The common reasons why you lose overhead mobility are deficits in the thoracic spine, shoulder, scapula and lumbo-pelvic area. In this post I will address the importance of proper thoracic spine mobility for over head motions.

Deficits in movement of tforward-head-posture-manhe thoracic spine and ribcage area is a common problem most people face nowadays,
especially in people that have desk jobs, who’s posture is slouched. The relationship between the T-spine and ribcage lays the foundation for the scapula. Their alignment will dictate the function and movement of the scapula. In the image below you can see how positional faults in the T-spine, as it’s seen with increased rounding could yield to limited movement of the shoulder girdle. As we raise our arms overhead, the scapula is supposed to ride along the T-spine. If the position of the thoracic spine is not optimal, the shoulder blade wont be able to move how its supposed to.


Putting your arms over your head requires  160-170 degrees of motion from the shoulder, but this doesn’t get our arms completely over head. We achieve 180 degrees of motion with thoracic spine extension. The biggest issue comes when compensation from other segments occurs, as T-spine extension is lost, it leads to increased lumbar extension to compensate for this deficit, which increases the risk of low back injuries as well. In addition, we need proximal stability before distal mobility. This means that if the scapula is not sitting in a strong stabilizing position, this can also be a limiting factor for how much weight we can put over our head.


The point on mobilizing your spine is to help improve your efficiency with overhead lifts. Remember the shoulder only achieves 160-170 degrees of overhead flexion and in order to get that personal record lift you need the last 15 degrees to come from your T-spine.


Foam rolling

DON’T simply go back and forth over your spine. The main goal is to real the spine over the roller and mobilize each segment. DO relax your spine at every single level along the T-spine, segmentally. 


Quadruped Rotation

 DON’T allow your hips to move along with your arms. DO maintain your core tight and hips aligned. Open to each side while taking a deep breath in. You should have 50 degrees of motion available on each side.


Foam roll vertical stretch

DON’T rush through the movement. DO lie on your back, with the foam roller along your spine, support your hips and head on the roll, stretch out your arms to the side and RELAX! 


Standing overhead stretch

DON’T over extend your lower back DO start by bringing your arms overhead to a position where you feel restricted. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds at a time until you can no longer make any more gains.

Hope you find these tips helpful!

Stefanie Cohen, SPT


Pretty Squats vs. Ugly Squats

Pretty Squats vs. Ugly Squats
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of talking about what constitutes a “perfect” squat.  What’s often overlooked is the fact that the proportions of your femur and torso play an important role on what your squat’s gonna look like.
Someone with short femurs relative to their torso, will be able to keep chest up during a squat, without leaning forward. Someone with long femurs will dramatically lean forward, almost like a good morning, due to their proportions. What I’m trying to get to is, if your biomechanics are a result of your morphology, then don’t worry. If you developed faulty movement patterns as a result of poor coaching or muscle imbalances, then you better get it fixed before it becomes an issue.

Because femur length can affect torso positioning during squatting, there really is no “one size fits all squat”. Hopefully the images above and this explanation will help further clarify these points. Dr. Ryan DeBell of The Movement Fix wrote a great article discussing in detail how hip anatomy changes squat mechanics, and inspired me to make this follow up post.

Besides mobility, which is known as the pliability of our muscles and connective tissue, anatomy differences can explain why some people can squat deeper than others, why some point their toes out, why some squat wide and some squat narrow. These anatomical differences will dictate form and comfort of the athlete. We can all agree on what a proper squat should look like, right?

  1. Back neutral
  2. Knees tracking your toes
  3. Keep your core tight

Click to see slideshow 

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Pic 1- one femur head points up, one points down

Pic 2- one neck is a lot longer than the other

Pic 3- the angle between the shaft and the ball is greater in one femur than the other

Pic 4- large versus small hip socket, one oriented up, one oriented down

Trying to force a movement pattern upon someone who’s anatomy isn’t conductive for it can be disastrous. If the athlete is uncomfortable in their stance despite how much mobility work they do, it’s important to look at their anatomy and let the stance and depth be dictated by comfort. The key point is to rule out mobility deficits first and making sure the athlete is taught how to perform a squat with proper form.


Stefanie Cohen, SPT


You can’t build mass while you cut- MYTH BUSTED

You can’t build mass while you cut- MYTH BUSTED


There is a common misconception amongst the general population of gym-goers that the only way to gain strength and increase size us to be in some sort of “bulking” phase. And that cutting means you need to sacrifice strength and size in order to achieve a more aesthetic physique. This is not necessarily true.

