Category Archives: Low back

The FMS results I have seen and what they mean

If you’ve read my stuff before, then you know that I am, well, a big geek. I think I probably took fitness geek to a whole new level with my bench press assessment article, talking about the work value of a bench press based on arm span. I think this article will further raise the bar on geek in the fitness industry.

This article is about what typical problem areas I see based on the Functional Movement Screen (FMS for those who like to keep things short) assessments that I perform. Not familiar with the FMS? Check out functionalmovement.com, or read on for a brief overview. Then follow the article to see an overview of the results I’ve seen in terms of what functional movements tend to cause the most problems, and how the results are different based on gender and whether someone is an athlete.

Lastly, I’ll share my take on what this should mean for your training (or programming for trainers) if you do not have access to the FMS or other assessment options to help guide you.
Continue reading The FMS results I have seen and what they mean

6 Exercises for Low Back Health

Low back pain is a very common problem, and is a topic that comes up often when I talk with, well people. I have written a couple of articles about this in previous years, but I want to address it again, this time with a more practical approach. I realized recently that I have developed a bit of a template for clients who have low back pain, or who have a history of low back pain. The program for each person is different, but there are six exercises that I include for almost everyone who talks about their back when I first meet them. I am going to share these 6 exercises for low back health with you.

Before I begin though, I must point out the following: If daily living causes you low back pain, I strongly suggest that you look to a health care practitioner as your primary source of guidance for your back health. I won’t suggest what type of professional you see, just that someone who is a doctor, osteopath, physical therapist, chiropractor, athletic therapist, or massage therapist sees and hopefully provides some treatment for your back.

With that said, I’m going to share the 6 exercises that I have found to be most important and effective for helping people improve their low back health. Strangely I feel a need to qualify that again. I think that is because it makes me uncomfortable suggesting that I can help “cure back pain” when I am not a health care professional. I’m a trainer. And before I was a trainer, I was an engineer; not a doctor or a physical therapist. But here’s the thing: I help people’s low back pain by avoiding their back pain, not by working on it. Continue reading 6 Exercises for Low Back Health

My Favourite Training Tools: #4 – the FMS

We’re now into the top five of my blog-series: My Favourite Training Tools (For my American readers, please excuse the ‘u’ in favourite. It’s a Canadian thing). There are probably thousands of tools out there for fitness. Some are ridiculous fly-by-night items (I can’t help but think of the Saturday Night Live commercial spoof of the Shaker Weight) while some have stood the test of time for hundreds of years (kettlebells). In each entry in this blog series, I’ll talk about one of my 10 favourite tools.

Today’s entry features the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). This makes my list even though it does nothing to get you strong. That’s because it is an assessment tool. I love this tool because it helps me to see where people have problems with the fundamental way that they move, and then that helps me to create a great training program for them that will not only get them “faster, higher, stronger”, but will also help fix movement dysfunction that they have developed in life. Continue reading My Favourite Training Tools: #4 – the FMS

Reducing the Risk of Low Back Pain for Skiers

I had an article published in Ski Pro Magazine this fall, Reducing the Risk of Low Back Pain. For those of you who are skiers but not instructors in Canada, here is the link to the online version of the magazine:

Reducing the Risk of Low Back Pain.

The article is on pages 30 and 31, or you can get to it by typing “low back’ into the search field.

Lessons of the Hip & Spine from Dr. Shirley Sahrmann

This article was written after I had the pleasure of attending a two-day seminar with Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, author of Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. Throughout the course, and then on the eight hour drive home, I had a lot of opportunity to really think about what I learned and its relevance. This article presents a combination of what I learned from Dr. Sahrmann, as well as some of the thoughts it provoked.

I don’t care how much you don’t move
This was a statement she made repeatedly throughout the course, and reflects the premise that it is usually the place that moves too much that is the problem. This is in keeping with her belief of exercise instead of manual therapy as the best approach for addressing movement disorders, because manual therapy typically addresses shortness.
Continue reading Lessons of the Hip & Spine from Dr. Shirley Sahrmann

It’s the small stuff

A good trainer will work to not only make you stronger, more fit, and less squishy, but also to help improve your overall movement and to contribute to healthy joints and tissues. We do this by working on symmetry, and focusing on stability and mobility in the right places. But typically, the time you spend working out is just not enough to counteract the habits we all have throughout the “other 23 hours of the day”.

What habits am I talking about? The way we stand, sit, walk, sleep, watch tv, and drive all impact our bodies. We all have habits that we do every day. Many of them seem to be so minute, and yet we do them so much that in fact we do them in huge volumes. That adds up and can have a big impact on our ability to move well. Do you know what yours are?
Continue reading It’s the small stuff

Golf Movement and Swing Assessment – Case Study: Will

I have a feeling there may be a lot of golfers out there. And I suspect just a few of them (read: most) are interested in improving theirs swing. And another small subset (read: large) are addicted to everything to do with golf. And that these people may just be interested to get a complete assessment of their swing, of the way they move without a golf club in their hand, and of the correlation between the limitations in the way they move and the problems they are having with their swing. And hopefully they will also be keen to do the few corrective exercises that will help them to improve their movement and their swing. I would think that those who don’t play as much as they want to because their back gets sore from a round of golf would be particularly keen on this.

I recently did a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) assessment on a golfer friend of mine down in Massachusetts who gets up at 430 am every day to fit 9 holes in before work. Despite that incredible dedication to this game (addict?), he has struggled with low back pain of late, and his game has also been suffering somewhat. Take a look at what we found out from his assessment:
Continue reading Golf Movement and Swing Assessment – Case Study: Will

Shoveling as a workout?

I for one complained about the lack of snow in November. I’ll admit it.  And while I am super happy to be able to ski now, I can’t say I look forward to the driving and walking related issues that snow brings.

For many, shoveling is the big frustration.  It’s hard work if you have a big driveway.  I’m not sure if this is a surprise to anyone, but emergency rooms fill up after big snow falls.  Okay, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone.  Many of the visits are from falling injuries – slippery sidewalks, ski or snowboard tumbles, and of course toboggan injuries.  But did you know there is also an increase in cardiac incidents? Continue reading Shoveling as a workout?

Low back pain redux

This week’s post is a follow on to last week’s post with some basic information about low-back pain, covering some slightly different topics and getting into a bit more detail.

The post will primarily address whether and how much we should bend, extend and rotate our backs.

Dr. McGill has lectured and written extensively on why flexion is bad for our backs, and yet what exercise does your physical therapist give you to address your low back pain? Crunches! Somehow in the last 20 years it has become a universal truth that situps are bad but crunches are good. Take a look at these two photos. Continue reading Low back pain redux

Lessons about low back pain (part one)

I had the pleasure of spending two days at a Dr. Stuart McGill seminar about “Building the Ultimate Back”. Dr. McGill is a spine biomechanist at the University of Waterloo, an internationally renowned speaker about low back dysfunction, an equally renowned clinician, and the author of Low back Disorders and Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.

Because Dr. McGill covered so much amazing information, and because back function is such an important topic, I have split this into three articles. This first article provides what I view as the 4 basic points he addressed.

Continue reading Lessons about low back pain (part one)