiving better ground contact.

There are 26 bones and 30 joints within the human foot. This results in a large number of ways that our foot can compensate, and therefore, a large number of factors that we need to be mindful of when choosing the correct running shoe.

The 3 factors outlined above are a good place to start when choosing the right shoe, however there are many other factors that may also need to be considered.

Please contact us for help assessing your foot and determining the best running shoe for you!

 

3 Home Exercises to Help with Your Back Pain

Did you know that according to research, over 70% of Americans will experience back pain during their lives?

Surprisingly, this statistic remains high among active people. Sometimes their training even contributes to it!

One of the things you can do to help reverse this trend is to implement Pilates into your training. Dr. Ciara is a physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor. She has taught us how to incorporate Pilates into the treatment of physical therapy patients right here in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. These principles can also be used in performance training.

The good news is that Pilates doesn’t require you to go to a Pilates studio. Many Pilates exercises can be done from home and performed within your training regimen.

Begin with the 3 exercises below.

  1. Roll like a ball into Zen Teaser (C-Curve)
  2. Single Leg Stretch
  3. Curtsy Reach

The goal of these activities are to teach you how to control your body using your deep abdominals and glutes. Therefore, it is essential to focus on quality of movement, rather than the quantity performed. There are no heros with these exercises!

To learn more about Pilates, check out last weeks article below!

What Actually is Pilates?

What actually is Pilates?

Has anyone ever suggested that you try Pilates, however you really don’t know what Pilates is? If you don’t really know what it is, how could you know if Pilates will help you?

The newest member of the CHP team, Dr. Ciara Petry, is a certified Pilates Instructor and specializes in helping, in addition to being a physical therapist. She utilizes Pilates in her physical therapy practice and within her performance training services for her clients in Bethesda and Chevy Chase.  She even uses Pilates during her virtual physical therapy sessions! We are so grateful that she was kind enough to share this information with us.

Pilates is can be described as a conscious way back into our bodies, better connecting the mind and body. Pilates focuses on body alignment, controlled movement, and breathing. Joseph H. Pilates developed this movement system with the goal of improving the ability of the deep muscles of the body to guide and control movement.

Classic Pilates does not require any fancy equipment can be easily be performed on a mat. The focus of a typical session will be on quality of movement versus quantity (number of reps, amount of weight, etc.). Spinal movements, a properly engaged core, shoulder and pelvic stability, breathing, and working with oppositional energy are all key to Pilates work.

Contrary to popular belief, Pilates is very different from Yoga and it is important to understand these differences so that you can choose the right activity for you and your goals.

Yoga was founded as a sacred tradition over 5,000+ years ago with a focus on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Yoga is a meditative practice, where Pilates is not, and follows a sequence of poses that are often held for long periods of time to increase short-term flexibility.

Pilates was founded in the 1920’s with a focus on strengthening of the core, improvement of posture, stabilization and elongation of the spine, and development of balance and overall strength. Movements are shorts with an increased focus on control, precision and long-term mobility.

For these reasons Pilates is incredibly useful for anyone suffering from back, knee, or hip pain. Furthermore, it serves as a great alternative or adjunct to weight training or running.

Next week will be discussing how you can use Pilates to help overcome injury and improve your performance in a variety of settings!

Training with back pain may only require a simple modification

Back pain remains as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and according to research, over 70% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

When back pain is measured among such a large number of people, it is impossible for each person to specify the different ways in which their back pain presents.

When treating physical therapy patients with back pain, we see this pain present in many different ways. Since we treat such active people, our patients are very aware of the different movements that elicit their symptoms.

Many times, picking objects off the floor, aka deadlifts, produce their back pain. During these movements, the body bends over by folding at the hips. This moves the spine into a position that is horizontal relative to the ground, resulting in more shearing forces within the spine. Shearing force is the force of one vertebra wanting to move forward or backward relative to the one above or below it.

For many others, squatting movements are problematic, specifically when squatting with resistance (such as when lifting weights). When squatting the spine is vertically oriented (compared to a deadlift) resulting in more vertical compression against gravity.

Do you have back pain? If so, is it worse when picking things up off the ground or when squatting with resistance?

If it is worse when picking things up off the floor, aka deadlifting, you may want to consider replacing deadlift exercises with squatting variations within your training program. While this should not be a permanent solution, it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root causes of the issue.

If your pain worsens when squatting with resistance, you may want to consider switching to more single leg squatting variations in place of double leg squats. Once again, this should not be a permanent solution (although single leg exercises are awesome!), however it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root cause of your pain.

For help addressing the root cause of your pain, simply contact us!