Luckily for you I’m writing this at the beginning of beach season so I can save some of you strength athletes from the dreaded summer bulk. Let’s start simple and with something we can all agree on. Being in an overall caloric deficit for a long period of time will cause weight loss and being in a caloric surplus for a long period of time will cause weight gain.

The type of weight loss or gain that occurs can be manipulated by the type and intensity of exercise you choose as well as where your calories come from i.e. macronutrient distribution. Now this is the part where we lose some people so let’s return to the idea of a long cut. In this situation you are in an OVERALL caloric deficit. What is overlooked is the fact that during this time you will be cycling between both catabolic and anabolic stages over and over again.


For simplicity sake let’s pretend you start your day at maintenance level energy balance; you haven’t expended any energy or taken anything in, you walk to the kitchen and eat a meal, but you still haven’t expended much energy – you are now effectively and temporarily in a caloric surplus. Next you go to the gym and expend more calories than you took in at breakfast and now you are now in a caloric deficit. This can occur many times per day and if you’re cutting all it means is that you are in a caloric deficit for more of the day than you are in a caloric surplus. The end result is weight loss, but you had many opportunities to build lean mass as you were in an anabolic state multiple times

Our bodies are not programmed with an “on and off” switch for anabolism (building) and catabolism (breakdown), but rather our bodies go through anabolism and catabolism repeatedly throughout the day. 



If you’re still not buying it let’s use an example most of us can relate to. I’m sure everyone had an overweight friend or acquaintance in high school who decided to start hitting the gym. They lost a significant amount of weight over a long period of time due to being in an overall caloric deficit and eventually, once they got lean enough, they revealed the muscular physique they had been building the entire time they were cutting.

If your goal is solely to gain lean mass and you’re already satisfied with the amount of body fat you have the a slight overall caloric surplus is optimal, but this isn’t the case for most people. For those who wish to lose body fat don’t be deterred by the idea of losing strength or muscle mass as you can build lean mass effectively in a caloric deficit if you have BOTH a permissive diet AND an effective training program. Just remember you cannot have one without the other and expect desired result.

Hayden Bowe

Great dead lifters are born, not made. Or are they?

Great dead lifters are born, not made. Or are they?

Because of this belief amongst the fitness community, it is not uncommon for athletes to blame a less than optimal deadlift on poor genetics. Things like the length of your bones and muscle fiber composition are difficult and impossible to alter. However, each lifter should explore different styles to find the one that better suits their bio-mechanical characteristics.

We all know that If you have long arms and short torso, you should pull conventional. If you have long torso and short arms, you should pull sumo. That’s common sense. Or is it?

But how do you know whether your arms or torso are long or short?

Direct comparison of your arm length to the arm of someone who is 5’8 doesn’t mean anything unless you are also 5’8. Arm-torso length need to be expressed as PROPORTION to of your height.

Divide your arm length by your height, and your torso length by your height.

  • Your torso should be measured from the bony prominence on the side of your thigh at the top (greater trochanter) to the top of your head.
  • Your arm is measured from the top of your shoulder (head of the humerus) to the middle finger, holding your arm out straight.
  • Take your height barefoot standing against a wall



So using that information if you have short arms relative to your torso, you’re better off pulling sumo.  If you have long arms relative to your torso, pull conventional. If your arm length matches  your torso length, you can pull both styles and experiment on which works better for you.

That being said, this is not a rule to end all discussion. We are not just made up of bones. Strength and mobility will also affect your deadlifting style.


People with strong glutes, hamstrings and lower back (posterior chain) favor conventional pulls. People with strong quads and adductors (and adductor  flexibility) are better sumo pullers.

In conclusion, beginner lifters can benefit from the information presented above to decide which pulling style could suit them better. If you are an advanced lifter, and the recommendations above don’t match your pulling style, maybe you have already developed your strength and flexibility to counter the influence of your structure. Or maybe, just maybe you have an untapped potential in deadlifting in the style in which your bones are best suited for.


Stefi Cohen

Posture Matters

Posture Matters

Posture matters. Improving your posture allows you to move bigger weights, improve performance and stay injury free. Do you train with a purpose? Do you know why you squat for example? You most likely squat with the purpose of getting a bigger squat, bigger legs, a bigger booty. You include the squat in the program for a reason. The same should hold true for your ENTIRE training program. Every mobility exercise, soft tissue technique, foam rolling, stretch should be included with a SPECIFIC goal in mind.

