Common Workout Myths

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

truth about workout myths

Fitness and workout tips are everywhere: They can be found in magazines, TV shows, online articles, and even come within advice from friends. However, each tip seems to be different – sometimes even a contradiction of a different piece of health advice. To help you sort the fact from the fiction, read below to learn some common workout myths and truths that can help you have better, healthier and safer workouts.

1. Myth: Cardio Burns the Most Calories

Truth: If you want to burn more calories overall, and keep burning it after your workout is over, weight training needs to be incorporated into your routine. Weight training or strength training has been shown to keep you burning calories afterward due to post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).2 Cardio exercise is needed to keep your heart healthy, but if calorie burn is your goal, don’t forget the resistance training.1,2

2. Myth: Stretching Is Best Before Working Out

Truth: Warming up with cardio before a workout is much more effective than stretching. It will get your blood flowing and warm up your muscles, which helps to prevent injury.3 A short burst of cardiovascular exercise such as riding a bike for five minutes or jogging in place is an easy way to start a work out. Dynamic stretching is good before a workout as well. Dynamic stretching is also known as “active stretching” where the muscle is being moved through its range and usually this is a range needed for the activity after the warm-up. Static stretching, which refers to when a stretch is held in place for a short amount of time, is better for improving flexibility and may be more beneficial after a workout.3

3. Myth: Weight Lifting Will Bulk You Up

Truth: Many people wrongly assume that lifting weights will make you bulk up, which they may not be interested in. Lifting either light weights or heavier weights can result in increased strength and muscle endurance.4 The idea of “bulking up,” such as bodybuilders do, is achieved usually through hours of lifting coupled with a diet designed to build muscle mass. The average person may see benefits of lifting like feeling stronger and looking more toned.

4. Myth: It’s Too Late/I’m Too Old To Get In Shape

Truth: It’s never too late to begin a healthier routine. There is no age limit on the body’s ability to gain strength. If you don’t exercise at all, start by walking 5 to 10 minutes a day, gradually increasing the time and adding in strength training as your tolerance increases.

5. Myth: You Need A Gym Membership To Get Results

Truth: You don’t need a gym membership or major equipment to work out. A yoga mat, a couple lightweight dumbbells, resistance band, or even a chair, is all that is needed to get a full-body workout at home. There are even many exercises that require no equipment at all, like squats and planks.

6. Myth: “No Pain, No Gain”

Truth: Some muscle soreness is to be expected during a workout, especially if you’re trying a new exercise or lifting a heavier weight. However if you’re in serious pain, stop what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you’re working harder or getting stronger, it usually indicates injury may be occurring. Generally, workouts should be relatively pain free, but you may feel fatigue during a workout or muscle soreness after a workout.

If you do experience lingering pain after a workout, make sure to schedule a complimentary injury screen at your nearest Athletico location.

Request a Complimentary Injury Screen

The Importance of Strengthening the Gymnast’s Elbow

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Atletico Physical Therapy

strengthening gymnasts elbowGymnastics offers a unique perspective, even allowing some athletes to see the world upside down!

Very few sports involve supporting the entire body weight with the arms like gymnastics. Due to these special considerations, gymnasts are more prone to certain injuries, such as Osteochondritis Dissecans of the elbow (OCD), and should take care to strengthen the entire arm to decrease injury risk.

What is OCD Elbow?

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) lesions can be found in the elbows of adolescent athletes. The exact cause of OCD in the elbow is unknown, but repetitive microtrauma and decreased blood flow to the subchondral bone are believed to play a role. As the underlying bone weakens, a segment of the articular cartilage separates from the subchondral bone, forming a lesion. OCD lesions in gymnasts may be caused by repetitive weight bearing on the hands with the elbow in extension.

Presentation of elbow OCD is very vague. A patient can have pain, tenderness and swelling over the lateral aspect of the elbow. There may be limitation in how straight the elbow can go and there may be locking or catching if the injury has progressed. However, tendinitis of the elbow can have a similar presentation. More often OCD is suspected in specific patient populations including pre-teen and teenage gymnasts as well as young baseball pitchers with elbow pain. Diagnosis is through imaging such as x-ray or MRI.

Treatment for OCD Elbow

Non-operative treatment for elbow OCD consists of rest and sports restriction. For a gymnast that means no weight bearing on arms and no hanging from bars or rings as the latter puts traction stress through the elbow. Muscle strengthening exercises and possibly a short period of immobilization are also usually a part of treatment.

There are some cases where the lesion is unstable and surgery is the best option. After surgery, physical therapy is performed to reduce pain, swelling and restore range of motion. Resistance strengthening is also incorporated into the rehabilitation after bone healing has occurred, usually around 8 weeks after surgery.

What Can Athletes Do While Resting Their Elbow?

If a gymnast has been diagnosed with an OCD lesion, they are not allowed to do any weight bearing on the arm, which includes performing skills on the bars. So what can the gymnast do as they allow their elbow to heal? Core strengthening is one option, as core strength is vital to a gymnast and is important during all events. Leg strengthening can also be performed while adhering to the restrictions on the elbow. An overall conditioning program can be designed for the athlete that will incorporate cardio, core strengthening, leg strengthening, shoulder and wrist strengthening, and flexibility stretching. Staying active and in shape is vital to the gymnast during this time to assist in returning to the sport when the elbow restrictions are lifted.

