80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and often times it is brought upon by improper lifting of objects from the ground. Lifting places stress on the lumbar muscles, ligaments, and disks as well as the arms and legs. The potential for injury exists regardless of whether you are lifting something heavy or light if improper technique is used. The following tips will help to protect your low back.
- Lift with your legs: People tend to bend over at the waist with locked knees to pick things up off the ground. This puts maximal stress through all of the soft tissues of the lumbar spine and increases the risk for injury. To protect the low back, squat down with the legs to bring your hands closer to the ground.
- Keep your back flat: If your low back muscles are activated they will keep the lumbar from rounding forward thus protecting the ligaments and disks from injury. A good tip is to keep your chin up while lifting rather than looking at the floor.
- Tighten your stomach muscles: This will increase intrabdominal pressure which helps to protect the spine.
- Keep objects close to your abdomen: The closer you keep heavy objects to your center of gravity, the less stress you will place on your low back.
- Know your limitations: If you think something is too heavy to lift on your own, ask for assistance. Taking a little more time to ask for help is better than injuring the low back or other body parts.
By: Steve Bernstein PT, OMT
Stretching is an overlooked but necessary component to any strength and conditioning program or fitness program. It does take a little more time but the benefits will be clear. Stretching not only improves flexibility but will help prevent injuries. There are two completely different ways to get the body prepared for activity: Dynamic warm-ups and static stretching.
The objective is to raise your core body temperature, actively elongate your muscles, excite your nervous system and rehearse (or walk through) techniques that will help you in your activity or sport.
Many people will confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching (bouncing during a stretch). Dynamic stretching consists of controlled movements that take you to the limits of your range of motion vs. bouncing (forcing parts of the body) beyond the limits.
Avoid substituting static stretching for dynamic stretching. Static stretching, where there is lengthening of a muscle(s) as far as possible (holding for 20-30 seconds) will actually decrease force production of a muscle. However, it can be effective, and does have a place in your program just not in pre-game.  The key is being aware of knowing when to perform a static stretch for increased range of motion. A coach or trainer can help you design your program incorporate components effectively.
Here is a simple dynamic warm-up that you can perform anywhere:
- Jumping Jacks — 20 reps
- Bodyweight Squat — 10 reps
- High Knee Pulls — 5 reps each leg
- Single-Leg Squat — 5 reps each leg
- Lunges — 5 reps each side
- Single-Leg Toe Touch — 5 reps each leg
- Side Lunges — 5 reps each side
- Push-Up-to-T — 5 reps each side
- Supermans — 10 reps
Refresh and breakdown:
- What is the reason for dynamic warm-up? In addition to increasing blood flow, body temperature and stimulating the nervous system, they should be a stepping stone tomore intense activity that lies ahead.
- What movements are associated with a dynamic warm-up? Incorporates a series of hops, skips, bounds and dynamic stretching for preparation of intense activity.
- When should an athlete perform a dynamic warm-up? Prior to competition or training for 10-20 minutes. You should break a sweat!
- What is the purpose of static stretching? Simply to improve flexibility of the muscles being stretched. If the muscle begins to quiver, back off of the stretch a little.
- When should an athlete/ individual perform static stretches? Static stretches should mainly be performed at the end of workouts. You will see a tremendous difference with just 10-15 minutes.
Remember to always consult a physician and trainer when starting a new workout program or physical activity.
By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified
 Adding one or two static stretches prior to activity can be performed if there is tightness in an area.
When it comes to pre-workout supplements, recovery drinks and sports beverages, the information for the athlete or fitness enthusiast can be overwhelming and confusing. The complicated ingredient labels do not help you decide which is best for you.
Your performance during a workout or competition puts great stress on the cardiovascular system, body temperature and electrolyte levels. Since performance depends on all three components it is important to hydrate consistently before, during and after the event/activity.
It is recommended that during strenuous training or competition of approximately an hour and thirty-minutes or more, a sports drink should be used to deliver a high concentration of chemicals (electrolytes) needed to perform. Sports drinks do have electrolytes that will regulate plasma blood volume and replace lost sodium. In most cases the sugar content is a little high but that will give you quick energy. Because water does not have a taste, it is often not as appealing as a sports drink and gets ignored when needed the most.
So which sports drinks are the best? Many have too much sugar, food dyes and artificial flavoring. Some all-natural drinks include:
- G2 Natural Series
- Gleukos All Natural Fuel
- Homemade Drink
According to The Gatorade Sports Science Institute, properly formulated sports drinks can:
- Encourage voluntary fluid intake
- Stimulate fast absorption
- Promote rapid and complete rehydration
- Improve performance
Remember that sports drinks are meant for intense workouts and activities, not everyday consumption (water would be a better choice for daily consumption).
NOTE: Sports drinks are different from energy drinks.
By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified
One of the most common pieces of equipment used for exercise is the bicycle. It is versatile enough to be used for anything from rehabilitation to racing, and most people have the ability to use one in some form or another. A number of different styles exist, so choosing the right bike for your needs requires some consideration.
First you need to decide if you prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors. If you live in an environment where you experience extremes of weather such as heat/cold or frequent rainy days, your best choice would be the use of a stationary bike. These come in two standard varieties: upright and recumbent. The upright gives the same riding position as a standard bicycle and allows the user to stand up off the seat while continuing to pedal. A recumbent bicycle is used in a normal reclined sitting position with the feet out front. The seat is usually larger and possibly more comfortable for people that do not like sitting on upright cycles. Neither style is superior to one another as the pedal motion is still the same and the resistance can be equally adjusted. You can typically find both styles for purchase at a sporting goods store, or at most gymnasiums. If exercising with a group is more your style, the gym offers a spinning class led by an instructor which uses upright stationary bikes.
If being outdoors is more your style, a wide variety of bicycles exists depending on the type of environment you want to ride in. First off, if the thought of sitting on a small bike seat does not sound appealing, or your back will not tolerate riding a standard bicycle then a recumbent bike or even a three wheeled bike may be the right choice. The three wheeler is also a good option for those who have poor balance or never learned to ride a bicycle. Upright bicycles are categorized into riding styles and are designed with the terrain in mind. If you plan on riding off road, a mountain bike will give a more comfortable ride from the larger tires and shock absorbers. For those that plan on staying on the road, bicycles vary from upright cruisers to sporty racers. Your local bike shop is a great place to find a bike which will fit your riding style.
Regardless of where or how you decide to ride a bicycle, it is a great way to improve your leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. Try to start riding 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes to reap the benefits for your heart and to lose weight. As always, consult your physician before starting any exercise regimen.
By: Steven L. Bernstein PT, OMT
As the summer months approach us, theSouth Floridaheat and humidity rises quite rapidly. For those of us who enjoy exercise and sports outdoors, this requires close attention to hydration. Increasing fluid intake is the best way to avoid heat related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here are some tips for staying hydrated so you can stay healthy and perform at your best!
– Drink before you are thirsty. Your body’s thirst mechanism is usually inadequate for letting you know when it is time to take in fluids. Put yourself on a schedule to drink fluids and try to stick to it.
– Hydrate before and after activity. Drinking approximately 20 oz. of fluid before activity as well as after will help to keep the body hydrated.
– Drink Water or sports drinks. Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine as these will have a diuretic effect and cause you to loose fluid at an increased rate.
– Weigh yourself before and after activity. If you have lost weight during a single bout of activity, the reason is because of fluid loss.
– Know the signs of dehydration. Signs include dry lips and tongue, headache, weakness, dizziness, severe fatigue, nausea. If post exercise urine appears darker than normal, this is a sign of inadequate hydration.
By: Steve L. Bernstein PT, OMT