Maintaining Spine Health:  Machines To Avoid At the Gym

Maintaining Spine Health: Machines To Avoid At the Gym

Many people access local gyms due to the convenience of having large amounts of fitness equipment in one building.  Most gyms contain numerous fitness weight machines that make working out easier and (hopefully) less complicated.  The downside of weight machines are they rarely are as functional as the engineers set out to make them.  In addition, many machines create undue stress or potential for injury throughout your body.    Here are a few machines to avoid to maintain your back health.

 

1.       Prone Hamstring Curl Machine

The hamstring curl machine is a common staple in most gyms.  This machine comes in two main types which affects how the client is positioned, either sitting upright or stomach down (prone).

The problem arises if you have only access to the prone machine- by laying on your stomach and curling your heels to your buttocks, you are creating significant stress on your back.  Avoid this at all times especially if you have a history of back dysfunction. 

Stick with the hamstring machine where you are able to sit up- this is much safer on your spine and can still target the hamstring effectively. 

Prone Hamstring Curl

Prone Hamstring Curl

Seated Hamstring Curl

Seated Hamstring Curl

 

2.       Leg Press Machine

The leg press machine is a great work out for hips and knees with the ability to add increased load to your squat form.  

There are a few different types of leg press machines that are common these days:  upright and horizontal. These two types can be separated into two mechanisms- either the plate your feet is on moves up and down (horizontal) or the plate your feet is on stays static and your body moves up and down (upright).

Avoid the horizontal leg press- this machine forces your hips into excessive flexion which increases the relative bend of your spine.  This added spinal flexion with the added load through the machine can create excessive loads through your back.    Be sure to find a gym that has an upright leg press- it mimics your squat form and is less stressful on your back

Horizontal Leg Press

Horizontal Leg Press

Upright Leg Press

Upright Leg Press

 

3.       Abdominal Cruncher

The Abdominal crunch machine is considered a “fundamental” core exercise machine- at least many people think it is.  Do not waste your time with this.  

The exercise actually does not work on your core but instead works on the large superficial muscles in the front of your stomach.  The larger, superficial muscles (think six back abs) are the power movers and can only work effectively if your core is strong.

Core muscles are small and deep- these muscles are your postural muscles and are always firing to provide a good base of support for the larger spine muscles to work effectively/efficiently.   Core muscles respond to small, coordinated movements.  The repetitive motion of the ab cruncher targets the larger muscles which creates excessive force through your spine- this should be avoid.  

If your wondering what core exercises are ideal for your spine, ask your physical therapist!

Ab Curl Machine

Ab Curl Machine

So Your MRI Showed Something "Abnormal"?

So Your MRI Showed Something "Abnormal"?

If you have a few minutes to spare, check out the video below.

Dr. Bahram Jan, a physical therapist, explains how patients (and healthcare providers) use imaging results to link correlation and/or causality with dysfunction in their bodies.  

Clinically, it is important to understand that "abnormal" findings on imaging (i.e. MRI) may not correlate to abnormal dysfunction.  In other words, a patient who has medial and lateral meniscal tears and moderate osteoarthritis may have less pain and dysfunction than another patient who has mild osetoarhritis.    Many individuals will chose surgery to "fix" the abnormal structures that were discovered on imaging when all they needed was specific movement pattern adjustments and corrections.    

(FXNL Media)

Promoting Shoulder Health:  3 Exercises to Avoid At The Gym

Promoting Shoulder Health: 3 Exercises to Avoid At The Gym

Many patients ask us what exercises they should perform when they are ready to return back to previous lifting routines.  The best balance is a few pushing and pulling exercises to target the main movers and shakers of your upper quadrant (in addition to your corrective exericise program provided by your physical therapist). 

Here are a few exercises that you should eliminate from your routine immediately (your shoulders will thank us in the future!). 

1.       Standing Overhead Cable Curls (Crucifix Curls)

Crucifix Curls

Crucifix Curls

I see many people performing this exercise at the cable curl machine.  This exercise takes the cake as the worst exercise you can perform for your shoulders. 

By adding stress to your elbows in the start and end position, you are creating significant tension to your labrum through the pull of your bicep.    Your labrum is connective tissue that acts as a vacuum seal for your shoulder joint- if you tear or stretch this out, you will often complain of instability and dislocations/subluxations of your shoulder.

Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.  

 

2.       Standing Upright Row

Upright Row Dumbbells

Upright Row Dumbbells

This is a staple for many bodybuilders and fitness conscious individuals.   This exercise is performed with dumbbells, a barbell or kettlebell.   

The main problem with this is exercise is the over excursion during the end of the exercise- by pulling your elbows up to your ears you are creating significant stress in the shoulder which can lead to rotator cuff dysfunction. 

Try performing bent over rows (kneeling over a weight bench) which will target similar muscles and save your shoulder for the long haul

 

3.       Behind the Neck Latissimus Pulldown

Behind the Neck Pulldown

Behind the Neck Pulldown