I hate to say it but I resent our convoluted healthcare system.
We live in the greatest country in the world and yet we have such a confusing and broken health care model. I’m not here to write about my idea for a solution. I’m here to tell you how we are avoiding many of the pitfalls of our current medical model.
First, let me add some context by telling you about a recent experience my family had with a physician group.
My wife had been feeling tired for almost two years. We thought it was just the fact that we have two kids under the age of 5 and we own a business. Both of those things can be rather stressful.
We did blood work and were able to get her feeling better but it was always a short lived response.
Finally, we decided to see an internal medicine doctor and they narrowed it down to either celiac disease or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This was the prognosis because she had been put on antibiotics for a sinus infection around the same time she started feeling excessively tired almost two years ago.
We go to the office visit, the doctor is behind schedule and spends hardly any time with us. He gives us a couple options for testing and we decide to do a blood test to rule out celiac disease. We ask him and the front desk staff what the office visit will cost and what the blood test will cost.
They tell us they do not know.
Fast forward to 1 month later, we get a bill from the physician for $360 for the office visit. That’s $360 for a 15 minute conversation with the physician. The next day we get a bill for the blood test. Grand total for the blood test, $940. One blood test costs $940? What the hell kind of X-Men next level blood test was this?
The results of the test showed there was no celiac disease so the solution was another round of antibiotics to fix the SIBO. Great, let’s fix this thing. So we ask the doctors office how much will the antibiotics cost? They tell us they don’t know. We call the insurance company and ask what the antibiotics will cost, they tell us they don’t know.
Alright, you’ve got us by the balls, let’s just get the antibiotics and wait for another bill in the mail. The good news is, the antibiotics worked great. My wife has been feeling better than she had in years. The bad news is, the bill we got for the antibiotics was $1650.
Let’s add this all up.
One office visit = $360
One blood test= $940
One bottle of antibiotics= $1650
Grand total= $2950 plus hours of office visits and testing and phone calls with the insurance company
Here’s my general feeling throughout the entire process: Are you kidding me?
As much as the cost of everything was, that’s not the part we were mad about. It’s the complete lack of transparency in the entire process. Tell me I’m going to have to get a $1650 bottle of pills that will cause my wife to feel better and I’ll gladly pay that. Send me a bill for the same amount a month later and now you’ve got an angry consumer.
Transparency is the key. Communication is vital. This is a relationship between a patient and their medical provider. It’s no different than any other relationship.
When I opened Athletes’ Potential 3 years ago, this was a core value for us. Transparency in medical care. Why is this so rare?
If you ask me what we charge, I’ll tell you. We charge $190 for an hour long visit and it’s an absolute steal compared to the crappy healthcare you’ll get pretty much everywhere else.
-We’re always on time because we respect the value of your time.
-We’ll never send you a bill a month later for some amount of money.
-You’ll always have email access to your provider to answer any question you have because we want you to feel comfortable through the entire process.
-We treat people the way we would want our own family to be treated.
I see more and more medical providers moving this direction. It’s better for the patients, it’s better for the provider and it sets the precedence for an honest, long-term relationship.
Sadly, many of you have probably gone through the same process my wife did. This isn’t an isolated incident that we can chalk up to bad luck or chance. This is a daily occurrence in our medical system. I hope it continues to move toward a better model but in the meantime we’ll do our part with our patients.
We strive for honest, selfless service of our patients everyday. That will never change.
Warm-ups are important for a few reasons: increase tissue temperature and extensibility, increase heart rate to prep the system for intense exercise and prep specific movements that will be performed at higher speeds. Most often, people do not warm up either for lack of time or lack of knowing where to start! If you have a particular area of pain or tightness, you may want to spend more time there. Otherwise, moving through movements of the whole body is ideal.
For each of the exercises below, I will use the width of the court, going back and forth between exercises.