Arm Strengthening for Gymnasts

The elbow is the middle joint of the arm with the shoulder and wrist on either side. While the gymnast’s elbow is healing, it is important to strengthen both of the surrounding joints to provide extra stability for the arm for when return to weight bearing is allowed. Prior to initiating any activities, ensure the gymnasts’ physician has cleared them for return to these exercises.

            Shoulder strengthening examples:

  • Resistance band exercises including rows, shoulder extension, diagonals, internal/external rotation
  • Sidelying shoulder external rotation
  • Tricep extension with band or hand weight
  • Bicep curls with band or hand weight
  • Prone I, T, Y exercises – exercises can be performed using a swiss ball for added core activation, hand weights can be added for resistance
  • Gradual return to weight bearing exercises, like push-ups, planks and handstands, can be added when the athlete is cleared from restrictions

            Wrist strengthening examples:

  • Wrist curls in both directions with a weight or resistance band
  • Gripping exercises for the hands
  • Wrist rotation exercises, such as hand weight rolling
  • Supination/Pronation with a hand weight

Arm Stretching for Gymnasts

  • Wrist flexor stretch
  • Wrist extensor stretch
  • Cross body shoulder stretch
  • Tricep stretch
  • Shoulder flexion stretch on foam roller, wall, or mats
  • Shoulder circles – lie on your side on the floor and draw a circle on the floor with your top arm by rotating your upper body
  • Doorway stretch

Strengthening the Upper Body

Gymnasts have special considerations due to the nature of their sport with weight bearing on the arms. This can lead to injuries of the elbow such as OCD lesions. Strengthening of the entire upper body, including shoulder and wrists, should be incorporated into a conditioning program for both healthy gymnasts and gymnasts recovering from an elbow injury.

For more information, contact an Athletico clinic close to you for a complimentary injury screening.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

Considerations for Returning to Soccer after ACL Surgery

By Dan Czajkowski, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS for Athletico Physical TherapyConsiderations for returning to soccer after ACL surgery

You’re almost there. The initial ACL injury you sustained months ago seems so distant. You’ve endured all the time healing from the surgery, the rehab, and now you are pushing ahead to get better, stronger and faster. You can almost taste the grass, outperforming your opponents, and scoring a goal in the final minutes of the game.

But wait. Despite finishing rehab and being cleared to progress to sports specific activities, you haven’t even run on grass yet. You haven’t tried cutting at full speed. You haven’t practiced your best moves or even shot at a goal, let alone scored against anyone. You can see the finish line of your recovery, but you don’t really know exactly what you need to do in order to get there.

Many soccer players coming back from an ACL surgery don’t always know the best way to get themselves back on the field safely. However, the secret is simple – start small, stay consistent and progress slowly. Here are a few things to take into consideration as you work toward getting back onto the field:

1. Start by getting fit.

Soccer is a unique game that includes sprinting, changing direction and endurance. You need to train all these factors to be successful, especially when coming back from an injury where you haven’t trained in months. You will need to train yourself in a variety of ways. A few examples are listed below:

  • Interval sprinting and jogging progressions (i.e. jogging for three minutes, sprinting for two minute and repeating for 30 minutes total)
  • Deceleration and Acceleration (i.e. sprint 5 yards and back to endline, sprint 10 yards and back to endline, etc)
  • Endurance running (i.e. 2-4 miles long run)
  • Agility (i.e. sprinting in Box Shape, agility ladder, 5 or 10 yard zig-zag sprints with cones)

2. Start small with your ball skills and progress very slowly

Even though this is usually the most fun aspect of training for soccer, your knee will need time and practice to get used to manipulating the ball. Start by doing simple moves (i.e. turning, using in/out of foot, tic tocs, roll-overs, etc). Gradually increase your speed of the movement as well as sprinting a few steps after finishing your move.

The same progression goes with passing, crossing and shooting. Start out with kicking the ball in place or using a wall to perform short one and two touch passing. Gradually increase your distance as you get more comfortable, and then start passing while you jog, followed by passing while you sprint.

3. Always work on and perfect your cutting/jumping mechanics.

Just because you are training on your own does not mean that you neglect your responsibility to progress, which can help to prevent future injury. As you get stronger, you will need to learn to control your body and keep your knee stable. ACL Injury prevention programs that focus on improving landing and cutting strategies as well as neuromuscular control have been shown to reduce the risk of injury. The trick with these drills is to land with a soft-landing and maintain a half squat position (i.e. slight forward lean, knee bent and knee aligned over ankles). Practice performing two-leg and one-leg jumping in a variety of directions, including forward, sideways, diagonally and over hurdles. Doing 5-10 reps in each direction can help improve your performance and decrease the risk of injury.