Hamstring stretch and Glute stretch

In my latest post I spoke about the importance of understanding the cause of your dysfunction in order to manage the symptoms appropriately. What happens in your pelvis affects what goes on in the rest of the body.

Having a posterior pelvic tilt means your hamstrings are short and stiff, which in-turn decreases your lumbar curvature, leaving you at an increased risk for herniations. The upper back will then compensate with an exaggerated upper back rounding and a forward neck, which puts you at risk for upper extremity and shoulder issues. Keeping your hips and spine aligned means less injuries, better health, optimal muscle recruitment, and better performance.


If you are a student, or work a desk job you most likely sit with slumped shoulders, round upper back and a neck that sticks out. Your upper body is a slave to the lower body. Fix the lower body and the upper body will improve. I hope you get it.

When we sit in a posterior pelvic tilt, we run into a lot of issues. 1) flattening of the lumbar spine, which leads to an increased propensity of moving into lumbar flexion. We’ve covered this point before, the lumbar spine doesn’t like to go into flexion, especially under load. 2) it leads to having a slouched upper back and a “head forward” posture, a position which puts your rotator cuff at higher risk for injury, and contributes to neck pain.

10931345_828448477193199_7080016482411996429_nStop stretching without a purpose. Be mindful about the way you move, sit, stand and incorporate the stretches and exercises that YOU need. By now you should already be wondering
what to do to correct your posterior pelvic tilt, if you have one. Focus on STRENGTHENING your spinal erectors, quads, hip flexors, and TFL, and STRETCHING your hamstrings and glutes.
–>Add these Banded Glute Bridge to strengthen you glutes, hamstrings and TFL


Stefi Cohen, SPT

Recording yourself while you lift: more than just vanity?

Recording yourself while you lift: more than just vanity?

In sports the effect of observation and visual imagery (mental practice) is well studied. Studies show that athletes who mentally train their specific task, improves their skillfulness, to similar levels to those physically practice it. Motor imagery and observation are both driven by the same basic mechanism.

Motor imagery is a tool in which a person imagines that he/she is performing the movement without even moving a finger . I can imagine I’m walking in the beach, while I sit in my 4-hour long lecture. I can imagine scenes or objects that are not really there. I can mentally perform actions I couldn’t do in reality.  The areas in your brain that control skillful movement are activated internally, the same way they would if you physically performed a movement. The same thing happens when you observe someone else or a video of someone else perform a task.

In conclusion, recording yourself while you lift is a very useful tool to improve your snatch, clean and jerk, squat or any other movement pattern you wish to work on. Not only would it allow you recognize pieces of it that can be improved on, but it will help you engrain that movement pattern. For beginner lifters, watching videos of talented lifters, or even watching attentively at your most advanced teammates technique can significantly aid in your development and maturation as an athlete.

Stefanie .C, SPT

To arch, or not to arch. That is the question

To arch, or not to arch. That is the question

There seems to be a big misunderstanding about the use of the arch when executing the bench press. I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of guys giving unwanted and highly misinformed advice to female lifters in particular about arching their back in the bench press, claiming that this technique will “snap their backs” or “break their necks”, or even saying that this technique is “like cheating”. In this article I’ll talk about basic biomechanics, anatomy of the shoulder and the purpose of arching in the bench press, based on FACTS and EVIDENCE.


Ever wondered why you can move more weight doing a decline bench press? Because of the muscle fiber alignment of the pecs (angle of pennation), arching your UPPER back in a bench press, promotes better recruitment of the lower fibers of the pectoralis major, similar to the decline bench, which means that a larger portion of your chest muscle fibers will be activated to produce force.



Every heard of the term closed pack position? This refers to the position of most joint congruency and ligamentous stability. By arching your UPPER back and retracting your scapulae back together, you’re now placing your glenohumeral joint in a fully abducted and externally rotated position. This position of the humerus is a safer and more stable position to push from than if your upper back was flat against the bench.