Try this simple yet comprehensive workout:
Jog Forward 50% max effort (width of tennis court)
Slowly back pedal (back to starting line)
Jog Forward 60% max effort
Slowly back pedal
Run forward 75% max effort
Run forward 75% max effort
Side shuffle (facing opposite way from last time)
Inchworms- moving slowly and deliberately; keep the legs as straight as possible for a good hamstring and calf stretch. Once walked out to the plank position, do a push up (can drop to knees if needed) then walk feet to hands.
Toy Soldiers- standing upright, hands out stretched in front; kick opposite foot to opposite hand; alternate feet and move forward with each repetition.
Walk on toes- just like it sounds, walk on tippy-toes with small steps.
Walk on heels- walking on heels, taking small steps.
World’s Greatest Stretch- a great warm up tool because it hits three areas that need attention for tennis players- hips, hamstrings and back! Go through ten reps of each movement then switch legs.
3-way lunge- also addresses multiple areas, particularly glutes, hamstrings, quads and adductors. Perform 6 reps in each direction per leg.
Leg swings- hold on to something stable at your side; swing leg forward and backward, letting gravity carry it back down. Also, swing to right and left. Preform 10 repetitions each direction.
Arm swings- open arms wide then swing across the front, one arm over the other until your fingers contact your back, swing back to front and cross over the opposite way. Also, swing arms up overhead and then back down past the hips. Again, allow gravity to do the movement, no forcing the range of motion! Perform 10 reps in each direction.
After this warm-up you should notice that your muscles feel warm, heart rate is up, breathing has increased and you are ready to increase the intensity of your movement. A proper warm up may decrease the likelihood of an injury and will get you ready to perform more quickly!
Good luck this tennis season! If you missed the first parts of this 4-part series, be sure to check those out. At Athletes’ Potential we help tennis players resolve pain, improve performance and prevent injury. Like what you’ve read? Give us a call!
Building a solid foundation is important for any structure. Therefore, maintaining healthy, mobile and strong feet is a foundation that athletes cannot ignore. This becomes particularly important for athletes who require agility—moving laterally, side to side, sprinting, shuffling. The problem is, we rarely focus on our feet, unless they already hurt!
I challenge you to add at least one foot mobilization or exercise into your daily routine. Your tennis game will thank you.
Ankle mobility - The ability of your ankle to dorsiflex fully (toes up) is ideal for proper biomechanics during running and cutting. Without proper length in your Achilles, injuries and tendonitis are more likely. The first step is to check your ankle mobility. The wall test is our favorite.
Place your foot a hand width from a wall (in a lunge position), with the foot in that position drive your knee toward the wall making sure that your heel stays down. Can it touch the wall? Due to the structure of the calf musculature, you may find that you lack mobility more when your knee is straight. Be sure to check out your dorsiflexion side-to-side by using a yoga strap or dog leash. If you seem to be lacking range of motion here, try these two mobility exercises:
Foot mobility and strength - The foot is very complex with 26 bones and 33 joints. It is important that the joints maintain the ability to glide on one another so that our feet can conform to uneven surfaces and absorb shock as we run and jump. Years spent in hard dress shoes, high heels and flip flops can take a toll on our feet. So when we lace up the tennis shoes and play a hard 2 hour match, the feet were not prepared! Simply being able to separate the movements of the big toe from the little toes can improve your foot mobility, strength and control.
My favorite set of exercises is Toe Yoga (video below). Try these out, you might be surprised how tough it is!
The great toe - The big toe (or great toe) may seem trivial to some but is essential for function of the foot. More specifically, the importance of great toe extension. Without mobility here, the natural mechanism of the foot is interrupted. This can lead to pain on the outside of the foot, pain of the other metatarsals (top of the foot) and recurrent plantar fascia pain. If your great toe isn’t so great and is lacking some range of motion, try these out:
As you add these to your daily routine, remember that there is no quick fix but you are taking the right steps! If you have knee or hip or back pain, you still need to start at the foundation. The biomechanics of the foot drives the whole system. Try these out for a few weeks and notice the change. You won’t be disappointed!