4. Perform SAFE strength training under fatigue.

Soccer is a demanding sport. You will be in situations when your body is tired and fatigued, but you don’t want to let your knee become unstable due to this. Performing strength training after you run or perform a workout that fatigues your body can help improve your knee stability. You can perform a 5-10 minute high intensity sprinting workout and then perform body weight or light weight exercises. Some useful exercises include single leg squat, Bulgarian split squats, side walking with a theraband, or single leg balance on an unstable surface. It is import to make sure you have excellent form (keeping trunk stable, knee aligned forward and behind your toes, etc) when performing these exercises. Keep in mind that strengthening routines can also be performed prior to fatigue and have still been shown to reduce re-injuries as well.

Getting Back on the Field

The journey to returning to sport is long, tiring mentally and physically, and takes a lot of hard work. However, many athletes are successful in this journey and you can be too!

Make sure to consult your physical therapist if you have any questions about your recovery process or how to effectively return to sport during your journey. For information about Athletico’s ACL 3P  Program, which can help athletes minimize the risk of ACL injury as well as help those who have experienced an ACL injury progress after surgery, please email ACL@athletico.com.

Cross Country Skiing: Benefits and Injury Risk

By Tara Hackney, PT, DPT, OCS, KTTP for Athletico Physical Therapy

Benefits of Cross Country Skiingcross country skiing benefits and injury risks

Cross country skiing is a relatively low risk sport and is great for people of all ages. Skiers can perform this activity for fun or for a workout in winter months. Skiing provides both an upper body and lower body workout and is also a great cardiovascular workout. It is a great activity for aerobic fitness and calorie burning. Cross country skiing does not stress one muscle group more than others, therefore it is a good option for longer duration workouts with low risk for traumatic injury.

In contrast to downhill skiing, crashes and falls are less frequent in cross country skiing. Downhill skiers generally sustain more severe and complex injuries due to the higher speeds than cross country skiers.

Possible Injuries in Cross Country Skiing

Although cross country skiing is lower risk than downhill skiing, injuries can still occur. Low back pain can be a concern for cross country skiers due to the repetitive nature of the sport in a forward flexed position. Compared to control subjects, cross country skiers reported significantly more back pain than their counterparts, however the long term consequence of this is unknown and may not be an issue.

For those that are worried about low back pain while cross country skiing, a good core strengthening program can help protect the back. An easy way to strengthen the core at home is by performing planks. Planks require no equipment and activate the abdominal muscles that support and help protect the low back.

There is also a risk of lower body injury in cross country skiing. One study found the foot and the knee to be the most common area reported for injury in cross country skiing. Injuries to these areas are generally foot/ankle sprains or sprains of the knee. This could be caused by a fall where the leg is twisted.

Lastly, there is a risk for “skier’s thumb” in cross country skiing. Skier’s thumb is a sprain of the ligament on the inside portion of the thumb. This injury can occur when a skier falls with a pole in hand. There are thumb stabilizers available to help prevent this injury, but skiers can also avoid putting their hands through the ski pole loops unless absolutely necessary.

An Activity for Every Winter

Nordic skiing is in the spotlight with the Winter Olympics, however it is not only reserved for Olympic athletes. Cross country skiing is a great option for winter workouts. With a relatively low risk for injury, you can enjoy the benefits of this sport every winter.

Should an injury occur, please visit your nearest Athletico for a complimentary injury screen.

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

The Risk of ACL Injuries in Baseball

By Mike Headtke for Athletico Physical Therapy

acl injuries in baseball

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are typically associated with sports like soccer or football, however these injuries can occur in any sport – including baseball.

In fact, hitting a baseball is one of the most “violent” total body movements in athletics due to multiple body parts moving in synchronization at high angular velocities. As a result, the knee still can become injured. To show the significant amount of torque the body sustains during hitting, it is a good idea to review what happens to the body during this movement.

The Anatomy of a Baseball Hitter

It is important for baseball players to maintain strong legs and core to prevent injury. While there are various stances that a hitter can take, there are some basics that all stances have in common. There is a weight shift from the back leg to the front leg (where power starts). As the upper body starts to rotate, the core is engaged for the hips to begin rotating in unison with the upper body. As contact is made there is significant force generated through the entire body placing significant torque on the knee joint, with the lead leg also going into extension and back leg flexing.

To put this into perspective, the fastest swing (exit velocity) to be recorded is over 123 MPH. That is all generated by the body with a majority of the energy coming from the legs and core. With that much force going through the legs (and with torque, extension and flexion happening at the knee), we can now see how a meniscus or collateral ligament could become damaged. If the perfect storm were to happen (i.e. rotating about a fixed leg and hyperextending with foot not moving to help slow forces down) an ACL injury could also occur.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

To prevent potential injuries, it is very important for baseball players to maintain a healthy and strong core, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and lower legs. Since hitting is considered a closed chain activity (feet fixed to the floor), it’s good to perform other strengthening activities in closed chain too.

For example, performing squatting or lunging variations can be great to kick on multiple muscle groups in a functional manner. With that said, it is still important to work open chain as well (feet not fixed to the floor) to establish good hip control and strength because these muscles are the big drivers for the swing.

Athletes can also minimize the risk of ACL injury with Athletico’s ACL 3P Program, where prevention begins with a screening to identify potential injury risk factors that can be corrected. For more information, please email ACL@Athletico.com.