The true question is WHY are you benching? If your goal is shoulder health and you are too worried about getting hurt, stay away from the bench press. If your goal is to maximize your athletic potential AND stay healthy, follow my previous advice.

watchyourform_mainIf you are a powerlifter and your goal is to lift the most amount of weight, arching your LOWER back might give you some advantage by shortening the range of motion of the lift. In terms of safety of the lower lumbar segments, I would advice lifters to keep their whole buttocks in contact with the bench to avoid putting the back in end ranges of flexion, which could potentially be harmful. The rules of powerlifting indicate that the butt must remain in contact with the bench throughout the entire lift.

No study has shown this position to be harmful for the lumbar spine, EXCEPT when HYPEREXTENDING, which has been shown to increase shear forces in the limbo-sacral area specifically.

By: Stefanie Cohen, SPT




If your warm up is longer than your workout you have a problem. You stretch, stretch and stretch and most often than not, the stretching doesn’t seem to solve your nagging pain, and sometimes it can even make the problem worst. Understanding the CAUSE of your muscular pain is important so you can treat it effectively.

A muscle imbalance can result either from repeated movements in one direction, sustained posture, or as a result of a neuromuscular imbalance, which predisposes certain muscles to be either tight or weak.

Our sedentary habits and sitting posture every day highly predispose us to developing muscular imbalances.


Muscles prone to tightness are also known as tonic muscles, the most common you will find tightness in are the hamstrings, upper traps, rectus femoris, TFL, iliopsoas, pecs, QL, piriformis and erector-spinae.

Muscles prone to weaknesses are phasic muscles. Some of the common ones are rectus abdominis, serratus anterior, lower and middle traps, neck flexors, rhomboids, glute med and max and vastus medialis


Lets take the hip for example. You commonly complain about tight, stiff  painful hamstrings. You keep stretching in an attempt to release some tension but nothing seems to help. What you don’t know is that lengthened and overstretched muscles can also send “pain” signals. An anterior pelvic tilt is common in those who sit a lot. This pelvic tilt is caused by tight hip flexors, tight quads and tight lower back. This pulls the hamstrings and glutes into a LENGTHENED AND WEAK position, which gives you the feeling of it being taught. Stretching the hip flexors and strengthen your abdominals, glutes and hamstrings in this case will release tension and restore balance.

Who thought stretching your hip flexors could help ease your ‘tight’ hamstrings?




Part II: Good vs. Bad rounded deadlift

Part II: Good vs. Bad rounded deadlift


Alright, before y’all start freaking out and talking about shear forces, anatomy of the spine, degrees of flexion, intervertebral disc pressure or screaming out quotes from a popular beginner lifter book written by some non athletic regular person (narp) let me get some things straight. If you are stronger when deadlifting with a neutral spine, lucky you. This article doesn’t apply to you.

Let me first begin by making the distinction between health and performance. I see people get these two confused often. Elite athletes deadlift to win competitions, they don’t deadlift to be healthy. Because of this, they must utilize a technique than enables them to pull the heaviest weight possible.

Beginner lifters on the other hand, must learn the rules before they can break the rules, and learn how to deadlift with a neutral spine since this is the foundation that will keep their back healthy as they develop the technique that will suit THEM the best.


On to the fun stuff. The lumbar spine is weaker and more susceptible to injury in EXTREME flexion, where the lordosis completely disappears. Applying compression on a lumbar spine at end range of flexion, poses a high risk for disc herniation and possible nerve root damage. Slight flattening of the lumbar spine is actually protective to it, like I discussed in my previous article (Part I).

Good powerlifters avoid injury by avoiding full lower back rounding, rounding mostly from the upper back, and (this one is key) maintaining the same spinal curvature throughout the entire lift. Having said this, understand that there is NO single way to deadlift and that anatomical differences play a big role on how your spinal curvatures look. Taller people might have more pronounced lumbar and thoracic curvatures for example.


Vince Anello

In conclusion, if you want to pull the most amount of weight possible, find a technique that suits your anatomy and that feels most comfortable to you, while taking into consideration the points mentioned above. Use a neutral spine for your warm up sets and lighter sets, and as it gets heavier, allow for controlled rounding of the thoracic segments, but always avoid end range flexion. If you’re too worried about getting injured, or simply are not planning on competing stick to lighter loads forever.

Round back deadlifts are an advanced technique, and should not be taken lightly, and never used as an excuse for poor form. Its a TECHNIQUE like any other, that requires hours of practice and perfecting. You need experience to know how far/hard you can push a lift before you let go. And if you chose not to pay attention to any of this, you run the risk of  suffering from an injury sooner or latter.

Stay strong, stay healthy!