Thanks for reading,
Your hip and spinal rotation are the power house of each stroke. The winding-up and subsequent uncoiling of the kinetic chain allows tennis players to add velocity to their stroke. Without the ability to fully rotate the spine side-to-side, much of the torque will be dispersed down to the hips and knees or up through the shoulder and elbows. So if you have nagging aches and pains in those areas, your lack of rotation could be the issue. Let’s check out the amount of hip and thoracic rotation that you have side-to-side.
When checking internal rotation, sit on a table or box so that your feet are not in contact with the ground. Internal rotation is the motion when your foot moves outward from your body when your hips and knees are bent. We like to see 40-45 degrees, as in the picture below. Be sure that as you rotate your hip, you don’t bring your booty off the table and lean to make it go further! Limited here? Try out the mobility exercise for internal rotation. Always retest your rotation afterward so you know if the mobilization is valuable!
External rotation would be the opposite, so as if you were crossing one leg over the other the ankle resting on the thigh of the other leg. If this is tough, your external rotation may be limited. This is less common but still possible! The best mobility piece for this is the Lateral Hip Release (video below). Try it out! Remember, test- mobility- retest.
If you sit a lot throughout the day or just generally have tight hip flexors, this could impede your ability to extend your hips fully. My favorite go-to for this is the Couch Stretch (video below). Most people would benefit from spending 2 minutes in this stretch daily. It will undoubtedly add power to your strokes and serves!
The thoracic spine is specifically important for rotation due to the structure of the vertebra. If there is limited rotation in the T spine, we will tend to look for more rotation form the lumbar spine and hips. The way the lumbar vertebra are stacked on each other, rotation is very limited; thus, repeated rotation with a tight T spine can lead to low back and hip pain.
I would not be shocked to see that most tennis players will have a greater amount of rotation or more ease of rotation to their forehand side (so left rotation in right handed athlete). This is a structural change that can happen over time as muscle for rotation in one direction are recruited more frequently that muscles for rotation the opposite way. But what about the backhand? If you feel that you lose a lot of power with the backhand stroke, it could be due to a rotation restriction.
Take a look at your spinal rotation mobility to each side. Laying on your side, knees up at 90 degrees, rotate your back to the floor so that your arms make a T. The top knee should stay stacked on the bottom and both shoulder should touch the floor. If this is challenging, we modify this just a bit to an exercise working on spinal rotation throughout the whole movement: The Windmill (video below). With this variation, you can use breathing to gain a bit more range and get the shoulder closer to the floor. If you get stuck with your arm overhead and you are unable to touch the hand to the floor, then pause there, take a deep breath and on the exhale gently push into a bit more rotation.
To incorporate hip extension and thoracic rotation, I suggest adding scorpions (video below) to your mobility routine. They will also hit the shoulder with a nice stretch across the front. If you’re short on time- hit a set of 10 to each side before grabbing the racquet!
Notice that although we are adding power to your stroke, there were no strengthening specific exercises. The first step is to chip away at long standing range of motion deficits you have may have. Having proper hip range and spinal rotation will allow you to unleash your potential from the power house of the body. Once range of motion has been addressed, other areas to explore are strength and control. However, skipping the mobility piece will only allow you to layer on strength in the shortened range of motion. To be resilient, mobilize then strengthen!
Thanks for reading,
The elbow is affected so often by tennis that it was named after the sport! Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylalgia, is pain at the outside part of the elbow. Its sibling, golfer’s elbow, is pain at the inside of the elbow. Despite the names, tennis players are susceptible to both.
Many times, the treatment will focus solely on the elbow. Decreasing inflammation, resting the muscles that insert at the painful area and strengthening can all be helpful, but what is the root of the issue? Something that can be overlooked is shoulder dysfunction causing pain down the kinetic chain. Check out the picture of the athlete serving below. The arm acts as a whip-- drawing the hand back and then unraveling with force the whips the elbow forward so the hand and racquet will follow. If the shoulder lacks the proper stability in these end ranges and with quick change of direction, the elbow takes the force.
