A More Scientific Approach to Performance Enhancement
Updated: Apr 28
Before starting any type of fitness program, it’s always best to go through the proper evaluations and preparations with a qualified physical therapist.
Whether you plan to lift weights, run on a treadmill, take a yoga class, or play a sport, you should make sure your body is capable of properly performing these movements. You should also know when and how much to increase the resistance, intensity, repetitions and frequency of the desired physical activity. We can help ensure that you are prepared and ready for the routine, and that you progress at an appropriate pace. We can also train and condition your body to move without having to think about it.
Many people do certain types of exercise just because everyone else is doing them. But, in order to minimize your risk of injury and maximize your potential, an exercise program should be tailored specifically for you. This routine should be customized according to your current ability level, to any physical limitations or health conditions, and to your personal fitness goals.
Here are some of our evaluation procedures that go into the development of a customized exercise program.
The first step is a thorough discussion of your current health status and your past medical history. We will ask if you experience any pain at rest. We will ask if any movements or positions produce pain. We’ll also inquire about surgeries, injuries or physical limitations at any point in your life. For example, if you have any recurrent back, neck or shoulder issues.
We’ll also discuss your sleeping habits, diet, work ergonomics, and other factors that can influence your readiness for a physical activity.
Lastly, we will go over your personal fitness goals and a realistic time frame to reach them.
All of this information is essential in determining what types of exercises are appropriate or inappropriate for you.
Functional Movement Screen
The second step is a functional movement screen where we assess the quantity and quality of some basic movement patterns. For instance, when bending over to touch your toes, we will check hip and knee flexion, whether you round or flatten your back, any lateral or rotational deviations, and if this movement produces pain.
Another example of a basic movement is a shoulder mobility test. We’ll have you reach one arm over your head and down your spine, while the other arm will go behind your back and up your spine. Then you’ll switch arms and repeat the movement. If there’s a dramatic discrepancy between these movements on either side, we know to avoid some overhead movements.
If you experience any significant pain throughout the functional movement screen, we will rather consider a detailed physical therapy assessment for further evaluation of the symptoms.
So we’ve gone through an injury check and we’ve seen how you can perform basic movements. But how well do you control those movements? In other words, you might be able to display normal range of motion, but can you remain stable and pain-free throughout the range?
Movement-based and neuromuscular control are intertwined. Movement-based refers to your mobility and ability to perform a movement. Neuromuscular control refers to your stability and the quality of that movement. For example, suppose you lie on your back and can lift your leg straight up without bending your knee. But when you stand up and bend over to touch your toes, your hands stop at the knees. The different ranges of motion tells us if this restriction is more due to a mobility issue versus a stability issue.
We take this examination a step further by also having you go through a series of standardized movement tests on the Redcord suspension system. This can help us determine where along the kinetic chain you have trouble controlling the movement (i.e., “the weak link”). You think it’s down in the knee, but further testing reveals that the dysfunction is actually higher up in your back. Often we find that a totally different myofascial chain, like weakness in the gluteus medius (lateral chain), can affect how you bend forward to touch your toes, or how well you balance on a single leg. Sometimes we find that deeper core control issues in the pelvic floor can also affect your ability to perform these and many other movements.
Movement Compensations and Lifting Mechanics
We also use an injury prediction algorithm to gain insight into spinal stability and subsequent movement compensations related to shoulder and hip mobility. An excellent example can be seen in a kettlebell “dead-lift”. Rounding your back and reaching forward with your shoulders may be a compensation for limited mobility to complete a movement, as well as lack of body awareness and knowledge of safe lifting techniques. A stable spine would be evident when it remains neutral while your hips hinge and push back, and your shoulders move to allow a change in arm position.
Breathing Behind the Shield
Taken from martial arts, this refers to your ability to use the tension in your diaphragm and breathe correctly to add integrity to your spine, muscles, and organs throughout movement. Learning to breathe correctly while maintaining tension in your abdomen and diaphragm can be a major challenge. However, if you do a ballistic or high velocity movement and don’t breathe properly, you’ll become fatigued more quickly and increase the risk of an injury. This has tremendous carryover into your everyday activities.
These are some of the evaluation procedures that we go through to prepare you for physical activities, and to help you achieve your goals in the shortest period of time.
If you are recovering from an injury or surgery, we will also consider your rehabilitation program milestones to ensure a smooth transition from rehabilitation to post-rehab fitness and performance training.
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