We know that we need to be active every day to maintain and improve our health; but, lets face it, that gets a lot harder when the days are colder and shorter and we have to battle snow to be outside. I would like to say that it can be good to get out in the colder weather and walk for a few minutes (as long as there are clear, dry sidewalks to walk on); but, assuming you don't feel like donning your winter parka to get your fitness on.... What are some ways to stay active even in the colder months of winter?
If you like/prefer to walk, head to your local mall or recreation center and take a walk around. There are many groups for "mall-walking" around. You can mask up and join a friend or two and walk the mall. Most recreation centers also have a walking track that you can easily keep track of your distance traveled. Some even have walking groups to keep each other accountable.
If you want to venture into a different activity, you can also go to your rec center and meet with a trainer to work on some fitness machines for weight training and cardiovascular exercise. It may seem intimidating, but most trainers are skilled at being able to address your needs and adjust to any specific areas of weakness or pain or you can ask your PT for recommendations of exercise equipment. Plus, everyone was a beginner at some point, right?!
You can also take a dip in the pool and swim, walk/run in the pool, or take a water fitness class. There are usually a variety of classes and activities in the pool. Bonus is that water provides it's own resistance and it is less impact on your joints.
Lastly, in this digital age, there are so many applications available that will give you ideas of exercises you can do in the comfort of your home. Don't worry if you don't have any equipment, many don't require anything - just your body weight; but, if you need weight, look around your house for items that you can use - full water bottles, canned food, babies :) etc. all can be used when lifting "weights".
Don't let winter slow you down and keep you from your goals! Keep moving and look forward to those warmer months when you can take your fitness back outside!
Christina Bateman, PT, DPT
The importance of unilateral training for overall body strength
A question we often get as physical therapists is: “What’s the best way to protect my body when lifting weights?” Of course, there are several different ways to answer this question. This blog is going to emphasize my professional and personal approach on how to reduce risk of injury when you are lifting weights.
There are so many amazing different lifting techniques that are great for strength building. A few of the popular ones are deadlifts, snatch and cleans, front squats, back squats, pull-ups and bench press. These are more of your power moves that are great for strengthening, but often are performed incorrectly. Now, you may have every intention of performing the exercise perfectly, but your body just won’t cooperate. This is where I incorporate my approach to protecting your body.
We commonly see patients in the clinic who have a dominant side. This is totally normal! However, this can also lead to imbalances in your squat, deadlift, pull-up, etc. I use slow motion video technology to see if you are using one side more than the other and then address it with a more appropriate warm-up for these power moves. This usually involves a more unilateral approach to strengthening. Thus, I prescribe SINGLE LEG squats, SINGLE LEG deadlifts, and other challenges that will engage each side of your body prior to bigger lifts.
The reason that this ends up protecting the entire body is that it increases overall core activation. The big squat and deadlift are very bilateral motions where the majority of the force is going through the center of our body - the spine. While the spine is a very strong structure with complex ligamentous support, muscular stability, and discs - it still has its limits. Now, if we take your standard front squat with dumbbells as shown in the picture on the left you can see that the force is through the midline of your body. Most of my patients believe this to be ideal as they feel centered, but in fact it places more strain through the spine if not performed perfectly. If we compare it to the picture on the right where you are holding a dumbbell on just one side, this will create a sidebending force thus increasing more oblique and core activation to stop you from leaning or falling that way. This more rotational torque helps move the force from straight down your spine to now requiring that core control.
The same principle can be applied to upper body lifting as well. See below the difference between bilateral overhead military press compared to unilateral military press. If the man on the right didn’t engage his RIGHT obliques, that weight in his left hand would cause him to tip over!
Overall, these are just a few tips I like to educate my patients about when returning to bigger powerlifting or weight lifting. They are great ways to continue strengthening while promoting a healthier and stronger core. The purpose of this blog was meant to shed light on how unilateral vs bilateral forces on the spine can be manipulated to improve muscle activation in addition to adding a balance component for full body involvement. Ultimately, the best approach to a routine like this is to schedule an appointment with your physical therapist to have them evaluate your squat, bench press, deadlift, etc after which they can create an individualized program for your specific workout needs!
Lisa Corken, PT, DPT
Bob Cranny, PT