We want our shoulders to be strong through the stroke but it starts with being strong as stabilizers. An easy go-to for shoulder stability are carry variations. Farmer's carry (see video below) and overhead carry are great places to start, then you can try a waiter’s carry. This moves the weight out front so that there is more stress to the shoulder musculature. If you try this variation with a kettlebell and hold it bottoms-up (see picture below video) it will be more challenging and work on grip strength! As you get tired, your elbow will tend to drift outward and down, so walk while stabilizing the bell only as long as you are able to keep the correct form.
Movement must be added to make it effective for the tennis player. The control of the arm to accelerate and then quickly decelerate comes from the posterior rotator cuff. Those muscles at the back of the shoulder put the brakes on the arm; without control here, again the elbow suffers but you may also feel pain in the back of the shoulder.
A very effective protocol is banded rotator cuff strengthening in multiple different angles. My two favorite are the WY Negative and the Snow Angels:
The WY negative strengthens the external rotators, demands stabilization overhead with arms straight and requires posterior cuff control as your lower slowly. No other banded exercise that I have seen is as effective and comprehensive for the tennis athlete. The best band tension to use for this exercise is 3-7#, so much lighter than you might imagine! Around 10-20 repetitions at a time is a great goal, although you may need a break or two when you first start.
Another great shoulder stability exercise is the Snow Angel. Again, with the light band and perform 10 repetitions at a time. This exercises forces you to pull back on the band and sustain tension while moving overhead and back down. Try it out!
The subscapularis is one of the rotator cuff muscles that tends to be largely ignored but can be a culprit in shoulder pain with overhead athletes. When it is tight, it will limit external rotation, or the ability to bring your arm back to serve. It can cause pain at the back of the shoulder and sometimes that back of the wrist! The easiest way to get pressure and a stretch on the muscle is with a lacrosse ball. Check out the Subscap Smash (see video below). This is a great mobilization to add your warm ups or workout routine during tennis season.
The big picture here is that elbow pain is often a secondary symptom due to a primary cause at the shoulder. Direct trauma and inflammation to the elbow itself are possible but ensuring a strong foundation at your shoulder will protect the elbow joint over the long run. Try out these mobility pieces for a week or two and note any change that you have in your performance or symptoms. If you continue to have shoulder or elbow pain, reach out to us at Athletes’ Potential. We would love to get you back on the court pain-free!
Thanks for reading,
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Elbow pain can be one of the most irritating and inconvenient issues. I once had a patient say that the most painful part of his day was just cutting butter for his toast in the morning.
Classically, we tend to blame the tissues at the joint—wrist extensors/flexors. Sure, the common insertion for these muscles becomes inflamed, but what causes that? I like to view the elbow similarly to the knee; it is a joint that is pushed and pulled on either side by very complex joints. The shoulders will largely influence the biomechanics of your elbow and the amount of torque that passes through the joint.
Although somewhat simplified, we could group you as either tight and immobile or mobile and bendy. Each characteristic has its own pros and cons, but the cons are where pain manifests. With decreased shoulder mobility and/or control, the elbow will take the brunt of the force when lifting weights or swinging a racquet. Shoulder stabilization and control are important for correct biomechanics of the shoulder girdle and upper extremity. Lack of control upstream, allows more movement downstream at the elbow. The repetitive, small insults at the elbow joint will eventually result in elbow pain.
Hammering away at the soft tissue around the elbow is often where athletes start when self-treating. Don’t get me wrong, a little forearm smash with a lacrosse ball or barbell is great. But if it does not improve your problems, move on! In this case, we are going to check out the shoulder.
