Active Release Therapy

TAGS: thomas Phillips, art, therapy, sports injuries, Rehabilitation, rehab, injury prevention, injuries, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell

Tired of banging your head against the wall trying to fix old injuries that have been preventing your total from going up? What should you do when the foam roller, specific sport stretching, equiblock, and massages are no longer helping? Well, guess what? Here’s your golden ticket to PRville…

This ticket entitles the user to many future PR totals.

I’m speaking from direct experience, not some theory-based BS in a book or magazine written by some guy who has never lifted a heavy weight off of his chest before. I compete in the lifetime raw 181-lb and 198-lb divisions. My bench (by far my worst lift) was stuck for nearly 18 months and didn’t move no matter what I did. And I was pretty confident that I had tried it all.

Bands, chains, and boards...oh my!

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard all THAT before. It seems like everyone nowadays has “tried it all.” However, I’m the type of trainer and strength athlete who goes the extra mile so let me tell you exactly the types of things that I’ve done to try to up my bench.

I’ve made program changes, including adding more heavy shoulder work, more triceps work, and more DE speed work. All of the program changes were recommended and approved by some of the best lifters in the business. For example, Marc Bartley just helped me design my program for my next meet. I’ve gone for physical therapy assessments and weekly deep tissue chair massages. I’ve used the foam roller and monster stick daily and have done some specific rotator cuff stretching. I also did external rotator strengthening and supplemented with fish oils, glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. You name it and I’ve probably done it or ate it. Overall, all of these things worked great for me, but none of them actually fixed the problem with my bench.

All of these products, services, and disciplines get an A+ in my book,
but they couldn’t give me what I needed when I needed it.

A few months back, I hired a new trainer at my facility. His name was Tim Harris. During the course of our conversation, he started telling me about a woman he had been seeing for foot problems that he had had for the past several years. According to Tim, this woman (Dr. Liz Perez) was the only doctor he has seen who’s been able to give him relief.  I asked him what he had done before, and he started rattling off the names of several different therapies. So I asked exactly what Dr. Perez does. He responded with, “Active release therapy or ART.”

Tim let me know that Dr. Perez helps instruct new ART hopefuls through the certification course. I had heard of ART before and had even trained a few chiropractors that do it, but I never really took the time to learn more about it other than at a surface level. It seemed like a deep tissue massage to me.

I decided to take a trip down to Dr. Perez’s office in Wall, New Jersey and share with her some of my ailments (namely my shoulder). Her initial evaluation took over an hour. She was doing stuff to me that even the deepest of deep tissue massages couldn’t compare with. Her approach was systematic and on the money. I could tell within a few minutes that I was in the right place.

After that first session, I felt much relief, not only in my shoulder but in my whole body. I continued to see Dr. Perez once a week for six weeks. I competed the week after my sixth visit and blew up a 25-lb bench press PR with absolutely no pain in my shoulder. For a raw 190-lb lifter, that is quite an improvement, especially considering my bench hadn’t moved at all for 18 months! What’s more is that I also hit PRs in both my squat and deadlift that day and hit a total more than 80 lbs better than my previous best totals combined.

Sometimes you have to rely on others to fix you. ART is the best practice that I have found to mitigate the demands of heavy strength training. Despite working a full-time job teaching math and philosophy to emotionally disturbed high school kids, owning my own gym, training more than 40 appointments a week, raising my own children, and trying to keep my wife happy, I always try to make time to write articles every couple months to give back to the strength community who has given so much to me. Of all the articles I’ve written, I encourage you to take this one to heart and check out an ART practitioner in your area. Soon you’ll be lifting with much less pain and watching your totals go up exponentially!

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