Here's what I'm thinking about in the local PT industry. Asking about. Praying about.

A few of the 5 owners of First Choice Rehab, my bosses, apparently will retire sometime soon. They have decided to sell the company to a large health care provider rather than entertain my (and others?) less than generous offers of buying into the business.

Anyway, it's been fun, working for First Choice. They provided the structure and administrative support that I chose in order to save my nights and weekends. Otherwise I rarely heard from them, which was most of the time. They saw no need to micromanage, I'm sure because my clinic consistently delivered the numbers. My clinic performed within the top three of our 12 offices for almost the entire 6 years that I've been there.

And I didn't kill myself doing this. I got exactly what I wanted out of the deal, 40 or 45 hours of steady work per week, a fair salary, and plenty of time for my wife and kids and goofing off with friends.

Just f.y.i.: that free time was spent achieving feats of fun and awesomeness that I would never trade.

We had fun in the clinic - my small staff and hundreds of patients. We got to know each other. The magic to our physical therapy model was that when you don't have to report to investors and loads of middle management...when you DON'T have a huge facility filled with tons of fancy chrome equipment and rehab gadgets, you can make the financials work without cramming 50 patients in-and-out per day.

This minimalist approach allows a PT to give patients his time, care, and attention. You can listen to each other. You have time for a sore shoulder when the script is for knee pain. Excellent physical therapy does not require much more than a head and hands and some basic gear.


My clinic wasn't owned by any medical doctors or health care networks. It wasn't locked into questionable lease arrangements or other kickbacks that ultimately disservice the patient.

I came into this area with nothing, knowing nobody. I showed up at work and at parties and sporting events and fund raisers, usually dragging along 2 or 4 children, because I like these things. I welcomed local high school and college students who were looking for clinical experience. I made genuine friends, invited them to pick-up basketball and flag football and birthday parties and Bible studies and smashed some of them with brutal weight training in my basement.

I didn't do these things because I wanted to market my business, trying to get get more patients and hire more staff in order to open up new clinics and hire more staff. I wanted to be a solid person rooted in the community. THIS community where I live.

I wanted to do them well and do good business, the kind where I can look my past patients (and current neighbors) in the eye when I see them at the grocery store.

I never tried to fool anyone about my unwillingness to take on the task of running my own office. An additional PT office right around here would be overkill. The business side of health care drains me. Instead of going home to read up on Medicare regulations or getting credentialed with local panels, I prefer to spend plenty of time with family and friends. Instead of staying up late doing payroll and human resources, I gain passion and life from reading and trying to write about our bodies and our minds and the human condition.

And this is exactly what helps me to deliver unique perspective and quality care. 

Moving on to exciting opportunities in other locations may mean losing the local connection that's so important to me. Staying put may mean less pay for more work within a healthcare philosophy that I'm not in tune with. Welcome to the real world, Bob.

Is there any room around here for a physical therapist who would like a little administrative support without the micromanagement and red tape?

Is it even okay to be content with making a living, helping a handful of neighbors without building an empire?

Will Select Medical approve our weekly Brusters Thursday treat for our staff and students? 

Is this asking too much?

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I pick things up & softly, nonthreateningly place them down

I just had to.

So I Left Amy and the kids home on a beautiful Saturday morning to go train at Planet Fitness. I had to be there anyway to advise a past patient on some training matters. Paul the manager kindly grants me access in order to help clients transition to a long-term fitness routine.

I walked in and immediately...waited. I watched some guy use the only free weight rack to do about 19 sets of bicep curls.

When it was finally  my turn I proceeded to do it all wrong. I completed only one exercise for "chest," hung from the smith machine to do chin-ups, and didn't have time to isolate anything. 

The gym was mostly empty, which was nice. I tried to keep moving without making much noise or demanding attention. Things went well until it was time for dead lifts, the amazing epitome of lifting things up and putting them down.

Thump - thump - thump, is the low pitched sound of rubber plates bumping off rubber flooring. I've definitely heard people sneeze louder than my thump. After the third of my four work sets, a girl on staff came over from the the front desk. "Excuse me sir but you're not allowed to drop the weights. I'm sure it wasn't on purpose, but..." Then she turned and quickly walked away.

I could feel her discomfort in confronting me. So I grabbed the nearest dumbbell and tossed it in her direction, "You don't know what's dropping weights." Then I proceeded to quietly roll the loaded barbell back and forth across the open gym floor, asking the other patrons if this is too loud and intimidating.

No, that didn't happen. But I did say "oh I'm sorry" before completing my fourth set with a little extra impact control at the bottom of each rep, watching the Lunk Alarm out of the corner of my eye. It was a long, miserable set. The Lunk Alarm held its applause.

      - - - - whew- - - -

I completed a couple finishing "core" moves and hogged the free weight rack with barbell bicep curls. I went over to peer at my nemesis, the hip abduction/adduction machine. Forty five minutes and my work was through.

Concluding remarks:

I caught a nice workout at Planet Fitness without having to put up with the typical gym culture tomfoolery.

Planet Fitness should decide if they want to be a gym or library.

I was definitely feeling a little judged. Make no mistake - Planet Fitness does (and should) judge in order to uphold a certain atmosphere. They should try to design a Lunk Alert that's less sensitive to dropped weights and more sensitive to a critical and hot-headed spirit.

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I pick things up and put them down

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I'm no marketing critic, but I think this Planet Fitness ad is hilarious, has retaining power, and gets their core message across. They got it right, the meat-head with an accent wearing ridiculous shorts and sleeve-cut flannel, swigging mystery fluid straight from the gallon jug.