Less mobile folks: To decrease the torque at the elbow, it would be ideal to improve both the external rotation (front rack) and flexion (overhead position) or your shoulder. Tight lats can often be the cause of the restrictions. Try these two mobility pieces:
More mobile folks: Shoulder stabilization is going to be the key for you. A simple way to start on this is kettlebell carries, all variations! Here are two simple, yet effective stabilization drills:
As always, do a movement screen/ form check first. Get a coach or super friend to watch you move and see if they notice any faults. Racquet sport athletes—if you constantly have elbow pain, check your grip size. Grips too small or too large can cause elbow issues as well. If you are a desk jockey, check out your work station and the ergonomics!
Try these mobility exercises and tips out. If you continue to have issues, come see us at Athletes’ Potential. We see elbow pain often and are able to effectively treat it with an evaluation! Keep devoting time to making your body work and feel better.
Adrenal fatigue is the inability of the adrenal glands to carry out their normal function. The kidneys produce hormones to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, burn fat and protein and react to stress. A disruption can cause changes in metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, the cardiovascular system and sex drive. The adrenal glands are the main stress control of the body and thus are affected with a stressful, overworked and under nourished lifestyle.
Some common triggers or causes of adrenal fatigue are: over-exercising, high stress levels, sleep deprivation, high sugar intake, chronic illness, depression, surgery. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but you can likely identify with a few of these.
The signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be slightly different with each person. Keep in mind, one or two symptoms does not suggest adrenal fatigue. Rather, a cluster of the symptoms and lifestyle factors in an otherwise healthy adult could point towards adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is not on the forefront of “old school docs” minds or they were never taught this in med school. Holistic medical practices, dietitians or nutritionists are more likely to recognize the symptoms and prescribe a non-medicinal approach to working back to health.
Weight gain and inability to lose it- often abdominal area
High frequency of sicknesses that tend to last longer than normal
Reduced sex drive
Lack of energy, even with adequate sleep
Reliance on caffeine- coffee, soda, energy drinks
Chronic pain of unknown origin
Obviously, we at Athletes’ Potential are not dietitians or nutritionists but we have a strong belief that input = output. We tend to treat the output side, but you could see they are directly related! So if you train 6 days per week, crave and/or eat sugary foods, sleep 4-5 hours a night and have trouble sleeping once you lay down--- your body is TIRED. As a society wrapped up in the ‘go until you drop’ mindset, it is not often that we take time to slow down and let the mind and body recover.
Take a minute to answer these questions for yourself: How many minutes each day are quiet and calm? Meaning, no phone, no TV, no conversation, no working, no cooking. After a workout or long day at work, what do you do to ensure that your body is ready to do it all again tomorrow? How do you respond when your body sends stress signals?
Any “I don’t know” or “I don’t have time” responses? Keep reading!
Where to start?
Recovery practices- If you are that athlete training 5-6x/week but have no recovery schedule, it is only a matter of time before you will have an injury or begin to experience some of the above symptoms. Recovery can look like an off day (more than once every 2 weeks), a stretching and soft tissue regimen, appropriately fueling for the training or a resource such as whole body cryotherapy. Stretching and soft tissue maintenance has always been our mantra but something you may not be familiar with is the cryotherapy. It will reduce inflammation to speed recovery, boost metabolism, decrease chronic pain, burn calories and increase norepinephrine (increase focus, attention, mood). Many of our patients with chronic sleep issues tend to have more restful nights following a few bouts of cryotherapy. This could be the game changer for you!
Nutrition- Not my area of expertise, but definitely an area of interest! A friend of ours is a Nutritional Counselor at a Holistic and Integrative Medicine clinic here in Atlanta. She shared a short blog about supplements that she suggests if you are experiencing these symptoms, found HERE. There is also a delicious recipe--- you’re welcome! A dietician or nutritionist can work with you one-on-one to talk through symptoms and which food changes could impact your health.
Meditation- Meditation doesn’t have to be some mystic, religious experience unless you want it to be. By meditation, I mean taking a small chunk of time to relax the mind, breathe and calm the body. This is a new practice for me as well! The first time I tried it, I only lasted about 30 seconds before I was thinking about something else. Now, I almost always make about 10 minutes of relaxation! Check out the app Headspace. It’s free and is directed mindfulness for 10 min each day.
Journaling- Very similar to meditation, but some people prefer journaling. For those with busy minds, taking a few minutes to write down what you are thinking about can be freeing and lighten the load swirling in your mind.
Listen to your body- Although last, it is the most important and closing thought. Listening to your body while training is paramount to all practices. If you feel fatigued, foggy headed, have various aches and pains over the body, perhaps today isn’t the day to run your 10-mile loop or try to PR a lift. Take the time to slow down and be attentive to the signals your body sends!
Thanks for reading,
We all have our own reasons for working out. For many of us, it’s a stress reliever. For others it’s stressful to even think about going to the gym and being around a bunch of sweaty people in tight clothes. Regardless of your reason, almost all of us have a similar goal. We want less body fat and want to look better both with our clothes on and off.
A solid training plan, good nutrition and enough sleep are three things that drive these body changes. Those are very important aspects of your health but what if I told you that there was an x-factor to accelerate fat loss? What if you could burn the same amount of calories as running 4-6 miles in just 3 minutes? I know, it sounds too good to be true but it’s not. It’s Whole Body Cryotherapy.
Whole Body Cryotherapy is essentially a cold exposure session for the body that lasts 3 minutes. You stand in a tube and liquid nitrogen gas is released at temperatures as low as -200 degrees fahrenheit. I know, it doesn’t sound like fun but it’s ten times easier to tolerate than a cold shower or an ice bath. Not only that but you get some astounding body results from it!
Because of the extreme cold exposure and rapid change in skin temperature, your body has an interesting response. The body produces heat internally to warm itself back up. This process is called cold thermogenesis.
Before we get into how to use whole body cryotherapy to help with fat loss, let’s talk about fat itself. Fat, also known as adipose tissue can be either white or brown. White fat is the fat you think about that you’d love to get rid of. The stuff that accumulates around your waist, thighs and arms. Brown fat on the other hand is something completely different. Brown fat is more dense, it’s full of energy/heat producing cells and it helps regulate our metabolism.
So, white fat bad, brown fat good! How do you get more brown fat? One of the ways that has been shown to increase brown fat is cold exposure like Whole Body Cryotherapy. This has been shown to help convert white fat into brown fat. It’s also been shown to increase your metabolism by as much as 350%.
We’ve even seen some interesting results with our patients that had no intentions of losing fat. Recently, I had a 40 year old female come in for an ankle sprain she sustained playing tennis. As part of her treatment plan we recommended she try and do cryotherapy 1-2x per week. She was really motivated to get better and actually came in 3x a week to do Whole Body Cryotherapy.
We didn’t mention anything to her about the fat loss effect that can come from regular Whole Body Cryotherapy exposure. At her last Physical Therapy visit about 4 weeks later, she stated that her tennis skirts were feeling more loose around her waist/hips. I explained the reasoning behind why she may have lost weight while doing Whole Body Cryotherapy. She was ecstatic and said she had been trying to lose weight in those areas since she had given birth to her last child three years ago.
When we look at the pure caloric output that you get from a bout of Whole Body Cryotherapy, it’s easy to see why weight loss occurs. One bout of Whole Body Cryotherapy has been shown to burn between 500 and 800 calories. That’s a lot of calories that get burned for standing in a tube for 3 minutes!
That many calories is equivalent to running for 40-60 minutes at a 10 minute mile pace.
I don’t know about you but I just got really hungry!
Now, let’s assume you didn’t eat those delicious foods that I just referenced. Each time you did Whole Body Cryotherapy you’re burning that extra 500-800 calories. If you did that twice a week that’s 1000-1600 calories a week. If you did that for a month that’s 4000-6400 extra calories burned off!