I appreciate that Planet Fitness takes the promise of a nonthreatening exercise environment seriously. Although their "Judgment Free Zone" claim is a bit of a reach for a public gym, I know how often the typical fitness scene can become quirky and downright ugly.

Convenience is not the only reason why I've been training at home for the past decade or so. I've seen young and old men having staring contests with their biceps in practically every gym. I've noticed girls training in butt floss at the Paxton Community Friendship Center, draped over a hamstring curl machine situated in a high traffic area. I witnessed some cyborg inside the Slippery Rock Barbell Club intentionally bloody himself while doing dead lifts, rubbing the knurling of a barbell along his bare shins.

These are the type of things most of us just don't need for our health and wellness.

Planet Fitness caters to all the mostly sane, everyday people who simply want a gym without all the oddball duchebaggish behavior. But the irony in the commercial is that sane, everyday people would benefit most from nothing more than LIFTING THINGS UP AND PUTTING THEM DOWN.

Nothing else is as effective for increasing functional total body strength, balance, coordination, and muscle tone. Not the rows of elliptical machines, the tanning booths, the flat screen TVs, or the newest machines that isolate the triceps and obliques. None of those thing are as time efficient and effective as picking things up and putting them down.

Take lunges. The hip and quadricep (front thigh) muscles must generate force with most of the weight on one leg. Controlling momentum of the body (plus any additional loading like dumbbells) requires the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize the pelvis. The hip adductors (inner thigh muscles) and abductors (outer thigh/butt muscles) balance the leg so that you don’t tip over.

If you're not doing some variations of lunges, rows, dead lifts and chin-ups, pretty much anything that involves you picking things up and putting them down, you probably should be. I make this claim not as a gym-culture blind fitness fanatic, but as a doctor of rehabilitative medicine who has helped hundreds of people to decrease their pain and increase their physical performance.

Lifting things up and putting them down is what real life requires of us. Since we ALL pick things up and put them down, it's often helpful to identify dysfunctional movement patterns and use various modalities, hands-on mobilization, stretching, strengthening, and stabilization exercises to attempt to correct them to the greatest extent possible.

Some of this requires...you guessed it. 

Up next is a report on what recently transpired when I tried picking things up and putting them down over at the local Purple.

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Olympic Lifts

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Athletes and other serious fitness folks sometimes ask what I think of the Olympic Lifts. Of course the cost/benefit of doing these explosive movements depends on your training status and goals. But we'll move past all the hard evidence and wishy-washy canned answers in order to get down to some nice solid opinion.

In case you're wondering, here's a prime example of an amateur hitting a pretty impressive lift. It displays both the good and the bad of the clean, one of the simplest Olympic Lifts. 

Olympic lifts are low-tech, brutally high on effort, effective movements. They are unmatched as total body lifts and will absolutely improve coordination and explosive power. The only problem is that, unless you're competing in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, the Olympic lifts are almost completely unnecessary.

Here are a few reasons why:

The Face Factor

I'm no stranger to missed lifts or strained muscles and joints. But just the thought of building up and pushing my capacities in the Olympic lifts scares me.

Mastering form on these technical lifts takes quite a while. Even then, you can fool around with submaximal resistance to learn technique all you like. That's fine and good for a time-efficient way to burn a lot of energy. But at some point most of us will want to push our limits into new territory, which mandates a lot of yanking and heaving in order to create the high velocity required to hoist heavier and heavier loads. That's when there's so little margin for error.

Contrast this with other big lifts like squats and dead lifts, which employ the use of huge loads and injury potential, but simply don't have the same face-driven-into-the-floor factor. The intention to create an explosive lift is there but because the load is so heavy, the movement is always controlled. You can tell when you're going to lose and/or miss a heavy squat. But Olympic lifts are sometimes...not the greatest for your health and fitness:

There are better ways to gain size.

Getting bigger is about ripping your existing muscle fibers apart and then allowing sufficient time for adequate recovery. The traditional lifts enable heavier loads and more total time under tension, both of which are primary factors in the big breakdown.

There are better ways to gain power.

If you want to get big, strong, and increase the depth of your personal awesomeness bucket, lift heavy things for a lot of reps. Gaining power is all about making your nervous system AMPED. If you want to be able to apply that strength to functional performance, do plyometric activities of maximal effort in various hops, jumps, and medicine ball throws. Plyometrics are a more fun, less risky way to fine-tune the nervous system for total body coordination and explosive power.

Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training

It's truly rare to find a person who does not have some kind of musculoskeletal issue. It may be a slumped thoracic posture, a leg length discrepancy, or poor lumbar stability. It may be inflexible hips, deactivated glutes, or tight ankles. Olympic lifts will absolutely exploit a weak area in a manner that allows little room to identify, much less correct faulty positions and movement patterns. Traditional lifts and their variations usually allow for some degree of focusing attention onto your weakest link.


The Olympic lifts require bumper plates, loads of space, and a favorable atmosphere. Not a huge deal, but go ahead and try throwing even the 3-pound purple dumbbells up overhead in your basement with light fixtures and 7 foot ceilings. Try dropping even your water bottle at Planet Fitness. I have yet to experimentally identify what sets off the lunk-alert, but I'm guessing that the threshold weight is somewhere right around pink.

And what say you? Have you found the Olympic lifts to be unnecessary and mostly pointless? Or are they an essential key to unlocking your greatest everything?

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