Your body requires 3500 extra burned calories to lose a pound of body fat. That means that just adding in Whole Body Cryotherapy twice a week would help you burn an extra 1-2 pounds of body fat a month! Throw a good nutrition and exercise plan in with it and you’ve got a recipe for some serious body changes in a very positive way.
Every year I work with hundreds of people in the Decatur and Atlanta area. Our goal is to get a plan together on how they can come back from an injury and get back in shape. For many of them, they just want to look better in a bathing suit. They want to feel more confident and comfortable in their own clothes. They’re also busy and their time is very valuable. They’re just like you and I can’t think of a better return on your 3-minute investment than what you’ll get from Whole Body Cryotherapy.
Give us a call and schedule an introductory session of Whole Body Cryotherapy. Even better come in with a friend and try it together. This is the missing link to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
-Dr. Danny Matta DPT
Athletes’ Potential is the first and only Whole Body Cryotherapy center in the Decatur Georgia area. Our goal is to help you achieve your health and fitness goals and believe that if you have a body, you’re an athlete.
We are starting to see younger athletes with more injuries and joint pain, whether they are very active or not. There are a few factors that play into this: sport specialization at a young age, absence of foundational strength, and lack of body control and knowledge of proper movement patterns. Sport specialization is conversation for another time. I want to focus on foundational strength and the need for adolescents to being resistance training.
Why should my kid lift weights?
For the same reason that you do, or should! For the athletes, adding strength training will improve performance, decrease the likelihood of an injury, and set them up for success later in life. The athletes will be more competitive in their age group by becoming faster, stronger and more resilient. It has been shown that young athletes can increase strength between 30-50%. Although we don’t think much about injury prevention until it is too late, this should be a huge focus for youth athletes!
The adolescents who are not participating in sports or find themselves on the other end of the spectrum will also benefit greatly. Adding resistance training with physical activity promotes bone health, appropriate blood pressure and glucose levels and assists in maintaining a healthy weight. The benefits of lifting weights can be concrete, but it can also increase confidence and self-esteem! I know most kids could use a boost in the middle school and high school times.
When is the appropriate time to start?
There is not a hard-set age that an adolescent should begin weight training. Some researchers have used children as young as 8 years old while others start around 10 years old. It is important to gauge the maturity of the boy or girl—skeletal and behavioral. It is important that they can follow directions and understand how to move properly. Just as I say in nearly every blog post: it is not lifting weights that will cause an injury, it is moving improperly!
What type of resistance training is best?
This, again, will depend on maturity and interest. While there are kiddos out there starting Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, a basic strength training regimen may be appropriate for others. Each of these will promote the desired health and strength impact. Foundational strength should initially be the focus- squats, deadlifts, overhead pressing. Later in the teens, athletes will begin to specialize and the mode of training should be tailored to their sport. Volleyball players need explosive power, football linemen require more foundational strength and power while cross country runners require muscular endurance and strength.
Check out this kid. He is a 13-year-old Olympic lifter would can throw around some serious weight! I guarantee he has strong bones, increased lean muscle mass compared to his peers and would be more resilient in demanding situations.
How often should they train?
Training frequency can be as low as twice per week to still reap the benefits and see results. Keep in mind, the frequency would ideally ebb and flow with their sport season. For those that are not in organized sports, twice a week is a great start.
Are they more likely to be injured?
A common concern about youth resistance training is increased incidence of injury and growth plate fracture. With proper equipment, instruction and supervision, weight lifting is safe for youth and adolescents. Previously, growth plate fracture has been an argument against training youngsters but it has been shown that repetitive sports such as gymnastics and baseball are more stressful to the growth plates. These are two very popular youth activities in which parents wouldn’t think twice about enrolling their children.
There are many myths and misconceptions regarding resistance training for youths and adolescents. There is a low risk of growth plate fracture and injury as long as the technique is correct and lifts are supervised. Youth athletes will be stronger, faster and more resilient than their peers who do not lift weights. Combining resistance training (Oly lifting, powerlifting, weight lifting) with plyometrics and conditioning will help your child reach their potential and engrain fundamental movement patterns early. Not only will their confidence be boosted but their bone density and cardiovascular system will benefit.
When searching for a coach/trainer for your child, be sure that they have experience working with youngsters and focus on technique first and foremost.
Thanks for reading,
Shoulders can be particularly tricky for the athletic population. A history of overhead sports and hand dominance can set us up for difficulty later down the line, especially if we choose to move to a mode of exercise that is very symmetrical (rowing, barbell movements). Also, repetitive overhead movements with poor form or overuse during overhead sports can lead us to shoulder pain.
The shoulders hold a particularly difficult role because they have a demand for stability and mobility at the same time. This is a fine balance that can result in pain and dysfunction, if not optimal. Fun fact: the shoulder complex, or the shoulder blade and arm, connect to the body only by attachment of muscles. It is unlike the hip or knee joint that articulates bone to bone with some cartilage in between. So the muscles need extra attention!
To work on both stability and mobility, a few items need to be checked off before we go snatching a weighted barbell over our heads or swinging away at a tennis ball. We must make sure the tissues are warm and the neurological system is primed for overhead movements. Pain in this area may be caused by muscular tension, shoving the shoulder into poor positions due to lack of mobility and/or lack of control of the shoulder. The best way to attack this area is a proper warm-up, mobility or soft tissue work and movement preparation. Of course, all of this is worthless without making sure that you are moving properly.
#1 Inch Worm- this exercise prepares the shoulder complex by adding a weight bearing component. With the push up, the scapular and pec muscles will be prepped for the following mobility drills. 10 repetitions would be a good place to start.
#2 Banded wall slides- these closely resemble an overhead squat or overhead sports movement (but both sides involved!) The band provides constant tension to engage the scapular muscles and the movement overhead allows them to work to stabilize the joint. At the top, the pulling away from the wall engages the lower trap and mimics the position of the barbell in an overhead lift. Try 10 slow slides then 5 lift-offs per arm, keeping tension the entire time.
If you need mobility work, the green band at the gym is a great place to start. If you tend to be more mobile but still have some tissue tension, the lacrosse ball should be your buddy.
#3 Overhead shoulder distraction- using the green band for this mobility exercise allows distraction at the shoulder joint as well as a stretch to the lats and pecs, depending on angle of pull. Two minutes minimum each side!
#4 Subscap smash- The subscapularis muscle can limit external rotation if tight and this can impact overhead lifts, front racks or the throwing/hitting motion. Whether flexible or not, the subscap generally has a good but of tension in weightlifters and overhead athletes. Pressure based techniques are best done for about 2 minutes each side.
A specific shoulder warm-up is important depending on the task for the day. Say the workout is snatches or overhead squats—behind the neck presses and snatch balance will be ideal for adding speed and change of direction. If you are warming up for an overhead sport, start slow and short with the movements the slowly add speed and distance.
#5 Snatch Balance- weightlifters/CrossFitters: this can be a difficult warmup for many, as it can expose your deepest, darkest mobility secrets! The idea is to quickly push your body under the barbell without allowing it to raise at all. If you have never done this, try it with a PVC pipe and a coach nearby. Athletes: choose a task specific warm up or drill and begin to add the speed.
#6 Change how you move- as always, appropriate biomechanics can “cure” many athletes’ pains. Video yourself during a movement that is painful for your shoulder and then watch it in slow motion. You may be surprised! Ask a coach or experienced athlete to give you a few pointers. There are ways to smash with lacrosse balls for a temporary fix, but to make a lasting change and prevent the reoccurrence--move better. If you don’t have the ideal positions yet, then chip away with mobility.
We always encourage self-maintenance for athletes but if you find yourself stuck or with a nagging pain, contact us. We would gladly speak with you about your training and dysfunction/pain. At Athletes’ Potential, we specialize in keeping athletes of all levels functioning and pain free in their active lifestyles. What better way to start the New Year than pain free?
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Danny and Dr. Jackie's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.